The Papaya Cleanse: Day 1

Technically, I started the cleanse (that’s what it is now, that’s what I’m going to call it) last night, after I had brushed my teeth and taken a good look at my face in the mirror. My skin was dry, dull, and possibly dehydrated (I’m still not sure how to tell this for sure). For the past couple of weeks, I haven’t been eating very well, haven’t been following a consistent routine beyond dabbling in oil cleansing and applying whichever serums as I feel needed, and the night before this one I’d gone to sleep rather late – and all this showed on my face. There was a darkness under my eyes, my cheeks were deflated, and my forehead was textured, even after enlisting the help of The Ordinary’s blood red peel treatment in the previous day or two.
I splashed a burst of lukewarm water onto my face and opened up a small container in which a now defrosted, small portion of papaya was resting. I picked up a small piece, mashed it up in my hands as per the instructions and spread it across my face, gently rubbing the soft matter in circles towards my ears and passing my palms across my neck. The papaya was still cold from being in the fridge for the past hour or so and I prayed that this temperature would have some kind of cryogenic effect. I then let it sit for about 30 seconds before rinsing it off with the aid of a gingerly held face towel, after which, my skin did feel noticeably softer, but I wasn’t going to allow myself to get my hopes up. I followed up with a rather small amount of shea butter and decided I was going straight to bed.

Tonight, I followed the exact same method, except for leaving the papaya to sit for about two minutes before rinsing it off and taking a few photos, so that I’ll have something to compare to Day 18. I really hope this experiment works and I see some undeniable improvements in my skin by the end of the month.

I’ve done some more reading about papaya and its properties and according to Franziska Spritzler (fantastic name), a dietitian, one small papaya contains 157% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. I wonder how much of that can be absorbed into the body via your pores? It can also counteract free radical activity which can be a major culprit in the decrease of our skin’s elasticity over time and other signs of skin damage and aging.

Hm, it’s probably not a bad idea to start eating it, too.

Thurdsay, 14 March

I was slightly disorientated this morning but feeling a bit better after getting a few more hours of sleep. My skin was somewhat soothed, but still dry. Scaly, almost. But around my nose was a little oily, so that means my skin isn’t dehydrated? I don’t know. I probably needed to use a bit more shea butter. And probably also be more consistent with taking my collagen tablets. Or maybe the collagen just isn’t working. They were on sale in January when I bought them and after reading up on the benefits of the different types of collagen our bodies are made up of, I wanted to see if they would work. Some days I swear I can see a difference, a fullness, if you will and other days I look like a bag of dried fruit or something. Sorry for the visual.
Yasmin just texted me asking me if she can come over this evening so we can start watching Gilmore Girls together like we’ve been meaning to do for ages. I don’t know why I never got around to it myself. Which reminds me, I need to tidy my bedroom. Which for me means getting everything in one big pile and shoving it into a corner or under my bed.

7 PM
I’m home now and excited to understand the big, cultural phenomenon that is Gilmore Girls (or so I am led to believe) and finally have some context for people’s references. Yasmin said it was like Gossip Girl but in the first half of the 2000s and without Kristen Bell’s knowing narrations, before she went to the kitchen to pop the popcorn.

10 PM
We got through three episodes of Gilmore Girls before Yasmin had to leave. She has an early morning tomorrow. “Why didn’t you tell me that before? I was getting so interested in Rory’s rotation of sweaters and the Chilton uniforms remind me of the ones we used to wear,” I said.
“Oh, absolutely. They trigger war flashbacks every time.” She was right. “I have to go in early tomorrow to learn how to use the new coffee machine,” she replied, picking up her bag. “By the way, I’m taking you out next Saturday—”

“Yas—,” I immediately started protesting.

“And you can’t say no. We’re going to a party.”

So, I guess I’m going to a party.

