It’s a common fact that water is an essential component of the human body.
It does, after all, make up a major part of it – 79% of our muscles, 73% of our brain and 31% of our bones to be exact.1
So if water’s so important for most parts of our body, what’s the deal with waterless beauty?
Because waterless skin care and waterless beauty is creating ripples within the global skincare and beauty industry, and has done for a while now.
But what it is all about and why switch to waterless beauty products when you’re already in the habit of using your existing products, and they happen to suit your skin too?
How did the waterless trend start in 2020?
Waterless beauty is essentially one step on from clean beauty.
More and more people are in the mindset of using products that contain natural ingredients instead of synthetic ingredients, and now the natural next step on from that is products that contain less of or are made without water.
Believe it or not, most skin and body products contain anywhere from 80 to 95% water, while hair shampoos, conditioners, shower gels and facial toners can contain even more - as much as 95 to 97% water.2
As a result, there’s been an upsurge in beauty brands that have boycotted water altogether and switched to producing waterless/water-free formulas, with the likes of L’Oréal pledging to reduce its water usage by 60% per product by 2020.3,4,5
They’ve also set themselves the target of using only 100% of their recyclable, reusable and compostable packaging by 2025.
And by 2030, 100% of their biobased ingredients will be sustainably sourced.
As part of this, they’re improving the biodegradability of their formulas and reducing their water footprint by not just developing products that contain less water, but need less water to rinse them out.6
L’Oréal’s pledges to become more environmentally conscious by reducing their use of water, as well as many other things, helped catapult the concept of waterless beauty further into the public eye.
They also paved the way forward for other brands to follow suit with similar sustainability commitments.
But waterless beauty happens to actually have been around since before 2020.
It has reportedly been pioneered in South Korea since 2015, in fact, it’s where it reportedly originated from.
Back then, the focus was on producing products that worked better on skin.
Before long, word of creating waterless formulas was widely known; among manufacturers and consumers.
By this point, the focus had shifted from not just about creating skincare with greater efficacy, but with a greater sustainability footprint.7
Handpicked content: What is clean beauty?
- Waterless beauty was first championed in South Korea in 2015
- It became more mainstream and on consumers’ radars when big brands, such as L’Oréal, pledged to reduce their use of water in 2020
- Many brands followed suit
Are waterless skincare products good?
Here’s the thing, waterless beauty products are actually good for our body and skin and good for the environment too.
It’s why they’ve become such a significant beauty trend that’s having a positive impact in so many ways.
Global water shortages have prompted many beauty companies to rethink how they can produce their products while also helping preserve the world’s water supply.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, two-thirds of the world’s population may face shortages by 2025, as only 1% of the earth’s water supply is accessible freshwater (the rest is trapped in glaciers and snowfields).8
- Waterless beauty products are good for our skin as well as the planet
- Water can dilute the effectiveness of ingredients and dry skin out
- While producing fewer water-based products can help preserve the world’s water supply
What is waterless skincare and beauty?
In today’s age of continuous development and breakthroughs (beauty industry included) it’s now perfectly possible to create skincare and beauty products sans water.
Instead of water, companies are using botanical ingredients and oils, e.g. rosehip and jojoba to provide the moisture that’s required.
There are some other big benefits to waterless beauty…
Waterless beauty products are concentrated because they haven’t been diluted by the water that’s been used to create them.
While we’re on the subject of benefits, there’s another key one to mention here too.
As crazy as this may sound, water can actually have a drying effect when applied topically to the skin, despite the fact we all drink the stuff to stay hydrated!9 (Now you know where the age-old hack of not over washing our face comes from…)
Water-based cleansers and moisturisers that contain lots of water, which isn’t referred to as water, but ‘aqua’ on product labels, are said to have the same drying effect too.10
They also make the ideal travel companion
We all know that liquids are generally a no-no on planes
This leaves us with that nightmare of a situation where we have to somehow condense down all of our essential skincare and beauty products into teeny tiny containers (an issue that just never seems to get any easier, no matter how many times it happens to us!..)
But that’s where our new best travelling friend, our waterless products, come in real handy.
We still get to use our beloved skincare and beauty products - that now contain dry, powdered or condensed ingredients - without having the headache of having to worry about if they’re a liquid or not and how much you’re allowed to decant and take with you.
- Waterless beauty is as it sounds - skincare and beauty products that are manufactured and produced with less water
- Instead of using water, companies are using botanical ingredients and oils, e.g. rosehip and jojoba to provide moisture
What are waterless skincare beauty products?
So what does this new ‘breed’ of skincare beauty products look like?
What is it you’re actually looking for if you fancy giving waterless beauty a go?
Well, the good news is waterless beauty is everywhere, as more and more waterless beauty products arrive on the market!
