What can I use instead of water?

In anything that calls for water, you can play with the formulation by swapping that water for things that are mostly water. Examples of such ingredients include witch hazel distillate, floral waters & hydrosols, herbal infusions, cooled teas, and aloe vera juice (not bright green drugstore gel!). All of these things can be utterly lovely in a lotion, toner, or mist! There are many possibilities, and I highly recommend researching any and all ingredients you want to use so you can understand how best to use them. I highly recommend these posts: How to Research Your Ingredients Part 1 + Part 2.

Do keep in mind, though, that not-actually-water but water-like-ingredients can contain bits of botanical matter that make our creations harder to preserve. For that reason, I recommend treading carefully, especially if you’re a newer maker and don’t have a good feel for the limits of your preservative. Start with small batches, so if it grows mould you aren’t throwing out too much product. I’d also recommend starting with less than a 100% swap, so if a formulation calls for 70% water you might replace just 20–30% with a not-water water-like thing, and leave the remaining 40–50% as distilled water.

If you’re looking for a more reliably shelf-stable way to incorporate some ingredients, take a look at cosmetic grade extracts. They are available for a wide range of botanicals from DIY suppliers and are typically used at relatively low usage rates (5% or less), so they’re relatively economical.  Their active components can also be more stable in a cosmetic grade extract vs. a homemade infusion.

And remember—when water is involved, a broad spectrum preservative is a MUST.

Posted in: Substitutions

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