What exactly is waterless beauty? And how can it save the planet, and my skin?

What exactly is waterless beauty? And how can it save the planet, and my skin?

Water always gets lost in the conversation about waste and renewable resources. Images of landfills, plastic, and packaging spring to mind when hearing 'sustainable.' But water's role in sustainability is multifold. 

First, it's utilised in the development of products. Next, water's weight and volume bloat the costs and emissions involved in transportation and shipping. Finally, once a product is in your hands, the instructions on the label tell you how you should use it—sometimes, you need to add water to make it work, even if aqua is already part of the formulation. 

Why waterless beauty is complicated

Taking a look at your usual products often reveals the top ingredient as good old H₂O, listed as 'water' or 'aqua.' Equivalents are 'distilled water', 'infused water', and any variants like 'orange blossom water' or 'witch hazel water', which are made by steam distillation of plant ingredients.

Ingredients must be listed in order of largest quantity to smallest quantity. Often, water is a carrier of the healing nutrients needed for effective body care. The touted astringent effects of the flowering witch hazel plant aren't so effective if rubbed onto the skin in its raw state—it requires processing to deliver desired results. 

Three categories apply when calculating the water footprint of a product. First, there's the green water footprint: water used during agricultural production of a resource. Next, blue water footprint: water transferred from reservoirs that are utilised in the product. Finally, there is the greywater (also known as sullage) footprint, which defines the freshwater amount needed to dissolve pollutants. It's basically the water needed to not only wash dirty soap water down the drain but also the amount needed to render it non-toxic.

Previously, we defined grey water and what sustainability really means in beauty. To be fully sustainable, you need to favour water-neutral and greywater safe cosmetics and beauty products.