The issue of water in skincare

In this blog post, I explore why skincare products should not be formulated with water – why it is creating the need to include toxic ingredients in the formulas.


  1. Understanding the issues that come from water stagnation


Water becomes “stagnant” in 24 hours. Mold and bacteria start to grow within 48 hours. Mold can colonize an entire swimming pool within 12 days. 

Why does water molds? Stagnant water has little dissolved oxygen in it and is a prime breeding ground for bacteria.

The only way to prevent water from becoming stagnant is to aerate it. This can be accomplished through good water circulation.

Think about a fish tank. It needs water to circulate through a filter and be oxygenated. Otherwise first the fish die, but you also see mold appear.

This is the same with a swimming pool; it needs a water pump. When the pump stops to work and the water stop circulating from the pool to the pipes and filters, mold and algae appear in a matter of days – especially in warm temperatures.

You are probably thinking – what about bottled water? Water bottle companies remove the oxygen from bottles. If a bottle is not sealed properly, the water eventually molds.

In the nutshell: water + oxygen + environment = mold


  1. How does it affect skincare products?

Water makes between 70% to 95% of most skincare products.

Creams are usually a blend of water, oils, and powder ingredients. Serums are a mix of water and powder ingredients.

In these blends, the water does not move - It becomes stagnant water and and is therefore prone to molding.

To prevent from molding, 2 options are well known:

  1. Keep creams or serums in the fridge, where the temperature is cool enough to prevent bacteria from breeding and becoming mold.
  2. Add a preservative.

As it is not practical to keep products in the fridge or use products within one week of opening, skincare companies put preservatives.

The aim is to keep products “safe”. The only issue is that it is fighting a bad with another bad, and not really finding the solution.

Remember the example of the swimming pool before. Most swimming pools also need chlorine. The purpose of chlorine is the same as preservatives in skincare products: It prevents the appearance of mold.

I am sure you know how your skin feels after coming out of a pool with chlorine. It feels dry, like stripped from all hydration. In swimming pools with lots of chlorine (like public swimming pools), you will also notice that it affects your breathing, respiratory system and lungs. Why is it happening? Because chlorine is toxic. It is well known that we should not expose ourselves to chlorine too often, for too long or in high concentration. It is simply unhealthy, it burns our inside.

The same goes for preservatives like phenoxyethanol (synthetic) or benzyl alcohol (natural).

They prevent skincare products from molding, but they are unhealthy. They are classified as irritant to skin, dangerous when exposed too much.

If you read my previous blog post, you will see that phenoxyethanol has a molecular weight, which allows penetration through the dermal layers.

Simply put, it goes in your body and is toxic.

Click here to read my other blog post about phenoxyethanol.


The solution: water-less skincare products

The solution is simple: skin and body care products should be formulated without water, so they can remain preservative-free.

What are the options?

  1. Oils: face and body oils can stay stable for many months. They are packed with fatty acids which are present in skin, and which the skin already needs to reinforce its barrier. When kept in darkness and their lid is well closed, there is little risk of them going bad. Think about olive oil – you can keep it for a few months after opening and it will still be good.
  2. Powders that you activate with a splash of water: the products need to be mixed with some water to liquify and be applied to skin. The water is added at the very last second by yourself.

This is how Mr. Lulu makes products. They are either powders or oils. Water is never inside the formulations. The products don’t need any preservatives, keep their potency and are truly healthy.