Does or Doesn’t Water Belong in Your Skin Care Products?
When it comes to skin care, people usually know exactly what they want. You know to look for supercharged ingredients like hyaluronic acid for anti-aging, and for non-comedogenic formulas for acne-prone skin. You look over the ingredient list and check all the marks: botanical extracts, active vitamins and antioxidant compounds… etc. Then, you check for what’s not: petrochemicals, artificial fragrance and the like (find a list of chemicals to avoid here.) But then there’s one humble ingredient that causes quite a stir. Should it be in, or out? We’re talking, of course, about water. Read on to learn whether water has a place in your skin care products, or not.
What is water?
Let’s start here. Why? In order to understand if water should be included in skin care, we need to understand what water actually is. Don’t worry, we’ll keep it extra simple. In short, water is vital to sustain all forms of life. Water is known as a “universal solvent”, meaning that it dissolves more substances than any other chemical. Obviously we could go on and on, but we’ll just leave it at that for now.
So what does it mean for skin care products?
The fact that water is the main ingredient in a lot of skin care products isn’t surprising. Considering that basically EVERYTHING around us is mostly water, it would make sense! Yes, the human body is roughly 60% water, even the bones (at about 30% water!) Water isn’t considered a filler in skin care products because it absorbs and extracts compounds from other ingredients. This often makes them more readily available for us (and for our skin to load up on the good stuff.)
Why is water is skin care?
Here are the main reasons why you’ll find water listed as a first ingredient in your skin care products:
- as a solvent, to extract other water soluble compounds in the formula (for example with botanical extracts: like nettle, calendula, clover, etc.)
- to emulsify oils (to create that luscious, creamy texture you love!)
- or simply because water is the base of all things
What is water-free skin care?
Some products are naturally water-free, like face oils, or bath soaks, for example. When it comes to creams, lotions, cleansing gels, and the like, water is pretty much inevitable. Some companies market products as “water-free” by replacing water content with things like rose water (still water!) or aloe vera gel (again, 99.5% water!)
Some opponents of water in skin care say that formulas containing water and oil require harmful emulsifiers to keep them from separating. While it’s true that some emulsifiers are derived from undesirable sources, wholesome ingredients like pure beeswax can also be used. The takeaway: emulsion doesn’t equal bad.
Another argument we hear against water in skin care is that water can be a carrier for pollutants, like the ones we find in regular tap water. But here’s the thing: water used in skin care is distilled or purified, meaning that it’s guaranteed to be free of pollutants, toxins, and microbes. You’ll often see it listed as aqua for that purpose.
The benefits of using water
Water in skin care also has a few benefits. Mainly, it acts as a great base for products because it is hypoallergenic, naturally unscented, and unlikely to cause an adverse reaction. Plus, when you’re working with super expensive and luxurious active compounds, dissolving them in water means that you get more for your money. Your product will last longer and be just as effective, since water is a universal solvent.
Water-free products can be a part of your beauty routine – and so can the ones that naturally contain water!