Water is the number one ingredient used in the cosmetics industry. Thousands of liters of water are used to produce finished skincare and beauty products. Water scarcity is why waterless beauty is a good idea and you can't convince me otherwise.
Did you know most cosmetics are 60-95 percent water? Cream formulations contain 60-85 percent water. Lotions contain up to 90 percent water. Shower gels and shampoos contain up to a whopping 95 percent water.
If water use in cosmetics adds to water scarcity, why do manufacturers use it?
Simple: water is a solvent and it’s inexpensive. So you’re paying top dollar for some beauty products that are mostly filled with an inexpensive ingredient—water.
To add insult to injury, water dilutes active ingredients in a product. Again, you’re shelling out top dollar for promises of youthful skin, anti-aging, skin lightening/brightening and water is making it less effective.
Water-based products also have a short shelf life and they’re easily contaminated with bacteria, fungus, and microbes. Hence, the need for preservatives to extend their shelf life. That comes with another set of problems. Many preservatives have skin irritating chemicals. Some of those chemicals interrupt our body’s natural processes.
Ever wonder why your skin is dry and ashy by mid-day although you’ve applied moisturizer in the morning? Blame the water. It evaporates quickly from your skin and it doesn’t have any special properties. That’s why some manufacturers use waters with special qualities—like active ingredients or useful minerals—in their products so you can see the promised results.
How does using water affect sustainability?
Less than one percent of natural water is drinkable. And climate change is contributing to water scarcity.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “By 2025, 1.8 billion people are expected to be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under ‘stress conditions’.”
Sustainability goes beyond packaging
More and more brands are claiming sustainability. Have you noticed the conversation around packaging? Yes, we need sustainable packaging to reduce landfill waste, but why aren’t brands transparent about the water used for manufacturing?
Thankfully, some brands are making the commitment to waterless beauty. This is a good start, but the beauty industry as a whole needs to make the shift. Let’s stop labeling it as a ‘trend’ and view it as a necessity.
Water poses added challenges for cosmetics
Tap water has germs, bacteria, unwanted minerals and metals that will contaminate your product. Manufacturers have to treat water to prevent it from being harmful to cosmetics.
These treatments—softening, distillation, demineralization, deionization, filtration, reverse osmosis—are needed to get cosmetic-grade water. Some or all of these treatments may occur in a series to produce completely pure water.
What can I do as a consumer?
Reusable, refillable, and waterless products search terms have increased over the past year. Clearly, consumers are looking for truly sustainable products and help curb water scarcity.
Research your brand to see if and/or how they’re reducing their water footprint. Are their processes efficient? Do they recycle water? Do they have plans to switch to waterless products?
Bottom-line, waterless products are more economical on your wallet. They have a longer shelf life and you don’t have to use as much. And isn’t sustainability about consuming, producing, and disposing less? It makes perfect sense in the quest to help preserve the environment.