What it is: A fruit of the large Carica Papaya herb.

Where it comes from: Although native to the tropics of the Americas (northern South America up to Southern Mexico), cultivation has spread to the tropics of other continents. In the United States, Hawaii is the largest commercial cultivator of papaya.  

Properties: Pear-shaped, the unripe fruit is green and the ripe fruit has yellow skin and orange flesh. Black seeds cluster around the fruit’s center.

What it’s good for: The papaya fruit and papaya enzyme, called papain, are used in many skin care and repair products. Papain works as a mild exfoliant and dissolves dead skin cells, so it is used to treat acne and reduce wrinkles. Its skin renewal properties mean it can fade dark marks and even skin tone, and papaya has become a natural ingredient in skin-brightening products. Vitamin A helps in the formation of new skin cells and vitamin C softens the skin. However, excessive use can lead to skin irritation, and papaya products should not be used on those allergic to latex.

Where you’ll find it: The fruit extract can be found in cleansers, exfoliants, facial treatments, sunscreens, moisturizers, shampoos and conditioners, anti-aging products, and brightening soaps. Papaya enzyme pills are sold as a digestive remedy while papaya ointment is used to treat cuts, stings, and burns. The fruit itself can be bought at most supermarkets.

Other uses: Papayas can be eaten and used as a cooking aid and as medicine. The ripe fruit is eaten raw, while the green papaya is an important ingredient in the dishes of many cultures. The papaya fruit and its leaves have long been used to tenderize meat.

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