Could it be the best thing for your routine, while helping the environment?
With trendy new ingredients making the rounds every few months, having a complete hair, skin and body routine can often feel like a huge environmental impact.
Perhaps that’s why there’s a growing appetite for waterless beauty: a new trend that’s all about saving on one of our most prized products.
“Waterless beauty essentially means waterless products,” says Dr Lauren Hamilton, cosmetic doctor and founder of Victor & Garth (victorandgarth.co.uk). This “sometimes extends to include zero water consumption throughout the production process as well”.
Just think of the huge interest in solid shampoos – not only do they reduce environmentally harmful plastic packaging, but because they are in solid form, they don’t use water. Other anhydrous (waterless) forms include sticks, balms, and powders.
“Only 3% of Earth’s water is fresh and suitable for everyday life, including making beauty products,” Hamilton says. And beauty consumes a lot, so “water savings in this industry will make a big difference”.
Here’s everything you need to know about the waterless beauty trend…
Why should we care about water?
The world is going through a water crisis, and children’s lives and futures are at risk.
— UNICEF Water (@UNICEFwater) August 26, 2021
It is clear that we are heading towards a water crisis – and some parts of the world are already there. According to a 2019 study by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, one in three people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water.
The climate crisis is also making matters worse. A 2020 UN report said: “Climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of water for basic human needs, threatening the effective enjoyment of the human rights to water and sanitation for potentially billions of people.”
It’s clear that we need to be careful about how we use water – and that extends to our bathroom cabinets. Just take a look at any of your moisturizers, face washes, or liquid shampoos and you’ll see that “aqua” is the number one ingredient.
But it’s not like water actually transforms your beauty or haircare routine — “water is used as a carrier for other active ingredients, or for product consistency,” says Hamilton — and it can even bring its own problems. “Water breeds bacteria easily, requiring preservatives, some of which are known carcinogens, and can cause skin irritation.”
Can beauty products be waterless?
Did you know that two-thirds of the world’s population could potentially face shortages by 2025? Beauty without water is better for us and for the planet! 🌍
— Holland & Barrett (@holland_barrett) August 4, 2020
In a nutshell: “Yes,” says Hamilton. “There are other options – plants, oils or even other types of water.”
She suggests that seaweed is a possible replacement: “It’s super hydrating for the skin and miraculously doesn’t require any water for growth or production.”
And then there is the possibility of using other types of water, “made as a by-product during the production of something else”. Hamilton says, “Fruit water extracted directly from the whole fruit can be terrifically nourishing to the skin. Or floral water, also called hydrosols, are produced during the essential oil distillation process and will most certainly offer a more diluted effect profile” – a good thing, as essential oils in their purest form can be harsh for the skin.
What are the personal and environmental benefits of waterless beauty?
“The skin benefits include better results, healthier products and better hydration,” says Hamilton. She also suggests that these products contain “more active ingredients”, so may be “better absorbed, due to the lipid content of the skin”. Hamilton’s best advice here is, “Make sure you’re opting for actives that have been shown to improve skin at a cellular level through rigorous studies.”
Just take vitamin C, an ingredient that protects the skin from the damaging effects of free radicals. It’s “unstable in aqueous solutions,” Hamilton says, so it’s much better suited to a water-free product.
Hamilton also suggests that certain oils will “seal and lock in moisture, where water can actually dry out the skin.”
If the personal benefits haven’t convinced you, consider how this could make your beauty routine more eco-friendly. Not only does this save water, continues Hamilton: “Waterless products are smaller and lighter, and have a longer shelf life. This facilitates transport, reduces carbon emissions and reduces packaging, preservatives and waste.
What else do you need to know?
Hamilton admits changing routines can be expensive (“new products using new methods mean money”) and if it’s something you’re going to do, she says: “Slow changes can leave your skin feeling time to acclimatise, while you watch the fruits of your labor.
It’s also worth being aware that oils can go rancid over time, says Hamilton, “but this is easily avoided by adding an antioxidant in the form of vitamin E oil, which happens to be one of the essential vitamins to be applied daily. “.
If you opt for an oil rather than a water-based product, make sure it’s non-comedogenic (none causing acne) – “otherwise you could end up with clogged pores and a breakout. “.
Waterless products to try…
KMS Moist Repair solid shampoo, £16, looks fantastic
Frances Prescott Tri-Balm, £49, Liberty London
Green People Nordic Roots Marine Face Oil, £28
Allies Of Skin 20% Vitamin C Brightening + Firming Serum, £85, Cult Beauty
Monday Child Skin Perfecting Oil, £25.20 (was £36)
Messiah and Eve Bath Oil Emulsion, £26
Inlight Beauty Lip Serum, £29