Why Powdered Beauty Products Are Better for Your Skin—and the Environment

For one thing, these TSA-friendly waterless products have a longer shelf life compared to gels, creams, and liquids.

We've seen them pop up in all sections of the beauty aisle, but exactly what are powdered beauty products? When water is removed from beauty products, we're left with a dry ingredient, namely powder. The cosmetics industry, especially K-beauty, has successfully developed powdered products across a variety of categories such as masks, shampoos and conditioners, setting powders, vitamin C, toothpaste, and soap.

These products have no water and, more importantly, no thickeners, emulsifiers, harmful aerosols, polyethylene glycols (PEGs), or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). The result is an environmentally conscious product, a more potent formula, and less waste. So are powdered products the future of the beauty industry? We spoke with experts about the nitty-gritty (literally) of powdered beauty.

Powdered products are more concentrated.

Waterless products are formulated with water-soluble ingredients that activate as you use them, eliminating the need for fillers such as emulsifiers and stabilizers. Even without preservatives and water in their formulas, products in powder form tend to have a longer shelf life on average. As long as you store them in a cool, dry place and away from direct sunlight, you're likely to get more use from them before their expiration date.

"Since powdered products are more potent, they also may seemingly have a higher price tag for the perceived small amount of product," says Vanessa Thomas, cosmetic chemist at Freelance Formulations. While the higher price might steer some away, investment in these products is ultimately worth it. Think of powdered products as a concentrated version of traditional liquid products. In other words, there is actually more product. And with less water in the product, it can be packaged in a smaller bottle—making it TSA-proof and more travel-friendly.

Powdered beauty is more stable and customizable.

You can customize your experience when mixing a powdered product with water, cleanser, or even essential oils. "These products are great for a more customized, concentrated texture experience based on how much water is added when activating the formula," adds Thomas.

And we can't forget about the stabilization factor. Vitamin C, for example, immediately starts to deteriorate after being bottled, so its best form is a powder. "Vitamin C is one of the best ingredients you can use for your skin, but it's a very volatile ingredient which is hard to stabilize in liquids," explains Jules Miller, founder of the Nue Co. "For this reason, the results with a vitamin C serum or cream can be limited because the vitamin efficacy is already compromised." Miller and Thomas agree that mixing powdered vitamin C with other products creates a sort of super-cocktail for your skin.

It's not just another trend.

Perhaps the most popular form of powdered beauty products is shampoos and conditioners. Even before the trend of powdered beauty, we used them on curly hair to create more volume. Kailey Bradt, founder of Susteau Haircare, features powdered hair products in her Moondust Hair collection. When Bradt discovered that about 80 percent of liquid shampoo is water, she determined to make other products—like conditioner, hair pomades, hair gels, body wash, and hand soap—into powder to change how we approach personal care.

The result? A remarkable love for powder and ever-increasing product line of dry products. While Bradt recognizes that people are drawn to powdered products because they are effective, she also worries about their trendiness factor. "What needs to happen to see powdered beauty take off is 1) Consumers need to gain interest in this format for more than it's cool factor, and 2) This type of game-changing format needs to be accessible beyond the prestige category to make a greater impact for people and planet alike." To make a difference, powdered beauty should be viewed as a lifestyle change and part of a global effort to live more consciously—not just a passing beauty trend.

To start transitioning to powdered beauty, here are some of our favorites.

01 of 04

Tatcha The Rice Polish: Classic Foaming Enzyme Powder

Tatcha The Rice Polish- Classic Foaming Enzyme Powder

Activated with water, this light exfoliant ensures smooth and clear skin (and treats breakouts as well). Inspired by the skincare routines of Japanese geishas, Tatcha's foaming powder is made from finely ground rice and papaya enzymes to promote natural skin turnover. The formula is also sealed with three anti-aging superfoods to ensure your skin stays radiant.

02 of 04

Honeybee Gardens Deodorant Powder

Honeybee Gardens Deodorant Powder

This alternative to sticky and waxy deodorant—made of simple baking soda mixed with cornstarch and arrowroot—is as effective as any product on the market. This entirely natural powder deodorant is also vegan and aluminum-free, so it ticks all the green checkpoints.

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Alder New York Texture Powder

Alder New York Texture Powder

This dry shampoo boosts your hair's volume and texture with a 100-percent natural formula without any aerosols or plastics. It's a prime option to use after a workout when your hair is slightly damp, but you don't have time for a proper shower.

04 of 04

The Nue Co. Topical-C

The Nue Co. Topical-C

Any dermatologist will tell you that an absolute must for every skincare routine is vitamin C—known to boost collagen, treat sun damage, and make skin firmer with repeated use. The Nue Co. currently features a highly concentrated form of the ingredient that, although pricier, lasts for years.

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  1. Ravetti S, Clemente C, Brignone S, et al. Ascorbic acid in skin health. Cosmetics. 2019; 6(4):58. https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics6040058

  2. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The roles of Vitamin C in skin health. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):866. doi:10.3390/nu9080866

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