There is a high chance that many of the products on your bathroom shelf contain mostly water. In an effort to preserve Earth’s water supply, beauty brands are looking to make water in skin care a thing of the past by creating and curating water-free formulations. Read on to learn more about this longstanding Korean beauty tradition and the products that do not use water in their formulations. 

The United Nations predicts that in about 10 years, 700 million people around the world will have to move due to a shortage or lack of water supply in their area. In an attempt to mitigate this disastrous consequence of climate change, making the conscious decision to use products that don’t have ‘aqua’ on their label is one way that we can save the Earth’s water supply. 
According to NYC dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, nearly half of what comprises skin care ingredients is water. 

“Up to 50% of what makes up a skincare product may be water.  most products are what are known as emulsions, which are mixtures of oil and water phases that make up traditional creams and lotions,” he says. 

The History of Waterless Beauty

The origins of waterless beauty were born in Korea, and not because cosmetic chemists were thinking about the future of Earth’s water supply. They believed eliminating water would increase the efficaciousness of the products’ other ingredients. In turn, skin care users can reap more promising skin care benefits and results.

Dr. Zeichner explains the chemical makeup behind these products and their benefits to the skin. 

“Anhydrous products are water-free and are based in oils and polymers. The advantage of water free products is that without water, microorganisms cannot grow and contaminate the product, so fewer preservatives are needed if any,” he says. 

Waterless Product Recommendations


It is possible that your daily skin care routine can start off water-free by using a waterless toner. A good starting point is the Some By Mi Galactomyces Pure Vitamin C Glow Toner. 

Some By Mi Galactomyces Pure Vitamin C Glow Toner – This toner utilizes 88% galactomyces ferment filtrate and 1% ascorbic acid to revive the skin’s texture, add hydration to the skin, and deliver a radiant glow to the complexion. The 1% ascorbic acid adds an extra punch to this formula to ensure that the skin receives a glowing appearance and is shielded from environmental harm. 


Ahh, serums – those small bottles of goodness that can be applied between an essence and moisturizer to address a variety of skin care concerns. Many serums typically do not contain water, but these three water-free serums top our list as our K-beauty favorites (and they all contain vitamin C, an ingredient we love). 

Neogen Real Vita C Powder Lemon – This innovative powder is literally waterless. This vitamin C serum is in powder form to reduce the chance of oxidation. It is a gentle, travel-friendly powder that brightens, hydrates, and rejuvenates the skin. It is formulated with 17% pure vitamin C and other ingredients like allantoin and lemon extract to revive the skin’s texture to give you a more radiant and glowing complexion. Pro tip: mix the powder with your favorite toner or essence to give your skin routine an extra boost of vitamin C goodness.
COSRX Triple C Lightning Liquid – The K-beauty cult favorite COSRX Triple C Lightning Liquid is one of many waterless serums that fade away acne scars and hyperpigmentation. This best-selling serum uses pure vitamin C, black chokeberry, and licorice root extract to create a long-lasting glow and revive the skin’s texture.
Some By Mi Galactomyces Pure Vitamin C Glow Serum  – Some by Mi’s Galactomyces Pure Vitamin C Glow Serum is another water-free serum that uses an eclectic combination of ingredients to moisturize, increase skin elasticity, and brighten the skin. Consisting of 3% pure ascorbic acid (more commonly known as vitamin C) and 75% galactomyces ferment filtrate, this serum gets the job done in one-step that three products can do separately. 

To Give You Some Peace of Mind…

Despite all the environmental and skin care benefits of using waterless products, it’s difficult to swear off all products that contain water. The truth is, there is a good reason why most products do contain water.

For some ingredients, water is a crucial addition to the formula to boost effectiveness and act as a solvent. Certain ingredients are “hydrophilic,” which means they work best with water. This includes tea tree extracts and fruit acids, as well as various other plant-based extracts. In addition, active ingredients are extremely potent, so being slightly diluted by water won’t make them less powerful—having water in the formula will actually make them far more effective on the skin.

An example product is the Son & Park Beauty Water, which uses water as a solvent to deliver willow bark extract, papaya extract, citric acid, and lavender oil to the skin. In this formula, the mix of oils and acids provides incredible moisture and other benefits, thanks (in part) to the use of water as a solvent. If you are a conscious skin care consumer though, you’ll be happy to know that this multi-tasking toner passes the clean beauty test.


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