Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Consider that by 2025, a total of 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world's population could be living under water stressed conditions (1).
With that information, it's no wonder that some (though not enough) in the beauty industry are now doing their part to lower water consumption. At Lang & Ivy, we are committed to eliminating water usage entirely in our skin care line.
'Waterless', 'water-free' or 'anhydrous' beauty refers to products that are free from water, using soothing botanical ingredients and nourishing oils instead to create more potent solutions while diminishing the need for preservatives and unnecessary fillers.
Many consumers are unaware that a typical shampoo is up to 70 percent water, a conditioner 90 to 95 percent and a moisturizer 65 percent. Reading the ingredient labels at the back of any product is important. “Aqua” is another name for water and is often listed as the first ingredient. An ingredient that is listed first means that it is the most abundant ingredient within the formulation. The problem is that most consumers are unaware at just how much water some of these products contain.
One has to wonder: what exactly are we paying for when we buy these conventional products? A high price point is not an indicator of premium quality. The reality is that respected , expensive brands in the industry are also guilty as charged when it comes to the overuse of water in their formulations. Take a look at Youth to the People’s Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask. This tiny 2 oz jar will run you at least $ 70 at Sephora. But a quick look at the ingredients list on the label will reveal good old “Aqua” as the first ingredient. Eek! $70.00 for a jar of cream made mostly of water? Let that soak in (no pun intended) for a minute.
There are many implications to having a formula that is made mostly of water.
Beauty products with water listed as the main ingredient contain active ingredients that are mostly diluted and thus less effective. On the other hand, a waterless natural beauty product is more concentrated and, in most cases, more powerful. The concentration of active ingredients in these types of products are high and are brought directly to the skin. This means faster and definitely more effective results.
What about the big white elephant (aka cost effectiveness) in the room? Using water as a filler comes at a low cost for corporations, but a high cost for the health of the planet AND the wallets of the average consumer. Since water is a fairly cheap ingredient and can act as a filler, it allows beauty companies to use less of the more expensive active ingredients while still maintaining high retail prices. At Lang & Ivy, we can attest that it is more expensive to opt for high concentrations of potent organic ingredients. But the quality of our products, consumer satisfaction and environmental impact come first and foremost over huge profit margins. Although drinking water is super important and healthy for your body, your favourite skin moisturizer doesn’t need water in it.
The more water a product contains, the more preservatives it probably has to keep bacterial growth at bay. Parabens are preservatives that are used in skincare, body care, cosmetics and many other products to hinder the growth of microorganisms. Although parabens give products a longer, more stable shelf life, there has been controversy surrounding its use. A water-free product does not have to use any harmful preservatives and it also means that the product is very shelf stable all on its own. Best before dates of 12 months, 24 months and even 36 months are very common.
Consider also that creams and lotions filled with water are sometimes detrimental to the skin: Excess water tends to strip away the protective natural oils of the skin as the water evaporates. Then you're left with all the synthetic emulsifiers, chemical colorants, toxic fragrances and preservatives that are added to your water-based skin care, and your skin becomes sensitive, red, inflamed, flaky and can even start breaking out!
Transitioning to waterless beauty might come as unchartered territory for many, and while it might take time to adjust, it can also potentially help to decrease users' carbon footprints. Because the products are sold in more concentrated, compact packages, they can significantly decrease the amount of materials needed to house them (read: much less plastic!). What's more, shipping waterless formulas (which are lighter weight than their water-filled counterparts) requires less space and therefore less fuel. It's these seemingly fringe benefits that actually have the potential to make a real impact.
While we are starting to see a boom in water conservation throughout the beauty industry, experts agree that this is not just another fad. Waterless beauty is the future, it's not a trend as consumers want high-quality products that are sustainable and make a tangible difference in their routines.
Ready to test the waterless-beauty waters? Check out some of Lang & Ivy’s favorite top sellers.
(1) " Water Scarcity- One of the greatest challenges of our time", Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 20 Mar. 2019, www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1185405/