Like oil and water

20 May 2019

There are many benefits to be found in the growing market of waterless cosmetics; they can reduce waste, cut costs and provide a healthier product. Plus, anything that diminishes water consumption in an age when the stuff of life is running in short supply will be much sought after. Packaging Today investigates what could prove to be a valuable and important trend.

Waterless cosmetics represent a new generation of beauty and grooming products in which water is not a key ingredient in the formulation, and therefore has minimal to zero proportion of water in the formulation. Consequently, less water is needed for manufacturing these products. The concept has grown to encompass water-efficient cosmetics, which are products that require little or no water for application, activation or rinsing off. Waterless cosmetics and water-efficient cosmetics are essentially two sides of the same coin and present opportunities for personal care brands.

So, what exactly are waterless cosmetics, and why should consumers care about them? Put simply, waterless cosmetics are beauty or grooming products formulated with little or no water, unlike conventional beauty and grooming products, in which water is a key ingredient. Tracing its roots to the South Korean (K-beauty) industry it has subsequently been embraced by cosmetics brands and consumers worldwide. One of the reasons for its popularity with consumers is the perceived effectiveness and convenience of waterless cosmetics for those with busy lifestyles who are looking for convenient and sustainable products in their everyday lives. The unconventional formats can offer a unique experience to enhance the reputation of a brand, and the switch saves water at a time of growing water crisis.


Water, water everywhere


The majority of cosmetic and toiletry products in today's marketplace are water-based formulations. Accordingly, water is often the first ingredient listed on the packaging label of such products, often accounting for as much as 80% of the content. Water offers an affordable and effective solvent for other ingredients used in cosmetic formulations, when compared with oil bases. Water also dilutes formulations, thereby allowing manufacturers to create lighter textures while acting as a base for active ingredients to permeate the outer layers of the skin and hair. However, washing with water does not necessarily hydrate skin and hair. The excessive application of water can strip the skin and hair of sebum, which is produced naturally in our bodies and waterproofs skin and hair. As waterless cosmetics make use of oils or botanical extracts as a base instead of water, these products can penetrate outer layers of the skin or hair, delivering active nutrients without disrupting this protective barrier.

The move towards cosmetics with zero added water is driven by the rationale that water is an inactive and, therefore, potentially unnecessary ingredient. Eliminating water from the mix thereby provides more room for beneficial ingredients, such as botanicals and essential oils. Consequently, consumers would need to apply smaller quantities of these concentrated formulations in order to achieve the same effect as a comparable water-based cosmetic.


From the Seoul


The K-beauty industry has been a key pioneer in the development of waterless cosmetics, formulating personal-care products using oils and botanical extracts in place of water. As a result, a plethora of waterless cosmetics have come to the fore in recent years, making waves in the worldwide beauty and personal-care market, drawing the attention of consumers and brands alike.

Consumers are growing wary of beauty or grooming products with ingredients that can affect their health, as well-being is one of the dominant motivators to purchasing products. They are seeking ‘cleaner’ cosmetics formulated with simpler, natural ingredients that they can understand. Waterless cosmetics would appeal to this majority of consumers as the products require fewer synthetic additives and preservatives due to the removal of water from the formulation. By virtue of having low-to-zero water content, waterless cosmetics are inherently less prone to microbial growth, and thereby can be formulated with milder, natural, and beneficial preservatives, such as vitamin E, beeswax or chamomile oil. Waterless cosmetics making use of such natural preservatives can thereby qualify for the coveted ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ on-label claims.

One of the highlights of waterless cosmetics is the ease of carrying and applying them when compared with conventional watery formulations. Combined with compact packaging and functional applicators, these dry, concentrated formulations can offer a greater degree of comfort and portability than cosmetics that require water during usage. Water-efficient cosmetics are suitable for situations where a lack of privacy or other such inconveniences hinders ones beauty or hygiene routine. These on-the-go products can be easily stored and transported, allowing consumers to enjoy a uniform product experience anywhere and anytime.


