It’s no secret that many of the world's best skincare secrets hail from the East, and the sparkling water technique is no different. Originating in Japan and gaining popularity in Korean beauty circles as a result of social media, sparkling or carbonated water is being used in spas and at-home treatments as a refreshing, purifying and deeper cleanse for those whose skin is a little too sensitive for acids or scrubs.
Brands like Bioré, DHC and Odacité are also jumping on board the fizzy skincare bandwagon, formulating cleansers and masks with sodium bicarbonate to chip away at dead, dull cells on the surface, cut through excess oil and invigorate skin. And there might be method in the madness. Quantum Botanika founder and facialist Nataliya Robinson tells Refinery29 UK: "Sparkling water is surprisingly refreshing for the skin. It can cleanse the pores and make the skin feel plump because the bubbles work to deliver oxygen to the pores and help to remove bacteria and dirt as you wash your face."
It sounds pretty promising but, as Mark Curry, skin expert and cofounder of Be For Beauty and The INKEY List elaborates: "The long and short of washing your face in sparkling water is that the trend is hero-ing the 'oxidising and unclogging' mechanism the bubbles have on the skin. In my opinion, sparkling water has neither the level of fizz or enduring fizz to make a difference. That said, the higher level of mineral content could indeed have some beneficial effects on the skin."
It’s safe to say that the evidence is still inconclusive, so there’s really only one way to find out whether this new trend is all fad or does work a treat on skin – and that’s to try it out. I set myself a challenge of swapping tap water for sparkling water for a whole week, to see whether it would actually make a difference.
Armed with enthusiasm, I head to the supermarket in search of my sparkling water. Staring at an aisle of sugar-free, diet and lemon-and-lime-flavoured beverages, I decide to go for the safest (and bougie-est?) option: San Pellegrino. In order to reduce my plastic footprint (I figure I'll be left with tonnes of plastic bottles at the end of this), I opt for a glass bottle. Of course this is more expensive; I'm only thankful that champagne facial rinses aren’t a thing (yet). I make a mental note to look up how much a SodaStream costs… if this sparkling water technique works, maybe I’ll get one.
I decide to try a safe option tonight, and after double cleansing (the first time with Clinique’s Take The Day Off Balm, £24, to remove my makeup, and a second wash with Dr Barbara Sturm's Cleanser, £40) I soak a cotton pad with the sparkling stuff and swipe it all over my face. It’s refreshing, but not life-changing. The bubbles lose their 'popping' effect pretty swiftly, but a look at the cotton pad afterwards reveals there were areas I still managed to miss, even having double cleansed. My skin actually feels refreshed and super clean.
I kept my sparkling water in the fridge overnight, so today’s rinse offers a truly icy experience. Instead of using cotton pads, I decide to pour some of the sparkling water into my hands and splash my face with it like an old school toner. This technique definitely feels like it’s doing more than day one. The cold feels like it's tightening my pores and I can really feel the bubbles popping on my skin this time. I pat dry with a towel and inspect. Skin looks clean and pores seem minimised – but that could be due to the temperature. The jury’s still out.
Day three and I feel like I’m ready to take the plunge, quite literally, into the submerging sparkling water dunk. After watching countless YouTube tutorials, I feel well versed in the best practice. "Hold your breath and slowly breathe out to avoid bubbles going up your nose." I double cleanse before dunking my head into the bowl. The experience isn’t pleasant and I feel as though I’m drowning, but my skin does feel very clean afterwards. I follow up with my trusty Elemis Pro-Collagen Overnight Matrix, £92, but find that my skin feels dry and tight a few hours later. Maybe the dunk method is just way too harsh for my skin.
When day four comes around, I realise I’m out of San Pellegrino, so I whack a sparkling water onto the end of my UberEats order instead. It’s a negative on the plastic consumption front, but I have to admit, UberEats delivering my skincare in approximately 25 minutes is arguably the most convenient delivery service ever. The change of sparkling water brand goes unnoticed by my skin and I’ve reverted to the cotton wool pad technique, after yesterday’s dunk proved too much. Again, my skin is left clean and clear, and amazingly, I do feel like my pores are definitely less noticeable.
I stick with my tried and tested cotton wool pad technique tonight and my skin is definitely looking brighter and more radiant. The pores around my nose appear smaller and I’ve noticed fewer blackheads around my chin. I’m not sure whether this is down to the fact the water is mineral or carbonated, or perhaps even that my skin has been essentially getting a third cleanse every day, but I do feel like something has changed.
Would I carry on with the sparkling water step in my skincare routine? It depends. The dunk technique was a definite no for me – it was uncomfortable, messy and seemed to be nothing more than a waste of water. But using sparkling water in place of a toner? Sure. After all, it’s a relatively cheap and quick option, and I do think my pores appear smaller. Maybe it’s time to invest in a SodaStream after all…
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