Thermal water sprays started in France, and most of the thermal waters are sourced from French hot springs. They are the latest beauty fad that’s taking North America by storm…or so they say. I feel like we’ve somehow conceded that North Americans are somehow Neanderthal when it comes to beauty products, and need to import a trend from our more sophisticated sisters in Europe or Asia. Reactions are mixed, from gleeful adoption to suspiciousness, eye-rolling to admiration. We look at what mineral water in a bottle might offer.
Wait, Water in a Can?
Let’s start by acknowledging the not-so-subtle elephant in the room – you are paying good money for water, nitrogen, and residual minerals left in the water. Skincare has always divided people into skeptics and believers. For some, anything beyond a bar of soap is modern-day snake oil. Even for skincare enthusiasts, the idea of paying money to spray water on your face seems to push the boundary of credulity. It’s easy to forecast the reactions of your closest friends:
Boyfriend: I have no words…
Girlfriend: Uh, you do, you girl 🙂
Even on Reddit’s skincare addiction, a rather hardcore group of skincare advocates, we see rare voices of dissent:
“There’s no reason to mist your face with water. It serves no function. It’s a silly useless product marketed to people with too much money and too little sense.”
Fair enough. If you take a step back, though, is it objectively any crazier than buying bottled water, a bottle of wine at a restaurant, or popcorn at the theatre? Value is in the eye of the beholder, but it seems to me that certain “weird” purchases are more normalized than others. A better question, and perhaps the only relevant one, is, does it provide value to you?
What is Thermal Water, and How do I use them?
Let’s start with the more tangible facts, starting with what thermal water is. It’s water from hot springs – which typically have a much higher mineral content than regular water. Hot springs have long been associated with healing and therapy across almost all cultures with geothermal springs.1 The list of studies for applying mineral water in aerosol form, however, is much smaller and currently only funded by the manufacturers of the products.2
One of the significant upsides with thermal water is its flexibility. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of claims or use cases that are listed on major thermal water products:
- Hydrates your skin/seals in extra moisture
- Primes/sets/revives your skin for makeup
- Can help control oil production/in place of a toner
- Boosts the absorption of your moisturizers and masks
- It helps dilute other products
- During and after workouts
- Relief from irritation and redness
It’s not explicitly mentioned as a use case, but on a hot day, I’m sure many use the thermal spray just as a way to take the edge off the heat as well. The feeling of mist is refreshing. From a spritz to start your morning to Las Vegas-style sprays in the blistering heat, there’s a lot to be said about the psychological aspect of spray.
What are the Effects?
The first thing to look at is the potential effects of applying water and the effects of the thermal water’s mineral ingredients. First, the water:
Spraying water on the skin (usually the face) isn’t necessarily harmless. Just because it’s water doesn’t mean that it’s moisturizing; this is because the skin holds on to moisture with a combination of oily substances. Surely, you’ve had that feeling after taking too many showers or baths in a day, where your skin feels parched and far worse (this is because the natural skin oils are lost in the process). It’s also interesting to note that some have suggested that metals found in tap water may be free radicals themselves that damage the skin, so the claims are still very much muddled.
On the other hand, water, for the most part, is harmless and certainly refreshing. If you were worried about the drying effects, you could also opt to wipe them off gently after spraying. There is also some positive evidence for some of the minerals that are in the water, although the strength of evidence isn’t particularly strong. Thermal spring water may have some value in protecting the skin from free radicals, UV damage and may have anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties.4 Uriage has a study on the effects of their spring water on eosinophilic inflammation.5 There may also be some beneficial properties in the mineral components of thermal spring water.6
There is understandably a paucity of hard evidence in this space. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting the properties of thermal springs since ancient times. At this stage in our understanding of how water and minerals could interact with skin contact, this may be the best that we can hope for.
Generally, the sprays range from around $9 to $25 per can. Most of the sprays contain 50ml – 150ml of thermal water. Whether you find that too high (can’t get over the fact that it’s mostly water) or a bargain (it lasts two months and costs less than a pizza night) is entirely subjective.
Should you add a thermal spray into your skincare routine? I don’t know, but it’s probably worth trying out once to see if it’s something you like. As far as hard evidence goes, we’re still not there yet heavily reliant on anecdotal ones or one-off studies, in-vitro testing, and manufacturer-funded studies. As a consumer, though, between the low cost of the product, the overall flexibility of use, and the low risk of adverse reactions, it’s certainly worth trying to see if you like it.
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1While the evidence for specific, measurable outcomes is necessarily weak, hot springs or hydrotherapy, in general, has long been used, recognized, and studied for alleviating various symptoms of pain.
2Although this is unfortunate, this isn’t as sketchy as it may seem. Trials cost a lot of money, and there’s little incentive for the public to fund a study on the effects of thermal spray water.
4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3549667/ This study was funded by La Roche Posay.
5https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1472-8206.1998.tb00970.x This study tested on in vitro cells.
6https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-3083.2010.03892.x Funded by Avene Spring Water.