Beauty on the fly


Dry-use, waterless cosmetics are ideal for air travel, given the limits imposed by airline companies on the quantity of liquid cosmetics that passengers are permitted to take on board. Water-free products can also meet the beauty or hygiene needs of consumers who are traveling, staying at hotels or using public restrooms. Moreover, waterless cosmetics are go-to products for consumers who frequent gyms, lead active lifestyles or are engaged in outdoor activities. Hectic professional, social and personal lifestyles are making consumers more reliant on products that can shave minutes off of their busy schedules. Waterless products that can be applied or wiped off without water can aid users in completing their hygiene routines faster.

With the UN projecting that 1.8 billion people will be living in areas with absolute water scarcity by 2025, the shortage of fresh water is emerging as one of the biggest global concerns. This poses a considerable challenge for the cosmetics and toiletries industry, as well as consumers, given that most products are water-intensive, both at the production and end-use stages. Leading cosmetics manufacturers, including L'Oréal, Unilever and P&G, are leading the way with ambitious pledges to curb water expenditure across their production chain. Asian brands such as Amorepacific, Azafran Innovacion, Kao and O'Right have also announced water conservation initiatives. Bobby Brown, Makeup Forever, Maybelline, NYX, and Oriflame have already launched water-free products such as foundation sticks.

By virtue of being low-water formulations, waterless cosmetics can empower these manufacturers in curbing water usage during production. With water removed from the formulation, product volumes and packaging requirements are reduced. This translates into lower transportation and logistics costs, and a smaller carbon footprint, as well as cutting the amount of plastic waste that may end up in landfills and oceans. Additionally, water-free products formulated with milder preservatives and antioxidants can reduce the amount of toxins that can contaminate downstream water bodies.

The waterless beauty concept offers a platform for spawning a diverse array of novel products with novel formulations, textures, applicators and packaging formats. For instance, waterless shampoo bars and no-rinse dry shampoos can provide a different sensory experience than conventional shampoos that need to be rinsed off. The unconventional, multisensory product experience of these products can stoke consumer curiosity, and subsequently drive product purchases.

Using cosmetics without water may seem alien to consumers who have long been accustomed to conventional cosmetics. For instance, they may be unsure about how to use waterless products. Additionally, waterless cosmetics may appear more costly than regular products due to the use of more active ingredients or expensive fillers to substitute water. Consumers may not be aware that as some waterless cosmetics are concentrated, topical application of smaller amounts is sufficient to realise the same benefits as a conventional product. This calls for building greater consumer awareness about the benefits and application techniques of such products.







Some of the best examples of waterless products


Headboy's DryBath gel

Headboy Industries, a South African start-up, has launched DryBath gel, which is tagged as a waterless shower gel and body wash. Although the product contains water, it does not require any water for application or removal. DryBath only needs to be rubbed onto skin to clean it, and only visible dirt needs to be wiped off with a clean cloth, while the rest of the product can be left on without rinsing as it also acts as a moisturiser and deodorant. The product primarily targets consumer living in areas with limited access to fresh water.

Whamisa Organic Flowers Water Cream

Whamisa, a waterless K-beauty brand, offers Organic Flowers Water Cream, a fermented hydrating cream made with aloe vera leaf extracts, organic rice, natto gum and olive oil. The product is claimed to be free from parabens, fragrances, mineral oils and synthetic dyes.

Rolly on-the-go toothbrushes

Rolly Brush, designed in Italy, is a miniature disposable toothbrush. Each Rolly Brush has a patented design with 276 soft bristles. The product is incorporated with xylitol, fluoride, and mint flavour to enable consumers to clean their teeth and freshen their breath without any water or toothpaste.

DCL Express Waterless Makeup Remover

Dermatologic Cosmetic Laboratories (DCL) offers DCL Express Waterless Makeup Remover, a moisturising gel cleanser formulated with hyaluronic acid, algae complex, and botanicals. The company claims the product can remove even the most stubborn waterproof make-up.

Vapour Beauty AER Next Level

AER Next Level deodorant is an innovative deodorant that transforms from gel to powder when the applicator is rubbed onto skin. The water-free product is claimed to be free from aluminum, talc and synthetic ingredients, which are all present in conventional aqueous deodorants.

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