Korean Beauty Is Going Water-Free — Kind Of

If there's one thing we know about our dear readers at Refinery29, it's that you guys know your ingredients. We think it's safe to say a good number of you scan the backs of bottles before tossing something into your cart. So, it may come as a surprise that an ever-present beauty product ingredient is being phased out of certain Korean beauty brands — water. Trust us. We were just as surprised as you. Purified water (or aqua) is often the first ingredient in skin care. Sarah Lee, the co-CEO and co-founder of Glow Recipe claims that can be a way to bring down the cost. But in Korea — where so many beauty trends are born — brands are going "water-free". Whamisa, which is sold at Glow Recipe, offers a completely water-free line (we've tested and love it). Ironically, the Korean word for 'water' means 'hydrating' and Whamisa’s hero product is their hydrating or “water” cream —which happens to have no water. 
But anyway, translation issues aside, we had to know more about these waterless products. 
"Instead of water, they are using botanical extracts," Lee explains. “Which are a blend of actives, like hyaluronic acid and glycerine, as well as the liquid that comes out of a botanic when it's processed." Lee goes onto say that although it seems logical that water would be hydrating, that isn't exactly the case. "Water can actually be extremely drying for the skin. When left on the skin on its own, it evaporates and leaves the skin extremely dry. It can remove the hydrators in your skin.” This is why, if you wait too long to slap on your moisturizer after washing your face, it can begin to feel really, really tight.

While all of this made sense, we weren't fully ready to villainize H2O. So, we reached out to cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson of BeautyStat to get the other side of the water coin. “Water is a very common ingredient in skin care because it acts as a vehicle for delivering other active ingredients," he explains. "It's mostly aesthetic — it isn't always comfortable to put something extremely emollient or heavy on to your skin, so water helps facilitate that." 

Also, calling a product waterless is a little, well, untrue. Sure, there is no purified water added to these products, like when a bottle totes "aqua" as its first ingredient. But, water still exists — it just isn’t mixed in. ”There is water in botanicals, and that liquid that comes out when you process it has a water content," Robinson says. So, the products Lee is talking about may not have any extra water, but there is still good old H20 in the botanical extracts. "Water-less" does sound a lot sexier than "no added water."

as always, peruse the ingredients before you buy. You may find out more about your products than you ever thought. 

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