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What is Micellar Water, and Does it Really Work?

What is Micellar Water, and Does it Really Work?
SkinStore Editors
Writer and expert8 months ago
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The French know skincare well, so it's no surprise that they've been relishing the benefits of a simple and gentle yet effective product known as micellar water for years. The multipurpose water that does a little bit of everything, from cleansing the skin to toning it and even removing makeup, may be the transformative skincare product you didn't know you needed. While the product looks like water and feels like it on the skin, hence its name, micellar water never dries out the skin and always comes in handy when you're on the go and need a quick skin refresh.

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What is Micellar Water?

Micellar water, which originated in France more than 100 years ago, is a trending skincare product even though its origins are deep-rooted. This light liquid, which has the same consistency and texture as water, is used to cleanse the skin and remove dirt, oil, makeup, debris, and impurities simply by wiping the skin with the formulation—there's no need to rub, scrub or tug at the skin. Since micellar water is free of harsh chemicals and surfactants, it is often gentle enough to use on sensitive, easily irritated skin.

The name micellar water is derived from the term micelle, which are tiny cleansing oil molecules activated when they come into contact with the skin and therefore don't require any water. Micelles are the start component of micellar water, and they act like tiny bubbles suspended in the water that latch onto dirt and impurities, like a magnet, to lift them off the skin. That's what makes micellar water great for clearing out pores, toning skin, and supporting skin hydration. It can be used as a facial wash, moisturizer, and makeup remover — aside from heavy foundations or waterproof mascara. Micellar water contains far less concentration of soaps and detergents, so the product feels akin to water on the skin or even the gentlest of toners.

No-rinse micellar water continually earns rave reviews across all skin types due to its effective skin-cleaning capabilities that aren't the least bit stripping or drying. Whereas some cleansers can wash away too much of the skin's natural oils, leaving it feeling tight and dry, micellar water leaves it feeling refreshed, renewed and well-moisturized. You can also use micellar water to remove makeup and hydrate the skin.

Unlike hard tape water, which contains high levels of dissolved minerals that can deteriorate the skin's natural protective barrier, this water is specially formulated to be extra gentle. Micellar water is free of alcohol and harsh chemicals, making it ideal for dry and sensitive skin types. And unlike foaming cleansers, there's no fear of drying out your skin. Micellar water reduces irritation and inflammation, and it's so light that there's no need to rinse or rub it off.

How Does Micellar Water Work?

The Magic of Micellar Water

Unlike traditional face washes, which contain surfactants that are comprised of oil and water, the surfactants used in micellar waters are clusters of micelles, allowing them to be delivered to the skin in higher concentrations, making them more efficacious. Each micelle is comprised of a hydrophilic part to it, which repels oil and attracts it to water, and a lipophilic part, which repels water and attracts oil. Together, the two components of the micelle allow it to gently yet effectively lift oil-based skin pollutants off the skin to effectively cleanse the skin.

Since micellar waters don't need to be activated or removed with water, everything that's wiped away from the skin and lifted onto a cotton round, leaving the skin feeling clean and soft and the skin barrier intact.

Many also contain glycerin to retain proper moisture levels within the skin.

No-Rinse Cleaning

Micellar water, which makes for the perfect first step in a double cleanse, is often viewed as environmentally and skin-friendly because there's no need to use water to rinse it off the skin. Water can contain heavy metals, leaving some skin types feeling red, dry and irritated after daily washing. But there's no need to worry about upsetting your skin when using micellar water, particularly if your skin is sensitive.

For easy, on-the-go and quick, mess-free cleansing, micellar waters are a convenient option—all you need are a few cotton rounds. Not only are they hydrating to the skin, but they also don't contain many of the commonly found ingredients in traditional cleansers and even soaps that can strip the skin of its natural oils and leave it feeling tight, dry and irritated. A few swipes can remove dirt, oil and makeup in seconds.

Makeup Removal

If makeup remover and makeup remover wipes aren't your thing, consider micellar water. The mild detergents in micellar water can remove most of your makeup, especially oil-based makeup and even sunscreen, but it may take a few passes to get everything off the skin entirely. You can always follow up with a gentle cleanser afterward to wipe away anything that may linger on the skin.

However, micellar water won't lift off super-heavy foundations and concealers or waterproof formulas like certain mascaras. So, to wipe these types of makeup off completely, you'll need to use a traditional makeup remover.

