Help me show that this Evian for your face is bunk, with science
February 10, 2011 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Is this this Evian spray bottle of water for your face is just bunk? Seeking cites one way or the other based on the science of skin moisturization.

Evian claims that this product moisturizes and tones your skin. Could that possibly be true? It's just water!

If it is true, than does that mean that all the moisturizers and toners on the market are just unnecessary as compared to plain old water?

It struck me as obvious that this product was bunk, but then I realized that all of my dermatological knowledge of moisturizing comes from pore animation on commercials, so I'm turning to you to help me bring on the science. Cites and expert opinions please!
posted by paddingtonb to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "toning" actually doesn't mean anything. Metafilter could promote itself with toning abilities.

Adding water will add moisture to your face. So they're not really fibbing about that.

The only time I've seen this product was in beach resorts' minibars as an expensive way to cool off. And after a day in the hot sandy beach, it does feel pretty good on your face. But toning? Nah.
posted by birdherder at 5:17 PM on February 10, 2011

I've used it on flights where the air is drier, and it does help noticeably with keeping my face from becoming oily. It probably doesn't actually moisturize as well as it promises to do (or at all – not unlike most cosmetic products), but it's refreshing. If you're the kind of person who likes splashing water on their face during the day as a pick-me-up (I do that at work occasionally), you'll find that it's a much more civilized alternative that won't mess up any makeup you might be wearing. I've also found it soothing after long days of sun exposure on the beach and during snowboarding, even though I was wearing sunscreen.

For what it's worth, Mom recently shared that she loves it as well.

FYI, the La Roche-Posay version of the same product claims to be even better for you, as it's rich in minerals.
posted by halogen at 5:20 PM on February 10, 2011

Best answer: The "moisturizing" effect would be similar to a splash of water. External application of water does not "moisturize" skin, however - as far as I understand it, "moisture" in the context of skin care really means the fats/oils on your skin, and water applied on your face removes these naturally existing "lipids".
In order to add to your lipid layer, you have to use an emulsion (mixture of oil and water). This is what lotions and other face-goos consist of, with varying proportions of water/oil depending on whether you really want a "moisturizing" (i.e. oily) effect.

(Having used one of these ridiculous bottles, which I got as a promo gift, I can tell you they do feel nice, especially when it's really hot and you don't have air condition. I have successfully replicated the sensation with a spray bottle and tap water...much cheaper. Did not notice any effect on my skin with either method.)
posted by The Toad at 5:21 PM on February 10, 2011

Yep, making it wet adds moisture. There you go!

The act of putting on lotion more or less seals in the moisture you already have in your skin. That's why you should put it on immediately after getting out of the shower. (It has the added bonus of going into more open pores if you've been steamed up.) It's kind of like Chapstick vs. shea butter: Chapstick is more or less an occlusive wax, which covers and protects but doesn't necessarily penetrate and heal. Shea butter, hemp oil, avocado oil, etc. have essential fatty acids and really do penetrate, in addition to adding a little protection.

The spray bottle is a pretty handy form -- not too drippy, easy to carry. It has a nice fine mist. And at least you're not spreading placenta or bird poo on your face. Hooray for overpriced hype!
posted by Madamina at 5:33 PM on February 10, 2011

Best answer: The Evian spray bottle will keep your face wet, which I suppose is "moisturizing," in a sense, in that one of the definitions of "moisturize" is to make wetter.

However, when your skin becomes dry and uncomfortable, the thing that makes it feel better is not water; it's lipids (aka, oils, fats).

Here's how your skin works, layperson edition: Your skin has basically two layers, the epidermis and the dermis; the latter is attached to a basement membrane of loose connective tissue and fat.

The epidermis has no blood vessels and consists of stratified (layered) squamous (flat) epithelium (cells that line a bodily surface). What happens is that only the bottom layer of epidermis cells divide and grow, and as they work their way up to the surface, they die and get flat and hard as their cytosol (cytoplasm) is replaced by a waterproof protein called keratin. This keratinized surface prevents water from evaporating straight out of your body and into the air. (This is desirable and is one of the many differences between people and slugs.) These cells exist in a human-oil-rich environment, which help keep them waterproof. (There are other kinds of cells in the epidermis too: Melanocytes, which make melanin, which colors skin, and Merkel cells, which help you sense where things are, but the ones you really care about in this context are those epidermis cells.)

