What Is Micellar Water? Here’s the Scoop, Plus 5 Options We’re Loving
Right now, a lot of us have extra time on our hands. And many are using it as an opportunity to get our skincare routines on track, which also includes hopping on the double cleansing train. If that sounds like you, we highly recommend leaning into the benefits of one product that often flies under the radar: micellar water. The clean, gentle and chemical-free beauty water is certainly nothing new, especially to the countless French girls and makeup artists who vouch for its benefits. But did you know it’s a triple-threat skincare staple that you should be using, too?
First of all, what is micellar water?
It’s a cleanser, toner and moisturizer all in one that looks like, well, water. But the cleansing liquid is actually made up of tiny balls called micelles that work to remove dirt and oil buildup. A mix of purified water, hydrating ingredients (like glycerin) and mild surfactants (which attract water and repel oil) make it a go-to for cleaning out pores without drying out the skin.
OK, but what’s the difference between toner and micellar water?
While they may have similar goals of keeping skin hydrated, they have different purposes. According to Dr. Hadley King, an NYC board-certified dermatologist, micellar water is primarily a cleansing step, while toners and essences are just a base for hydration.
“A typical foamy wash can strip the skin and leave behind harsh chemicals, further drying out dry and sensitive skin. And unlike many toners, micellar water does not contain alcohol and never stings,” explains Dr. King.
Think of it this way: Toners and essences can contain astringents and/or alcohol for a deeper clean that might cause redness, discomfort and dryness for some folks (we’re not knocking them, but they’re tough on folks with sensitive skin). Micellar water, on the other hand, is gentler, alcohol-free option that’s more oily and meant to be rinsed after use.
Go it. And how do I use it?
“Micellar water can be used just as you any other cleanser. I typically recommend washing your face with it morning and evening,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital. To do so, “saturate a cotton ball and use it to wipe the face to remove dirt, oil, pollution and makeup that accumulate during the day.”
Micellar water should be used before the rest of your skincare routine. It prepares your face for your regular cleanser (that’s the double cleansing part) and all following steps to get the most out of each.
Aside from incorporating it into your skincare routine, it can also replace your makeup remover. While many removers hold too many chemicals, micellar water can be a cleaner alternative to removing makeup. Although it can’t completely get rid of all your foundation and waterproof mascara, it can get you started before reaching for your fave cleanser.
And here’s a makeup hack: If you made a mistake (like attempting to do the same amazing cat eye on the other side), just put a few drops of micellar water on a q-tip and swipe away the error without having to start from the beginning.
And just like it can help clean away makeup on your face, it can also do the trick on your makeup brushes. Pour some into a bowl or on a cotton pad before pressing the bristles of the brushes against it to remove any buildup.
Are there other ways micellar is used? Don’t limit the cleansing water to just your skincare routine. Whether you just finished a workout or need a nice pick-me-up, micellar water can be a great refresher while you’re on-the-go. Just add a mini one in your bag whenever you need it.
Who should use micellar water?
While many products are geared towards all skin types, this beauty water is more beneficial for dry and/or sensitive skin because of how lightweight, gentle and hydrating it is. It’ll leave the skin barrier intact while keeping skin refresh and clean.
However, people with oily or acne-prone skin might want to look for cleansers with active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid instead. “[Micellar water] does not provide as powerful or deep of a cleanse as compared to foaming cleansers, so it may not be as strong as you would like if you have oily skin,” says Zeichner.
Now that you’re all caught up on micellar water and how to use it, here are five products to get you started on a brand new routine.
1. Bioderma Sensibio H2O
This OG of micellar water works to keep sensitive skin smooth, clean and hydrated. It helps to remove makeup, clear up irritated skin and keep you refreshed throughout the day.
2. Garnier SkinActive Cleansing Water All-in-1
If you have combination skin, try this option. Part face wash and part makeup remover, it’ll leave your skin feeling and looking hydrated.
3. Simple Micellar Cleansing Water
The combo of vitamin B3, vitamin C and purified water make for a gentle cleanser that clears away buildup while unclogging your pores for a fresh finish.
4. La Roche-Posay Micellar Water Ultra
Need some help rinsing away your foundation? This lightweight formula works to remove dirt, oil and makeup, especially your long-lasting base.
5. Eau Thermale Avene
Another French favorite to cleanse, tone and remove any makeup on your skin. Let the alcohol, soap and oil-free formula soothe and soften with every use.