In case you didn’t know, the beauty industry is the biggest culprit in terms of using the world's water supply right after agriculture. And while it might seem like a limitless resource given that the planet is covered in 70% water, only 3% of that is freshwater: the kind that’s piped into our homes and used by the beauty industry. Beyond that, WHO predicts that half of the world will be living in areas where water is scarce by 2025. Recognizing the need to pivot away from relying on water, emerging beauty brands are developing products without it, creating a new category of waterless beauty.
What’s the problem with water in beauty products?
“Water itself is not inherently bad”, says Jayme Jenkins, co-founder of Everist. However, it does dilute active ingredients, adds more volume to products, increasing weight and thus carbon footprint, as well as the amount of packaging required.” Water also contributes to bacteria growth, which necessitates the need for preservatives to prevent contamination.
Why is the beauty industry so reliant on it?
Because it’s both inexpensive and abundant, water is the foundation for most products. Check the ingredient list on most items and you’ll see it’s the first ingredient. It also helps dissolve active ingredients, form emulsions and contributes to aspects such as consistency and spreadability. As well, formulating without water presents major challenges. “Getting the right texture and performance using different combinations of active ingredients is not easy,” says Jenkins. There is also a perception factor. “In the heydays of retail, water was added to soap formulations to make plastic bottles bigger in order to give more perceived value and have more shelf presence," says Jenkins. “In an e-com-first world, this no longer makes sense!”
What exactly is waterless beauty?
Typically more concentrated, they’re products formulated without water that are then activated by the introduction of it. Many of these use butters, oils or waxes and oil soluble actives as ingredients, making these concentrated formulas 100 percent actives. And while waterless beauty isn’t entirely new–think of the humble soap bar, as well as balms, sticks and powders–the category is now expanding with innovative concepts like Everist’s shampoo, conditioner and body wash concentrates.
What are the benefits of it?
First there is the formula which is far more concentrated so a little goes a long way. It also means they don’t need preservatives. “Waterless beauty products are some of the cleanest formulas on the market, avoiding chemical preservatives which cannot be done when water is introduced,” says Jessica Stevenson, co-founder of Everist. Their formats also make them more portable and convenient and easier to transport by reducing shipping weight and space, which reduces carbon footprint. “Traditional shower care products are usually around 70% water and to us that didn’t make sense to be shipping that much water when you’re using them in the shower,” says Stevenson. They also don’t require as much protection as liquids so there is less packaging required. “Having our products packaged in aluminum tubes has many benefits beyond just the environmental one,” says Jenkins. “The tubes help protect the integrity of the formulas from light and contamination - they don’t ‘suck’ air or water back into them like plastic tubes.” Meanwhile other forms like bars can opt for paper, and omit plastic.
What makes Everist so innovative?
While bars and powder formats exist in the hair care space, the brand wanted to create something that was closer to what people were used to using. That’s how they came upon shampoo, conditioner and more recently, body wash, concentrate pastes all activated by water in the shower. They also recognized not everyone wants to switch to shampoo and conditioner bars and preferred the experience of conventional hair washing. That combined with the superior performance means that Everist “feels like an upgrade, not a compromise,” says Stevenson.
The bottom line?
“We believe that waterless is the future of beauty,” says Jenkins. “We’re starting in haircare, but the waterless movement has meaningful applications across bodycare, skincare, and beyond.” The brand also believes that everyone wants to live more sustainably but also desire high performance and convenience from their beauty products. “Our purpose is to give them all of those things. Only by making sustainable products that are better in every way than the status quo will we change this industry.”