Everything You Need To Know About Waterless Beauty

Waterless Beauty

Waterless skin and hair care is the latest trend taking over the sustainable beauty industry. If you check the ingredient list of any skincare or personal care product in your bathroom cabinet, chances are you'd find 'aqua' listed as the first ingredient.

For decades, water has been used in formulating beauty and grooming products. "It helps with application, hydration, texture and dissolving water-soluble actives (like vitamin C) so they work better on your skin," says Charlotte Palermino, NYC-based licensed aesthetician and co-founder of Dieux Skin. Some skin care products use mineral-rich thermal water that is known for its antioxidant properties.

It's also an inexpensive ingredient, says Vapor Beauty co-founder and formulator, Kristine Keheley. Most water-based products contain up to 70% H2O, she notes.

However, with one-quarter of the world population being impacted by extreme water stress today and consumers becoming increasingly eco-conscious—more and more beauty brands are coming up with innovative ways to create more sustainable products.

What Exactly is Waterless Beauty?

Started in South Korea, waterless, water-free or anhydrous beauty refers to skincare and cosmetic products that are formulated without water. Instead, they use various butters, oils or waxes and oil-soluble actives as ingredients.

"Water is, of course, used to grow the natural botanicals they are formulated with," notes Krysia Boinis, co-founder and CEO of Vapour Beauty.

Water-free beauty products are typically more concentrated than their water-based counterparts as they tend to contain higher levels of active ingredients since they aren't diluted.

How Is Waterless Beauty More Sustainable?

"Water-based products require high amounts of synthetic preservatives since water breeds bacteria," says LOLI Beauty founder and CEO, Tina Hedges. "A water-free product, in most cases, can be preserved with more natural or earth-friendly preservatives," she adds.

"No water in formulas also means smaller packaging made of significantly fewer materials," says Boinis. Lighter, smaller packaging reduces shipping weight and space consequently reducing the overall carbon footprint, explains the sustainable beauty expert.

Moreover, because they are typically more concentrated and more potent, waterless cosmetic and skincare essentials also tend to last longer as you can get away with using less.

However, it's important to note that not all water-free products are created equal. Just because a product is formulated without H2O doesn't mean it's sustainable. For example, "oil cleansers are waterless. But if the ingredients used aren't grown sustainably, it can have a higher footprint than a regular foaming cleanser that has water added," Palermino points out.

Therefore, it's best to research about the brand you're interested in—how it obtains its ingredients, where they are sourced from, what kind of preservatives and packaging they use, etc.—before adding anything to your cart.