Waterless Beauty: A Guide for Beginners

“Waterless beauty is not a trend or fad, but will increasingly take the guise of an everyday necessity. With water reserves running low, consumers are making incremental lifestyle changes that posit planet positivity. Going waterless will mean swapping convenience for conservation — and that’s a good thing.”

Shanu Walpita

This post contains affiliate links.

For many of you reading this, it is hard to imagine living without drinking water. When I turn on the faucet, clear water comes out. If I stop at a gas station, I see rows and rows of clean bottled water.  However, two-thirds of the world (4 billion people) already face severe water scarcity at least one month a year. Experts expect this number to increase to nearly 6 billion people by 2050.

Protecting our water supply from further pollution is one way to conserve water. Shrinking our own water footprint is another way. According to the Water Footprint Network, “Your water footprint is the amount of water you consume in your daily life, including the water used to grow the food you eat, to produce the energy you use and for all of the products in your daily life – your books, music, house, car, furniture and the clothes you wear.”

In order to reduce their own water footprint, many brands are making products without water. Waterless, or anhydrous, beauty are beauty products that don’t contain water. Keep reading to learn the benefits of waterless beauty is and how to incorporate it into your own beauty routine.

How does beauty use water?

Take out any beauty product. Chances are the first ingredient listed is water. Yet water in beauty products provides little benefit. It’s mainly used as a solvent to dissolve other ingredients. Even the driest skin won’t benefit from applying water. Dehydrated skin will benefit much more if you drink water.

Furthermore, the beauty industry doesn’t just formulate with water. Water is needed to grow ingredients, for production, and in transport. When measuring a product’s water footprint, even the water used to clean the factory and the water polluted is included. And don’t forget the water you use when applying or removing the product.

Waterless mask powder mixed with water

Why waterless beauty?

The terms waterless and water-free are misleading. As I mentioned above, water is needed for the production, transport and/or use of nearly every beauty product. I can’t think of a single beauty product that has no water footprint at all. For that reason, some prefer the term water-responsible.

Nevertheless, there are environmental benefits to beauty without water.

Reduces product’s water footprint

Removing water from a formulation is one step towards reducing its water footprint. To significantly improve its water footprint, a brand must also use water-saving strategies. These efforts could include conservation agriculture or reusing water.

Less packaging needed

No water means less volume. Thus, a product needs less packaging. And less packaging means less waste. For example, a 2 ounce packet of a STYLEFOX mask powder makes 20 masks. That’s 20 selfcare-Sundays in one small recyclable pouch!

With compostable packaging, many products come as close to zero-waste as you can get.

Reduce carbon footprint

The smaller size also allows for more products to ship at a time, reducing the number of shipments. The reduced shipping schedule translates to less fuel used and fewer carbon emissions. That sounds like a win for everybody.

Other benefits of waterless beauty

Did you know water makes your beauty products more attractive to bacteria, fungi, and yeast? In order to combat this, brands add preservatives, like parabens and aldehydes. Eliminate the water and you eliminate the need for preservatives. I know this is a concern for many Beauty and the Planet readers.

In addition, waterless formulas are more potent.  Susan Carter says, “A waterless beauty product is more concentrated and, in most cases, more powerful.” They also give you the ability to adjust concentrations. Want something stronger for a spot treatment? Use less water!

What waterless beauty products are available?

Nearly any beauty products you can think of is available in a waterless format. Shampoo, face cleansers, body lotion, and the list goes on. Some brands claim to be water-responsible because they use plant juices or oils in place of water. However, it is hard to know if this reduces their water footprint. Water was still needed to grow the plants and make the product. Nor do these products benefit from the smaller packages of waterless beauty. For that reason, this list only includes dry products.

I haven’t tried all products on this list, but everyone is one that I would like to try. As always, I only list products that are cruelty-free.

Waterless Skincare

CALM cleansing capsules

Cleanser: Booni Doon Calm Cleansing Capsules

Waterless beauty serum

Serum: Dew Mighty Bloom Jelly Serum Bar

Waterless face oil

Face Oil: Lush Argan

Moisturizer: Ethique The Perfector

Waterless Beauty face scrub

Face Scrub: LOLI Purple Corn Grains

Waterless beauty face mask

Face Mask: STYLEFOX Beauty Skin-a-Colada Cococut & Pineapple Mask

Waterless Haircare

552M Soap Free Shampoo Bar

Shampoo: Odacité 552M Soap Free Shampoo Bar

by Humankind conditioner bar

Conditioner: by Humankind Conditioner Bar

2 -in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner: Love Beauty and Planet 2 in 1 Shampoo & Conditioner Bar

Lush Queen Bee bar

Hair Styling Bar: Lush Queen Bee

Lush Henna Hair dye bar

Hair Dye: Lush Henna Hair Dye Bar

Waterless Body and Personal Care

Lotion: Ethique Butter Block

Waterless beauty massage bar

Massage Oil: Lush Hottie

Waterless beauty toothpaste tablets

Toothpaste: Bite Toothpaste Bits

Mouthwash: by Humankind Mouthwash

How to use waterless beauty

Waterless products can take getting used to. You will add water to some. Some melt from the warmth of your skin. Fortunately, many brands provide assistance. booni doon’s Calm Cleansing Capsules ship with an illustrated instruction card (on recyclable paper of course). To learn how to use shampoo and conditioner bars, watch these videos by Ethique.

Still, it is possible to go fully water-responsible.  The products above will get you started. And most makeup products already come in powder formats. I include 2 different foundation powders in my roundup of sustainable foundations. Āether Beauty makes excellent and sustainable powder makeup.

I’m not ready to throw out my serum or body lotion. But I look forward to introducing more water-responsible products into my routine. In my experience, waterless beauty products work just as well as traditional formats.

What’s your favorite waterless beauty product? Leave a reply and let me know.

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