Waterless Skincare: The Latest Secret from Asia

Check out the ingredients list on one of your favorite products. Is the first ingredient water, or perhaps “aqua”? We thought so. Water in beauty products has been a given for, well, ever. But if we’ve learned anything from breakthroughs like BB creams and essences, it’s that sometimes our skincare regimens need a little shaking up. Especially when that shake-up comes from the always ahead-of-the-curve Korean skincare market. We were chatting with Christine Chang and Sarah Lee, co-founders of natural Korean beauty website Glow Recipe, and the two let us in on a new trend in skincare that’s going to be big—waterless formulas. It sounds so simple and yet so revolutionary. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about going water-free!

Water and Skincare

Lee and Chang pointed out that in America, water is synonymous with hydration. Not only is that not the case in Korea, the notion isn’t quite valid when it comes to skincare. “Water-based skincare products actually take more away from your skin than they do to keep you feeling hydrated and glowing,” Chang says. This may sound crazy at first, considering that water is one of the building blocks of life and all that, but think about how your skin operates. “Your skin naturally secretes oil to help protect itself from unwanted elements and to deliver antioxidants and vitamins to your outermost layers, in order to keep skin moisturized and strong,” explains Chang. Water-based products actually strip your natural oil barrier, because as the water evaporates it takes your skin’s natural oils with it.

Water-Free Products

When water disappears from the ingredients list, botanical extracts and oils are used as the base instead. “These extracts and oils are full of vitamins and antioxidants that work to penetrate each layer of your skin more intensely in order to repair damaged skin, hydrate and revitalize your complexion, and fortify the protective barriers on the skin meant to prevent further damage and faster aging,” Chang says. It’s not just dry, aging skin that benefits from going waterless. “All skin types benefit from effective doses of active ingredients,” says Chang. Water can act as a carrier for the active ingredients in a formula, but in doing so, it also dilutes them. So whether you’re looking for brighter, clearer, or firmer skin, water-free products will get you there faster.

Going Waterless

This all sounds great, but you’re probably wondering why, if waterless is so obviously the way to go, the vast majority of products are still formulated with water? Simple. It’s a very affordable ingredient. “Conversely, waterless products can be more expensive to formulate since you’re utilizing more botanical extracts and ingredients within the formula,” Chang says. But before you write off waterless skincare for being too pricey, take a look at a few of our waterless picks—none are over $100. 

Check out the waterless Korean skincare must-haves and a few waterless brands based here in the U.S.

Related Stories