Sustainability has long been at the forefront of the beauty industry, with consumers increasingly asking questions of their favourite brands, and in recent years it’s definitely reached a higher level of importance. We want to know what efforts are being made to reduce plastic consumption, how we can refill our bottles rather than paying a premium for a new one, and whether a proportion of profits are being directed back to the communities who help harvest the ingredients we rely on. But one issue that’s quickly gaining momentum, and has the potential to have a huge impact on the industry I love, is that of water consumption – and more specifically, waterless beauty.
Hailed as the biggest trend in sustainability for 2020, waterless beauty is a term coined to describe all number of issues and measures to help reduce the amount of water used unnecessarily. Even giants including L’Oreal have vowed this year to reduce the water in their products by 60%, but why is it a bad thing to use so much water in the production of our beauty products?
IT MEANS DIPPING INTO VALUABLE RESOURCES
Although you may not think it when turning on your kitchen tap, but water is increasingly a resource in scarce supply. It’s said over one billion people globally don’t have access to water, while sunnier seasons reduce the amount even countries like the UK have in their back pocket. Scientists have said that by 2040 the world will run out of water entirely, unless we make some drastic changes, so it’s important to understand why we need to preserve this vital component.
IT MEANS EXCESS PACKAGING
A product made up of predominately water will have a huge amount of unnecessary packaging; that’s wasteful, but it also takes up way more space during transportation and storage – which has a huge knock-on effect. By removing the water formulas become more potent and effective, but also more sustainable to produce and transport to their final destination. Win win.
IT MEANS MORE PRESERVATIVES
Looking at the reverse of practically any beauty product, water (or aqua) is normally noted within the first few ingredients; universally used as ‘filler’ to bulk out your favourite shower gels, moisturisers, skincare products and sunscreens, its presence also attracts bacteria. To combat the growth of unwanted nasties, brands are often forced to include all number of preservatives to elongate its shelf life and ensure you have a top performing product for as long as you need. Although preservatives aren’t bad in themselves, they are known to cause irritation in sensitive skin types – so if we can avoid them, why not?
AND ALSO… IT’S NOT THAT GREAT FOR SKIN
While getting those eight glasses a day helps to hydrate us internally, when used topically water can actually dry out our complexions. The protective oils that line the surface of the skin are designed to act as a barrier, preventing water loss, but when our skin is exposed to too much water over time these oils can be stripped – and moisture escapes from within. This can lead to dryness and irritation, which causes all manner of issues with the delicate balance of our skin.
Waterless beauty is therefore better for the planet, but also potentially better for both your skin and your purse. And there are lots of great brands doing amazing things within this space, reducing the amount of water they use in their products – or removing it entirely from their formulas.
Skinnies Sungel* (£28.95) has been formulated 100% without water, meaning a little really does go a long way. You need only a pea sized amount for each area, with the balm-like texture melting into skin effortlessly to leave no visible residue or white marks. It does take a little getting used to and is easy to over-apply, but it’s so much easier to massage into skin than traditional SPF and feels like it’s really caring for skin. Free from preservatives, alcohol, emulsifiers and fragrance, it’s also vegan friendly, cruelty free, biodegradable, plus suitable for pregnant women and even babies.
True Skincare Gentle Superfood Exfoliator* (£11.99) comes in powder form, so you can mix it with either a little water or your favourite cleansing oil. Formulated to remove dead skin cells without damaging the surface of the skin, it contains ground Chia Seeds, Macca Powder, Kaolin and essential oils to leave your complexion smooth and radiant. Much gentler than most manual exfoliators I’ve tried, this provides a bespoke experience and allows you to get the most from your evening cleanse. What’s better is that the Cleansing Oil (£12.00) is also completely water free, delivering a potent mix of Safflower, Geranium, Jojoba and Vitamin E to leave skin feeling amazing. This brand is one to watch, especially as it’s so affordable.
If solid bars float your boat, then you may want to pick up a minty fresh Foamie 2in1 Body Bar (£6.00) to gently cleanse and refresh from top to toe. Although not completely water-free, these body bars offer a compact and sustainable alternative to giant bottles of body wash that also look pretty damn good hanging in your shower. The lather up well and are easy to use, their packaging is plastic free and they’re 100% vegan and cruelty free too. The minty scent is IN-CRED-IBLE and just what I need in the morning, but they also a mango version which is good enough to eat.
If you like the sound of that, then why not take it one step further? Ethique offer a huge variety of solid beauty products, ranging from shampoos and conditioners to deodorants and face creams, that are all sustainable and keep their water content at a minimum. You could create your entire beauty regime from their solid bars, I kid you not. They state they’ve saved over 6 million plastic bottles from landfill and 20% of their profit goes towards charities trying to help save the planet – making them real good eggs when it comes to making real change.
You don’t need to remove water from your routine entirely, but making some simple swaps and investing in brands that are trying to make a difference will definitely benefit the planet – and potentially your skin too. There’s no doubt we’ll see more and more waterless beauty brands popping up over the next few years, opting for solid, powder or oil-based formulas instead, but only time will tell if that makes the positive impact we need it to… Both within our regimes and within our fight for the future of our planet.
Would you be up for giving it a go?