Trends in Cosmetics: The Waterless Beauty Debate

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Trends in Cosmetics: The Waterless Beauty Debate

As far as we can see, the concept of waterless beauty first appeared when South Korean brands started promoting them as being more beneficial as a result of higher concentration of active ingredients. Since then, the meaning of the term has changed.

Consumers now associate using ‘waterless beauty’ products with a sustainable lifestyle by eliminating the use of a scarce resource from the products they buy. This is why the waterless cosmetic trend continues to gather momentum and why brands must pay attention.

Here at Jarvis, we fully understand that water is a precious resource and must be used responsibly. We do, however, question whether focusing attention on removing the water from the final cosmetic product is the most sustainable answer.

Water in Cosmetics

As you know, many of the personal care products you use have a very high percentage of water. Water can make up as much as 90% in some shampoos and some serums may include water content of over 60%.

It is true that water is a relatively inexpensive ingredient, but this is not the only reason it is used by cosmetic formulators and manufacturers. As a fundamental solvent, it plays an important role in many formulations. The key to a successful product is the final look and the way it feels to the end user; it needs to be consistent and water is often a vital component required to achieve this.

Waterless cosmetics, especially where water is added at the time of use, are unlikely to achieve this finish and consistency. This is not least because all water is not the same, from hard or soft water to chlorinated and so on, but also because the manufacturing process to achieve great emulsions and consistent skin care products is quite complex.

Waterless Beauty

There are of course, several benefits to removing water from some products. When no water is present, the use of preservative systems is usually unnecessary and this does have benefits, especially for people who have sensitivity to some commonly used preservatives. There is also the possible benefit of higher concentrations of active ingredients and therefore increased user benefits.

Portability for travel and events, such as festivals, also features as a real advantage. The convenience of compact packs and being able to add water at the time of use or even simply use dry is a definite benefit, even if there is a slight compromise in terms of product look and feel.

Of course, limiting the use of water in cosmetic products may go some way towards preserving this scarce resource. Although, if you are adding water at the time of use, the benefit is limited.

Does Waterless Mean ‘No Water Used’?

Quite simply, no. While a ‘waterless’ product may not actually contain any water, you can be sure that many thousands of litres of water were used across the full supply chain required to get the product to market.

Consider the multiple processes required simply to get the ingredients grown, harvested, manufactured and transported. Then, combined in the final manufacturing process and packed ready for sale. At every stage, large quantities of water will be required. Even the process of recycling any packaging involved will require water.

As you can see, it would really be impossible for a cosmetic product to be completely waterless. It is also a fact that the actual water present in the final product represents a small fraction of the total water used in its manufacture. In reality, water may even have to be added during manufacture and then removed to create the ‘waterless’ end-product.

The sum of all water required to bring a product to the consumer, as well as the water used by the consumer and even the water in the recycling and waste disposal process, can be referred to as the water footprint of the product or ‘virtual water’.

At Jarvis, we are actively working on ensuring that we become ‘water-responsible’ across our own operations and supply chain.

Is Waterless Beauty a Continuing Trend for 2020?

Yes, we believe it is. The consumers of the products we manufacture are increasingly active in campaigning for environmentally responsible use of resources and this is a trend we welcome and encourage.

Water is a scarce resource and we must all use it responsibly. We do, however, suggest that a balanced approach to water footprint reduction must consider the overall economic, social and environmental impacts as part of the process.

We continue to identify opportunities to reduce our own impact on water use and actively encourage all our team members to look for creative ways to reduce waste.

At Jarvis, we are ambassadors for planet-friendly products and processes and, to this end, we are constantly reviewing our operations with a view towards responsible use of all scarce resources, including water.


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