When it comes to skincare, many consumers prefer products made with natural ingredients. If you're looking for a subtle, gradual skin lightener that isn't made entirely of synthetic chemicals, papaya-based soap could be a logical and economical choice for you.
Papaya soap contains an enzyme called "papain," also known as "papaya proteinaise", that breaks down certain proteins in the skin. For this reason, it as a common component in meat tenderizers. Similarly, when papain is used in a soap, it dissolves the dead skin cells on the surface of your face, making it useful as an exfolient that reveals your newer, healthier skin cells.
Manufacturers of papaya soap usually add an emollient such as palm oil or cocoa oil to moisturize your skin. As the papain lifts the dead skin cells from your face, the emollient softens your new layer of skin, potentially giving it a clearer appearance.
Papain has also been used to remove the outer layer of skin from wounds and ulcers and, with regular use, papaya soap could fade the appearance of scars over time. By the same principle, it could also slightly lighten dark spots and freckles. It does not, however, contain any bleaching agents that would drastically lighten or whiten the skin.
When concentrated, papain does appear to have some ability to give the skin a lighter appearance over time because of its exfoliating properties. With prolonged use, it could gradually fade dark spots and give skin a healthier glow.
Papain contains latex. People who have allergies to latex should avoid using products made with papaya extract, as they could have severe reactions to it. In 2008, the FDA took steps to restrict marketing of products containing papain for this reason. Additionally, latex has been suspected of triggering premature contractions in pregnant women, so it should be avoided during pregnancy.
Maia Appleby is a NASM-certified personal trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry. Her articles have been published in a wide variety of print magazines and online publications, including the Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, New Moon Network and Bodybuilding.com.