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Waterless Cleansing: The Best Thing for Your Skin?


If you've been living under a rock for the last while you probably don't know what waterless cleansing is.

No, it's not like the caveman routine where you don't wash your face at all. That's a whole other issue for a whole other blog post.

The concept of waterless cleansing is to use a cleanser that does not need to be applied and washed/rinsed away. There are many forms - some are thick and sticky like wax; some are liquid but thick like honey; some are a gel; and others are a plain ol' liquid format.

I first tried "waterless" (I use quotes because there was technically still water IN the product) cleansing with a product I got as a freebie from a makeup appointment I had on my wedding day - forever ago. I got it because I didn't want another lip gloss, and it just sat on my shelf for months and months and months and months ....

Until one day I did the research on how hard water can actually affect your skin.

After that, I decided to give the cleanser a try. And so I did just that!

The results were pretty impressive, I must say. Cleansing this way did not miraculously get rid of all of my acne woes, no, that truly would be a miracle. Rather, it changed my acne. What was once terribly inflamed, large, red, painful cysts and nodules that stayed for weeks on my chin, was now small pustules that came to a head and left very quickly! And where my old pustules would have been, I now had small whiteheads that were barely noticeable to the naked eye, and completely easy to cover with makeup. We're talking about a hormonal area, one that is notoriously prone to large nodules and cysts. I was most definitely intrigued and enticed to continue this practice.

Is waterless cleansing OK for my skin, though?

Surprisingly, yes! For those of us who grew up in a time when running water cleaned everything, it's a shocker to hear that, yes, we can be clean without water. Water can actually paradoxically lead to skin dryness by stripping the skin of essential oils it needs to remain healthy and hydrated. Many of us are using cleansers that are too harsh for our skin, which strip away our oils and keep our skin dry and irritated - thus, moving away from these practices may not be such a bad idea.

Some people may feel waterless cleansing doesn't work for them, and this is because we've been feeling one way of clean for so long that a different way of feeling clean may feel "dirty" to them. For example, using harsh cleanser or stripping natural oils leaves our skin feeling what I call "squeaky clean" - when you say your house is squeaky clean, that's a good thing - but your skin shouldn't be this clean. Squeaky clean is skin that is too clean. So that tight, squeaky clean feeling is what some people equate with clean and fresh, healthy skin. The feeling you get from waterless cleansing is a hydrated clean, a fresh but not overly cleansed clean. Some people don't like that feeling, and still feel "dirty" (even though they're not) after. Personally, I love the feeling. As someone whose skin can often feel tight and dry despite the type of cleanser I use, this was a new sensation for me, one I approved of.

Is waterless cleansing more environmentally-friendly?

Well, it depends - using regular cotton pads can be really awful, considering how bad industrial cotton farming is for the environment. You can either choose to use biodegradable cotton pads like these, or you can step up your waterless cleansing (and toning, and makeup-removing) game, and buy the S.W. Basics Eco Cotton Rounds (reusable, washable cotton rounds). They're pretty darn awesome and probably the most eco-friendly option.

In terms of waterless cleansing itself and the attempt to use less water, it's debately whether or not you're saving much water (but every drop counts!). We must take into consideration processing of our products, which likely requires water. But the same can be said of any cleanser, waterless or not - and so the addition or subtraction of water from the actual cleansing process could matter quite a lot. Since going the waterless route with cleansing I've saved about a gallon of water every day that I would have otherwise used to wash my face. That's quite a lot, especially if it's a change I make long-term!

So, which products should I use?

Waterless cleansing is just beginning to pick up gusto - so you're likely going to be surrounded by every beauty guru and their mama telling you which product is "the best". I'm not going to tell you what's best for your skin, because I don't know your skin. Instead, I'll tell you some products you may have good luck with, based on their ingredients.

DeVita Chamomile Cleansing Creme

I'm totally partial to DeVita because they're just such a fan-fabulous brand. But I personally do love their waterless cleansing creme; it contains a blend of pure plant extracts – including aloe vera, chamomile and calendula – all of which help maintain the skin's natural pH, retain moisture, as well as act to soothe.

It is unlike any cleanser, or waterless cleanser, I've seen. It's a cream format (as the name indicates), and it feels like you're slathering on a lush moisturizer. When you wipe it off with a cotton round, it comes completely clean, no sticking or remnants, and it leaves your skin feeling clean but thoroughly moisturized. It definitely leaves my skin feeling soft, supple and clean! This is the perfect waterless cleanser for people with sensitive or easily irritated, dry skin.

Alba Botanica Facial Cleanser Pineapple Enzyme

This cleanser isn't particularly intended to be a waterless cleanser, but it has such great ingredients that it could easily double as one.

This cleanser would be perfect for someone with normal to combination skin, as the plant extracts in this product are exfoliating and may be just a tad irritating for super sensitive skin. Anyone with sensitive skin, I highly recommend using the DeVita cleanser.

LUSH's Grease Lightning Cleanser

This cleanser goes on like a thick liquid or runny gel. You can spread it on your entire face and then wipe it away! This cleanser can double as a spot treatment, too! This would be ideal for someone with oilier skin, not dry skin, due to the ingredients present.

Caryl Baker Visage Light Touch Cleansing Water

This waterless cleanser still technically has water as an ingredient, but all of the hard minerals have been removed from the water, and it still does not require any washing or rinsing with water. This was the first waterless cleanser I tried, and I liked it enough to actually buy it again, which I think says a lot (I seldom but a product twice unless I really, really, really like it).

It is perfect for any skin type, as it is very gentle and its ingredients are very non-irritating. It takes off everything. Some days when I don't wear makeup and I cleanse with this at night, you'd be amazed the dirt and gunk that I still wipe off with this baby.

I alternate between this and my DeVita cleanser mentioned above.

9 to 5 LUSH Facial Cleanser

This waterless facial cleanser is also a great option for people with normal to combination skin, but may even benefit people with sensitive skin. It has minimal ingredients, but the ingredients it does have are very calming.

Keep in mind that there aren't a ton of brands with products like these out there - and those that have them often 1. Aren't cruelty free, 2. Aren't vegan, or 3. Have lousy ingredients. So while your options right now are limited, there's hope for the future.

Also keep in mind that some really great cleansers with good ingredients (lots of antioxidants) can double as a waterless cleanser - you can apply it and wipe it away, rather than lathering it and rinsing it off. But be careful using regular cleansers this way, as some may contain irritating ingredients that, when left on the skin in small amounts, can irritate the skin quite easily.

So if your skin is dry, red, flaky, itchy, easily irritated, acne-prone despite all your best efforts, waterless cleansing may be the new IT thing you want to try! Even if your skin is normal, waterless cleansing may step up your cleansing game.


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