What is Waterless Skincare? • Neve's Bees

What is Waterless Skincare?

Why is my skin so dry even when I moisturise

Waterless Skincare is a term you may have heard of?

There’s a lot of hype at the moment about ‘water-free skincare’ (or waterless skincare)  so we thought we’d explore this and dig deeper into what waterless skincare means and why there might be good reasons to make the switch.

Why are people moving towards waterless skincare to help dry skin?

Whilst there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with putting water on your skin, there are some good reasons why people are moving away from water-based skincare to waterless skincare – both to help their skin and for the environmental benefits of this more sustainable skincare

Feeling curious? Have a look at the moisturiser you’re currently using (or indeed most face creams for dry skin) and see if water – ‘aqua’ – is near the top of the ingredients. If so, please do read on…

What is waterless skincare and why is switching to a water-free skincare regime better for your skin
What is waterless skincare and why is switching to a water-free skincare regime better for your skin

the addition of emulsifiers and preservatives to skin creams and lotions might help explain why your skin becomes dry even after you moisturise.

1) Emulsifiers and why these might cause skin dryness

Any facial moisturiser, facial cleansing cream, hand cream or body lotion that is a ‘cream’ or ‘lotion’ is a mixture of water and oil (that’s the definition) and therefore requires emulsifiers to mix the water and oil. If not, they would separate. Think about if you make a salad dressing with oil and vinegar – if you leave it a little while, the oil and vinegar will separate.

Emulsifiers (or surfactants to give them their technical name) enable the oil and water to mix. Fairy liquid is a surfactant – it enables the grease in your washing up to mix with the water and be washed away.

Here’s the thing: The surfactants from that cream or lotion can remain on your skin and wreak havoc with the function of your skin barrier, damaging your skin’s natural protective microbiome. Because they are designed to make your skin’s natural oils dissolve in water they also emulsify and remove your skin’s natural oils.

The result can be skin dryness.

These emulsifiers are NOT there for your skin’s benefit and are NOT needed in waterless skincare 

Curious? Look at your skincare products again and see if you can spot some of these common emulsifiers:

  • sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS)
  • benzalkonium chloride
  • behentrimonium methosulphate
  • cetearyl alcohol
  • stearic acid
  • glyceryl stearate
  • ceteareth-20
  • polysorbates
  • laureth-4
  • potassium cetyl sulfate

NB – beeswax isn’t an emulsifier – it doesn’t dissolve in water

Most face creams for dry skin contain chemicals that actually result in dehydrated skin. waterless skincare is actually much more moisturising for your skin
Emulsifiers, thickeners and preservatives are needed in skin creams and lotions that contain water (aqua) – these can affect the natural balance of your skin causing dry skin even when you moisturise

2) Fillers, thickening agents and chelating agents and their impact on dehydrated skin

Because water feels ‘thin’, fillers and thickening agents are added to most creams and lotions, such as facial moisturisers, facial cleansing creams or hand creams, to make them feel ‘thicker’ – rather like adding flour or cornflour to a sauce!

These fillers and thickeners are rarely of any benefit to your skin and some can be harmful by blocking pores This may also contribute to your skin feeling so dry.

Fillers, thickening agents and chelating agents are not needed in water-free skincare and they do not help hydrate skin.

Curious? Look at your skincare products again and see if you can spot some of these common fillers, thickening agents and chelating agents:

  • Cetyl Alcohol
  • Stearyl Alcohol
  • Carnauba Wax
  • Stearic acid
  • Locust Bean Gum
  • Xanthan Gum,
  • Gelatin Carbomer
  • Salt (Sodium Chloride)
  • Magnesium aluminium silicate,
  • silica
  • bentonite  (Sometimes these are used as exfoliants)
  • tetrasodium EDTA and
  • tetrahydroxypropyl ethylenediamine.
Water-based skincare contains emulsifiers and preservatives which can cuase skin dryness and dehydrated skin. Water-free skincare contains less harmful chemicals for your skin
Water-based creams and lotions require emulsifiers and preservatives which can harm the skin’s natural protective barrier which can lead to dry and damaged skin

3) Preservatives and how these affect skin dryness

This is my biggest bugbear!

