Feature

What's really in your pawpaw ointment.

Make sure these nasties aren't hiding in your 'healthy' pawpaw ointment.

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What is papaw ointment?
The ointment comes from a fermentation process of the papaw (or papaya) to concentrate the fruit and cultivate the nutrients. This is then used for the topical healing of bites, dry skin, nappy rash and cracked lips.

Packaged papaw ointments have recently been scrutinised for the use of petroleum jellies, petrochemicals and other ‘filler’ ingredients often added to the fruit’s concentrate.

Because the skin is a permeable membrane, applying petrochemicals to the skin and lips regularly means toxic material is being ingested and stored in the body. Applying this kind of product as a moisturiser will also have a counterproductive effect, drying skin further.

It is important to identify the ingredients that will help and that will harm your skin when using a papaw-based ointment. The ingredients to avoid are as follows:

PETROCHEMICALS
‘Petrochemicals’ is an umbrella term for wide range of toxic chemicals such as paraffin, mineral oil, petroleum and petrolatum. They form a barrier, which doesn’t allow the skin to exchange oxygen or fluids, causing the pores to clog. This can affect cell development and cause dry skin. We also know that many parents use pawpaw ointment on their children and babies, which is particularly harmful as they are more vulnerable to the chemical influence of petrochemicals.

CANOLA OIL
Canola oil is a genetically modified product made from rapeseed but its actual effect on health is unknown. The long-term health effects of canola oil are pretty uncertain, however we do know that hexane, a flammable petrochemical, is used in the extraction process, so if you see canola oil on the ingredients list, it’s better to avoid the product all together.

HYDROGENISED CASTOR OIL
Hydrogenated oils are also known as trans-fats, which are causing health concerns globally. The problem with Hydrogenised castor oil is that it contains PEG’s (polyethylene glycols), which can alter and reduce the skin’s natural moisture factor and increase the appearance of ageing.

LANOLIN
Extracted from sheepskin, this fatty substance is often used as a base for ointments and topical creams but should be avoided when possible. Lanolin can be a harmful ingredient, particularly when the sheep is sprayed directly with pesticides to treat mites and pests. Additionally, the wool alcohol contained in lanolin can cause contact dermatitis, a type of rash that can occur from an allergic reaction to the substance.

POTASSIUM SORBATE
Potassium sorbate is commonly used as a synthetic preservative in food and cosmetics and Baden warns that it can cause irritation to the skin and eyes when used excessively. People can develop rashes and discomfort to the eyes and skin if their bodies are overexposed to the ingredient. Needless to say, those who are allergic to potassium are far more likely to develop negative side effects when coming into contact with the ingredient.

SODIUM BORATE
Although sodium borate is a naturally occurring salt, it is generally regarded as a toxin and there are severe restrictions for its use in some countries as a result. In high doses, sodium borate can be quite toxic. However, when used in small doses, such as within skincare, it can simply produce a rash and irritate the skin and eyes.

Daniel Baden is a naturopath and founder of Phytocare