Waterless Beauty: When Less Can Be More

Waterless Beauty: When Less Can Be More


Water conservation is a topic us South African residents can probably relate to. Whether you’ve lived in various parts of the country that have suffered severe water shortages (remember Day Zero, Capetonians?), or you have seasonal shortages, poor maintenance causing water issues, etc, we’re in agreement that water conservation is of importance.

But have you thought about all the water used in skincare ingredients and in their manufacture? If you look on the ingredients list of products you will often see the first ingredient is water or aqua. And that’s just in the product, never mind all the fresh water that was used in the manufacturing process itself.

Waterless skincare also means the products themselves are more concentrated. Nothing is being diluted with water, and manufacturers have had to come up with ways to still make their products highly effective, usually by increasing concentrations. Fortunately, more concentrated products means you need less of them, making them last longer and you spending less.

Waterless products don’t necessarily require a preservative as they don’t contain any water to introduce and act as a breeding ground for microbes. While it is still recommended to included a  preservative in products such as scrubs where wet fingers may get in and contaminate, if correctly used, it isn’t strictly necessary. 

Waterless products may fit in more compact packaging, and are typically more concentrated - water is a filler and diluent. Lighter weight and smaller volumes means less fuel used in transportation, and less packaging which is a win-win for carbon footprints and wasteful packaging.


Digging Deeper Into Waterless Beauty

Claiming a product to be 100% waterless is actually greenwashing - which we must all take care about - as everything ultimately has a water footprint. Plants need water to grow and harvest, even raw ingredients require water to be produced, shipping has water usage, packaging requires water, customers use water, etc etc. The entire supply chain relies on water, so you essentially can’t have a truly waterless product. Only the final manufacturing process of the end product can be waterless.

Waterless products aren’t necessarily the best for a complete skincare routine. The skin does need some water. Plant components may also be water soluble so then you won’t get those benefits in an anhydrous formula.

However waterless products do have many pros. They have little usage required, are long lasting, and are value for money. They can be multipurpose - which minimises the amount of products used, and therefore saves on water, ingredients, energy, and has a lower carbon footprint. Waterless products are also easy to make 100% natural. And at the end of the day, using less water is always a good thing!


How to conserve water as a skincare formulator:

- Harvest rainwater and use it in your manufacturing process - in your heating system (water bath) and cooling system (water or ice bath)

- Consider how much water is used in the manufacture of ingredients. Research products from crops that are water intensive to farm, and avoid them

- Make anhydrous products

- Minimize water system contamination. Using nontoxic ingredients reduces pressure on the water cycle when it goes down the drain.

- Try making water-in-oil (W/O) emulsions instead of O/W emulsions - they use much less water

- Come up with innovative products that use less water, or formulate multipurpose products

- If you need a water based ingredient, why not replace the water with a hydrosol? Hydrosols are the natural byproducts of the essential oil distillation process so you're technically upcycling it

- Encourage customers to use water alternatives such as adding milk, yogurt, hydrosol or honey to their powder face masks, instead of water


How to conserve water as a skincare consumer:

- Use multipurpose products - using fewer products uses less water plus it saves you time

- Use anhydrous and other innovative products such as powder cleansers instead of water intensive cleansers

- Try using solid products such as shampoo bars and lotion bars which are waterless

- Try moisturising oils as face and body moisturisers instead of classic lotions

- Add hydrosols, honey, milk or yogurt to your face masks instead of just water. It’s more beneficial to your skin anyway!

- Research water intensive ingredients and avoid them


Waterless product ideas:

Anhydrous products (products that contain no water are called anhydrous): oil or powder cleansers, solid shampoo and conditioner bars, lotion bars, clay masks, etc

Products that the customer mixes with water themselves (face masks, cleansers, scrubs)

Self emulsifying products that go from oil to lotion when the user rubs adds water: eg. self emulsifying shower oil, lotion bars, etc.


Botanical Powder Cleanser

No water is used during or after manufacture, and only a few drops are required to turn this powder into a creamy, cleansing paste.

What's in it: green clay is gently cleansing, liquorice is brightening, baobab is packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and orange peel powder is exfoliating, naturally cleansing and full of Vitamin C. Added Vitamin E and geranium oil round out this powerhouse of a cleanser.

10g  green clay

2g  liquorice powder

6g  baobab powder

2g  orange peel powder

1g  Vitamin E oil

4 drops geranium oil

50g  tin


Add all ingredients to the tin, then get out your stick/soup blender and carefully place the blade over the tin so that it fits in. Cover the base of the blender and tin in a bag or cloth to prevent any dust from flying out, then give it a good whizz with the blender, periodically shaking everything up so that everything is well blended. You want to coat the powders with the oils so there are no lumps or oily blobs. Once you’re satisfied that it is fully blended, remove the blender and put the lid on your tin. That’s it! It's super simple to make and no water was used in the process. 

To use, decant a small amount of the cleansing powder into your palm, dribble enough water to make a paste and massage into your skin. Then rinse off and continue with your skincare routine.

Have fun and experiment - we've loved playing around with waterless products!