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Eat It Or Wear It? Papaya: The Skin Brightener That Helps Fade Spots and Reverse Sun Damage

Your skin's future may be in a fruit basket.

As a woman nearing my fifties, one of my biggest regrets is the time I spent “lying out” in the sun without SPF protection as a teenager. With true Irish skin — freckled, pale — I needed 45 SPF and a broad-brimmed hat, not baby oil and a bikini.

I didn’t know then that the results of that time would show up not just in the form of immediate sunburn, but years later in deep wrinkles and serious hyperpigmentation. Luckily there are myriad of products on the market that are made to reverse the signs of aging and sun damage. Surprisingly enough, many of these products contain papaya enzymes, which help to brighten the consequences of our past sun worship: dull complexions dotted with age spots.

Enzymes in papaya work by exfoliating old skin cells.

Papaya might be healthy and delicious, but when it comes to skin care, it’s the fruit’s enzymes that we need. The enzymes are used in many facial peels and masks for their gentle exfoliating properties. How does exfoliating help with sun damage, you ask?

Well, exfoliating isn’t just cosmetic. Yes, it helps to smooth the surface of the skin and produce that radiant, youthful glow we all crave, but gentle exfoliation is also imperative when it comes to the health of our skin. Regular exfoliation ensures that dead skin cells don’t build up on the surface layers of our skin, clogging pores and creating dullness.

In fact, skin care products containing papaya enzymes, like the popular Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel (Buy from Amazon, $43.29) are great for aging skin because they are gentle enough to provide effective exfoliation without the roughness of your average grainy scrub. (The older we are, the thinner our skin, the gentler we need to be with it. Rule number one when it comes to skin care over 40.)

Its vitamin C may fade your sun spots.

The other reason to incorporate papaya into your skin care routine is due to its high vitamin C content. When applied topically, vitamin C is one of the best treatments for sun spots and hyperpigmentation. This is because it slows the synthesis of melanin production in your skin. All of us have a certain amount of melanin in our bodies that determines our hair, eye, and skin color. It protects the skin from sun damage, but it intensifies when we have too much UV exposure. This results in pesky brown splotches, which often show up on our hands first in middle age. Because of this, vitamin C is one of nature’s most powerful skin brighteners.

As always, consult with your dermatologist or esthetician before starting any new skin care regimen or adding to it. Some people have unknown allergies or other intolerances that may cause a reaction or irritation. If you are cleared to use these products, do a patch test first and use sparingly, or as directed by your doctor.

Here’s to finding our bright and youthful — but wiser! — glow once more.

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