October 4, 2021News
With the threat of climate change growing every day, we’re all looking for small and proactive steps that we can take to make the world a better place. While we’re all aware of issues like fast fashion and controversial ingredients like palm oil, water is one ingredient that you’re probably overlook. Water is something that most of us takes for granted every day. The ability to go into our kitchen and run a tap, receiving instant water, is virtually unheard of in some parts of the world – even in the 21st century.
Water is one ingredient that we often turn to for its hydrating and moisturising properties. You might think of it as an everyday ingredient, but one marketing research firm is calling it the “new luxury” ingredient due to demand outstretching supply. Water is about to become a precious commodity across the world as the demand for it begins to outstretch supply and as climate change takes hold.
All you have to do is look at the intense water consumption of industries like the fast fashion niche to see how this is happening. In countries like India, most of their water is used for textile production, while millions of people are without safe drinking water.
As the population continues to grow, economic development thrives, and consumption increases, the global supply of water is going up with it. Did you know that the average person in the Western world uses 140 litres of water a day, including for washing and household use? Just picture a one litre bottle of water and then times it by one hundred and forty. That’s how much water just you use every day. Now multiple that by how many people live in your house and you’ll quickly see the number start to rise.
There’s also the impact of climate change to consider. Two thirds of the world’s population are already dealing with water scarcity for at least one month of the year as temperatures start to rise and climates become more humid. With climate change raising the earth’s temperature, we can expect this number to rise as well.
Although agriculture is naturally the main consumer of water usage – taking around 70% of the world’s resources – the beauty industry is playing a role in contributing to the problem as well. It’s not just about beauty brands becoming more sustainable or greener, it’s also about making consumers aware of the impact that their products are having.
Just think of how we all ditched single used plastic after seeing the harms it causes to our oceans. As more consumers become aware of the dangers of certain ingredients, they start to put pressure on brands to change their practices and look for more sustainable alternatives. They also work to lobby governments and institutions, often causing a change in regulations and even laws. The banning of micro-beads in the UK is a prime example of this.
As the world looks to become more sustainable and eco-friendlier, it’s no surprise that beauty companies are already looking for ways to reduce their water consumption. As consumers become more educated, these brands are seeking to get ahead of the curve and out-perform their competition on the axes of sustainability. Even some of the most popular brands within the industry are taking proactive steps.
L’Oreal has pledged to reduce its water consumption by an eye-water 60% per finished product unit by the end of 2022. When you think of how many products L’Oreal makes, that’s an impressive commitment. Similarly, Unilver have set their own goal of halving the environment impact of the production and usage of their products by 2030. This ambitious goal also includes its water usage.
What you might not know is that water is one of the leading ingredients in most of the skincare and cosmetics products in your vanity. The next time you’re washing your hair, take a look at the ingredients list on your shampoo and condition. You’ll notice that ‘Aqua’ is almost always one of the first ingredients listed. The ingredients list works by starting with the highest concentration before working its way down.
The issue with the beauty industry is that water has been used as a filler ingredient for years to bulk out the product. It’s typically listed as the first ingredient as it forms the base for the product. You might even find that it makes up 70-80% of the product’s formula. One reason why water is chosen as the base is due to its low price point, meaning that it lowers the overall cost of producing the produce, in turn making it more affordable. It’s this view of water as being a ‘cheap’ commodity that leads to people assuming that it’s a limitless resource that will never run out.
The good news is that there are already alternatives to water-based formulas on the market. You can vote with your wallet and make the industry change by opting for more sustainable formulas.
Solid beauty bars are one product that have been on the rise in recent years due to their sustainability and the fact that they use virtually no packaging and leave zero waste. What we love about solid beauty bars is that they come with a more concentrated formula, meaning that you get more for your money with a lower cost per use. As there is little to no water used, you’re getting more active and skin-loving ingredients in your beauty bar. A beauty bar will naturally lather up when you’re using it in the shower, making it a popular format for shampoos.
These beauty bars are more sustainable than you might think, ticking all the boxes for anyone with an eco-friendly conscious. Think of the big containers that house liquid shampoos. They come covered in plastic – and occasionally even an outer layer of plastic. It uses considerably more plastic than a shampoo bar, which can even be packaged in eco-friendly material like beeswax paper or recycled cardboard.
Water-free beauty products can be stored and packaged in compostable materials or even sold naked. If you’ve ever been to stores like Lush, you’ll see that their soaps do not come individually wrapped in plastic, instead stored in their whole form. Without the need for this plastic packaging, your beauty products have a lower carbon footprint, and the lack of water means that it weighs even less. As it weighs less, it has a knock-on effect by lowering the transportation cost of the product.
You also want to consider swapping out for powder-based products, which are already starting to become a popular niche within the beauty industry.
While most skincare products come in a liquid format, powder versions of products like cleaners, exfoliators, and face masks are becoming more popular. You activate the ingredients in the product and use it by adding a touch of water to turn them to liquid. You get all the skincare benefits, while reducing the weight and waste of your product.
The beauty of using powder-based products is that they can maintain the integrity of your active ingredients. Vitamin C is one active ingredient that can deteriorate overtime if it is pre-mixed with water. If you use vitamin C in its powder form, you can preserve its integrity and purity to make sure that you get the most out of the ingredients when you use them. All it needs is a touch of water to active it.
The other thing to consider is that the powder form of products means that it can be made without needing to use preservatives, which are one of the leading causes of skin irritation. If you want a cleaner product, with more active ingredients and a less irritating formula, it’s time to shift from water-based liquid formulas to powder.
One other bonus of using a beauty bar or powder is that they don’t count towards your liquid allowance while flying. If you’re always on the go, these eco-friendly products can be a lifesaver.
The other product type to consider are oils. Most of us assume that water is instantly a good thing. You’ll often see water justified as being in a formula for its hydrating benefits, when it’s really only there for filler. In reality, the minerals and metals in water can strip your skin if you use them too often.
Too much of a good thing can cause problems – with water being no exception.
If you have sensitive skin or want to cut your water use, swap out for nourishing natural oils instead. You’ll get all the hydrating benefits of the natural ingredients, while the oil will help them absorb seamlessly into your skin. Instead of using water, these oils incorporate things like fruit waters and botanicals to create the same effect without the environmental consequences.
While you might be used to seeing water coming out of your kitchen tap, that’s the exact problem. We’re so used to water that we take it for granted. With new solutions and alternatives coming to the market every year, it might be time to finally cut down our water usage.
How are you making your beauty routine more sustainable? Do you use any water-free products? Tell us about them in the comments below!
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