It used to be so simple–water was free, from the tap, and not a dietary or beauty concern. But now, with new information on hydration and health, the explosion of the bottled and filtered water industries and new cosmetic technology, the universal solvent comes in more forms than ever before. How do you decide which type to tap?
Water by design
We all know that we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to keep our bodies functioning properly, and as far as hydration goes, any water will do. But the bottled water industry has grown–by 10.1 percent from 1997 to 1998, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation–by promoting “designer” water. At the grocery store, you may find mineral water, which must naturally contain more than 250 parts per million total dissolved minerals and trace elements. (Minerals affect a water’s taste and the most common minerals found in water are calcium and magnesium.) Other options are purified water, which has had all the minerals removed, and spring water, which must be collected directly from a spring. Both imported and domestic bottled waters must meet the same FDA standards, while tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Alternately, many people are taking it home: According to a 1999 study by the Water Quality Association, 38 percent of adults used a household water-treatment device. These systems filter out fluoride and chemicals like chlorine, which is commonly added to tap water to kill bacteria.
All washed up
With the increased interest in the quality of water for drinking, the next logical question is: What’s best for washing? The issue here is water’s mineralization;highly mineralized, or hard, water may leave a film on hair. Additionally, chlorine, found in most tap water, is acidic and therefore drying. If you have extremely hard or chlorinated water that you feel is damaging your hair, washing in soft water could help. (Look for bottled water with fewer than 400 TDS, or total dissolved solids, or use home-filtered water.) For most people, however, tap water, plus a good conditioner, is sufficient.
Skin is also affected by water mineralization. Hard water and chlorinated tap water take off surface oils, and can be drying to skin. If your skin is highly sensitive (for example, to chlorine in swimming pools) or if you have rosacea or a weakened immune system, you could try washing with purified water. However, Mitchell Kline, M.D., clinical instructor of dermatology at The New York Hospital Cornell Medical Center, says tap water is fine for most people in most parts of the country. High-end skincare company Erno Laszlo takes it a step further: It counts tap water as an integral part of its skin care system. The company says when used with their cleanser and their unique splashing technique, water helps soften, exfoliate and renew skin.
As a common ingredient, many cosmetic products use de-ionized water–water that has been processed to remove all minerals–to prevent adverse reactions within the formula. Taking it to the next level, companies like H2O+, launched in 1989, offer a full line of 100 percent water-based products. The water replaces more traditional oil bases, and H2O+ finds that water is more hydrating and less comedogenic. More recently, companies like Awake and Vincent Longo have created water-based foundations, Hydro-Touch and Water Canvas respectively, notable for their lightness and sheerness. And the original designer water, Evian, even got in on the beauty game–its Le Brumisateur mister is designed for use on the face to remove mineral and chlorine traces after washing with tap water.
So, whether we’re bathing, drinking or cleansing in it, consumers and the marketplace will always find a way that water works, ensuring it will never go out of style.