Last Updated on March 23, 2023
We are on the brink of a global water crisis. So saving water is a priority. But is waterless beauty something that will help you lead a more sustainable lifestyle?
I received a newsletter in my inbox from a beauty brand highlighting their strengths with claims like cruelty-free, preservative-free, water-free…
Woah! Wait a minute! Did I read that right? Water- Free! Is that a thing now?
Apparently, yes. Waterless beauty is the latest trend in the beauty industry. Beauty Industry is slowing moving towards greener practices. And waterless beauty is a eco-friendly beauty trend that aims to reduce your water usage.
It is being touted to be the answer to making beauty industry sustainable and a step towards solving the water crisis.
But Is Water Really A Bad Guy in Beauty products?
The “Free Of” claim usually refers to an undesirable ingredient in the product. So how did the water turn into a villain?
I started reading articles promoting the waterless beauty concept as the greener choice. Here are some arguments they make and what I actually think about them.
Argument #1: Water is a filler Ingredient
This argument is often put forward by brands that sell only anhydrous products. Water is the first ingredient on most skincare, hair care and makeup products. In fact, it can make up almost 70-80% of the product volume at times.
So it may seem like the brands are selling us a diluted product to make more profits. But this is not always the case.
Water is a solvent that dissolves water-soluble active ingredients and helps them penetrate your skin.
Example: Pick any Vitamin C serum and it will have no more than 30% Vitamin C. Because it has to be diluted to a certain % to meets the permissible limits.
Using active ingredients over these limits increases your risk of skin irritations. Yes, you can substitute water with a hydrosol so that it plays a more active role in solving the problem.
But that increases manufacturing costs too, so the product may not be accessible to all. Water as a solvent is key to affordable skincare and makeup formulations.
Argument #2: Water-Free Products Are Concentrated/Effective
This argument is somewhat true. There are some products (such as solid shampoo bars, cold-processed soaps/conditioner bars) that offer more uses for the same quantity.
But for other products such as moisturizers/serums etc, going water-free doesn’t always work.
Example: I have oily/acne-prone skin and live in a city with a humid climate. So I can’t use facial oils or butters on my face/body during the day, especially in summers.
I need light-weight gels or even lotions to moisturize my skin and prevent pimples. And they can’t be made without water.
Also while water may not be present in the product, it is used during the formulation stage. Plant butters are melted in a bain-marie/double boiler filled with water to help them blend with other ingredients.
Even growing plants/trees that give us these ingredients take up a lot of water. So even if your final product may be water-free, water is likely used at some point during manufacturing state.
Argument #3: Waterless Beauty Has No Preservatives
Preservatives are essential to prevent bacteria and mold from growing in water-based products. While there are some preservatives that cause irritation or have safety concerns, there are a lot of safe options out there too.
So there is no need to opt for waterless beauty products just to avoid the preservatives.
Also, if everyone started using such products, the demand for oils would increase. And to meet this demand more forests will be cut down to make way for agricultural land.
Argument #4: Packaging/Shipping is More Sustainable With Waterless Beauty
This is a 100% valid point in support of waterless beauty products. Products like solid soaps, foaming powder cleansers or dry face masks can be shipped in paper pouches or cardboard boxes.
This will reduce the amount of plastic waste generated by beauty companies every year. Such products also take up less space in shipment and weigh less, making the shipping process more sustainable.
Zero Waste Brands are creating some amazing formulations that are packed sustainably using almost no plastic.
The Truth About Waterless Beauty Trend
Ever since the clean beauty movement took off, all brands are trying to adopt sustainable or green beauty practices to woo their customers. As a concious consumer, this is a great news.
From packing to the ingredients list, everything is up for scrutiny these days. So it is no wonder brands are coming up with new ways to make themselves stand out!
Making their production process water-efficient is one thing. But you can’t solve the water crisis situation by simply choosing water-free cosmetics.
Do you know what would really help save crores of liters of water every day?
- Luxury resorts and the rich households stop using private swimming pools for recreation.
- They use showers or buckets-baths instead of a bathtub.
- Chemical industries stop polluting water-bodies with their waste.
- Stopping companies like Nestle and PepsiCo from exploiting groundwater.
- Stopping deforestation and construction.
- More housing societies building a rain-water harvesting system.
- Turning off the tap while brushing or washing their face.
These are real solutions to help avoid the water crisis. Not waterless beauty!