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Water-based Skincare Vs. Waterless Skincare – What's Best for Healthy Skin?

Water-based skincare or waterless skincare | Tips from Dermatologists | Skintelligence

A lot of people are keen on knowing what skincare routine works best for their skin. One area that consumers often find themselves looking at, in skincare analysis, is the area of ingredients. You may have noticed by now that many skincare products start with water.

When ingredients get listed, it is often from the most prominent to the least. This means only one thing - that water makes up a significant part of these ingredients. Not taking away the fact that there are also waterless skincare products out there that do not contain any water. Instead, this type of products are formulated with a base of botanical extracts that are immensely potent.

For clarity purposes, most of these botanical extracts used as ingredients contain water, but when we say waterless skincare, we mean that the product itself does not contain water as a raw ingredient.

Having understood what both means, it will, therefore, be easy to assume that waterless skincare products would be stronger and more effective. The popularity of waterless skincare products is mainly because of a general belief that their ingredients are more active since they are not diluted with water.

The truth is that there is no clear winner in the argument of which is better. Waterless skincare has its own advantages, but that doesn't take away the benefits of water-based skincare.

That said, let's look at both of them and the advantages that each has to offer.

Benefits of Water-based Skincare Routine

As explained earlier, water-based skincare products contain water as a major ingredient. This means that although it contains other ingredients, water makes up a good percentage of it. Checkout some of its benefits.

1. Acts as a nutrient-rich makeup primer

Most makeup wearers are aware of the availability of different primers in the market. Most mainstream primers are pretty heavy on the silicones which fill the pores, creating a barrier at the skin top and serving as a smooth foundation for makeup. Most people, however, do not know that because of the difficulty of removing silicone from the skin, it becomes more likely to clog pores.

Generally, silicone has become popular as an inexpensive filler ingredient used by makeup producers and artists to create a slick product feel.

A good alternative for silicones, in this case, is the Ultra Moisturizing Repair Gel with Calendula that has been crowned as the Best Anti-Aging Moisturiser for Sensitive Skin in the 2019 Her World Beauty Awards. This product, and many other water-based moisturizers, acts as a lightweight, fast-absorbing gel, offering some of the slickness of silicone without losing its ability to penetrate deeper layers of the skin for lasting benefits.

2. Lightweight formulations

For most people, the warmer / humid months are the time when their skin gets the oiliest. Lightweight, water-based skincare becomes a better choice to combat and complement oily skin needs.

Tip: The Glow Renew Essence Toner with Green Tea and Ultra Pore Refiner Anti-Blemish Night Cream with Niacinamide (that has been crowned as the Best Pore-Refining Treatment in the 2019 Beauty Insider's Choice Award) is a powerful duo designed to clear and hydrate oily skin, without making it feel heavy or greasy.

3. The wonders of water as a solvent in skincare

If you’re constantly researching the best skincare to add to your collection, it’s likely you’ve come across how water is a ‘universal solvent’. But what does that mean, and how does water actually help skincare to function at its best? Imagine adding a teaspoon of sugar into warm milk. As you stir the sugar granules, they start to slowly dissolve into the milk so that when you drink it—you’re able to fully enjoy the sweet treat! As a solvent in skincare, water behaves the same way to allow your skin to enjoy different types of ingredients. For instance, a tea tree extract in a cream that you apply whenever you have a pimple has water in the cream’s formulation to break down the tea tree extract and deliver it to your skin for more efficient absorption. Thanks to its mild and non-sensitizing properties, water is also suitable for all skin types and thus widely recognised as the ‘universal solvent’!

And that’s not all. Water is also a great emulsifier in lotions and creams, helping to bind ingredients together and keep them from separating. This is how lipophilic and hydrophilic—oil and water-loving ingredients respectively—are able to stick together with the same formula and give creams their luscious, creamy texture. Take our best-selling Cell Regenerate Gel Cream for example: it contains ingredients like jojoba oil, geranium oil and humectants (glycerin) that usually repel each other. However, the inclusion of water keeps them together and creates an emulsion that delivers ample moisture to your skin—locking everything in beautifully and ensuring your skin takes in the goodness it deserves!

Benefits of Waterless Skincare Routine

Here, take a look at some of the benefits of waterless skincare routine. Bear in mind that these also serve as the cons of using a water-based routine.

1. Water isn't always hydrating

It's no longer breaking news that the body needs up to 8 glasses of water per day. To most people, it can be a battle keeping up to this amount of water every day.

When applied to the skin directly, water may disrupt the balance of skin's natural oil, considering that water and oil don't settle.

Natural oil is skin's natural barrier against loss of moisture, thereby giving the skin the needed protection against damage from harsh environmental factors like pollution, dirt, and UV rays. Upsetting this balance might leave your skin exposed to these damages.

2. It may cause irritation

Bacteria need water for survival. The water on your skin might feed bacteria, thereby increasing their number, and causing inflammation, irritation, and breakouts.

Apart from helping to encourage harmful bacteria on your skin, water-based products also help them to thrive in the product itself. This brings the need for stabilizers and preservatives in water-based products to keep the bad guys away.

3. Water could dilute the formulation

Some skincare brands with less costly products might be making them too diluted, using water as fillers, therefore making the formulations less concentrated than you think.

Wrap Up

The short answer to the puzzle is that there's no shortcut to having flawless skin. Against what most people claim, a waterless skincare routine is not superior to water-based skincare. Instead, waterless skincare is just another option when it comes to the world of skincare products.

It is, however, vital to think of your specific skin concerns and determine the right product for it, whether it is skincare products with water or without water.


Find out your skin type free | Artificial Intelligence | Skintelligence


About us: We are Skintelligence, a team focused on a 'skin-first' approach to beauty through artificial intelligence. We match products to you based on your unique skin type and needs. Results are highly accurate and personalized with AI and machine learning. It's fun, convenient, and it works. Try it here.

As featured in Her World, CLEO, FEMALE, Shape, Nuyou, Singapore Women’s Weekly, Daily Vanity, Layers of Skins.


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