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Conserving and Replacing Water in Beauty Product Formulations

Beauty consumers, brands, formulators, and ingredient makers are changing the way we use water.

The current wave of solid product formats and waterless beauty has been making headlines for nearly a decade now. But water use, the associated packaging waste, and the carbon spent to transport and process it all is still very much a concern.

Innovators across the cosmetics and personal care industry and all around the world are working to address that.

Beauty Brands at Cosmoprof NA 2021 Showcase New Ways to Formulate

And at this year’s Cosmoprof North America event, I caught up with representatives and leaders from several brands that are rethinking water use and reimagining what’s possible.

This is a video of the Deardot sheet-to-foam Cleansing Seal in action at this year’s CPNA tradeshow in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Cleaning Seal is a water-soluble, single-dose facial cleaner developed for convenient use on-the-go. Deardot is a K beauty brand and this product is their first launch.

And while the cleanser fits into our discussion about alternative approaches to water, Deardot is a brand focused on another environmental sustainability issue: preserving the biodiversity of plants, creating a market for derivatives and extracts of plants that are otherwise likely to go extinct. The Cleansing Seal as well as the next few skincare products in Deardot’s pipeline are made using an extract of Yuja, a precious and unique citrus fruit.

The brand is also working to add seeds (from the very plants used in its product formulations) to Korea’s Seed Vault, thus safeguarding these plants in the event of extinction in the natural world.

Promising Water Substitutes for Skincare Product Formulation

A couple other skincare brands that I spoke with at Cosmoprof are focused on formulating with water alternatives. Miage, a California-based brand that launched just last year, was showing its line of 5 skincare products.

“Our products, we don’t have any waters. We use the cactus juice instead of waters.” That’s Shirly Zeng, General Manager of Miage Skin Regeneration Corp. The Miage brand works with prickly pear (Opuntia Dillenii), a nopal cactus commonly grown in Mexico City’s Milpa Alta borough, where the soil includes volcanic nutrients. The cactus is regularly used as a food as well as as a decorative plant.

While the INCI name has the ingredient as an extract, Shirly Zeng tells me that: “So we keep not only the juice of the cactus, it’s also the meat from the cactus. We use our special technique to combine them together and keep the nutrition of the cactus.”

Miage uses a proprietary mechanical process to obtain a mixture of cactus juice and pulp for use in its product formulations. This process takes place at the brand’s facilities in China, where Miage is also now cultivating prickly pear cactus to ensure a consistent supply of its hero ingredient.

The Korea-based brand I ZéZé (which you heard me talk a bit about in my October video) launched its line of Anyone skincare in 2020 and was at CPNA talking with buyers and partners in the US marketplace. While quite new, I ZéZé’s Anyone line of skincare is already on the market in 4 countries.

“We only have a first line called Anyone that means anyone can use because we only put mild and safe ingredients. It’s okay for many types of skin.” [Kiyeong, Chang, International Sales Team Manager at I ZéZé]

We know that formulating personal care and beauty products with a high water-content is increasingly seen as wasteful.

These skincare product formulas contain, instead, 70% of the brand’s hero ingredient: Hinoki Cypress Water. Water yes, but water with benefits. In both Japan and Korea, this water, is a prized skincare ingredient.

“Our main ingredient is called Cypress Water that soothes your skin and revitalizes your skin health and also Panthenol that strengthens your skin’s barrier and then Allantoin that improves your skin’s elasticity So all these 3 ingredients in our product.

I ZéZé sources its Cypress Water from trees on Jeju Island. The water is harvested or gathered without disrupting the trees’ basic lifecycle. And beyond any skincare benefits of Hinoki Cypress Water, this ingredient also impacts texture, giving the I ZéZé products—a cleanser, toner, serum, and cream—a distinctive feel without any stickiness.

New Product Innovations Help Personal Care Consumers Can Reduce Water Waste

Formulation strategy is of course just one way to approach water use in beauty.

A super fun new brand called H2No!, founded by Miranda Wilson, is taking another approach and completely transforming consumer behavior when it comes to personal care and water.

The brand’s first products are a line of dry-apply gels that create an invisible lubricating barrier, making it easy for women and men to get the shave they want entirely without water.

