There are plenty of things you can wash your face with these days, like normal tap water or a stick. Right now, the new rinse about town is sparkling water. Cleansing with carbonated water sounds like something that would be birthed here, in a boundary-less nation obsessed with La Croix, but the practice allegedly comes from the lands of skin-care secrets: Korea and Japan.
Purportedly, in K-beauty and J-beauty routines, fizzy water is just another at-home path to healthier-feeling and healthier-looking skin. But does it work? Does it require a Costco membership to maintain? Here’s everything you need to know about cleansing with carbonated water.
So, why are people doing this?
Sparkling-water facials and fizzy face cleanses started in Japan and Korea, where “why is your skin so good?” gets asked a lot, I imagine. The claims: The fizziness of carbonated water gives your skin a deeper clean than tap, resulting in smaller-looking pores, firmer skin, and a healthy glow. Instructional YouTube videos demonstrating the cleansing method have been on the radar for the past few years, but the trend recently caught a second wind in the U.S., perfectly timed to the peak seltzer and sparkling water obsession we’re currently experiencing.
And what does science have to say about it?
A few things. According to dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman, carbonated water dilates blood vessels and the arterial end of capillaries, which increases blood flow and circulation. These are both good things. When blood flow increases, more oxygen and nutrients can get into your skin. When your skin is fed with more nutrients and oxygen, it regenerates more efficiently, meaning annoying marks like acne scars start to disappear, cells turn over in a more timely fashion, and things get overall more glowy.
According to Dr. Kavita Mariwalla however, it’s a lot less complicated; this is just another way to DIY an exfoliator at home. “This trend simply allows the bubbles or fizz to help dissolve dirt from the superficial layers of skin in a gentle way, without needing a wash cloth,” she says. Any other positive effects you notice (smoothness, evenness in tone) are also probably due to fizzy water just being fancier in general. “Most of the benefits of this routine come from the fact that the water being used has soothing minerals in it.” In other words, your skin definitely prefers San Pellegrino to tap.
Carbonated water gets another point in the cleanser column because it has a slightly acidic pH around 5.5, which is almost the same as the pH of human skin. Since the levels are aligned, carbonation can clean up without irritating the skin because it doesn’t throw off the acidity of the skin’s outermost layer. Tap water, on the other hand, is around a pH of 7, which may be why you experience that stripped, dry feeling after you wash your face. (But it could also mean your cleanser is too harsh. Or both!)
Cool, how do I do it though?
It’s very tempting to take some San Pellegrino with you into the shower and pour it all over your face. But if you want to do it the K-beauty/J-beauty way, you’re going to need a large bowl that fits your entire face, along with the maturity to finally accept it may be time to invest in a fizzy-water-making device (like a SodaStream) if you want to keep this routine up.
Pour your carbonated water into the bowl. Dr. Mariwalla recommends mixing it with some tap water to tone down the harshness of the carbonation (mix with flat mineral water if your fizzy water is mineral-free seltzer). Next, lower your face into the bowl and hold it there for ten seconds while the bubbles do their thing. This is harder than it sounds, something I learned after doing it myself. It will feel like you’re voluntarily torturing yourself, and you will also feel very, very awake. My advice: breathe out of your nose so the bubbles don’t go up it and do this in this private. Once you reemerge, you can apply your cleanser like usual and rinse it off with your remaining carbonated water, or use the dunk to end your cleansing routine.
If that’s entirely too fizzy for your face, you can try splashing the water onto it like they do on cleanser commercials, but that seems messy. Alternatively, you can try drenching cotton pads with carbonated water and gently dabbing that all over your face, which is Dr. Mariwalla’s method of choice. (After dunking my face in a bowl of carbonated water, I think this is also now my method of choice.)
Ok, so do I this every day, or…?
If you’re able to endure the full-on face-in-bowl-soak long enough to even ask this question, congrats, and know that once to twice a week will suffice. If you’re doing a gentler method like the quick splash or cotton pad-dabbing, feel free to raise the frequency depending on how your skin reacts to this all, but start with once to twice a week, keep all sessions to 10–15 seconds, and proceed with caution if you have sensitive or very dry skin.
But what if I don’t like sparkling water?
Weird, but fine in this case — you don’t have to drink it, but your skin might like drinking it.