Topical proteolytic enzymes affect epidermal and dermal properties

Int J Cosmet Sci. 2007 Feb;29(1):15-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-2494.2007.00354.x.


Although proteolytic enzymes have a history of use in skin care products it is not known whether they simply induce superficial exfoliation or with continued use can alter epidermal and dermal skin properties. We examined herein whether enhanced exfoliation resulting from treatment with an aspartyl dependent acid protease produces appearance improvements and over time, changes in the epidermis and dermis. Test participants applied 15% enzyme containing serum and a simple moisturizer twice daily for 3 months; a matched control group applied the same serum (without enzyme) and moisturizer. Changes in skin smoothness and texture, the depth and number of lines and wrinkles, and epidermal and dermal firmness and thickness were examined in a double-blind fashion. Treatment with 15% enzyme product(s) resulted in significant improvement in epidermal properties after 1 month and both epidermal and dermal properties after 3 months. The control group showed modest improvements in surface properties only. These results demonstrate that significant appearance benefits can be derived from use of exfoliative proteolytic enzymes. Such improvements are the result of changes to the epidermis and dermis and are strikingly similar to results observed with higher concentrations of AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids).