Consumers and companies are becoming more aware of the ongoing environmental issues around the world, as a result demand for sustainable products and packaging is increasing. The United Nations have 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the 6th being sustainable management of water. Cosmetic companies can contribute to this goal by reducing the use of water, seeing as how the majority of personal care products have ‘Aqua/Water’ listed first on ingredient lists.
So what does ‘waterless’ beauty mean?
As more brands are starting to make such claims, it’s important that consumers understand what it means.
‘Waterless’ claims most likely refer to the finished formulation and mean that no water has been added or is included in the formula (e.g. from a raw material where water is a solvent).
Brands need to take extra caution to not mislead the consumers and adhere to the six common criteria for claims, especially ‘truthfulness’. Meaning that, when a product is claiming ‘waterless’ it does not necessarily mean that no water is used at all, for example during the production process, harvesting and processing raw materials, cleaning machinery, consumer use etc. These claims should be qualified so it is clear the finished product and not the full process is waterless (e.g. formulated without water, reduced water use).
It seems that cleansing products have been the most innovative in this area and there are quite a few new formats on the market:
Solid bars, these may still involve water in formulation and production but at a much lower level than say a bottle of body wash or shampoo, in addition less packaging is used. Some additional benefits are an extended product shelf life due to less or no water content and fewer preservatives.
Powders, (loose or compact tablets) which get activated by water during use, allow for preserving the freshness of the ingredients for longer without using preservatives. No water means products are lighter and thus more transport friendly as there is less Co2 emission per product during transport. With more brands becoming global, this is a great way to lessen the impact of transporting around the world.
Concentrated products, which a consumer dilutes at home before use, are not completely waterless but reduce packaging and results in a more travel friendly product. However, doses need to be clearly defined and there are some extra steps involved for the consumer in using such a format. This can also present some challenges from a compliance perspective.
There are some challenges that face such product formats and the biggest one is persuading consumers to use them. Ultimately, they need to give similar results as traditional formats and sustainability cannot be the only selling point as consumers will not sacrifice results and experience, it’s efficacy first.
These concepts are also relatively new for the cosmetic industry and in order to be able to ensure stability, efficacy and to find a way to still create the ‘luxury experience’ consumers want, raw material suppliers need to come up with more innovative ingredients that will help tackle these challenges but also find new ways of producing and processing actives to reduce the amount of water being used.
Water is the new gold and we should all be striving to protect its availability, as more ‘waterless’ beauty products and formats become available, brands need to consider the claims they are making and that they meet both the common criteria and general consumer protection requirements .
Perhaps we will start seeing some other sustainability claims emerging as consumer’s desires are taken in mind (e.g. no rinse products, lower carbon footprint, etc.)
Written By Elizaveta Luneva