How Does Papain Work in a Cosmeceutical?

By Jay P. Whickson


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Papain, which comes from the fruit in a papaya, is an enzyme that helps in a multitude of ways--the most important of which is the digestion of proteins. Since latex and papain come from the same source, don't use it if you are allergic to latex. The uses for papain include reducing inflammation, overcoming allergies, improving the immune system, killing bacteria and fungus, dissolving scar tissue and exfoliating the skin.


The word "cosmeceutical" comes from combining two words, "cosmetic" and "pharmaceutical." A cosmetic product is a cosmeceutical if it has drug-like benefits. Some anti-aging creams and moisturizers are cosmeceutical, but only if they are placed on the skin. If a beauty product is ingested, it is called a nutricosmetic.

Removes Dead Skin

Papain is one of the ingredients in meat tenderizer, and it has the ability to break down skin cells. One of the uses for papain in cosmeceuticals is to break down surface dead skin cells and make them easier to remove. Papain acts as a exfoliation agent in this case. When you remove dead tissue during exfoliation, you make your pores seem smaller because you remove the keratinized skin around the edges of your pores and make them less visible. Exfoliation also reveals the moisture underneath the tissue.


Several companies use papain in their lotions to treat acne. Just like its action as an exfoliation agent, the papain helps to break down the skin on top of the blemish and release the trapped material under the skin. Papain is also used to treat blackheads by removing any blockage and helping to break down the dead cells inside the pore.

Moisture-Retaining Toner

Since papain is a natural ingredient, it doesn't dry out your skin as it exfoliates but works with nature to maintain its moisture balance. Since your skin maintains its moisture, it looks younger. It also fights bacteria, increases the immune response and allows more oxygen into the cell area around the pores.

Don't Ingest Papain

Several deaths have occurred as a result of people taking papain internally. Because of the concentration of papain in pill form, ingesting the pills is like eating more papaya than a human could hold. While the FDA has stopped the importation of papain tablets, it says that the use of papain is perfectly safe for those without a latex allergy. Some of the deaths from taking papain pills included people allergic to latex.