Five ways to wash with less water

With the world’s freshwater supply under growing pressure―and with water central to most people’s personal-care routines―a question we should all be asking ourselves is how can we wash with less?

By Jon Heggie
Published 31 May 2022, 10:28 BST
Conservation photographer and National Geographic Explorer Jenny Adler explores the complex link between water and beauty.

Whether it’s a morning shower or washing up before bed, most of us are used to turning on the faucet and using the water that flows from it for our daily routine of keeping clean. But the world is running out of water: by 2025, as many as 1.8 billion people could be living with water scarcity, not having enough water for the essentials of healthy living—drinking, cooking, and cleaning. This is pushing water conservation up the green agenda. On average, Europeans use around 114 litres of water a day and Americans as much as 310 litres: with more than a third of that water on personal hygiene, the beauty industry has a positive role to play in helping everyone to use less. Here are five ways we can all wash with less water.

Shorter showers (and no baths!)

Even though a shower typically uses about half as much water as a bath, both are still responsible for a major waste of water every day. The average shower delivers around nine litres of water every minute, so taking shorter, more efficient showers is a great way to save water. Try making a playlist of short songs, three to four minutes long, and step out when the music stops. Running the water while waiting for it to heat up is another big source of waste—as much as five and a half gallons of water down the drain every time. But now hot water systems are available that can recirculate a home’s hot water so that it is delivered directly to the tap or shower without the wasteful wait. 

Around a third of our daily water usage goes toward personal hygiene, but there are simple ways to reduce our water consumption—including taking shorter showers and turning off the tap when washing up.

Photograph by Shutterstock

No rinse

Beauty products are also being developed to help us take shorter showers. The traditional routine of shampoo and rinse, then conditioner and rinse, takes time and can use up a lot of water. Some beauty brands have been exploring more efficient ways to wash hair. For even more water savings, turn off the shower while lathering! In addition, there are now no-rinse conditioners that can be applied without the need to be rinsed.

Turn off faucets

With faucets delivering around 5.6 litres of water every minute, an easy way to save water is to turn off the faucet when you’re not using it. We know not to keep the water running while washing our hands or for the two minutes we’re told to brush our teeth—it’s a bad habit most of us have given up. Now we can apply the same knowledge to beauty routines, and turn off the faucet when applying cleanser or running just enough water into the sink for rinsing. And when we do need to run water, turning the faucet on only a little will reduce the water flow to a more controlled rate. Installing faucet aerators can actually halve the flow rate without any noticeable loss of water pressure. 

Dry products

Another great water-saving innovation is the development of beauty products that don’t require water at all. There has been a positive move by some beauty brands to take the water out, turning typically wet products like shampoo into more concentrated “dry” products. For instance Garnier’s solid shampoo bars have been designed to use around 20 percent less water across their life cycle. Cleansers and serums are now being formulated as fine powders that are activated by adding just a little water or by dissolving them in a moisturizer.

Some liquid beauty products are bulked out with water, but consumers can reduce this water consumption by using concentrated “less is more” products―or by going back to traditional concepts like solid soap and shampoo bars.

Photograph by Shutterstock

Reuse water

We’re unlikely to cut water out of our daily routine entirely, but there are always ways to recycle the water we use. Installing a greywater recycling system will capture wastewater from sinks, showers, and appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines, and filter it for reuse around the home and garden—for instance, flushing toilets and watering plants. But it’s also easy to improvise: put the plug in the sink when washing your face and then use that water for household plants, or keep a bucket in the shower to catch the runoff, which can then be used to flush your toilet or even to mop floors. 

It’s not hard to recycle water right at home. Greywater captured from showering or washing in the sink can be stored and put to other uses, like washing floors or watering the garden.

Photograph by Shutterstock

Beauty brands like Garnier are helping us all to save water in our daily routines. Garnier is also working to save water in its own daily processes with a commitment to significantly reducing its industrial water consumption. Garnier’s five “waterloop factories” are specially designed to be water efficient, recycling and reusing 100 percent of the water used for cleaning and cooling so that water is not continually drawn from the public supply. While some brands are making water savings possible, it’s still up to us as consumers to individually rethink our daily routines and make more water-conscious choices—from the products we use to the ways that we use them.

To find out more about the world of beauty’s transformative journey, click here.

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