Got Sensitive Skin? Watch Out for This Ingredient When Buying Makeup

Makeup artist applying eyeshadow

A coat of mascara and a bit of lipstick can do wonders for your self esteem, but not if the makeup and makeup remover you select makes your skin break out like a teenager. If you have sensitive skin and wear makeup regularly, new research suggests papain may be an ingredient to watch out for.

Papain is an industrial protein-degrading enzyme that can cause strong allergic reactions of the skin. Scientists from the Messerli Research Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, the Medical University of Vienna, and the University of Vienna recently published the results of a study looking at papain use in cosmetics in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Papain is found naturally in papaya.  It is sometimes often referred to as a “plant-based pepsin” in reference to the digestive enzyme pepsin that is present in the stomach. The cosmetic industry often uses papain in exfoliating treatments to remove dead surface skin.

Papain has an enormous structural similarity with one of the most important house dust mite allergens.  Papain can cause a problem because it induces a breakdown of the cell-cell junctions that join together layers of skin. On the skin, papain results in a loss of the barrier function. However, the permeation of the skin barrier does not appear to be a prerequisite for sensitization toward papain.

Officially, researchers recommend that people with sensitive skin avoid the enzyme (EC Number as much as possible and observe the ingredients declaration for consumer products as regulated by EU Directive 2000/13/EC. Parents should also try to avoid using skin care products with papain for their young children, even if the child is not known to have any allergies or sensitivities.

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