Why you should make the switch to water-free skin care

Why you should make the switch to water-free skin care

Still using water-based skin care? Not sure? Check the ingredient list on your moisturiser and if you see ‘aqua’, ‘aloe vera juice’ or ‘hydrosol’, then you are using water-based skin care. Water is usually at the top of the list because it is the most abundant ingredient. And we don’t mean just a bit more abundant than the other ingredients, we’re talking in the region of 80% of the total content for most products. The rest is a mix of oil - the business end of your moisturiser, and synthetics - added for various reasons. Read on to find out why we think this kind of formulation makes absolutely no sense, and why it does no favours for your skin.

Why is water added to skin care?

It goes back to the early 1900’s when moisturisers were first mass marketed. At that time, ’cold creams’ were the new must-have beauty product. They were made just as moisturisers are made today - by mixing oil and water with the help of an emulsifier. An emulsifier is a detergent-like molecule that keeps the oil and water from separating. The ‘cold’ in ‘cold cream’ comes from the fact that the water evaporates (in around 15 minutes), leaving a fresh cool feeling. The 20% oil in the cream is the beneficial part - it smooths, nourishes and protects the skin. The water simply dilutes the oil so that it will spread thinly over the skin. It does nothing to hydrate it. In fact, 80% of your jar of water-based moisturiser literally evaporates into thin air!

Doesn’t a water-based moisturiser sink into my skin better than a pure oil?

That, my friend, is an illusion. Your water-based moisturiser feels light and well absorbed simply because you have applied only a super-thin layer of oil. As the water evaporates, your skin feels less moist, and thus the illusion that it has ‘sunk in’. That light, cool sensation you are experiencing is the bulk of your expensive cream making its way off into the ether. 

Hey, did you say detergent-like molecule?

Emulsifiers. They sound scientific and sensible. But there’s no way around it - emulsifiers are detergents. They do a great job of helping oil and water hold together in your moisturiser and form a cream-like consistency, but sadly, detergents don’t evaporate from your skin along with the water. Emulsifiers sit on your skin until you next wash it off. At which time it is usually reapplied, so that means the detergent in your moisturiser is sitting on your skin most of the time. Is that bad? Well, for some skin, yes. Emulsifiers can be problematic for people with a compromised skin barrier - those with eczema, acne or rosacea, and for people with delicate skin - the very old and the very young.  What’s more, emulsifiers are common allergens in people with skin sensitivities. You can read more about emulsifiers here and why we never use them. 

But won’t applying a pure oil to my skin make my skin oily? Will it make me break out?

An oil-based moisturiser will feel oily - but only if you apply too much! Let’s stop for a minute. Most people using a waterless moisturiser for the first time apply it like it’s been mixed with 80% water - of course it will feel too oily! The trick is to remember that you are applying a five-times concentrate. But how to do it? Here’s the secret:  



The water on your skin will dilute and spread the oil in a thin layer over your skin. It will do the same job that the water does in your water-based cream. That means that as little as 3-4 drops of oil or half a pea-sized amount of cream is enough. You will still feel that nice cool sensation as the water evaporates - but it will be the water you applied to your skin (not the water mixed into your expensive jar of cream!). So people, no, your skin will not feel too oily. It will feel just as light as your water-based moisturiser, providing you apply the right amount (very little) onto wet skin. Most people get the idea after a few applications.

What about cleansers? How do you make them water-free?

Let me tell you another secret. Cream cleansers, milk cleansers, micellar water, in fact all water-based cleansers cleanse with detergents. Yes, they clean your skin, but they will also remove important oils from it, which can be a big problem for your skin’s health. If your cleanser makes your skin feel squeaky clean, it’s a sign that your cleanser may well have damaged your skin barrier (read more about it here).

There is a better way: oil cleansers - ours is formulated to remove blackheads, excess sebum, dirt and impurities, and at the same time replenish oils that will restore your skin’s barrier. Read how to use our oil cleanser here.

What’s the deal with preservatives?

In case you didn’t know, ALL water-based skin care must have a preservative added to it. Because water is the ideal place to grow bacteria and fungi, water-based skin care must have a synthetic preservative added. Preservatives added to skin care are extremely effective at killing bacteria and fungi - that's what they're designed to do. But they also kill bacteria and fungi that live on your skin - so that’s your skin microbiome you’re messing with whenever you apply water-based skin care. Basically you’re applying an antibiotic to your skin. I hope that concerns you, because it should. Read about how important a healthy skin microbiome is here.

Are there any other benefits to switching to waterless skin care?

I’m so glad you asked. Yes there are!

  1. Concentrated - you are using a concentrate, which means you’re applying pure nutrients to your skin.  Not a watery, detergent- and preservative-laced concoction, that is as far removed from nature as a plastic water bottle.
  2. Oils diluted in water oxidise more quickly than pure oils. Basically, the ‘business end’ of your moisturiser is not as happy in its watery, detergent- and preservative-laced form. Pure oils retain their structure and nutrient value for longer.
  3. You are getting better value, because your waterless moisturiser will last 5 times longer, volume for volume, than a water-based moisturiser. Which means less packaging, lower transport costs, fewer synthetics, fewer factories making those synthetics, and less toxic waste going into our waterways.
  4. When you don’t add emulsifiers, preservatives and other synthetics, you can GUARANTEE you are not adding palm oil. Palm oil is a hidden ingredient in most water-based skin care. Read more here. What’s the problem with palm oil? Everything. Here's a quick summary. Just stop consuming it in any form. 
  5. Your skin will be a whole lot healthier. Simply removing all those synthetics from your skin care can make an enormous difference to the health of your skin. Emulsifiers can damage your skin’s barrier. Preservatives can upset your skin’s microbiome. Pure botanical skin care that is well formulated and created for your skin type is like a whole food diet for your skin - it will glow with health. But don’t take our word for it. Read some of our customers’ testimonials here, or go to the Reviews section at the bottom of each product page to find out how making the switch has helped our customers transform their skin’s health.

Want to make the switch but don’t know where to start? Go to our skin match guide or fill out our questionnaire and we’ll send you recommendations for your own personal routine. 



1 comment

  • Katia

    Dear Founder Marion THANK YOU so much for your perfect explanation on water base skincare.
    I hope more people take the time to read your article and make the change to Pure oil base products

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