What’s The Fuss With Korea’s Water-free Skincare?

The benefits of water for skin, hair and health in general is a topic that has been touched on and written about countless times. But when it comes to the efficacy of water-based skincare products, the Koreans have a different and rather divergent view.

Instead of keeping your skin hydrated and glowing, they believe that water-based skincare actually takes more away from your skin. Proponents of this say that because water makes up about 70% of what’s in your lotions and creams, this mathematically leaves little room for ingredients that do the actual work. Essentially what they are saying is that although water is good, too much of it hinders the products’ efficacy.

It sounds sexy but is it true?

This has let to the increasing popularity of water-free skincare products in Korea. Some of these beauty products are packed with pure botanical extracts or oils as a base instead. But experts on the other side of this theory say that calling a product “waterless” isn’t accurate; there is water in botanical extracts, for instance. “Water-free” simply means no purified water is added to the products, they say.

“The theory that water-based skincare isn’t as good is not entirely true,” says Dr Terence Tan, Medical Director of Halley Medical Aesthetics. “Skincare is about giving your face the best ingredients and moisturising the skin. There are various general categories of moisturisers. If given the proper ‘vehicle’ to deliver the ingredients, each type of moisturiser is effective in delivering what it is intended for.”

Know your moisturisers

Moisturisers can be generally categorised into emollients, humectants, and occlusives. Emollients hydrates the skin through a cream-based vehicle whereas humectants draw moisture from the environment to moisturise our skin. Occlusives retain the skin’s moisture with a cover, which works by acting as a barrier to water loss and protects inflamed skin from irritants.

“Occlusives, however, are too strong for everyday use. It is something that doctors prescribe after a laser treatment, for instance, to prevent loss of moisture though the skin,” cautions Dr Tan. Then there are ceramides, which are not a class of moisturisers. But these lipids are found in skincare products as it helps repair the barrier function of damaged skin.

“There are many beauty and skincare products available in the market and it can get very confusing. Consumers sometimes end up buying into fads, spending money on products that they don’t need or which don’t work,” adds Dr Tan. That is why he came up with the Brilliance Seven-Step Skincare System, which is a programme that combines a systematic skincare regime with the Brilliance line of skincare products to deliver optimal results. You’d find different moisturisers available in this line, each carrying different ingredients to address different concerns.

What you put on your face will reap rewards—or not—in time to come. So as always, do your research, talk to your doctor, and read your ingredients before buying.

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