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Changing the System: Waterless Design

Cosmetics in tablet form / Source: Neo by Nature
AluminiumBeautyFood & BeveragePackagingPaperSteel

Sophie Benson

A lot of our favourite products are made up of mostly water. Shampoo? Around 80% water. Conditioner? As much as 95%. Coca-Cola? 90%. Our global supply chains mean this water is getting shipped all around the world—racking up a significant carbon footprint—when the majority of people in major consumer markets have access to water at home.

Spotting the glaring issue with shipping water to consumers who already have it on tap, a fresh category of products is emerging with a central focus: waterless design. Beauty, a sector with a consumer base primed for early adoption, has taken the concept and run with waterless shampoos, conditioners, bodywashes, balms, deodorant and more. In 2020, almost 12% of global BPC launches in the soap, bath and shower category claimed to be waterless, plus nearly 10% in skin care and 4% in hair care. Waterless cosmetics now make up 23% of the personal care market in the US. 

While not growing quite as quickly, other industries are tentatively entering the game too, including beverage makers and home care brands. Although a new consumer category, waterless design is not a new concept and in many cases the chemistry and technology is already well established. So, the success of waterless design may well rest more on storytelling than it does on development.


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