What Makes People So Obsessed With Beads?

Why are beads good?

People love beads. There’s no getting around it. But why is it such an obsession? Why is water beading good? The rationale ranges from how gorgeous they look to the misconception that they prove a wax, sealant or coating is still protecting a surface. Either way, this obsession obscures the real point of beads—to get water off your paint. 

In this blog, we’ll take a hard look at just why exactly beads hold the vaunted status that they do, why that obsession is misplaced, and how that focus leaves the detailing industry lacking for products that truly shed water from your vehicle. 

Reason 1: They look cool

Much of the hype surrounding water beading on cars stems from their aesthetic value. It makes sense people find them so visually alluring. For one, they totally upend any preconceived notion of how water behaves on a surface. 

We know instinctively that water spreads out and wets everything in its sight; just ask anyone who’s ever spilled coffee all over their desk. So when we see water bead up into little balls, it completely subverts our expectations. Shattering assumptions, especially visually, wholly captivates the human brain. 

Water beading subverts expectations about how water behaves.

Left side: Pooling. Right side: Beading. 

On a more base level, beads are just… cool. A sphere of water perfectly balancing on a surface? That’s pretty sweet. 500 spheres of water on your car’s hood? Even sweeter. Better get a shot for the Insta!

Why is beading good?

See? Even we’re not immune. But this brings up an important point. Image-based social media platforms like Instagram have only amplified the public’s obsession with water beading.  Social media hyper-focuses people’s attention on appearance, so many would rather have a finish with thousands of static beads than a finish that actually repels them.

Part of this comes from the fact that people confuse beads with an indication of a product’s quality. Fact is, beads often have nothing to do with it. 

Reason 2: People think they prove protection

“Beads mean your coating is still working.” 

“If it’s not beading well, it’s not protecting well.”

Hit any detailing web forum and you’ll hear variations on these two sentiments time after time. If a new product doesn’t bead well, you can guarantee the forum hivemind will totally savage it. But as any pro can tell you, beading doesn’t mean protection; a coating can stop beading but still be protecting. Some coatings don’t even bead at all, instead sheeting water. 

So why is the appearance of beads so associated with performance? One theory is that it’s the least invasive way to see if a coating is still performing. Most people aren’t going to scratch their finish to test scratch resistance. They’re not going to pull out a paint thickness gauge to see if their paint is still a couple microns thicker. 

But what they will do is spray the finish with water and see if it beads up. It’s fast, easy, and won’t hurt anything. So if you’re not aware that isn’t a good indicator of protection, pretty soon beading is going to seem like the most important feature a coating can have. 

Reason 3: They symbolize results 

One other reason for beading’s popularity is that it symbolizes the results of detailing. When a professional wants to show off their work or a company wants to show off their product, there’s not many options available. You could show a really clean car, sure, but people see clean cars everyday on the street. Yawn.

You could show a really glossy car, but again you see that everyday in car commercials. You could show a before/after paint correction shot, but while impressive, it’s not exactly awe-inspiring. But beads? They really grab your attention. As such, beading shots get splashed everywhere in marketing materials, and eventually beads become an expectation associated with a quality product. 

How bead obsession hurts the industry 

The industry knows beads aren’t great for your paint, yet they continue to serve up products that create them in the thousands. Unfortunately, the market DEMANDS beading for all the reasons listed above. Companies have tried to market water sheeting products, but in the end it’s not what the people want. If the product doesn’t bead well, it doesn’t sell well. 

What this leads to is a market flooded with bead makers but short on bead movers. Might be great for the bead lovers out there, but for those who know how beads harm paint, it makes for slim pickings. So what can be done? 

Educate, educate, educate. That’s what we’re trying to do with these blogs, after all. But we can’t do it alone, so get out there with the #BeadsAreBad hashtag and start spreading the word. 


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