Enzyme Masks: The Roomba of Facial Exfoliation

The fun thing about enzyme masks, other than the tingly sensation, is that they are like exfoliation on auto-pilot.

I feel like clay masks are the majority of the masks anyone ever uses (other than sheet masks, maybe, but that's a whole different thing). Peeling masks exist, sure, but I honestly don't know if they do anything but make me an involuntary masochist upon removal.

Not all pores are clogged equally, and not everyone's skin sheds the same way, so a regular ol' clay mask can only go so far re: anything other than pore de-gunking.

So, let's go back to Cecilia Wong's facial salon, in which homegirl explains to me that the thing I'm missing from my life is actually an enzyme mask.

What are enzymes though? Are those the things in your stomach that digest food? Aren't they in fruit? (I believe so, and yes, respectively.)

The fun thing about enzyme masks, other than the tingly sensation you feel upon wearing one, is that they are like exfoliation on auto-pilot. You slather it on, let it marinate, feel the (very minor) burn, and then rub off with water, and BAM! Your face is looking all shiny, soft, and smooth (THE three S's as far as I am concerned).

Using varying concentrations of facial acids as well as enzymes derived from natural ingredients, these mask concoctions work their magic on your skin for the allotted 3 to 15 minutes (every mask has a different cooking time, and I strongly advise you follow them) as it loosens skin crud.

Some of them have scrubby bits too, so you can add a bit of manual exfoliation to really smooth it out. BUT the nature of these enzyme masks is gentle exfoliation. You don't want to remove these by scrubbing with a washcloth unless you have super-tough or scaly skin. Ease up. Think of these as the Roomba of face masks.

Herbivore Brighten Pineapple Enzyme + Gemstone Instant Glow Mask contains pineapple enzymes, rice powder and Brazilian tourmaline gemstone powder to gently and naturally exfoliate and brighten. The white, gel-like mask probably feels the least tingly of the three here, for those looking for to dip a toe in. Plus, it smells like a tropical cocktail. But mostly, I enjoy the idea of rubbing gemstone powder on my face.

Renee Rouleau Triple Berry Smoothing Peel (don't worry, "peel" is just a way to communicate exfoliating) may look and smell like a berry smoothie, but don't underestimate its serious peeling powers. With raspberry, strawberry, and blueberry enzymes as well as pomegranate extract, cherry bark extract, bromelain (pineapple enzyme), resveratrol, and mandelic, lactic and salicylic acids, this is considered "professional strength." Keep that in mind when peeping that $86 price tag.

Since you can only find it on Renee Rouleau's website or at her salon, this is one of those products exclusive to getting a facial there (which is more than the price of the mask) so you can take home a whole jar of a crucial pro facial staple for less than the price of ONE facial (I'm really good at rationalizing beauty splurges, btw).

For a slightly more affordable option not seen here (because I used it all up and ran out), Mario Badescu Enzyme Revitalizing Mask is like a mint gum commercial for your skin — refreshingly tingly and less than a pair of jeans at $20.

Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask is like rubbing pumpkin pie all over your face, and therefore a childhood dream of mine come to fruition. This one contains textured bits for you to physically scrub your skin smooth, after the AHAs and pumpkin enzymes have loosened all that dead skin. You really get that post-rinse instant gratification of porcelain-smooth, glowing skin.

Which, by the way, is the perfect time to moisturize. Cecilia Wong schooled me on not moisturizing my neck, which, in my upper twenties, has succumbed to the probably permanently etched lines of tech-neck and side-sleeping. In general, though, incorporating your entire neck and decolletage in your skincare routine is kind of the entire point of anti-aging agenda.

  • Have you guys jumped on the enzyme wagon?
  • Does anyone else fully dedicate care to their neck and upper boob area? I'm so behind!