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People with sensitive skin (like me) often have trouble with exfoliating products. Scrubs can be too harsh; acids can sting and burn. I’ve had good luck, however, with enzymatic peels, like Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel ($43). It’s so gentle, I’ve used it right before an evening out. In about 10 minutes, it delivers smooth, glowing skin that requires minimal foundation.
The key ingredient here is papain. An exfoliant derived from tropical fruits like pineapple and papaya, papain contains proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzymes that leave skin smoother and softer (The Complete Book of Enzyme Therapy). It can leave your skin soft, smooth, and free of flaky dead skin cells, but without the burning sensation some people experience with an acid peel.
Elemis Enzyme Papaya Peel also contains pineapple extract, the main component of which is a compound called bromelain. Bromelain may also help exfoliate skin by digesting dead skin cells, but as the only research we’ve seen is a study done with 35% bromelain in wound debridement on rats (Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences), we would like to see research on bromelain’s effect on human skin in the concentration normally found in cosmetic products (typically 1% at most).
Allergy alert: Elemis Enzyme Papaya Peel contains Fucus Vesiculosus (commonly known as bladderwrack), a type of seaweed that is extremely important in medical history because it was the original source of iodine used to treat thyroid disease. However, this means that if you have an allergy or sensitivity to iodine, you should choose a different peel.