Papaya is a type of fruit that grows naturally in Mexico and throughout several tropical and sub-tropical areas in the Western hemisphere. Its active enzyme, papain, is used in soap to exoliate dead skin cells . Papain-based soaps are typically marketed specifically as papaya soap, and are believed to offer particular benefits due to their botanical content.
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According to Shirley Gillett's "Made Right for Your Skin Type," papaya soap has powerful exfoliating properties that render it beneficial for removing dead skin cells and rejuvenating dry and flaky skin. This is due to papaya soap's papain content which can catalyze protein breakdowns when combined with water.
The exfoliating properties of papaya soap also make it an effective acne treatment when it is used on the face or on other acne prone skin, according to "Healing Power of Papaya" by Barbara Simonsohn. This is because one of the primary causes of acne is the tendency for dead skin cells to clog the pores instead of being shed from the skin's surface normally. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that dead skin cells and excess sebum oil can accumulate inside hair follicles, causing a pimple to form, when the skin's natural exfoliating process doesn't work as it should. Only through manual exfoliation can this cause be treated or eliminated.
The special ability of papaya soap in breaking down proteins can also come in handy when trying to scrub certain types of stubborn stains out of fabrics, according to "Papaya: The Medicine Tree" by Harald W. Tietze. This soap is particularly effective at loosening and removing stains that are high in protein, such as blood.
Insect Sting Pain Relief
Papain's protein-dissolving power is utilized by the makers of many brands of meat tenderizer, who include it in their blends designed primarily for culinary purposes. According to "1,801 Home Remedies" by the Editors of Reader's Digest, a tried-and-true alternate treatment for relieving pain and itching caused by insect bites and stings is to dab the wound with a bit of meat tenderizer mixed with water. This treatment works by breaking down the toxins that cause pain, itching and swelling. Though the use of meat tenderizer containing papain is the most effective use of this substance for treating such wounds, Simonsohn states that cleaning the wounds with papaya soap can also bring relief.
Though not verified by clinical trials, anecdotal evidence suggests that regular use of papaya soap can cause mild skin lightening over time, according to Simonsohn. Many papaya soaps are marketed with this claim. Papain does not chemically lighten the skin as do some skin bleaching creams, but by exfoliating away outer layers of skin that may be tanned or otherwise sun-damaged, papaya soap may reveal lighter, brighter layers of skin underneath.