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An interview with Dr. Pedro Catalá, founder of TWELVE Beauty & creator of Dara’s Water
Our founder, Dara, had been looking for a cleansing water that could easily clean every (truly, every) skin type for over ten years. Something that would handily remove both eye makeup and thick mineral sunscreen — and that was also so soothing and gentle that it would actually benefit the most sensitive and reactive skin types, every single day. An overachieving all-star that could do it all, with the care and grace that would make it seem effortless.
But she couldn’t find such a product anywhere. Even the micellar waters designed for sensitive skin were, she found, too irritating to use every day due to harsh surfactants, glycols, or a skin-barrier-disrupting pH. So she asked our friend, Pedro — the masterful formulator and founder behind TWELVE Beauty, one of our most beloved brands — “Why isn’t this out there?” You’ll find the answer in her Q&A with Pedro below.
Then, she asked him, “Well…can you make one?” Because we knew if anyone could do it, it would be Pedro: given his extensive training, he understands the most sensitive skin like no one else. To our delight, he created Dara’s Water: everything we’d been looking for, and more. Read on for the story behind it.
Dara: What is so unusual about the Dara’s Water formula?
PEDRO: Cleansing waters are very popular, in general, because they are effective at removing makeup and impurities and are quite fuss-free. They’re formulated with surfactants (detergents); these molecules, once they are incorporated in the water present in the formula, form spheres that are technically called “micelles,” hence the name “micellar water.”
The problem with micellar waters is that they are formulated with a high pH, similar to what you’ll find around the eye’s tear ducts (approximately 7.4) in order to avoid irritation. However, this is a higher pH value than it is for the rest of the face (whose pH is around 5), which then causes irritation over time, especially if they are not rinsed off: that can lead to a loss of elasticity and increase of Trans Epidermal Water Loss.
Our Dara’s Water formula contains a rare combination of humectants and polysaccharides that are capable of removing the most stubborn makeup and impurities (and mineral sunscreens). It is so effective, yet very mild to the skin — in fact, is even hydrating. I see it more as a treatment than even just a super powerful cleanser, although it achieves both goals.
Dara: Dara’s Water is a “non-micellar water.” How is it not a micellar water?
PEDRO: Surfactants, or detergents molecules, look like tadpoles. Their tails repel water; this is why they tend to group in micelles — little spheres — where their "heads" show more affinity to the water while protecting their "tails," which have more affinity to oil. In Dara's Water, we do not use these types of surfactants as we favor other molecules that have cleansing abilities.
Dara: If its pH is lower than that of a typical micellar water, why doesn’t it sting the eyes?
PEDRO: Because it doesn’t contain surfactants, which are generally classified as irritants (even if they’re “natural”).
Dara: Should cleansers always be rinsed off, in your opinion?
PEDRO: I can understand the rationale behind non-rinse cleansers because of the dubious quality of the water — and sometimes it can potentially avoid more friction on the skin — but I believe that they should always be rinsed off. Otherwise, to me, you always find a bit that you’re moving the dirt from one place to another. Dirt and pollution in general cause inflammation on the skin, which is the origin of so many difficult skin conditions and other minor ailments.
Dara: Thank you for making it extra kind for super-sensitive skin (like mine!) by avoiding harsh preservatives. How did you do that?
PEDRO: As you know, one of the first investments I made was in the best water purification system I could find for the TWELVE studio. That alone helps quite a bit.
But for this particular formula, I also chose to use organic rose and oat waters that are made to order so that they are preservative free; most botanical waters must contain a fair amount of preservatives.
And of course we make it in small batches as we need them, right here in Spain. All of this makes the product more time consuming, but very special and excellent for the most sensitive and reactive skin.
Dara: So...why hasn't anyone made anything like this before?
PEDRO: I think there are two reasons.
First, we all (including formulators) tend to stay in our comfort zones. Usually, a cleansing water is formulated in the same way: water + surfactant. Which is not a bad thing, especially since there are so many milder choices nowadays. However, there is certainly room for improvement; for this, we need to venture into new and exciting unknown territories.
Secondly, when I first started formulating years ago, the list of natural ingredients available to use could possibly fit on a single page. Now, the vast options could quite possibly take over a 100-page book. You and I initially talked about the idea of this unique cleansing water during our first meeting (which, by the way, was a very civilized one since you took me out for a memorable lunch at Little Gem), so it it’s been in the back of my mind ever since. I like to think of myself as pretty up to date with the latest ingredients; when I spotted these fancy new molecules backed up by scientific evidence, I jumped at the opportunity to use them and began drawing up the initial formula.
I remember my grandmother Pepica often telling me that no matter the effort you put into something, it won't happen if it’s not the right time. Now, finally, the moment for this special cleansing water has arrived.
We couldn't be more excited about this product. Learn more about Dara's Water here, and read Dara's Q&A with Pedro about cleansing in general here — it'll help you appreciate this unique formula even more.