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This Tropical Ingredient Treats Decade-Long Sunspots and Smooths Rough Skin

Toss it into smoothies, too.


If you have sensitive or dry skin, treating sunspots and roughness is a challenge. Exfoliants and brightening creams have a tendency to irritate skin, leaving redness and flakes in their wake. But what if there were a natural ingredient that could brighten tone and even complexion (effectively erasing the sun damage of your 20s and 30s) without those unwanted side effects? Enter pineapple — or, more specifically, bromelain.

What is bromelain?

Bromelain, which is often called pineapple enzyme or pineapple extract, is a mix of enzymes found in pineapples. It’s so powerful that it can break down collagen in meat, which makes it an excellent tenderizer (but also means you shouldn’t let meat sit in a pineapple marinade for very long).

Why is bromelain a useful skincare ingredient?

The ability to break down various molecules makes bromelain extremely useful in skincare.

“[The enzymes] are like little Pac-Men that go in and eat the dead skin,” Amber Rose Johnson, esthetician and Facial Lounge founder tells FIRST for Women. “A lot of products exfoliate with either a scrub, which is sometimes sometimes too abrasive and irritates the skin, or a chemical exfoliant, which isn’t always bad but can be irritating. The enzymes only eat the dead skin, so they don’t really cause [the same irritation].”

This isn’t to say you won’t experience some redness after applying a skincare product containing bromelain. According to Johnson, the redness and “flushing” you might experience after using topical bromelain is a result of increased blood circulation.

Is it safe to use fresh pineapple on skin instead of an extract?

Johnson sells a professional papaya and pineapple enzyme face mask (Buy from Facial Lounge, $76), but she says you can easily create your own DIY face mask. It’s best to skip the fresh pineapple in a DIY mask as it will likely be too irritating. Instead, use equal parts fresh papaya and filtered, high-quality honey. Simply chop the papaya, then toss it in a blender with the honey to create a smooth paste. (The enzymes in papaya and honey are also excellent at removing dead skin cells.)

For an affordable fix that’s easier than creating your own mask, we love the Pineapple Glow Food Story Mask (Buy from Amazon, $3.55). It also contains vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, which naturally brightens and evens out tone.

Don’t have time for a face mask? Munch on some pineapple cubes! According to a 2017 study published in Nutrients, vitamin C — which is found in pineapple in high quantities — works from the inside out to improve skin health. (Bromelain also has impressive health benefits beyond skincare.) Don’t underestimate the power of this tropical fruit!

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