With customers becoming savvier about what ingredients are in their cosmetics and thoughtful about the beauty industry’s environmental impact, and desirous of more portable products, a new product category has popped up: waterless products.
Water serves as a popular filler ingredient, across makeup and skin-care categories. But brands like St. Ives and a Pinch of Colour and companies like New York City nail salon chain Glosslab are reducing their water imprints in formulations and business operations, and in doing so, they’re earning points among customers. St. Ives has seen its waterless cleansing balms, which launched in March, become its third most popular facial product in-store and online. Glosslab, which claims to forego water to prolong a customer’s manicure or pedicure, launched as a pop-up in November 2017 before establishing permanent locations and is opening its fourth location this month.
Along with providing longer-lasting results, Glosslabs claims to be more hygienic than nail salons using water because water is a ripe breeding ground for bacteria. There’s also an environmental benefit: As of September, it has saved almost 25,000 gallons of water this year, said Rachel Glass, Glosslab’s founder. The brand currently has partnerships with Equinox and SoulCycle, and has seen its memberships double every month, said Glass, but she declined to elaborate.
Operating waterless also makes it easier for the company to facilitate in-home appointments for customer who would rather not visit a salon. The travel accessibility aspect is also shared by St. Ives, which launched a fourth SKU in the waterless category this month. Though the primary message for St. Ives is its products’ skin-care benefits, Sarah Irby, director of North American face care at St. Ives Global, said, “Portability is certainly a secondary benefit — the products are travel-friendly, spill-proof and [fit into] your gym bag.” The brand’s cleansing sticks have the highest repeat purchase rate of any new-to-market products in the face category, according to consumer insight platform Infoscout.
In addition, waterless beauty provides market opportunities for mission-based beauty brands, including the growing category of environmentally driven brands. For Linda Treska, the founder of Pinch of Colour — set to launch on women’s clothing store Francesca’s e-commerce site and the U.K. e-commerce site Cult Beauty in the next week — her upbringing in water-scarce Albania motivated her in 2016 to create Pinch of Colour focused on waterless cosmetics. The brand currently sells through its own site has also been stocked at Anthropologie stores since early 2017. Recently expanding to skin care, its grown 140 percent in net sales for 2018 year-over-year, and Treska expects the brand to grow another 170 percent in 2019, though declined to provide additional details.
“Waterless beauty started as a trend, but it won’t be a trend two to five years from now,” she said. “A lot of our customers are fascinated by the idea of waterless products. There is a discovery aspect and when they find out there’s no need for water in makeup, and they are increasingly [interested],” she said.