Chances are, if you’ve walked into a drugstore or beauty retailer in the past year, you’ve seen at least a few brands selling micellar water. This formula, which originates in France, has become a staple for many skincare enthusiasts over the past few years. But what exact purpose does it serve?
Learn on how learn about what micellar water is, how micellar water works, and the 5 best micellar waters available on the market.
What is Micellar Water?
Micellar water is a super gentle formula that cleanses, removes light makeup, and moisturizes the skin. At first sight, it appears no different than water. It has the same consistency as water, and is typically scentless. However, while the formula is pretty simple, there is a lot more to it than plain old H2O.
The primary component of micellar water are these tiny balls called micelles, which are minuscule lipid cleansing molecules that are suspended in the water. These minuscule balls work to cleanse the skin without stripping it, leaving behind clean but hydrated skin. Micellar water is free of soap, which also eliminates the possibility of stripping the skin. Additionally, it doesn’t contain any alcohol – the main factor that differentiates it from harsher toners that can sting and dry out the skin.
How Does Micellar Water Work?
The way micellar water works is fairly simple: the micelles in the formula attract dirt and oil that is present on the face, essentially working as tiny magnets for debris that may irritate the skin or clog pores. Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a Beverly Hills-based board-certified dermatologist explains that this attraction allows the micelles to sweep away this debris without stripping the skin of its natural oils, which serve as a protective barrier. Micellar water doesn’t strip the skin of its protective oils. This means the risk of damaging the skin barrier is minimized.
Of course, as mentioned above, since the best micellar waters are super gentle, they won’t be suitable as the sole cleanser for everyone. Those with oily skin will likely need another step in their main cleansing routine, and it won’t be enough to wash off heavier makeup. However, anyone can fit micellar water into their routine, whether it works as an on-the-go cleanser after a workout or the primary cleanser in an at-home skincare routine.
When Should You Use Micellar Water?
Micellar water is a wonderful product to have in your medicine cabinet, as it can serve a variety of purposes:
- It may be used to cleanse the skin after a workout
- It can be used as the first step in a double cleansing routine
- Micellar water also helps cleanse off light makeup (although heavier makeup, like waterproof mascara, will require a more powerful makeup remover).
Alternatively, the formula may be enough to serve as your primary cleanser either day or night.
The 5 Best Micellar Waters
Now that we have an understanding of how micellar water works and how it can be used, let's take a look at the 5 best micellar waters available on the market today.
1. Bioderma Sensibio H2O Soothing Micellar Cleansing Water (Acne-Prone Skin)
This is one of the most popular and best micellar waters for acne-prone skin available for purchase. It comes from Bioderma, a French pharmaceutical company. The formula is free of fragrance and alcohol. It also contains glycerides, which help hydrate the skin. This Bioderma micellar water is gentle yet effective at cleansing the skin, making it an excellent micellar water for those with acne-prone and irritated skin.
2. La Roche-Posay Micellar Cleansing Water (Sensitive Skin)
This micellar water from La Roche-Posay was specifically crafted for those with sensitive skin. Dermatologists and ophthalmologists have tested the formula, which helps to remove dirt, oil, makeup, and pollution from the skin. The formula contains poloxamer (a super mild cleanser), thermal spring water (an antioxidant-rich water that soothes the skin), and glycerin (a light hydrator). It is also free of alcohol, soap, and parabens.
3. Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 (Best Drugstore Option)
This Garnier product is one of the best drugstore micellar waters for those looking for a wallet-friendly option that is still effective. The product is suitable for all skin types, including those with sensitive skin. It is gentle and safe to use all over the face, including the eyes. The formula contains glycerin, which helps hydrate and soothe the skin. It is also free of fragrance, sulfates, oil, alcohol, and parabens.
4. Simple Kind to Skin Micellar Cleansing Water (Oily Skin)
Simple has created one of the best micellar waters for oily skin. It effectively cleanses the skin, while not damaging the protective barrier. Beyond its impressive cleansing abilities, this formula is able to boost the skin’s hydration immediately by 90%. It contains triple purified water, hydrating glycerin, and soothing chamomile flower extract. The formula is also free of artificial colors, perfumes, or harsh chemicals, eliminating the risk of irritation.