“So, this is H2No! Shave. And it is a natural dry-apply shave gel.” [Miranda Wilson, Founder and Managing Director of H2No!] “I want to get girls who are just starting to shave to dry shave or wet shave?”

“I thought that women had the greater potential for water saving because we put about 20 gallons of water down the shower in a 10-minute shave. So multiply that and the math is pretty staggering.”

“I want to get girls that are just starting to shave to begin dry shaving. We all shave wet because that’s always what we we’re told to do. … what’ the other way to shave?”

So much of what you hate about shaving is actually tied to the awkwardness of it in the shower, how much space you have, the size of your water heater…”

“To me it’s an environmental choice. I’m very close to water; my day job is actually as a waste water pretreatment environmental supervisor for a plating shop. So water is our most precious limited resource and it is limited as we’re all finding out now.

“So I believe that anything that we can do in our daily grooming routines to help the planet, to minimize our consumption is great.”

“So I want to get girls that are just starting to shave, saving water and never shaving in the shower.”

“So I launched with cucumber was my original scent just because it’s kind of unisex. I know there’s a pink-haired girl on the front; but I’ve had a lot of guys pick it up too. They’re very interested in shaving—the guys who do the manicured beards, they want to be able to see where they shave to get a nice clean line and this allows you to do that.”

“So this is what I started with. But then, I launched lavender because I’m a huge lavender fan and my men’s fragrance. So now I’ve got these.”

“I do see extra SKUs coming soon: More problem / solution for things that come along with shaving and then I’d like them to either be products that you typically use with water that you don’t or anhydrous products that aren’t using water and so you have a more concentrated salve or balm.”

Solid Beauty and Personal Care Products are Gaining Market Share

And speaking of anhydrous, solid products continue to be an important part of the conversation about beauty and water use. Though it’s true that solid product formats are increasingly common, they are far from being a mainstay in the average consumer’s personal care routine.

Which is to say that there is room in the marketplace for many more solid beauty brands. And, there’s also still room for us to learn from the philosophies and inventors behind these brands.

Vaiva Zvirblyte, Founder of Solidu Cosmetics, was at Cosmoprof North America; and she’s leading a brand that is (in many respects) akin to brands like LOLI Beauty, Ethique, or Beauty Kitchen.

Solidu is another bold brand that is not taking environmental sustainability measures one step at time but is, rather, all in and completely reconfiguring how personal care makers approach sourcing, formulation, production, packaging…everything!

“At Solidu we made a shampoo that is just the concentrated ingredients. So it doesn’t contain any water. It’s very compact. It’s small and it doesn’t contain plastic packaging, which obviously is a huge problem with plastic bottles taking up to 500 years to biodegrade. They’re often not recyclable for various reasons. Or if they are, they are just not recycled.”

“This equals a bottle of shampoo. And you obviously use it to wash your hair. And when it’s done basically nothing is left. You can use it to the last bit. And the packaging itself, you can place it in the soil. You can place it in your back yard. If you have a compost bin at home you can put it in a compost bin or even in a potted plant or somewhere in the ground because when it touches the ground and water, it will start decomposing. So it will biodegrade in your home conditions. You don’t need any special facilities. You don’t need special temperatures or anything like that.”

“So, the materials that we chose for our packaging do not contain any plastic and they do not contain any paper either. So the base for it is bamboo and starch. And bamboo is interestingly not a tree. It is actually a grass. And we don’t need to cut forests to obtain bamboo. It grows very, very fast. It’s the fastest growing grass there is.”

“And we went even one step further: the bamboo we use is not virgin bamboo. It is actually bamboo offcuts that are left over from other production. So it would be waste otherwise; but we use it to produce the packaging. And the packaging is completely safe, completely natural.”

Brands that do approach sustainability one step at a time have the advantage of being able to bring consumers along on that step-by-step journey. And Vaiva knows that consumer education is likely to be an ongoing challenge for the Solidu brand, but a challenge that she and her team are ready to meet.

I’d love to hear how your business is addressing water conservation and what other interesting ideas you’re seeing in the market. Please take just a moment to leave a comment below!

I’m Deanna Utroske; thanks so much for watching DUviews. See you next time!

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this DUviews item was originally posted to LinkedIn and now appears on


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