The future is waterless
Freshwater scarcity is a growing problem in Ibiza and many other parts of the world. Waterless products can help this situation, while at the same time being better for your health.
We all know fresh water is a precious resource.
Like many other sun-and-beach tourism hot- spots Ibiza is no stranger to water scarcity. The island is considered a closed system, that means there are no freshwater inflows to the island; residents and tourists alike must depend on underground water torrents that are filled by rainfall (1). The rainwater level varies across the years but is consistently under the level needed to meet local residences' water needs (2). Put on top of this strained situation a few million tourists and you have one very dry island. Two desalination plants are currently in use to supplement the rainwater; however, these are both fuelled by fossil fuels, solving one problem yet creating another (3).
Sadly, the situation in Ibiza is far from unique.
According to the UN an estimated 1.8 billion people will be affected by water scarcity in 2025 (4). Not surprisingly, most of the water we consume goes into agriculture and the manufacturing industry. In this situation the cosmetic industry plays a double-role consuming botanicals from agriculture, and a large range of ingredients from the manufacturing industry, including plastics for packaging. Not only is the cosmetic industry one of the world's biggest drivers in plastic pollution but it is also coming to light that it also contributes to a more insidious problem of water scarcity (5) (6).
This is why it's important to choose products that are not only plastic free, but also waterless.
How can waterless cosmetics help?
All products have an ecological footprint and sun protection is no exception.Producing anything requires resources to formulate the physical product, its packaging, shipment, and disposure.Waterless products take up less space, that means less packaging & less waste.They also contain higher amounts of active ingredients, with no need for preservatives.
If you look at many commercial sunscreen products you will see that one of the first ingredients is water. In sunscreen water is mixed with oils or butters to create lotions that deliver active ingredients to your skin at tolerable levels. Water also acts as a kind of solvent for the inactive ingredients that allow them to be spread easily across your skin. However, some companies use water to bulk up their product. This means larger packaging and heavier products that take more energy to produce, ship and later dispose of.
No water means no need for harmful preservatives.
Water is the giver of life, unfortunately for many sunscreens that also means the life of bacteria. Many water-rich products are not stable without the addition of preservatives to kill bacteria and reduce microbial growth.
The use of preservatives has been linked to immune system dysfunctions and reproductive disorders (7).
This is why there are regulatory bodies across the world that establish limits for the use of these chemicals. However, these limits do not take into consideration the so-called ‘cocktail effect’, that is; the dangerous effect that these preservative chemicals may have on the body when mixed with other chemicals consumers are using not only on their skin, but also in their home and in their food (8). As if this wasn't bad enough there is also the ‘additive effect’ that is; the build-up of these toxic preservatives in the body due to repeated exposure to the same chemical used in many different household products. The best way to deal with this situation? Eliminate or reduce your use of products with preservatives whenever possible.
It is important to remember that no product is produced without water in some part of its supply chain. Using waterless sun products is a step in the right direction, but we know that a truly sustainable lifestyle is a journey rather than a destination. Small changes can add up even though sometimes we might feel as though our efforts are just a drop in the ocean. If we do what is right for our health, and that of our planet then that drop will multiply as others join our side.
1. Ibiza Preservation Fund (2016) Ibiza Water Crisis 2015: ibiza Preservation Fund- Katherine Berry [video]. Retrieved from https://ibizapreservation.org/green-info/save-water/
2. Pérez, D.M.G.; Martín, J.M.M.; Martínez, J.M.G.; Sáez-Fernández, F.J. An Analysis of the Cost of Water Supply Linked to the Tourism Industry. An Application to the Case of the Island of Ibiza in Spain. Water 2020, 12, 2006. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12072006
3. Ibiza Preservation Fund (2015) Analysis of water management in the island of Ibiza. Retrieved from https://ibizapreservation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ibiza_water_report_english.pdf
4. United Nations (2012) International Decade for Action 2005-2015: WATER FOR LIFE. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/scarcity.shtml
5. World Wildlife Federation (2022) Water Scarcity. Retrieved from https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity
6. United Nations (2018) World Water Development Report Nature-based solutions for Water. Retrieved from https://www.unwater.org/publications/world-water-development-report-2018/
7. Giulivo M, Lopez de Alda M, Capri E, Barceló D. Human exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds: their role in reproductive systems, metabolic syndrome and breast cancer. A review. Environ Res 2016;151:251-264. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.07.011.
8. Panico, A., Serio, F., Bagordo, F., Grassi, T., Idolo, A., DE Giorgi, M., Guido, M., Congedo, M., & DE Donno, A. (2019). Skin safety and health prevention: an overview of chemicals in cosmetic products. Journal of preventive medicine and hygiene, 60(1), E50–E57. https://doi.org/10.15167/2421-4248/jpmh2019.60.1.1080