Loyalty to budding beauty trends is...feeble, at best. So ephemeral in their nature, trends struggle to hold our attention for long, and are very quickly dropped for the next best thing. That's all fine and good—but there's a chance that next best thing in beauty could also be the next best thing for the environment.
Waterless beauty first hit the scene a couple of years back as the latest offering from the nexus of progressive skincare, Korea, as a way to deliver ingredients in their purest form. Although it wasn’t originally intended as an eco-friendly solution, it has since proved a multi-purpose product.
Conscious consumers have long viewed water as a luxury, due to it "being the ultimate non-renewable resource," explains Anna Marie Solowij, Co-Founder of online beauty store BeautyMART. And that doesn’t just apply to the amount of water used with them, but the amount of water actually in products.
As a result, there has been a huge push from eco- and ethically-conscious beauty brands to launch dry alternatives to products that originally contain or require water. Notably, Aveda recently launched a Dry Conditioner in their best-selling Shampure range after data showed that if you cut your shower short by 3 minutes and condition after, you’ll save 6 gallons of water per day (the average shower uses 2 gallons per minute). That’s just shy of two billion gallons per day if everyone in the US conformed, which, needless to say, would be massive.
Furthermore, the packaging also plays a role in water conservation. "Manufacturing of plastic bottles uses a huge amount of water, but if you have a dry product, you might not need to package it in plastic - perhaps it could be in paper, which is easier to recycle (and paper recycling uses less water than recycling plastic)," Solowij states.
Turns out the same goes for skincare and body care. But for many, this habit is a tricky one to break. "We’ve gotten used to the psychological feeling of cleanliness that bathing and showering provide, but there is no need to stand under running water to get clean," explains Solowij. It’ll take some getting used to, but brands like DryBath have created a bacteria killing, odor quenching gel, which can clean the body without a drop of water. Moreover, there are some products that can even deliver better results waterlessly.
"Moisturisers can easily be used with little or no water," explains Sarah Lee, Co-Founder and CEO of the Korean beauty destination site Glow Recipe. "In fact, water does not directly speak to how well it hydrates the skin and there are many other alternatives to water that are even more hydrating for your skin. Adding moisture-binding ingredients like bamboo sap and botanical extracts can provide both lightweight and lasting hydration," she concludes.
Similarly, Korean American make-up artist and founder of Mai Couture Cosmetics, Mai Tran, commented: "Adding high percentages of water to products dilutes ingredients, meaning actives may not be as effective." Most skincare products have an average of 70% water—which doesn’t leave much space for all the things that actually make a difference. This was, in part, the reason Tran created her innovative skincare papers, highly concentrated sheets soaked in actives such as Rose Hip Oil and Bamboo Charcoal that you blot over your skin to refresh.
Not unlike Tran's sheets, celebrity makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury’s Instant Magic Facial Dry Sheet Mask was created to deliver undiluted ingredients directly to your skin. "Wet sheet masks are mainly water and glycerine which can over saturate skin and harbour harmful bacteria," explains Tilbury. "By creating a dry textile mask, active ingredients such as vitamin BS, peptides, oils and butters are able to penetrate deep into the skin, feeding the complexion where it needs it most."
What is apparent is that waterless beauty can be as effective as it is ethical. Forgoing a non-renewable energy source doesn’t mean that a product is worse off, in many instances it’s actually better. That just might be a beauty trend that deserves our undivided attention.