You can get waterless shampoo AKA dry shampoo that you spray on your roots and comb through your hair.
And you can buy shampoo bars that come in blocks that you run under some water and swizzle around in your hands to generate some suds to rub in your scalp and hair.
Don’t forget, it’s also possible to buy bars that contain both shampoo and conditioner or just conditioner bars on their own too!
Ethique’s Wonderbar conditioner even doubles as a shaving bar and an in-shower moisturiser that’s suitable for use on sensitive skin. It’s formulated with organic, fair trade coconut oil, cocoa butter and vitamin B5 to leave hair tangle-free and feeling soft and gorgeous smelling.
Handpicked content: 10 of the best shampoo bars
There’s an abundance of face products to choose from, ranging from powders and foams, as well as no-rinse gels.
For instance, there are facial oils from True Skincare, designed to moisturise your face with natural ingredients, such as evening primrose and rosehip oil.
To help rejuvenate skin and remove any dead skin cells and dirt build-up, there are coffee face scrubs from UpCircle that have been formulated for dry/dehydrated skin and are made with Arabica coffee grounds that have been sourced from artisan coffee shops.
All of these scrubs are natural, sustainable, vegan and cruelty-free.
For cleansing, Ethique have also created a range of cleansing bars, with their SuperStar! bar actually acting as an all-in-one make-up remover and cleanser. It contains a combination of cocoa butter, kokum butter, coconut oil, cleansing castor oil and sweet orange essential oil that helps break down oil and grease.
Or you could try True Skincare’s organic clarifying safflower & geranium cleansing oil, which also contains jojoba and vitamin E and removes daily dirt and impurities while nourishing and balancing the skin. It is gentle enough to gently sweep across your eyes too.
While for body moisturising, Fushi’s organic handmade shea butter is deeply moisturising and soothing for the skin.
Made by hand in small fresh batches in the traditional method, this butter is sourced directly from a Women's Collective in Ghana. It can be used for both the body and face and to tackle particularly dry areas, such as elbows and cracked heels.
It’s even possible to keep your underarms smelling fresh with waterless deodorants, including The Natural Deodorant Co Gentle Deodorant Cream, which is available in two different fragrances – tangerine and lavender.
Meanwhile, UpCircle have also brought out a range of coffee body scrubs, which, like their face scrubs, are also made from repurposed coffee grounds from London cafes.
As for body washes, Ethique have a whole range of body wash bars in lots of different flavours – orange & vanilla crème, lavender & peppermint, kaolin & oatmeal, matcha, lime & lemongrass, orange & vanilla, lime & ginger and tea tree & spearmint.
Or you could try Milly&Sissy’s Zero Waste Passion Fruit Shower Crème, which is made from 99% natural ingredients.
This low lather shower crème leaves skin feeling smooth, moisturised and clean – it also leaves your conscience clear knowing you've made a good choice for the planet. The powder comes packaged in a compostable sachet that you can put in the compost bin once it's finished.
Milly&Sissy also happen to have a Zero Waste Hand Wash range too - Fresh Apple, Honey & Almond & Sweet Cherry.
The list is endless. Waterless beauty is a whole new world in itself, which is growing by the day!
- The waterless beauty market is already full of some many wonderful products that are being added to on a daily basis
- They range from waterless shampoo and conditioner and waterless deodorant, to waterless moisturiser and exfoliators
Waterless skincare brands
We’ve already mentioned a few of the brands that are leading the way when it comes to bringing innovative formulas with less water to market.
But honestly, this list is growing by the day.
Manufacturers are finding more ways to create skincare and beauty products that are just as effective, if not more effective, than water-based products, and as demand for these types of products increases.
Taking a look at some of the waterless beauty product picks that are winding up in our customers’ baskets of late; their favourite waterless skin care brands of the moment include:
Check out our top waterless beauty products for more insight on waterless beauty, including products from the likes of some of the waterless beauty pioneers we’ve mentioned up above.
Handpicked content: Zero waste beauty swaps
- More and more brands are producing more innovative beauty products formulated with less water on a global scale
We’ve talked you through some of the main benefits associated with the waterless beauty trend and now we want to show you what it looks like - all 151 examples of it.
Have a scroll through, you’ll be amazed at how just how many waterless products there are to choose from, and the diverse range of ingredients, such as charcoal, eucalyptus, clary sage, rose, bergamot, grapefruit, rosemary and hemp, that have gone into creating these water-free beauties.
With so many different product types and wonderful ingredients, what’s been achieved so far, and is continuing to be achieved, is pure waterless genius at its very best.
Now that you’ve read about waterless beauty, learn about vegan skincare. Check out this article, ‘What are the benefits of vegan skincare?’
Last updated: 7 September 2021