The Multiple Benefits of Micellar Water

Micellar water is beloved for its multitude of benefits and is particularly beneficial to all skin types because of its lack of harsh chemicals and mild detergents. Dry and easily irritated skin types tend to appreciate the benefits of a good micellar water because they are less likely to strip the oil away from the skin, leaving it feeling comforted and hydrated.

Oily skin types are less likely to experience congestion and clogged pores when working micellar water into their regular skincare routine because it lifts away dirt and oil while still maintaining the skin's natural moisture levels.

Beyond its non-irritating and cleansing abilities, micellar water also doubles as a refreshing skin toner to restore the skin's pH levels and clarify it by removing extra sebum sitting on the surface. But micellar water shines over toner because it is formulated sans alcohol, which most toners have so that they won't strip away much-needed oil. Swiping micellar water onto the skin instantly leaves it refreshed and feeling clean.

To reap the benefits of micellar water, it's best to incorporate them into a regular daily and nightly skincare routine replete with other skincare products. While micellar water has many skin-friendly benefits, it's important to know that it won't replace other critical products and ingredients that the skin needs to maintain its health.

Related Article: Micellar Water 101: The Ideal Match for Your Skin and Its Needs

How to Use Micellar Water the Right Way

Truth be told, there’s a right and wrong way to use micellar water. To make the most of the magical formulation, you can either use your hands or a cotton round. While each has its benefits, there are also different reasons for using each technique.

When using your hands, which provides more of a toning and cleansing benefit, first pour the micellar water into your hands. Then, gently splash it onto your skin. Next, you’ll want to massage the water into your skin until you feel as if it has fully absorbed.

When using a cotton round, saturate it with the micellar water first before gently wiping it across the skin. Or you can press the cotton round into the face using light pressure. When using a cotton round to remove makeup, hold the cotton round over the eyes for a few seconds before removing it. You may also need to repeat the process a few times to eliminate all the makeup on the skin.

You can also use micellar water as the first step in a double cleanse, making for a more effective skin cleanse. First, apply micellar water to the skin, either with your hands or a cotton round, and let it sit on the skin for 30 seconds to lift away the oil and any oil-based products. Then, use a cotton round (a new one if you applied it with one first) saturated in the micellar water and wipe the entire face without tugging the skin. Next, you'll want to wash your face with either a gel or foaming cleanser, and finally, pat the skin dry with a clean towel.

To find the right micellar water for your skin, consider your skin type and the specific attributes of micellar water. While micellar waters are targeted towards different skin types, just like cleansers (you can find ones for oily, dry, normal, and sensitive skin), you may want to steer toward one free of fragrances if your skin is sensitive or easily irritated. Similarly, oily and acne-prone skin types benefit from non-comedogenic oil-free varieties, whereas dry skin should select hydrating formulas infused with ingredients like hyaluronic acid.

Micellar Water vs. Traditional Cleansers

Micellar water can be used as a facial cleanser to attract and then remove makeup dirt and oil from the skin, but they can also allow cleansers (when double cleansing) to reach further into the skin because of their functionality. Cleansers just wipe away whatever is sitting on the skin's surface. Both micellar water and facial cleansers can help hydrate the skin, but since cleansers necessitate water, they can be more stripping, especially if you're washing your skin with hard water. Some cleansers also contain soaps and alcohol, which can dry out the skin, whereas micellar waters do not.

All skin types benefit from micellar waters and facial cleansers. Still, micellar water may be more beneficial for sensitive skin since it can limit irritations and inflammation—some cleansers can irritate those conditions. Micellar waters are non-stripping in nature, making them a good option for dry and mature skin.

The Bottom Line

All skin types benefit from micellar water, and making it a part of your daily skincare routine is easy to incorporate. Whether you're on the go, in a pinch or don't want to bother with the hassle of a traditional cleanser and water, micellar water is an excellent alternative. Their formulaic makeup is gentler on the skin than a cleanser, making them less drying and more nurturing. But beyond its cleansing capabilities, micellar water can also remove makeup and act as a toner of sorts.

So, the next time you're in the market for a new cleanser, consider micellar water. It just may be the skincare product you never knew you needed.

For more Micellar Water products to up your skincare game, shop SkinStore today.

SkinStore Editors
Writer and expert
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Our team of beauty experts cover everything from skincare to makeup, picking out the most effective products from the best brands and latest trends. Stay up to date on everything beauty with the SkinStore blog, and find all your essentials in one place.