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Water in Skincare: Necessary?


Water can actually be drying for the skin. This is because when water evaporates off the skin, it can remove surface lipids from your skin which causes your skin to lose moisture. So, increased exposure to water alone really isn't great for the skin, especially if you struggle with dry skin.

You may already know that the first five ingredients on the label make up at least 80 percent of the product, which means that in many cases you are paying for mostly water.

There are many reasons why skincare products contain water. Water allows more ingredient options within a formulation. Some ingredients are oil-soluble, but many beneficial botanical extracts are water-soluble, and can't be used in an anhydrous formulation. Water also improves product consistency and spreadability for some products. Not everyone likes the consistency of heavier balms and butters. Sometimes adding even a small amount of water gives the product a more desirable feel without compromising the overall efficacy of the product.

But…too often, water is included in a product as a cheap filler that may not serve a purpose related to your skin. When using a daily lotion you apply all over, this may not be such an issue. But when paying for a skincare product that has active ingredients for anti-acne or anti-aging, the higher concentration ingredients vs. water may defeat their purpose. Consider a facial cleanser, of course, you use water when washing & rinsing your face, so why do you need more water in your cleanser.

Water-based products require preservatives. Commonly used preservatives can include parabens and DMDM Hydantoin, which may present additional health risks. Companies aren't required to divulge the source of the water in their formulas. Depending on the source of the water used (such as tap water) adding water to a formula may introduce unwanted contaminants such as fluoride and chlorine as well as microbes and fungi which further encourage microbial growth within the product.

Adding water may ultimately lead to drier skin if there are no emollients in the formulation. Water quickly evaporates, so a water-based moisturizer may only provide temporary relief from dryness. Adding water to a product that also contains oil creates the need for an emulsifier. Common emulsifiers include sodium lauryl sulfate or polyethylene glycols which may cause irritation and disrupt the skin barrier.

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