waterless beauty

September 17, 2021
By Bytewrthy
In Clean Label

Waterless  Beauty



Water has been the central ingredient in most beauty products and has been hailed for its beneficial effects. But the trend for waterless beauty & personal care products is on the rise and is making its way into the consumer’s psyche.

The adage ‘Water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink’ seems ever more apt, given today’s water chaos! The US is facing the worst ever drought with states like California, Arizona issuing band aid solutions for water conservation. Two-thirds of the world population will experience water shortages by 2025, as barely 1 per cent of the Earth’s water supply is accessible freshwater.

We can attribute the waterless trend in most cases to lucky timing or to imitation, but a handful of companies are truly sparking the innovation conversation with climate or environment stress in mind.

The first ingredient on most beauty products is typically ‘aqua’ or ‘eau’. Water-based formulas are often touted as hydrating and consumers are sold on a promise of ‘plump hydrated skin’ which they can easily visualize. But water is in fact a cheap adulterant that adds volume and makes products profitable. Contrary to what’s being marketed, water can be quite drying for the skin! Many skincare experts recommend wiping your skin delicately (after a face wash) with a cotton pad soaked with toner to remove water debris and then proceeding with a serum or moisturizer almost immediately to seal in hydration.

K-Beauty Influence…

The notion of ‘waterless beauty’ began in South Korea before gaining momentum in the West. (The K-Beauty ethos stresses skincare first & is usually lightyears ahead of the West in skincare innovation.) Since most skin-care formulas are roughly 70 to 90 percent water, removal means active ingredients take center stage. In addition, fewer preservatives may be required. Water inherently supports bacterial growth, and so, when a product is stripped off water, it can be formulated without chemical preservatives. Beneficial botanical extracts and oils may be added to replace water as the base, together with antioxidants, like vitamin E, to protect oils from spoilage.

Think of products chock-full of the effective ingredients increasing the potency of your skincare. Anhydrous products (masks, cleansers, scrubs, shampoos) in the form of dry powders or solids are also easier to package and ship as they are more concentrated, and often last longer. These can be mixed with water just before use, making the case for clean, environment-friendly, and non-toxic formulas.

Irony in Waterless Products?

While waterless brands are marketed to be more sustainable, it is not a complete solution. From cheap filler, water could become a scarce luxury as consumption outpaces supply.  If water usage is top of mind, a consumer must still think of how much water is used diluting the concentrated final product. Water is intertwined in a product’s lifecycle — from the harvesting and processing of raw materials to formulation, finishing, packaging, transport, and consumer use.

All in all, while waterless formats may be the future of beauty, consumers can start making an impact by simplifying routines, reducing wastage, looking past marketing lingo, keeping brands accountable and buying effective products with quality ingredients.  Whether a product has water or not, it’s crucial to ingrain such a behavior.


  • In 2020, ~12% of global beauty & personal care launches in the soap, bath & shower category claimed to be waterless.
  • An average shampoo or bodywash can be made of up to 80% water. Conditioner is even higher, at up to 95%.
  • Solid bars provide an alternative to liquid products packaged in single-use plastic bottles.
  • One HDPE (high density polyethylene) 350 ml bottle requires 700ml of water to make.
  • Approx. 550 million plastic bottles of shampoo are thrown out every year in America alone, and only a fraction of those get recycled.

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