What kind of base is used in your skin care?

Hello VivaBellas! I’ll like you to do something here. Go and take a look at the ingredient list on your current skin care products. What’s the first item you see? Is it water? Aqua? Purified water? Deionized water? Or some exotic extracts? I just took a look at mine. Most of my favorites list a green tea and or white tea extract.

The reason why I’m going through this exercise is because I just read a piece of information that water based skin care products are bad. I didn’t quite agree with that but it did get me thinking about the quality of the water used in most of the formulations. Personally, I try to avoid using water even in my own homemade beauty recipes and always substitute with distilled water or even floral water if I can afford it.

Water as a solvent or spreading agent
According to Cosmeticsinfo.org, water is primarily used as a solvent in cosmetics and personal care products in which it dissolves many of the ingredients that impart skin benefits, such as conditioning agents and cleansing agents. Water also forms emulsions in which the oil and water components of the product are combined to form creams and lotions. These are sometimes referred to as oil-in-water emulsions or as water-in-oil depending on the ratios of the oil phase and water phase.

Purified water in place of plain water
Cosmetic companies should not just use plain tap water as those contain minute quantities of substances, such as chlorine, sulphates, and various metal ions. They should be using purified water or sometimes called deionized water, which is water from any source that is physically processed to remove impurities. Some even claim that their source of water can penetrate skin and carry with it many water soluble anti-aging actives, to firm, tone, lift and boost radiance.

Governed by international cosmetic manufacturing standards
But how do we know that the companies are really using such water in the formulations? It appears that cosmetic companies purchase pure water in bulk quantities or have their own water supply and some of these companies do state the source of their water on their website. In addition, most of the companies do ensure that the quality of their water are highly purified to conform to microbiological standards and this practice is being monitored according to Good Manufacturing Practices outlined in FDA’s Guidance on Cosmetic Manufacturing Practice Guidelines, and in international guidelines on Good Manufacturing Practices known as ISO 22716 (source).

Water is cheaper
By now, most of you are probably already aware that the first item listed on the ingredient list has the highest content. When water is listed as the first ingredient, it typically means it makes up to 40% of the content but I’m also aware it is possible for products to have up to 70% water content. It make sense to use water as the base ingredient because it can produce a lighter and thinner product than oil-based product. However, there are also other ingredients that can achieve this such as extracts from plants, flowers or fruits, which provide more antioxidant benefits for our skin. What many may not realize is that in addition to a better consistency, many water-based cosmetics actually cost less to produce as opposed to other bases. The exception would be those using water processed through their own water treatment facility, which are expensive to maintain.

Examine the ingredient list
Hence, the next time you come across a product that you consider expensive, take a look at the first ingredient. Is it just water? Does it state what kind of water? And are there more impressive ingredients than just water in the formulation?


  1. Jyoan says:

    Hmmm, I think this post does calls for concern, because I have recently came across a video (here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfPAjUvvnIc) on how most bottled water in US, which claim to be purified water, are actually tap water.

    So I am thinking if our product is made in Thailand, Taiwan, etc… I really wonder. Or even Europe.

  2. sesame says:

    I’ve come across the info about the bottled water. Yup, definitely quite a concern especially it’s something we are ingesting.

    Personally, I would think the water from the larger brands, especially those from Europe, would be quite pure. I think the cosmetic industry there is established and they have very stringent manufacturing and quality control. Plus the bigger brands would have their reputations to guard on top of the ISO practices they have to abide.

    But you raised an interesting question regarding those manufactured out of the other countries. Remember the post I asked all of you about country of origin of skin care products?


    A number of you did question the quality as well.

  3. CK says:

    I am always picky about the water I drink, but I have never questioned the water safety in our beauty products. Wow! However, I have been reading labels recently, in hopes of finding those without water in the ingredients list, as those with water, will need preservatives to keep a longer shelf life. For instance, I noticed the article you wrote about the Aubrey Organics face wash, as it did not have water in the ingredients list; however it did have panthenol, which is said to cause clogged pores and acne… I think I will keep looking around. There really aren’t that many products that do not include water. Thanks for your thought-provoking articles. I think in this day and age, we always need to question both ingredients and quality control.

  4. Liesl says:

    wow. Thanks for raising awareness. I checked out my stuff. Mostly the first item listed is aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) juice.

  5. sesame says:

    Aubrey Organics was reviewed by Crystal as a guest post. I remember the ingredients…rather thick. W.r.t. panthenol, I don’t know whether you read the entry I wrote about it here:


    The pore clogging apparently happens with hair care products containing it and according to reader P.J. the pore clogging from the hair products could be due to the waxes and not panthenol.

    I’m going to be reviewing one cleanser this week that doesn’t use water as the base and it’s not costly. Keep a lookout for it.

  6. sesame says:

    Aloe vera juice as a base is very good. ?

  7. Su says:

    100% pure skincare products has no water. I have used their line since last year.

  8. sesame says:

    Oh…another reason to take a look at their products. I still haven’t found time to get to Bud to check them out.

  9. mel says:

    what a though provoking post! i went back home to check my products and almost all of them listed aqua/water as the top ingredient! actually is there a difference between aqua/water? does aqua perhaps denote a “purer” water?

  10. sesame says:

    Aqua is the Spanish word for water as listed by the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) naming convention . It sounds better as when we think of water, it’s very ordinary and full of impurities like what we use for washing clothes. So yes, aqua is supposed to denote purified water.

  11. Victoria Lewy says:

    I’m making my own creams at home and almost all my creams based on oil phase. Instead of water i always use different hydrosols and brewed teas.

    So i’m making my own skin care products at home, just to be sure that all the ingredients which I put on my skin are natural and brings me the maximum benefit they could.

  12. sesame says:

    What sort of ingredients do you use to preserve your own products?

  13. Swathy says:

    Well usage of water is definitely something to ponder about. I used to always take for granted that they use pure water but we can never be sure. But, one thing which one can confirm and be sure of is that if the product is made in Europe, it would be conforming to the highest of regulations. They have much more stringent regulations on food, cosmetics and everything else than anywhere in the world.

  14. sesame says:

    Yup, I agree. I like European made cosmetics in general; the quality is superior.

  15. Victoria Lewy says:

    I use tee tree essential oil, grape seed extract, rosemary extract, vitamin E.

    There are lots of debates around extracts and essential oils whether they can preserve products or not and protect from bacteria for sure. However i use them with a great success. Shelf life of my creams is about 1 to 3 month, it depends on other ingredients in the product.

  16. sesame says:

    1 – 3 months is okay; the timeframe is just about right for something homemade.

  17. Liesl says:

    My newly acquired lip butter is very yummy and good for my lips. Can’t say enough good things about it. Check it out too!
    They have lots of new stuff out recently.I’m so overwhelmed. But I’m lucky most of my friends are using 100% pure so each of us buys something new and let each other try out different items to find out what works or not works for each of us. The new stuffs out includes Eg. face cleansers, new toners, face scrubs cum mask, face primer, foundations etc. Can’t get enough of it all. Love their foundation which gives a matt, clean finish.

  18. sesame says:

    Haha…I must go and get some stuff. The foundation sounds like a good start! I just haven’t been going to Bud Cosmetics.

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