Why Papaya is the Superpower Ingredient Your Skin Will Love
If you’ve ever experienced the deliciousness that is fresh papaya in a salad, smoothie, or salsa, then chances are you’re already hooked. Fortunately, this tropical fruit boasts tons of skin benefits too. “As an ingredient, papaya (or pawpaw as we say in Australia), has powerful anti-inflammatory enzymes that promote healing, plus it’s rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant,” explains Pauline Paterson, co-founder of the papaya-based skincare line Dr. PAWPAW. “So not only can it moisturize and soothe skin conditions such as eczema, but it can also combat hyperpigmentation and signs of aging.” BRB, just running to the store to grab a few of these elongated melons real quick.
While fruit-powered skincare isn’t anything new, papaya does seem to be having its moment in the glow-inducing spotlight right now. You can find papaya in products like pore-minimizing toners, acne-clearing masks, exfoliating cleansers, moisturizing balms, and our very own WISHFUL Yo Glow Enzyme Scrub. Even Glow Recipe co-founders Sarah Lee and Christine Chang have jumped on the papaya bandwagon with their latest release, Glow Recipe Papaya Sorbet Enzyme Cleansing Balm.
“Papaya was top of mind as a superfruit ingredient for this launch, as we knew it could deliver multiple benefits,” says Chang. “In addition to the gentle makeup melting properties of a blend of botanical oils – including papaya seed oil – we harnessed the natural enzymatic properties of papaya so that you could have smoother, glowing skin from the very start of your routine.” Chang also points out that enzymes are great for acne-prone skin, since they resurface the skin, getting rid of the dead skin cells and minimizing the chances of your pores getting clogged.
If you shudder when you hear the word “resurface” or happen to have super sensitive skin, fear not. As Lee notes, papaya enzymes target only dead skin cells and are perfect for those with sensitive skin, or those who are just starting out with exfoliation. Meaning papaya won’t harm the health of your skin barrier. For any products that combine papaya enzymes with acids, however, you may want to limit use to one to two times a week, depending on the formula.
Say Hello to a Few of Our Favorite Papaya Products:
Farmacy Deep Sweep, $28
Farmacy’s new pore cleaning toner with moringa and papaya has been such an instant success, it’s already sold out and been restocked. Shiny T-zones are de-slicked, thanks to the water-light formula that draws out excess oil, while 2% BHA (salicylic acid) and papaya enzymes gently exfoliate and help to deep clean. Consider it the summer purifier that oily and acne-prone skin types are desperately seeking, without over-stripping.
WISHFUL Yo Glow Enzyme Scrub, $21/ $39
Huda spent years developing and perfecting her skincare launch hero product, Yo Glow: a gentle yet super effective scrub that harnesses the power of papaya enzymes. When used three times a week (for 10 consecutive days), reviewers said that their skin felt softer and had reduced redness and dark spots, and improved brightness overall. The combo of pineapple and papaya enzymes brighten and smooth skin while BHAs and AHAs clean deep into pores, and it’s gentle enough for all skin types.
As we mentioned earlier, Dr. PAWPAW’s line is formulated entirely around pawpaw, AKA the fruit of the Carica papaya plant. Their products contain anti-inflammatories, vitamins A, C, and E, plus healing aloe vera, but our pick of the beauty litter would be these new Tinted Balms. These 3-in-1 pigmented tubes are a game-changer for lips, eyes and cheeks, and are based on their Original Multipurpose Soothing Balms that sell every minute worldwide. Choose from five luscious shades and got for a subtle tint or build color with added layers.
Say goodbye to sneaky fine lines and annoying acne outbreaks with Endure’s clay mask that’s made with organic papaya and grapefruit extracts. Designed to brighten lackluster skin and improve texture and tone, you’ll get a mega glow (with a heaping side of vitamins) every time you apply, wait, wash off, and pat dry.
The newest member of the Glow Gang is you guessed it – inspired by papaya. Cleansing balms are the do-it-all face wash these days, and this one is bound to become a cult fave. Melt away stubborn makeup, dirt, oil, and SPF with natural papaya enzymes that exfoliate and soften the epidermis, while papaya seed oil hydrates and blueberry extract protects against environmental stressors. It’s luxuriously plush to the touch (hence the sorbet name), but later transforms from a cushiony balm to a milky oil.
If tighter pores and clearer, more balanced skin are what your after, add Herbivore’s Blue Tansy Mask to your top shelf. The mossy green-meets-navy gel relies on papaya and pineapple enzymes to smooth and refine texture, white willow bark (a natural beta-hydroxy acid – BHA) to clarify, and blue tansy oil to dial down redness and soothe parched skin. All in all, one of our go-to miracle workers for oily and blemish-prone skin, but since it contains enzymes and acids, sensitive types might want to do a spot test before using.
We know this has been a mask, balm, and toner centric list, but how ‘bout a lip scrub/mask duo that incorporates all these good-for-you papaya benefits? Bite Beauty’s does just that. Rub on the papaya-rich scrub to slough off flakies, then let the balm-to-oil lip therapy do its thing overnight, via a decadent blend of jojoba, sunflower, and safflower seed oils.
Disclaimer: Every product we review has been independently selected and tested without bias by our editorial team. We never take payment to review products, however, some brands allow affiliate links, so we may earn a commission if you purchase a product by clicking on one of our links.