Any product with water (aqua) as an ingredient must have an antimicrobial preservative to prevent dangerous bacteria from growing in the water element. There is one exception here – we are allowed to offer pure organic hydrosols (the water element created when essential oils are distilled from plants) as long as nothing else is added– see our organic rosewater.

The problem is this: The sole purpose of these preservatives is to kill cells (their technical name is biocides). Many of these ingredients have been proven to be harmful to the skin (you’ll have heard of parabens which is one such ingredient) and, whilst scientists are investigating new alternatives to parabens, they are all designed to kill cells (bacteria) and are, by their very nature, harsh, damaging the skin microbiome and destroying the skin’s natural protective balance (in a similar way that we now know antibiotics damage our natural gut balance).

There is little doubt that preservatives are responsible for many adverse skin reactions to beauty and skincare products and damage your skin’s natural protective microbiome.

Preservatives are NOT needed in waterless skincare products and are NOT there to help skin dryness.

Curious? Look at your skincare products again and see if you can spot some of these common preservatives:

  • parabens
  • formaldehyde
  • methylisothiazolinone (MI)
  • phenoxyethanol
  • potassium sorbate
  • triclosan
  • triclocarban
  • phenoxyethanol
  • benzyl benzoate,
  • zinc pyrithione
  • benzalkonium chloride
  • benzyl alcohol
  • Dehydroacetic Acid
  • Sodium benzoate:

4) Last but not least – The environmental Footprints of many moisturisers for dry skin

The amount of packaging used, and the carbon footprint of shipping, water-based creams and lotions is significantly higher than that of pure oils, salves and balms. For example, a typical body lotion contains ten times more volume to package and ship than the equivalent body oil! That’s the difference between packaging and transporting one can of drink vs a big 3.5 litre bottle of drink!

What does all this mean for the health of your skin? 

But don’t we need water in skincare products to hydrate the skin? The short answer is no! Because your skin draws water from the dermis below, and from the air around it (which can also be aided by humectants like beeswax) many experts now see no benefit in adding water to a moisturiser other than to make it cheaper to produce – and not to help alleviate dry, dehydrated skin. And the chemical agents that are required in water-based skincare are most definitely not helping your skin be hydrated.

Here at Neve’s Bees, we agree with the experts. We’d rather sell you something that’s both good for your skin and the environment – all of our products are waterfree skincare – good for your skin and good for our planet.

Neve's Bees Face cream for dry skin and moisturiser for dry skin

Our range of pure natural skincare with 100% active ingredients – moisturisers that keep your skin nourished and hydrated.

Neve’s Bees range of waterless skincare can really help your skin

Our range of 100% Natural water-free skincare products with 100% active ingredients for skin that glows with natural health. Our undiluted, concentrated salves, oils and balms repair and maintain the outer skin barrier, sealing in moisture far more effectively – and naturally. And because we use pure plant oils, they allow the skin to regulate itself rather than creating an occlusive, pore-clogging seal as petrochemical-derived, mineral emollients do.

So perhaps your current ‘moisture’ cream or lotion could be the reason why your skin is so dry even when you moisturise. Why not try out our range of water-free skincare products to see if they help with skin dryness:

Our Luscious Lip Balms are fab for dehydrated skin
Our Luscious Lip Balms are fab for dehydrated skin
Beeswax Hand Salve Range - Neve's Bees
Rich Hand Salves for soft, supple hands – great for dehydrated skin after all this hand washing
Neve's Bees Body Oils - how to hydrate skin - a great moisturiser for dry skin
Neve’s Bees Body Oils – a fab moisturiser for dry skin
Our range of 100% Natural skincare with no added 'nasties' just pure plant oils and butters blended with our wildcrafted beeswax and essential oils - just as nature intended - for skin that glows with natural health
Our range of 100% Natural skincare with no added ‘nasties’ just pure plant oils and butters blended with our wildcrafted beeswax and essential oils – just as nature intended – for skin that glows with natural health

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4 thoughts on “What is Waterless Skincare?

