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Tuesday, 20 April 2021 10:23

Hydration Investigation: The Truth About Water-Based Skin Moisturizers

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The skin care market is enormous, quickly closing in on $150 billion globally, and moisturizers represent at least 10of that. Add in an estimated 4% growth over the next few years, and you get a market segment that companies are understandably excited to participate in. Not all moisturizers are created equalthough, and when it comes to those made from mostly water, it’s possible that a bubble could be forming– no pun intended.

While some companies are touting their water-based skincare, others are busy saying that water is the cheapest ingredient there is and maintaining that it is completely ineffective for moisturizing the skin. It begs the question, who is right? 


Aside from the biochemical realities of moisturization (much more on that later), two main factors are at play here. One is the massive proliferation of new market entrants – most of whom are online sellers leveraging the technologies that have made entrepreneurship so accessible in the digital era. The other is an increasingly health-conscious consumer attitude, which continues to shape business decisions and the trajectories of entire industries. Health and wellness wasconsidered by some to be the defining consumer trend of 2019. 

People aren’t just buying more health-related products – though, they’re also shopping smarter. Not only are think tanks devoting serious resources to consumer educationbut as tech-savvy generations take over as leading consumer groups, they bring their digital literacy and higher average educations with them. This means that the most profitable market segments of today could collapse entirely tomorrow if shoppers learn that they’re built around products which simply don’t work. 

The number one reason that the moisturizer market in its current form isn’t all it’s cracked up to beis that most skin moisturizers are made almost totally of water (70% or more in most cases). As result, they aren’t nearly as effective as promoted. Here is a simplified breakdown of the realities surrounding those products:


  1. Skindoesn’t absorb water. It is a protective layer that is meant to keep things outnot let them in. A simple home experiment proves itIf an individual weighs themself, sits in the bath for 30-minutes, then gets out, dries off, and hops on the scale again, they will weigh the same. Their skin won’t feel any different, and this is because their body doesn’t absorb water through its outer membrane. However, there are things it does absorb. 
  2. Waterdoesn’t work to moisturizeIn fact, water actually dries out the skin. If water is the first ingredient listed on a container of moisturizer, then what you’re looking at a jar of incredibly overpriced, filtered H2O that is juiced up with some waxes and oils. 

To the touch, some of these products might make the outer layer of skin feel slightly less drybut that’s not skin being feltit’s a coating. When the coating is gone so is the silky feeling. Most moisturizers just keep users coming back for more and more. 

  1. Aloe vera and oil-based moisturizers do work. If the skin has evolved to do the opposite of absorb, then do any moisturizers really work?If it helps to put things in perspective, consider that many medications are delivered transdermally, or through the skin. This doesn’t refer to topical treatments like antibiotic cream intended for surface wounds or diseases but to medicines that actually start on the skin and are delivered through it into the bloodstream. The techniques that make this possible apply to moisturization too. Aloe verahas certain properties that allow the skin to absorb it quite easily, so when combined with other beneficial nutrient-rich ingredients, it can act as a transport vehicle. 
  2. Proper hydration is the best moisturizer of all. The best way to moisturizethe skin is from the inside outby properly hydrating the whole body at the cellular level and lettingskin take care of itself. However, for different reasons, like an aversion to drinking water or a skin condition, not everyone can do this, and for them, a good, clean moisturizer is still a must-have product. If the spa or client is going to use it, they deserve to know what they’re getting. 


As long as people are buying it, does it really matter? It does, and there are at least two strong reasons why. First, the trend of educated clientsisn’t going to go away. In fact, it’s virtually guaranteed to increase. It’s true that people are susceptible to clever marketing, but at the end of the day, they want what’s best for their bodies. Whether it’s next week, next month, or next year, clients are going to catch onto the fact that water-based moisturizers are mostly ineffective.

Secondly, this is something any professional with an interest in skin care should care about, and that goes for manufacturers and marketers just as much as it does for dermatologists and hair dressers. Whether you’re making them, selling them, or prescribing them, providing clients with the absolute best ingredients and raw materials nature has to offer is what will differentiate the provider – and that’s what will keep clients coming back. 

Chris Estey 1Chris Estey is founder and CEO of Private Label Skincare Florida, one of the largest and fastest-growing manufacturers of organic skin and hair care products in the United States. A serial entrepreneur and business expert with 40-years of experience in the beauty manufacturing industry, he has also created, managed, and owned businesses involved in color cosmetics, real estate, retail, women’s accessories, business management, medical industry consulting, and more. Estey is passionate about breaking the mold when it comes to creative problem-solving and using his hard-won expertise to help others develop into the best versions of themselves in business and beyond. 


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