As we've all learned from the ubiquity of K-beauty on the Western market over the past few years, some of the world's best skin-care secrets do indeed hail from the East, and the sparkling-water technique is no different.
"The idea of the fizzy face cleanse started originally in Japan and then went crazy in Korea, and now we’re just hearing about this trend," says dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D., who's working with SodaStream, the go-to home carbonation device, to spread the word. "What I love about it is that it gives a deeper cleanse because it traps oil and dirt that's deeper in pores. Nitrous oxide increases blood flow and nutrient delivery so it can help those with acne and acne scarring, and the pH of carbonated water matches the skin, whereas tap water is not identifiable with skin pH. The more carbonated, the better it is for the cleanse."
"One of the biggest reasons that SodaStream sells so well in Japan is because people use it to wash their face," says Bev Sylvester, who is on the company's marketing team. Brands like Dr. Brandt Skincare, DHC, and Odacité are also jumping onboard the fizzy skin-care bandwagon, formulating cleansers and masks with sodium bicarbonate and similar foaming ingredients to chip away at dead, dull cells on the surface, cut through excess oil, and invigorate skin.
The trend sounds promising, but there’s really only one way to find out whether it's just a fizzy novelty or a legitimate method — and that's to try it out. So I challenged myself to swap out 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 of choice. Staring at an aisle of sugar-free, diet, and lemon-lime-flavored 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 tons 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 invest.
I decide to start the experiment on the safe side, and after double-cleansing — first with a balm to remove my makeup, then a second wash with a foaming formula — 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 minimized — 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, which is simply to 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 overnight moisturizing treatment, but find that my skin feels dry and tight a few hours later. Maybe the dunk method is just way too shocking for my skin.
When day four comes around, I realize I’m out of San Pellegrino, so I tack 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 in brand goes unnoticed by my skin, and I’ve reverted to the cotton 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 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 that 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 look noticeably smaller. Maybe it’s time to invest in a SodaStream after all…