The term waterless is a growing trend for the sustainably minded beauty consumer but what does it actually mean and why is it important?
What is waterless skincare?
Waterless skincare, is a new buzzword in the beauty industry and, like most terms, can mean different things to different people. Generally we've seen brands market themselves as 'waterless' when their formulation doesn't contain any water - think balms, oils and butters in their purest form or moisturisers, eye creams and lotions that use floral waters or aloe vera as a base instead of water. These types of products can also be referred to as anhydrous.
More often than not water, or its INCI name aqua, will be the first ingredient in your beauty products' ingredient list. Whilst some products like moisturisers and lotions use water to help spread a products across the surface of your skin as well as deliver active ingredients to your skin, sometimes water is used as a bulking or filler ingredient. This is because water is a cheap ingredient that rarely causes skin sensitivity or stability concerns with other ingredients.
In this case, it can be a good idea to try and get to the bottom of why water is used in a particular brands formulation and decide if it's truly necessary or a way for brands to lower their costs. Get curious and ask the brands and stores you shop with about the water in their products to determine if it's necessary or not.
Why choose waterless skincare products?
With two thirds of the world's population expected to experience fresh water shortages by 2025 and water imbalances around the world contributing to the water crisis it makes sense for us to minimise our water footprint as much as possible. When water is used gratuitously in beauty products it seems like an easy swap to make and save our worlds most precious resource for activities that actually need it.
By choosing products from brands like Husk and Seed, Odylique, Ezape Naturals or Bowe Organics that don't use water in their formulations you can tailor how much water to combine them with meaning you have more control over your consumption than if the water was added to the product at the manufacturing stage.
What are the benefits of waterless skincare?
Some of the benefits of opting for waterless beauty products are:
- Without water as a filler, you're only getting potent active ingredients in your skincare products that can penetrate and have remarkable effects on the skin.
"Water-free formulations frees up space for more active ingredients that are more stable and last longer than water-based products. Because our products are 100% concentrated they are more sustainable, have a longer shelf life and last up to 4 times longer than water-based alternatives." Wendy - Husk and Seed Skincare
- Water is where bacteria flourishes. Removing it from your beauty products, particularly ones which aren't using pump to dispense, can be more hygienic.
- It also means your products are purer because preservatives aren't needed to prevent bacterial growth so you avoid having to expose your skin to synthetic preservatives and chemicals. This is particularly good news for those with sensitive skin.
- Water cannot be certified as organic. By removing water from your beauty products, it's possible to have a 100% organically certified product.
- Concentrated products mean you need to use less so your product will last longer which can also mean you'll go use less packaging overall which is another eco-dilemma for many who want to use less plastic in their skincare routine.
Is there still a place for water-based skincare products in the beauty industry?
Abi from Odylique certainly thinks so:
"Without plant juices (e.g. aloe vera juice), hydrolats/floral waters or even just pure clean H2O, you can't deliver the soluble ingredients that are valuable to the skin. For sure, there are certain oils like jojoba that can be used on oilier skin types and actually help regulate sebum production, but most people with oilier skin would struggle without water-based serums, moisturisers etc."
What other ways can you save water in beauty products?
Of course, water is used in every stage of the cosmetics production process. From the water that's used to grow the natural beauty ingredients (which can be really water intensive for ingredients like almonds and , to the manufacturing and cleaning processes in the production phase this is one aspect of our water footprint that might not be so obvious when we see our beauty products on the shelf. This is what's known as virtual water. It's for this reason that we think the term 'waterless' to be a bit ambiguous so instead of calling our products in our natural beauty store 'waterless' we would say that they are a water-free formulation.
Eliminating the added water by using bar, powder, balm and oil based products, is still an easy way to start to minimise your water footprint straight from your bathroom. Luckily there are plenty of products like this in the natural and organic skincare market for you to choose from. Abi from Odylique thinks this is a trend that's here to stay: "Not only does it mean you can customise products as you like to suit your skin type but it saves on transport weight so reduces carbon footprint".
But it doesn't stop there; you can try to turn the tap off between cleansing or brushing your teeth, using a flannel or face cloth instead of splashing products off your face and taking shorter showers.
Discover our anhydrous skincare products