Waterless beauty: “I tried a water-free beauty routine for 21 days, and this is what happened”

Waterless beauty is gaining popularity thanks to the positive impact on the environment. But how do water-free skincare products fare with skin? One writer tried it for 21 days to find out.

Stemming from South Korea, a country known for being pioneers in the beauty and skincare world, water-free beauty is something that is slowly making its way to UK shores. 

Noted to be a big environmental movement in beauty, going water-free has multiple benefits. With water reserves running low and consumers becoming more eco-conscious than ever, using a product that has less water is a big step towards making a positive change for the planet without impacting your day-to-day life.

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Not only is it good for the prosperity of the planet to cut back on water, but skin may thank you, too. Despite being often associated with hydration, water is actually drying when applied to skin topically, and as well as this it can encourage the growth of bacteria when added to products. 

To combat this, companies often add harsh chemicals and preservatives, which means it could be less ‘clean’ that something with just the active, skin-loving ingredients that we all want. The idea is that with no extra water to dilute a product, you will have something both pure and potent, resulting in a powerful product that is preservative-free, giving skin a heady hit of natural goodness.

With this in mind, I swapped my H2O-heavy skincare for an entirely water-free routine to see how it affected my skin.

Lauren at the beginning of her 21-day experiment

Week one

I started my waterless beauty trial in the evening, when it was time to remove the day’s makeup, dirt and daily grime. Because water-free beauty isn’t diluted with, well…water, I was worried that the potent formulas would send my skin into a spin. Normally I cleanse with a simple micellar water and then use a cream or oil based cleanser to really get gritty with it, but I swapped to an evening routine consisting of Quantum Botankia cleansing balm, £65, and a Gua Sha tool, £28.99, to massage my face. All totally H2O-free.

For my seriously sensitive eyes, I was borderline nervous to tackle my often shadowed, fully-lined eye makeup with the Aesop Remove, £17. With no dilution, I was initially convinced that I would spill some of the powerful potion directly into my eyes, rendering myself temporarily blind. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the freshness of the oil-based remover, it was incredibly gentle and took off all my mascara in a single sweep.

I followed the removal stage with a potent hit of the Allies of Skin Vitamin C 35% Collagen Rebuilding Serum, £115, a couple of drops of the By Sarah London Organic Facial Oil, £32, and finally the Lush Jason and the Argan Oil, £8, for supreme hydration. For my lips, I used a smudge of The Body Shop’s Lip Juicer in Kiwi, Kale & Watermelon, £7, which I not only used before bed, but carried everywhere for on-the-go lip maintenance.

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In the morning, I began with the Lani Blue Mint Facial Cleanser, £18.99. If anything is going to perk me up first thing on a Monday, it’s playing with a delightful periwinkle blue powder that initially leaves you looking like an extra from The Smurfs movie and then leaves your skin squeaky clean and impossibly soft. The all-natural ingredients (which includes blue algae) are activated when mixed into a paste with a few drops of liquid, and get to work detoxifying even the cloudiest of complexions.

Once the blue was all removed, I dotted five drops of the potent-yet-protective Medik8 C-Tetra, £35, around my face and followed this with either the Pinch Skin Therapy Face Elixir, £50, or the Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil, £15, for a refreshing skin hit. I then added a swipe of Lush’s Jason and the Argan Oil, £8, across my face and finally dotted the MILK Makeup Hydrating Oil, £20.50, on dryer areas like my cheekbones and under eyes.

After a couple of days, I noticed a few very tiny red bumps on my forehead and a little break out on my chin, but I carried on for the full week and they disappeared on their own, giving way to smooth, silky and seriously soft skin.


Week two

This week I added to the routine slightly. As well as the staple products morning and night I also incorporated a couple of masks into the mix. Normally I may opt for a coverage of clay or a water-filled sheet mask, but I discovered the new Evolve Radiant Glow Organic Face Mask, £24, at its launch event and I am a total convert. Not only is it water-free, but it’s made from upcycled blueberries (parts that would otherwise be binned are freeze dried to create a scrub effect that powerful but not harsh). Plus, it smells like chocolate - win, win. After five minutes with this miracle mix on my face, my skin is incredibly bright and fresh with an impossible glow.

Another mask I came to rely on, is the dry sheet mask by Charlotte Tilbury, £18.50. The perfect pick-me-up for tired, lacklustre skin, this muslin sheet is packed full of botanicals that absorb into skin even over makeup. It can be used more than once and is an ideal handbag essential for a desk-to-drinks brightener on-the-go.

By this point, I was truly looking forward to my morning and evening cleansing rituals. I was confident in my routine and paid close attention to my skin, prescribing the best products that I thought it needed, as and when. If it looked a little parched, I would be sure to slather it in the Pai Regenerating Oil, £15. If I was looking dull, I reached for the Pinch Of Water elixir, £50, to brighten and always applied one of the masks to perk up my tired skin.

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Week three

Lauren at the end of her 21 days

Swapping to water-free beauty has really been an eye-opener. I thought the heady, heavy products would turn my skin into a molten mess, with makeup sliding down my skin and breakouts every other day. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised with not only how much I loved the products (the application process is now something I actively look forward to at the end of the day), but how much my skin loves them, too. It’s plump, yet non-greasy with an added glow that I haven’t managed without makeup in years. I have even cut out foundation, because I just don’t need it.

I have also found that taking the time for myself at the start and end of the day has helped me focus and ground myself, I never thought a routine of cleansing and treatments could leave me feeling so zen and looking so fresh. I’m officially a water-free convert.

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Images: Lauren Wigley/courtesy of brands


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