Water-Free Beauty Is Trending, but What Does It Mean?

First of all, what is water-free beauty? Hailing from South Korea (aka the land of pioneers in beauty and skin care), the movement is all about using little to no water in beauty products (per the World Wildlife Fund, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages by 2025). While it’s tough to find completely zero-water products, big-name brands like Unilever, L’Oréal and Procter & Gamble have pledged to reduce their water footprint over the next few years. And there are already a few great beauty picks that contain minimal amounts of H2O. (More on that below.)

As it turns out, it’s not just the environment that will thank you for going water-free—your complexion will too. We tapped Morgan Rabach, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and cofounder of LM Medical in New York City, to find out more about how the trend might affect your skin. “The less water used in a cosmetic product, the more concentrated the active ingredients are,” says Dr. Rabach. Translation? You’re getting more bang for your buck. Not only that, but she also tells us that when water is used as an ingredient in beauty products, certified preservatives are usually added as well to reduce the chance of bacterial growth. Less water means fewer preservatives.

In terms of skin type, some are better suited to cutting back on H2O than others. “Super dry eczematous skin could benefit from the water-free beauty movement, as these products could have more oil used as emulsifiers,” says Dr. Rabach. (More oil means more hydration.) But water-based products are better for people with acne-prone or oily skin, she adds. Intrigued? Here are three of our favorite water-free beauty products.

water free beauty blush paper
Mai Couture

1. Mai Couture Blush Paper

Created by Korean American makeup artist Mai Tran, these clever water-free papers are infused with natural powders to absorb oil and add a touch of color to your skin. Bonus? Their purse-friendly size means they’re ideal for travel and quick touch-ups on the go. We like the blush papers for a natural glow, but the brand also makes foundation and highlighter sheets.

water free beauty costa brazil
Costa Brazil

2. Costa Brazil Body Cream

Made from a blend of oils indigenous to the Amazon—like kaya, cayay and tucuma seed—this luxurious cream boasts a velvety texture and long-lasting moisture. The pleasant herbal scent doesn’t fade quickly, either. Sure, it’s not particularly budget-friendly, but a little does go a long way.

water free beauty mamiel cleanser

3. De Mamiel Brightening Cleanser

Perk up a dull complexion with this mix of finely ground plant extracts, clay and gemstone powder that also includes vitamin C and ginseng to brighten skin. Yes, you’ll need to mix it with a tiny amount of water to create a paste, but just a few drops should do the trick.

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...