Here's what happened when I used fizzy water to cleanse my face

K-beauty has given rise to some pretty strange and interesting trends like applying 7 layers of toner, dunking your face in ice water to set makeup, and the use of bubble cosmetics. The last one particularly sounds like pure skincaretainment, which simply uses carbonization to create a fun and fizzy experience. But does it actually do anything for your skin?

Using carbonated water to cleanse skin is the newest Asian beauty trend to gain popularity with advocates like Peach & Lily founder Alicia Yoon, Sokoglam founder Charlotte Cho, and even dermatologists who have made it a part of their routine. Carbonated water is scientifically-proven to improve blood flow to the skin, which creates an overall brighter, flushed, glowy complexion. It may not seem like much, but it does make sense when we factor in how many skin issues can be resolved by improved blood flow.

What kind of fizzy water should I use?

It wasn’t until doing research for this article that I realized I lucked out with buying the Gerolsteiner Sparkling Natural Mineral Water (P95 for 750ml, Unimart). There are apparently several kinds of fizzy waters, and not all of them are skincare-appropriate.

Club soda has various minerals including sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, disodium phosphate, and occasionally sodium chloride. Tonic water has quinine powder, sugar, and soda. Seltzer water is plain carbonated water - this works but don’t get the ones with added flavoring. Sparkling mineral water is your best option, as the dissolved mineral content has benefits such as keeping the cells between collagen fibers strong and aiding overall firmness and plumpness of the skin.  

Using sparkling water in our skincare

We’ve heard that drinking enough water daily is one of the best things we can do for our skin, but this time, we’re going to look into the benefits of topical application. There four recommended ways of incorporating sparkling water into a skincare routine, so I tried all of them and took notes on the results for each:

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Test 1: Apply a generous amount of sparkling water on your face

This was pretty vague and honestly seemed so suspect to me. Water evaporates pretty quickly and left un-emulsified on my dry skin, I doubted it would stay on long enough to do much. So that it wouldn’t immediately evaporate or just drip off my face, I generously soaked two cotton pads in the sparkling water and applied as I would do with a toner. I was surprised that it seemed to minimize and calm down my typical midday oil and redness! It also made my usually tight and dry skin feel soft and supple, and soothed flaky areas. Considering that I just swiped it on and had minimal contact, I was quite impressed by the results!

Pros: Quick, convenient, easy to incorporate in current routine

Cons: This best works on bare skin so you can only do it if you don’t wear makeup or if you refresh foundation application midday

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Test 2: Submerge your face in a tub of sparkling water

I was similarly doubtful of the effects of a sparkling water face dip as I didn’t think I could soak my head long enough for the water to truly work up any effect. This time, my skin felt even more supple and dare I say flake-free! I did three sets of dunking my face into a large bowl of sparkling water, which I timed to last roughly 15 seconds each.

I think this method had mildly better results than the cotton pad application as my skin had more contact with the sparkling water. Still, the upgrade was minimal so I’d rather put cotton on my face than do this. The increased and prolonged exposure meant that I could feel more of the water’s fizziness, so my skin felt a bit sensitive afterwards. My skin is not that reactive though, so if you are trying any of these methods, do go in slowly as I was quite shocked with the sensation.

Pros: Slightly better results than cotton application

Cons: Wasteful setup, inconvenient, and you can feel the bubbles fizzing in your nostrils

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Test 3: Apply a towel soaked in sparkling water on your skin

As far as face masks go, towel masking is a little more claustrophobic. I belatedly realized I could have used a couple of towels and some clever folding techniques so I could breathe easier, but I am not a smart person.

Inspired by sheet face masks, I tried to leave the towel on for ten minutes but ended up only having it on for three. I got too annoyed by having to keep lifting the towel so I could breathe every few seconds. The texture of the towel and duration of the soak probably helped to increase skin suppleness compared to the first two methods but I felt the most uncomfortable with this method.

Pros: Slightly better results than cotton application and dunking

Cons: Suffocation galore

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Test 4: Wash off your cleanser with sparkling water

Of all the sparkling water skincare methods I tried, using it to rinse off cleanser is probably my favorite! It’s a bit of a hassle, but it incorporates smoothly into my existing daily routine. I first used it to wet my face and to lather up a sulfate-free low pH cleanser. While I will never stop singing praises of how low pH cleansers have changed my life, I was shocked at how rinsing it off with sparkling water made my skin even better. I didn’t realize my skin could feel softer, more supple, and just healthier post-wash!

Pros: Most dramatic results

Cons: A bit inconvenient since so you’ll need to dispense sparkling water manually

I initially assumed that the naturally acidic nature of sparkling water was the reason for why I liked it so much. We have been in a low pH skincare kick here at PV, and it made so much sense. We’ve also always been told that ‘soft drinks,’ the sugary brothers of our boring fizzy friend here, eat away at our stomach lining with their acidic content. I thought this should explain why the sparkling water felt good and nourishing on my skin but when I tested it with pH strips, it came out to a pH of about 8.5 (as opposed to the listed pH of 5.9) and more basic than my tap water which is about 6!

I wondered if all the benefits were some kind of placebo effect, but I had no positive expectations from this experiment and would like to think that I’m observant enough to note actual changes in my skin. I suspect that despite the alkaline reading of the strips, the positive results on my skin are due to the carbonation in sparkling water, the specific chemical composition of sparkling mineral water, or its unique reactions on the surface of my skin.

The main skincare lesson here is: everything that touches your skin can affect its overall and long-term health. We’re already aware that facial towels, cotton pads, pillowcases, makeup brushes, pollution, and even hands can all affect general skin condition. But I never thought to consider the water I use to wash my skin, and it’s amazing how even a bit of contact with sparkling water already showed remarkable improvements.

I also want to note that even after a week of being opening, my bottle of Gerolsteiner continues to fizz up whenever it’s opened. This is so unlike normal soda which tends to lose the spirit after just a few hours at room temperature, so you can definitely get quite a few uses out of a single bottle without losing the fizz. I suspect the glass packaging helps keep the bubbles, so if you are going to try sparkling water, best to choose one in a glass bottle.

It definitely seems like a crazy beauty hack but the results speak, nay scream, for themselves! I highly recommend everyone to try sparkling water in their skincare routine – even the least effective cotton pad method already had a huge effect on my skin!

Sources: Byrdie, NCBI, Vinepair, Coveteur, Fine Waters, Healthline, Free Chemistry, Gerolsteiner