Dry versions of your skin-care formulas are full of potent ingredients that stay fresh, which is key to powerful results. Here’s how they work.

By Kate Sandoval Box
Photo Taken In Bang Na, Thailand
Rattiya Samakrat / EyeEm/Getty Images

If you have a multi-step skincare routine, your bathroom cabinet (or beauty fridge!) probably already feels like a chemist's lab. The latest trend in skincare, however, will have you mixing your own potions, too.

Now, brands are creating dry, just-add-water versions of skin-care formulas; they're full of potent ingredients that stay fresh, which is key to powerful results. Here’s how they work.

They’re pure.

Many skin-care products are up to 70 percent water, says Carrington Snyder, founder of new skin-care brand PWDR. But a formula that contains water generally also needs preservatives (to prevent bacteria from growing) and emulsifiers (to keep everything mixed together). (Related: 11 Things In Your Bathroom You Need to Throw Away Right Now)

“I wanted to create something that didn’t rely on those, so I thought, Let’s just get rid of the water,” Snyder says. “By doing so, all that’s left are ingredients there to help skin, like hyaluronic acid and peptides.” Find them in PWDR Treatment Serum ($110).

They're customizable.

To use a powder, tap a bit into your palm, then add water to transform it into a cleanser, a serum, or an exfoliant. (Try Tatcha the Classic Rice Polish: Buy It, $65, sephora.com). You have leeway: For a stronger scrub, add less water; for a foamier consistency, add more.

Some powders, like the vitamin C–packed Philosophy Turbo Booster C Powder (Buy It, $39, pwdrskin.com), can be added right into a moisturizer. (Powder formulations help keep notoriously unstable molecules like vitamin C stable.)

They’re sustainable.

Because these dry formulas don’t have water, emulsifiers, and harsh preservatives (ingredients that can be environmentally toxic), they often come in small packages and take a long time to use up.

“My serum can expand up to 10 times its weight once water is added to it,” Snyder says.

They also don’t have dip tubes, those plastic straws that direct a lotion up. “It’s one way to help decrease straws in our waterways,” she says. (Want to do more? Try these natural and sustainable haircare products that actually work.)

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