  1. Caryll Barber says:

    Thank you so much for your detailed analysis of “face creams”. I have only used oils on my skin for years and at age 74 I’m told I look 15 years younger! I am looking forward to trying your new range. The balm particularly. Your lip balm is particularly good for my often dry lips.
    Keep up the bee vibes!

    • Julie Macken says:

      Hello Caryll
      Thank you so much for your comment – glad you liked the article 🙂
      Yes, I totally agree with you – face oils are marvelous – so glad they work for your skin – wow, that’s a big age difference people are seeing in you – testimony to the power of the good, natural skin care you’ve chosen
      We really appreciate your comment – thank you!
      Julie, Neve and The bees x

  2. Sheereen Chunara says:

    Hi I understand your article on water free skincare and how it can cause further dryness. However what abt products like coco butter lotion/vaseline lotion or nivea?!.. these brands claim to combat that issue creating a barrier by using ingredients like beeswax/glycerin etc but also still contain water as their first ingredient list… ?!

    I was just wondering if products contain water but also beeswax etc… does that still protect the water from being pulled out of your skin?

    I hope I make sense and I hope you get back to me as I am thinking of going water free skincare.

    Thank you

    • Julie Macken says:

      Hello Sheereen

      Thanks so much for your email and your question – a great question!

      There are basically 3 different types of moisturiser in skincare: humectants (draw water into the skin), emollients (smooth the skin), occlusives (seal water in by forming a protective barrier on the skin). By means of further background, you might find this article interesting: https://nevesbees.co.uk/totally-natural-skincare/

      It is important to hydrate the skin with water as well as moisturise (with humectants, emollients and occlusives) – there are several ways to hydrate the skin – using humectants, not washing too much, drinking plenty of water, using a humidifier, putting water on the skin then sealing with a moisturiser.

      Skin Creams, Lotions and Gels mix water with the moisturisers (creams are about 70% water, lotions about 90% and gels up to 95% water!)

      There are a few potential issues with this approach:

      1) ALL creams, lotions and gels that mix water (aqua) with a moisturiser (oil, wax, butter etc.) MUST contain a biocide chemical to kill the bateria that live in the water (it’s a legal requirement). These are the same class of chemicals as those in hand sanitisers. These biocides (or preservatives as they’re sometimes called) disrupt your natural skin balance (or skin microbiome as it’s sometimes called) rather like taking anti-biotics can disrupt your gut balance, which then leaves your skin badly exposed and more likely to suffer many types of dermatitis, pollution damage, sun damage, dryness, wrinkles etc.
      2) These creams, lotions and gels also MUST contain a surfactant chemical (similar to the active ingredient in dishwashing liquids like Fairy Liquid). These surfactants bind together the oil and water so they don’t separate. When you put them on your skin, they also bind together your natural healthy skin oils disrupting your skin’s microbiome and damaging your natural skin protection
      3) Many of these biocide and surfactant chemicals are increasingly being identified as environmental contaminants which harm our rivers, streams and wildlife.
      4) You are paying a lot of money for something you can get from a tap
      5) There is a lot of excess packaging and ‘carbon footprint’ associated with shipping this water around!

      Waterfree, waterless skincare (or anhydrous skincare) does not mix the oil and water together – so balms, salves, ointments and oils do NOT contain the biocides and surfactants that are in all creams, lotions and gels. One more point to note is that some skincare products use natural oils, butters and waxes – these tend to protect the skin without ‘blocking’ it; whereas many contain petroleum jelly / mineral oil – a by-product of the petrochemical industry – these do block the skin – rather like putting clingfilm on your skin.

      Our recommended approach is to apply natural waterless skincare to slightly damp skin or use a pure natural spritz (e.g. a rosewater spritz, or evian spray – check the ingredients are just water), thus locking pure natural water in without all the nasty chemicals.