The dermis, which is underneath, has a loose spongy part with lots of nerves and blood vessels, and then a tough, leathery part that is made of proteins called collagen, elastin, and reticular fibers. (You may recognize these words from cosmetics commercials.) A good way to imagine this dense layer is by thinking of leather. Yes, your skin has that too.

So, when you rub a lotion on your face, you're adding oils to this top part, adding to the natural lipid content of your skin, which can make the rough cells feel softer, but doesn't, like, bring them back to life or anything. And spraying water on your face won't even do that. It just beads up and makes you feel cooler, and possibly more refreshed.
posted by purpleclover at 5:34 PM on February 10, 2011 [100 favorites]

Anyone seen an ingredient list on the canister? It seems to me it's just water with a nitrogen propellant. I imagine you can make your face just as "moisturized" and "toned" by putting water in a generic spray bottle and using that.
posted by asciident at 5:58 PM on February 10, 2011

It's a nice pick-me-up at the office or otherwise not at home. Kind of like caffeine for the face.
posted by jgirl at 6:01 PM on February 10, 2011

Best answer: As someone with very dry skin, I can say that, at least for me, any plain water just makes my skin much dryer in the long run. I have to put lotion on right away anytime I get significantly wet - I'm sure most of the effect is loosing some of the oils - but this is true even without any soap.
posted by lab.beetle at 6:05 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anecdote! I met someone once with a beautiful, beautiful face. Then I discovered that she splashes tap water on her face to wash it off pretty much every time she goes in the bathroom.

Conclusion: It may have some truth to it, but ain't no sense in usin' packaged water when tap water will do quite nicely.
posted by aniola at 6:08 PM on February 10, 2011

She also ate very healthy foods.
posted by aniola at 6:08 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know moisturizing from mosquito poo, but as someone who used to fly 150,000 miles a year - mostly Chicago to Far East non stops - it sure FEELS good. United used to put those in their little gadget bags they gave first class passengers. Maybe you'd get the same little fresh "pick me up" kind of thing from a plastic mister filled with tap water, but since I never had one of those around at 35,000 feet halfway across the Pacific, i can only vouch for the Evian spray. I love those things!
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 6:20 PM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, and a few cites:

Skin is a water barrier: The barrier function of skin: how to keep a tight lid on water loss

Skin is basically oily: Human stratum corneum lipids: characterization and regional variations.

There are a lot of nitty-gritty details about moisturizers in this book, creatively called Skin Moisturization. (Google Books link).
posted by purpleclover at 6:29 PM on February 10, 2011

Best answer: I think it's a popular product with makeup artists. An ultra-fine mist of water is a good way to "set" a powder on the skin surface so that the particles stick to each other and to the skin. That is not to say you need Evian, but it's just extra pure and packaged in a bottle that gives the appropriate really fine mist; you don't want actual droplets of water because then your makeup job runs or smudges.
posted by slow graffiti at 6:30 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you want to spray stuff on your face, try this. From the description: "...Na-PCA is a Ph-balanced, concentrated solution of the sodium salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid, the natural moisturizing factor found in human skin...". There's a version of this product without the ethanol that may actually be better.

I like it because it's inexpensive, I'm lazy, and my skin seems to be doing okay.
posted by prenominal at 7:30 PM on February 10, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks y'all!

I'll be checking back in throughout the night if anyone else has anything to add.

As an aside, my business partner posted the same question on Reddit (I know that's sort of frowned on, but he didn't ask before doing it). I'm happy to say you kicked their asses.

This is for a post tomorrow on the psychology of selling this product and it's environmental impact. memail me if you'd like a link.
posted by paddingtonb at 7:34 PM on February 10, 2011

Response by poster: err, its environmental impact.
posted by paddingtonb at 7:44 PM on February 10, 2011

I've never tried Evian, but my daughter got me hooked on using rose water in a spray bottle.

