Aqua. Four little letters, one major implication: the formula of your average skincare product is mostly water. In fact, read through the ingredients and you’ll notice that it’s listed upfront. But that’s about to change, if K-Beauty is to be believed. South Korea has long set the bar in the world of skincare and, now, it’s turning towards waterless skincare. Not only is it better for the environment for obvious reasons, but it’s also a lot more effective as water is replaced with ingredients that actually serve a purpose, like oils or botanical extracts.
Now, it may take a minute until waterless skincare products go mainstream, but there are more options than you realise. In fact, you don’t have to look far to find them – Upfill, a waterless personal care and cosmetics brand, was founded right here in the UAE! “Consumers in the Middle East are shifting to responsible beauty brands like Upfill because they want to take care of themselves and the planet. They are increasingly aware of the amounts of synthetic chemicals in their beauty routines and no longer wish to buy products full of water and plastics,” says co-founder Mariam Khafagy.
“For decades, big beauty companies have been selling billions of products each year containing more than 70% of ‘aqua’, which is another name for water! Of course, water is relatively cheap when compared to other active ingredients. This is why adding it in cosmetics is more profitable for the bottled cosmetics brands.” As for what the industry does not account for? “The huge carbon footprint that results from moving millions of tons of water contained in cosmetics between continents, especially when we already have tap water at home,” she says.
Interestingly, Mariam says that the concept of waterless cosmetics is not new, contrary to popular belief. “Oil-based traditional cosmetics and waterless skincare have been around for thousands of years in the Arab world. Our ancestors knew better! Most of our clients permanently shifted to waterless beauty for their daily routines once they realised that our products work as well as their plastic bottle counterparts – and often much better. Change takes time, but the movement has definitely started and we’re proud to be pioneering it in the region.” She goes on to reveal that many active ingredients, such as vitamins or essential minerals, react when mixed with water.
“Over time, these ongoing reactions result in a loss of effectiveness. The ingredients in solid beauty products do not experience these reactions and therefore maintain their benefits over time.” And then there’s the matter of preservatives. “Water from bottled skincare products constitutes a perfect environment for bacteria to grow – this is why industrial companies tend to add preservatives to stop germs from developing. These unnecessary preservatives can result in skin reactions caused by irritating chemicals and allergens,” explains Mariam, citing yet another reason to make the transition. Here, we’ve put together a handful of skincare essentials, all of which are waterless. Bonus: each of these products can be shipped to the UAE.
Clean Slate, ALLEYOOP
Vitamin C Probiotic Polish, OSEA
THE EYE CREAM
Botanical E Eye Balm, ONE LOVE ORGANICS
Jeju Lotus Leaf Essence Lotion, THE PURE LOTUS
Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer, GLOW RECIPE
Vitamin C, THE INKEY LIST
THE SHEET MASK
Instant Magic Facial Dry Sheet Mask, CHARLOTTE TILBURY
Sungel SPF30, SKINNIES