      In answer to your specific question about using cocoa butter or Vaseline lotion or Nivea – these all contain water and petrochemical moisturisers so, sadly, all contain the biocides and surfactants.

      Here is the ingredient list for Vaseline – I’m happy to do the same for Nivea if you like (and I’ve broken down the purpose of each of the ingredients for you) Hopefully this will enable you to make a better informed decision as to whether you want to be putting these chemicals on your skin (and ultimately in your body as 60% of what we put on our skin goes in our skin)

      Vaseline Intensive Care Deep Restore Lotion – downloaded from the Vaseline website the products are listed with the biggest ingredient at the top reducing to the smallest at the bottom https://www.vaseline.com/in/en/products/lotions-and-moisturizers/vaseline-intensive-care-deep-restore-lotion.html#:~:text=Water%2C%20Mineral%20Oil%2C%20Glycerin%2C,Edta%2C%20Soyabean%20Oil%2C%20Bht%2C

      Water (it will be about 80-90% water- you can get this from a tap)
      Mineral Oil (a petrochemical – like petrol – probably around 5-15%)
      Glycerin (a humectant – could be natural or could be chemical)
      Cetostearyl Alcohol (a chemical surfactant – generally considered safe unless you have very sensitive skin – its purpose is to sell you the water)
      Petrolatum (basically petrol!)
      Avena Sativa (Oat) Straw Extract (this is quite nice but it will likely be at around 1-2% – nicer to put some porridge oats in a muslin back and pop in the bath – have a natural relaxing soak!)
      Sodium Cetostearyl Sulphate (another surfactant – with the warning ‘might cause dry skin out and cause irritation’)
      Glyceryl Stearate (another surfactant and thickener to make the water feel thicker)
      Paraffin (paraffin!)
      Dimethicone (a surfactant and occlusive – banned in some countries due to its damaging effect on the environment)
      Microcrystalline Wax (a petroleum based wax derived from crude oil – acts as an occlusive but can clog pores)
      Sodium Carboxy Methyl Cellulose (a thickener to make the water feel thicker – rather like when you put cornflour to thicken a sauce!)
      Methyl Paraben (a biocide – parabens are generally not considered to be nice products The concern with these chemicals is that scientific studies suggest that parabens can disrupt hormones in the body and harm fertility and reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes, and increase the risk of cancer. They can also cause skin irritation.)
      Phenoxyethanol – (another biocide – generally replacing parabens now, however there is increasing concern over its safety: In 2008, the FDA warned consumers not to purchase a particular nipple cream. Phenoxyethanol, found in the cream, was depressing the central nervous system and causing vomiting and diarrhoea in breast feeding infants.
      Propyl Paraben (a biocide – another paraben – see comment above for methyl paraben)
      Simethicone – (another surfactant – interestingly the same ingredient used in baby’s gripe water!)
      Disodium Edta – (a chelating agent – basically a thickener to stop the cream ‘falling apart’ – the warning with EDTA is: Avoid using EDTA if you have a liver condition. Kidney problems: EDTA can harm the kidney and might make kidney disease worse.
      Soyabean Oil – (a moisturiser – hooray!)
      Bht – (a chemical to stop the smell and colour of the cream fading – according to the USA WebMD site ‘There also isn’t enough information to know whether BHT can be safely used on the skin’
      Perfume – (this can be a mix of up to 56 different chemicals that don’t need to be identified legally on the packaging and normally indicates a synthetic fragrance)
      Alpha-isomethyl Ionone – (a synthetic fragrance compound)
      Butylphenyl Methylpropional – (a synthetic fragrance – It is a known fragrance allergen and as of 1st of March 2022, it has been banned in the EU due to animal studies showing a possible link to infertility (in rats …)
      Amyl Cinnamal, Citronellol, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Linalool – (naturally occurring components of essential oils – probably in the parfum)

      Hope this is helpful – please do shout if you have any other questions?

      All the best


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