What Is "Waterless" Skincare and Why Is it Trending?

Peep any product’s ingredient list and you will likely see water at the top. That’s because water has traditionally been used as a solvent for other ingredients to mix with, thereby creating a more “cosmetically elegant” (read: easier to spread) formula for application.

While water itself isn’t a harmful ingredient, some environmentally-minded folks question the practice of relying on it so heavily in product formulation. To put it into context: At our current consumption rate, the World Wildlife Fund predicts that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages.

As one potential solution to this issue, more beauty companies are starting to roll out “waterless” or “water-free” products. So in place of liquid face washes and shampoos, we’re seeing powder-based cleansers that morph into foam when activated in the shower.

Not only do these products cut back on water consumption overall, but in doing so, they also reduce the amount of packaging used, which decreases the fuel required to ship products to their final destinations. The fact that they’re also fun to use and easier-to-pack in a carryon is a bonus. Ahead, five of our favorite waterless products to use from head to toe.

1. Tatcha The Rice Polish Classic

Since its launch in 2012, this Meghan Markle-approved cleanser has stayed a bestseller in the line, adding three more variations to suit oily, dry and sensitive skin types. The water-activated wash uses a base of finely ground rice bran to gently whisk away dead skin cells, so you get a smoother, brighter complexion. To use, pour ½ teaspoon of the powder onto wet hands and rub them together to create a cloudlike foam. Massage the foam into skin for 15 seconds to allow the ingredients to work their magic.

2. Versed Found The Light Powder With Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a notoriously fickle ingredient that degrades easily when exposed to everyday elements like heat, light and even air—all of which can weaken its potency over time. That said, it’s also one of the best ingredients for combatting dullness. Luckily for us, Versed cracked the code with this powdered vitamin C that stays fresh until the very last drop. Mix two shakes of powder with your moisturizer to activate the antioxidant; the super-fine powder is made from tapioca starch, so it melts without a trace into your other skincare products to give them a brightening boost.

3. Cocokind Chlorophyll Mask

The TikTok favorite beauty brand is beloved for good reason: It makes highly effective, yet non-irritating skincare products that are also affordable. All these attributes are on full display with their chlorophyll mask, which comes in a vibrant green powder that can just as easily be diluted or dialed up to troubleshoot whatever skin issues you’re currently dealing with—be it a slicker-than-usual forehead or a surprise bout of acne. (Psst, here are some more ways to use the mask using ingredients you already have in your kitchen.)

4. Bawdy The Bawdy Wash

Bar soap vs. body wash: If you haven’t committed to either camp, you might favor this powder-to-foam cleanser instead. It’s packed with skin-nourishing ingredients like seaweed and kaolin clay to rinse away the day, without leaving your skin feeling dry after you towel off. With a velvety texture and a delicate floral scent, it turns a mundane shower from another daily task to a full-on sensorial experience you look forward to.

5. Susteau Moondust Hair Wash

Remember: The scalp is an extension of your skin. Keep it clean and it will thank you in the form of voluminous roots (and an absence of dandruff). This water-activated shampoo morphs into a silky lather as soon as you add water to it. Loaded with coconut oil-derived surfactants, it thoroughly cleanses your hair of excess dirt and oils without stripping it dry. And the palm-sized bottle weighs far less than any other shampoo we’ve tried lugging around.

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...