Paper Moisturizer: What You Need To Know Before Trying The Plastic- And Water-Free Product

Moisturizers are an essential, everyday skincare commodity that we rely on for a multitude of reasons, from general application to treating irritating skin conditions such as eczema. While they may be an essential part of a good skincare routine, these products aren't necessarily part of an eco-conscious lifestyle. After all, moisturizers overwhelmingly come in plastic containers. Another equally important consideration is the water content in skincare products.

In a landmark breakthrough claimed by a research team from the University of East Anglia, a new technology known as Dries is capable of removing 98% of water content from skincare products. Paper-based moisturizers, such as Dries, are likely to become ubiquitous cosmetic products in the forthcoming years, as the industry evolves away from plastic and water-based solutions in an effort to become more environmentally aware.

Let's look in more detail at what this paper-based moisturizer is and why using them may become an important part of a climate-conscious skincare routine.

What is a paper-based moisturizer, and how does this work?

Paper-based moisturizers are moisturizers that are not made primarily with water. Sheng Qi, lead researcher of the team that developed Dries, spoke to Packaging Insights and explained why we need to transition away from water-based moisturizers. "If you think about shampoo, shower gels, lotions, cleansers and so on, around 85% to 98% of the weight of those materials is water," he said. "So consumers are paying a very high price just for shipping those around the world."

He went on to explain how Dries works: "We take the water out by jetting the liquid out in a very thin liquid jet, which dries really quickly," he said. "The solid residues form very thin fibers, which land on each other and form this material that feels like a piece of paper." The team claims that 98% of water is removed from this process. 

Paper-based moisturizers, such as Dries, form one example of a burgeoning industry for waterless beauty products, a market that has enjoyed a 157% increase from 2020 to 2021.

Why using a paper-based moisturizer could help reduce your carbon footprint

Moisturizers, like many other skincare products, require intensive manufacturing processes and create huge amounts of plastic waste. This generates enormous carbon dioxide emissions, which escalates the ongoing climate crisis. And the U.S. cosmetic industry continues to grow, with revenue estimates exceeding $560 billion by 2030. Invariably, skincare products will be a considerable share of this growth; it consisted of 41% of all cosmetic products in 2021. And so the production of plastic waste will continue to grow: According to Statista, U.S. plastic waste generation was estimated to be 73 million metric tonnes in 2019, and by 2060 is expected to be almost double this amount.

If paper-based moisturizers such as Dries come to market, then plastic waste could be significantly reduced in the U.S. and around the world. Another positive impact will be transporting solids instead of liquids, as Artur Litarowicz, a senior vice president at consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, recently explained to Packaging Europe: "Solids help us to reduce direct GHG [Greenhouse gases] emissions from transportation — solid being 80% more efficient in transportation vs. liquid."

So, choosing a paper-based moisturizer could be the ethical choice for anyone concerned about their personal impact on the environment.