I don't think it does much more than refresh, but it's lots of fun for those 'moisturize me!' moments.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:12 PM on February 10, 2011

I've read that rose water closes pores, so it would be what you'd want to put on your face after showering.
posted by aniola at 11:46 PM on February 10, 2011

I have noticed the best thing for dry skin is using a humidifier at night . This will only work if your not in florida lol.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:41 AM on February 11, 2011

Best answer: Ugh, now I'm worried that I skimmed past a really important part: Your skin does have water in it, and the water content makes it soft, which is why when you're someplace super-dry your skin feels dry and itchy, and when you're around a humidifier your skin feels more moist. Even the relatively scaly and protein-and-lipid rich outer layer, the stratum corneum, is around 30 percent water. The lower strata of the epidermis are even more watery, up to 80 percent.

Water does evaporate from skin, but it's mostly water from your body that works its way out (think, sweat), not water that you splashed on top of it that sort of "soaked in." The deal with humidifiers (and I guess your Evian spray, even) is that less water from your body evaporates in a humid environment than in a dry one. That's why lying in the bath makes your skin feel drier, not less dry. (The warm bath water washes away both lipids and natural humectants, which I also skimmed over.)

So the top layer of skin is dead cells with keratin in them (which holds onto water), surrounded by natural lipids, as well as natural humectants: amino acids and lactic acid and some other things, that also attract water (from lower layers of skin and somewhat from the air) and keep the stratum corneum supple.

For moisturizers, there are two basic kinds, occlusives (notably petroleum jelly) which block evaporation from the skin, and emollients, oily lotions which smooth over rough patches of that dead outer skin layer. Good summary here. There are also artificial humectants that go into cosmetics, but they often leave skin feeling very sticky; they draw water up from the dermis into the outer layer of the epidermis.

This is actually the correct answer to your question: Skin Physiology, Irritants, Dry Skin and Moisturizers (pdf)

I'm now embarrassed because my first answer sounded authoritative but was actually pretty flip. Also, I still don't think that Evian stuff is moisturizing for your skin. It is refreshing, though.
posted by purpleclover at 7:55 AM on February 11, 2011 [8 favorites]

Those cells probably absorb ambient water moisture from the air. After weeks of very cold weather, my skin is very dry. My skin plumps up a little after a shower, from the water. But, that moisture departs pretty quickly, leaving my skin drier and itchier than before the shower. For 1.99, you can buy a travel-size mister, and test this. Mist only the left side of your face several times a day, and report back to us in a couple weeks.
posted by theora55 at 9:34 AM on February 11, 2011

Purpleclover, do lips have the same setup as the rest of your skin? What makes them look and feel different from the rest, and does that difference affect the amount of moisture in them?
posted by harriet vane at 12:55 AM on February 12, 2011

Lips do not have the same setup as the rest of your skin. They have more free nerve endings, and more tactile receptors (Meissner's corpuscles, Merkel cells). They are keratinized (unlike the inside of your cheek), but there are fewer keratinized layers, which is why you can see the color of your blood underneath (i.e., why lips are red.) At the same time, the epidermis is thicker, but less effective at keeping in water than your cheeks; this is why your lips chap so easily.

The lips (technically called, amazingly, the vermilion zone—how great is that?) are this weird border area between regular skin (on your face) and mucous membranes (inside your mouth.) Mucous membranes in the mouth have salivary glands and they're also not keratinized, which is why you can scrape the surface off the inside of your cheek and get a bit of white goo, but you can't really do that, say, on your forearm.

Pretty much everything I just wrote I reminded myself about using this book, Cosmetic Dermatology (Google Books link). There's lots more in there if you're interested in more.
posted by purpleclover at 2:46 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks, that's very educational!
posted by harriet vane at 12:38 AM on February 14, 2011

This is desirable and is one of the many differences between people and slugs.

Now that, my friends, is a perfect sentence.
posted by LarryC at 11:44 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

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