Why you should try waterless beauty + 6 products we love

By Megan Bedford

Why you should try waterless beauty + 6 products we love

Crucial to the formulation if not application of a majority of beauty products, consideration of water waste is a new frontier for the beauty industry in its ongoing quest to minimise its environmental impact: enter waterless beauty products. 

Among bold eye makeup and sweeping feathered fringes, you might be surprised to learn that water consideration is near the top of the list when it comes to key beauty trends right now.

Globally, and largely as a result of climate change, water is well on its way to becoming a precious commodity as consumption outstrips supply. As this reality takes hold and we adapt our habits around water usage, so too beauty brands are adapting the way they manufacture and formulate products to limit their dependence on water.

Admittedly, waterless beauty products have been around for years. Consider bar soap — used for generations before falling out of favour, and now enjoying a renaissance as we recognise its many environmentally-friendly benefits, including its modern, botanically-led formulations and the minimal plastic and production waste it creates.

Happily, the variety of products and their uses continues to grow as brands innovate to find waterless and limited-water solutions.

What you need to consider when buying waterless products:

There are two key things to consider when it comes to beauty products and their reliance on water:

  • One of the most common ingredients in beauty product formulation, water is often used as a filler as it’s cheaply available. It can also help with texture and performance, making products nice to use and easier to spread.
  • Water consumption is often necessary to use each product — particularly relevant to shower and bath-related beauty items. A study by Watercare on water use in Auckland found that people typically use between 140 and 175 litres of water a day. The biggest portion of that (27%) was in the shower.

With these challenges in mind, it’s heartening to see brands recognising consumer demand for accountability, and addressing this by incorporating water usage targets into their sustainability plans, as well as innovating products that require less water to formulate, or in the process of using.

And the technologies are becoming more impressive. Effective anhydrous products (waterless beauty products) now take many forms, such as cleansing balms, moisturising oils, body butters, pressed serums and dry masks.

6 waterless beauty products to try

Solid beauty

Solid beauty bars are some of the most visible and popular anhydrous beauty products on the market. According to NZ-based beauty brand Ethique, a leader in the category, an average shampoo or body wash can be made of up to 80 per cent water. Conditioner is even higher at up to 95 per cent. Using solid bars to clean and condition your hair in the shower not only minimises water waste but cuts down on plastic, too. According to the brand, you will save at least three plastic bottles and 2750mls of water with one bar. There are also a number of good solid body moisturisers.


Similarly, powder cleansers and exfoliants that negate the use of water in formulation are taking off. Much lighter to package and ship, they have skin benefits, too. When mixed with water, some active ingredients can deteriorate over time; in powder form they retain their potency until activated. Additionally, they don’t require preservatives to ward off the bacteria that can thrive with water- based products. Tatcha’s popular Rice Polish Foaming Enzyme Powder, which is available in classic, deep, calming and gentle versions, contains Japanese rice bran as well as rice and papaya enzymes and, when activated with just a touch of water, lathers into a foam to gently exfoliate, polish and deep clean skin.


Not only are skin oils incredibly nourishing for the skin, containing essential fatty acids and lipids similar to those our skin makes naturally, they’re easier to formulate without using water. Go-To’s Face Hero uses 10 plant and nut oils for a well-tolerated. treatment that helps to balance oily skin, hydrate dry skin, and calm sensitive skin.

Dry shampoo

Showers use approximately 10 to 20 litres of water every minute. There are a few ways you can minimise waste. Install a showerhead with increased water efficiency, limit your showers to no more than four minutes, or try skipping every second hair wash and getting by with a dry shampoo. Using a lightweight, spray-in powder will enable you to increase the number of days in between washing your hair, meaning you’ll consume significantly less water. It also helps to extend the life of your hair colour. Joico’s Weekend Hair Dry Shampoo absorbs oil, sweat and odour from hair in just 30 seconds and gives hair a touch of stylish volume and texture — perfect for second or third day ’dos.

Bar soap

Ditch the bodywash and liquid hand soap and switch to a classic bar soap instead. New iterations are a far cry from the old-fashioned lump of lard, instead full of gentle hydrating botanical oils. Jo Malone’s satiny hand and body soap contains nourishing shea butter and leaves skin delicately scented with the famous fragrance house’s best-selling perfumes such as Red Roses and English Pear & Freesia.


Enabling us to do our whole skincare and makeup routine in minutes without tools, stick beauty products use less water content than their liquid relatives, and are foolproof to swipe on and blend in with fingers. The arrival of buzzy NYC-based Milk Makeup into Sephora stores here boosts the options significantly, with the vegan and cruelty-free brand offering a wide stick-based selection, from foundation and blush to toner, masks and serum — including the Watermelon Brightening Serum that boosts hydration and evens skin tone.

Looking for more beauty picks? Try these quick, sheer foundations


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