When in-cosmetics first announced it chose “water” as the 2013 in-focus show feature, admittedly I raised an eyebrow. After I gave it some thought, though, it intrigued me. It called to mind discussions about water content vs. water activity. In fact, an excerpt from David Steinberg’s book featured online, titled Effective vs. Ineffective Preservation Using Water Activity, ranked among our most viewed content items a few years ago.
In a current discussion on the Cosmetics & Toiletries LinkedIn group, members are reacting to a published articled proposing that one way to formulate more naturally is to remove water from products. The idea was that fewer ingredients, including preservatives, would be needed to control microbial growth, in turn making the formula more natural. Reactions to this, however, have brought vehement opposition.
“The useful presence of water in formulations as solvent, carrier, hydrator (none better) and stabilizer cannot be understated,” said one member. Another noted, “Water is an excellent processing aid, allowing ingredients to blend together to form a homogeneous whole. The omission of water eliminates much of the sensory experience we expect our cosmetics to deliver.” Furthering this, yet another wrote, “By avoiding water in the formulation, you lose a myriad of opportunities to get [the] new textures and feel the end users are craving.”
Clearly, there is more affinity to water than meets the eye. Well-played, in-cosmetics. While our path may appear to veer far from water, its status as the universal solvent will bring us back to the source.