The Papaya Cleanse(r)

It seems a bit silly now, but a while back during a late-night Instagram escapade, the image of a beautiful, brown-skinned model with skin so perfect under a warm sunlight that I practically gasped, before zooming in for a better look like some kind of research scientist, caught my eye. I started on the caption and, praise be, it was a rundown of her skincare routine. The part of the routine that stood out to me the most was her explanation of how she used papaya to cleanse her face. She would mash a small piece in her hand and use in the same way you would a face wash, keeping the remainder in the freezer to prevent it from spoiling.

Naturally, the next time I found myself at the market I bought myself a juicy papaya, sliced it into cube-like shapes and stored it in a container in the freezer – where it has stayed for months and months, until today.
As I write this, my container of frozen papaya cubes is thawing and by this evening, I hope, will be ready for me to bathe my face in and drink up its natural goodness. I’ve set myself a challenge: to cleanse my face with papaya until the end of the month and I’m going to try to report on the process and the results.

Papaya has natural exfoliating and brightening properties, thanks to the presence of the enzyme papain and natural AHAs which help to diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, skin damage, dry skin, stubborn blackheads and all the other lovely things so many of us would rather not see first thing upon looking in any reflective surface. Allegedly.
It’s free of sulfates, phthalates, preservatives, parabens, and other chemicals we’re told to stay away from but never fully get around to knowing why we should (at least in my case).
It sounds too good to be true, partly because it’s rather affordable when compared to the various essences and ampoules that make up the multistep routines of always closeup-ready models.
Could it really be? Is it possible that the answer to improved skin could lie in something as simple and tasty as a tropical fruit? I intend to find out.

Tuesday, 12 March

Why is it that Instagram is so addictive? I’m finding it difficult to pinpoint one other thing I spent the day doing – in-between showering, spending too much time staring at my pores in the mirror, and eventually going into work. It seems like that’s what I’m always doing these days; scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, until my thumb cramps – and even then I’ll continue, only slower. It fascinates me in a way, the lineup of long-limbed, clear-skinned teenagers and twenty-somethings; the so-called influencers and content creators, the artist-cum-models, the model-cum-artists, the actor-cum-activists, the writers, photographers, art directors, the multihyphenates… and on and on it goes.

I wake up and promise myself I’m only going to have a brief browse for five, ten minutes or so, and before I know it I’m finally raising my head from the screen to find an hour I’ll never get back has passed me by while I was watching Victoria Beckham perform her skincare routine in realtime. It’s not always a complete waste though, as I often come across fancy products that peak my interest and prompt me to seriously debate between topping up my savings and splashing out over a hundred dollars on a bottle of something I’ve decided is going to be the miraculous elixir that evens out my complexion, once and for all. I am an advertiser’s dream.
I know some people use filters and employ strategic lighting, angles and photo-editing magic, but there are also some people who appear to genuinely possess the blemishless, naturally plump skin of a 5-year-old while they stroll through the apparently polluted streets of NYC and I simply refuse to believe that it’s all down to water, good genes and sunscreen.
Of course, Instagram has much more to offer beyond editorial photographs of body positive models and their obligatorily blurred out nipples and people sharing their front row view at whichever fashion week, but unfortunately blurred out nipples and front row views seem to be where my interests currently lie, according to my explore page.

Maybe, I am just a stereotypical millennial, the type older people supposedly grumble about, a simple social media victim with too much time, but I know I’m one of many, although others may not share my experience to quite the same degree.
It can’t be that we’re all simply vacuous, shallow, “borderline braindead” (a term I heard recently) individuals. There has to be something more to this culture of hypebeasts and never-ending timelines, feeds, and explore pages. For as long as I can remember, the fashion and beauty industries have always been perceived as something silly and trivial, as not carrying as much weight as other industries, but can that really be true of sectors that command billions upon billions of dollars in worth? – admittedly, according to a cursory Google search.

I just feel there has to be something more to what people lament as the doom of our society. It feels like something of an epidemic, an almost inescapable bug.
Or am I just trying to find meaning where there isn’t any, because I know I’m going to spend another hour once again scrolling, wearing a face mask that I was holding out on purchasing but a smooth-spoken, Prada-wearing it girl mentioned once in passing and broke down my defenses, before finally closing my eyes to sleep?