5. Bioderma Hydrabio H2O Hydrating Micellar Cleansing Water (Dry Skin)
For those dealing with dry skin, this is one of the best micellar waters to turn to. French brand Bioderma crafted this micellar water with dry skin in mind. The non-comedogenic formula includes the brand’s signature Aquagenium patent, which contains a blend of niacinamide and apple seed extract. This blend helps the skin retain moisture and stimulate the circulation of water in the skin cells.
How to Use Micellar Water
Once you’ve chosen the best micellar waters for your skin’s needs, you are ready to work it into your skincare routine. Learning how to use micellar water is incredibly easy.
- Saturate a cotton pad with the formula, and then sweep it all over your face, neck, and décolletage to cleanse and hydrate.
- You may use micellar water both in your morning and evening skincare routines, or in the middle of the day if necessary.
Since it is meant to work as a light hydrator, micellar water was created to be left on the skin. This means it doesn’t need to be rinsed off after use. That being said, if it works best for you, you may use micellar water as the first step in a cleansing process, and then follow up with a more traditional cleanser. With this method, you’ll get the gentle cleansing benefits of micellar water, without the long-term hydration.
How to Double Cleanse With Micellar Water
Alternatively, you can start with a facial cleanser, and then follow up with micellar water. This will help you cleanse off any remaining residue that wasn’t washed off with the first cleanser, and will help give the skin an extra boost of hydration by not rinsing off the micellar water. Of course, you may also use micellar water as your only cleanser if it suits your skin type. Simply sweep it across the skin, and then follow with the next steps in your skincare routine.
Whatever cleansing order and routine you choose, you can follow up with your typical skincare products. Once your skin is dry, apply any spot treatments, serums, or moisturizers that you typically use.
What skin types are candidates for micellar water?
Just about any skin type can use micellar water, but it is particularly beneficial for certain skin types. “It is great for people with dry and sensitive skin, because it is very gentle and can wash the face without stripping the skin of its natural, protective oil barrier,” says Dr. Shainhouse. Those with dry and sensitive skin will likely be able to use micellar water as their sole cleanser, so long as they are not wearing any heavy makeup. Those with acne-prone and oily skin will benefit from using this gentle cleansing product – and shouldn’t worry about it leaving behind a greasy residue. That being said, Dr. Shainhouse advises that those with oily skin might need an additional cleansing step to thoroughly clean the skin.
Is micellar water good for acne?
Yes, micellar water is suitable for those dealing with acne, since it can gently cleanse the skin without irritating breakouts. Those with acne can use micellar water as one of the cleansers in a double cleansing routine. Start with micellar water to sweep away light makeup and dirt on the skin, and then follow with a traditional face cleanser suitable for acne-prone skin. Alternatively, you can start with a traditional cleanser, and then follow up with a micellar water to leave on the hydrating benefits. Once done cleansing, follow with any acne-targeting topical products and a non-comedogenic moisturizer.
What is the difference between micellar water versus toner?
The difference between micellar water and toner comes down to the purpose of these products. Both have the ability to remove debris from the skin, but micellar waters do so in a gentler manner, while also lightly hydrating the skin. Many toners have traditionally contained alcohol, which can be very harsh on the skin, but modern toners don't typically contain alcohol. This means they are generally gentler on the skin, which makes differentiating between micellar water and toner even more difficult. In short, the best micellar waters will effectively cleanse while hydrating the skin, while toners treat the skin (while still possibly removing some debris, depending on the formula and use).
Is micellar water oil-free?
Most micellar waters are oil-free, but some brands create micellar water with oil. Some will be upfront on the label about containing oil, while others will require a bit more research. Generally, if a brand claims their micellar water takes off heavy makeup, it probably has oil in the formula, due to the fact that simpler micellar water won’t be able to cleanse heavy makeup on its own. Since ingredients differ from product to product, if you are looking for an oil-free micellar water, it is important to look at the label of a product to make sure it meets your requirements.
The Bottom Line
Micellar water contains micelles, which act as magnets for debris on the skin. All skin types can use one of the best micellar waters, but these products are particularly effective for those with dry and sensitive skin. You may use micellar water on its own as a sole cleanser in your skincare routine. It also works as a part of a double cleansing routine. Micellar water is gentle enough to use day and night. A micellar water formula may remove light makeup. However, it won’t be able to act as a makeup remover for heavier makeup. The best micellar waters will gently cleanse the skin while providing hydration.