Micellar Water: The Cleanser You Never Knew You Needed
Don’t let the clear liquid decieve you; there’s a lot happening in a bottle of micellar water.
The 411 on micellar water
Touted by skin experts as a beauty essential, the rinse-free scientific potion works like a magnet. A certain concentration of surfactants (commonly used cleansing agents) gather in spheres to form micelles, which have water-loving and oil-loving components, says Olivier Martias, medical director for Bioderma North America, the brand behind the 1995 discovery.
“When micellar water is poured onto a cotton pad, micelles open up: the hydrophilic head of the surfactants is fixed to the cotton, while the lipophilic chain is directed outwards,” he says. When that cotton pad is applied on the skin, the lipophilic chain catches lipids — think makeup, excess sebum and pollution residue. Then, thanks to the surfactants, the impurities cling to the cotton pad, not your skin, he explains.
A multitasking star — it can also be used after cleansing to remove excess dirt, he says — micellar water wins big because of what it won’t do: irritate skin. Formulated to protect skin’s barrier and deliver anti-inflammatory benefits, a micellar cleanser combines efficacy with tolerance, even for the most sensitive skin types. With a hefty fan base behind the iconic original — one bottle of Bioderma Sensibio H20 is sold globally every two seconds — concoctions that address specific objectives such as controlling oil or increasing hydration have made a splash, too.
And if you’re looking for other skincare products that we’ve fallen for, check out our list of top skincare picks.
For sensitive skin
“My skin (especially around my eyes) becomes easily irritated, and it’s hard to find a cleanser that won’t leave some sort of rash. After using this at night for a while, it’s safe to say that nothing appeared. I was also amazed at how it hydrated.” – Alyssa Ball, Assistant Web Editor
L’Oréal Micellar Water complete Cleanser, $13
For oily skin
“Treating my breakout-prone face is a balancing act. This quickly purified my skin while imparting a just-right dose of moisture. It’s my new morning go-to, and the silky results have me impressed.” – Ingrie Williams, Beauty & Style Director
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micellar Water Ultra Oily Skin, $20
For combination skin
“I’ve added this as a first step in my skincare routine on nights that I’m wearing dramatic makeup. It instantly dissolves eye makeup without the tight feeling I find with traditional eye-makeup removers — so it’s also in my repertoire for touch-ups. Plus, there are no oily or dry afteraffects.” – Courtney Reilly-Larke, Associate Editor
Garnier Skin Active Micellar Water All-in-One Cleansing Water for Dry & Sensitive Skin, $10
For normal to reactive skin
“I loved the tingling sensation on application; but it never left my skin feeling tight, which always happens for me. I only needed to wipe an area once, and all my makeup came off.” – Lisa Snow, Production Manager
Yes To Cotton Comforting Micellar Cleansing Water, $9
For mature skin
“My aging mug had made me wary of trying bottled cleansers for fear of leaving it completely parched. But thanks to an infusion of argan oil and botanical extracts, this product left my face feeling soft and hydrated, while also giving it a thorough cleanse.” – Beth Thompson, Editor-in-Chief
Mychelle Quick Clean Micellar Water, $19 at Murale
For dehydrated skin
“The first time I used it I was a bit shocked at how much dirt it took off — on a makeup-free day no less! My skin afterwards wasn’t tight or itchy, it felt bouncy to the touch. I’m a convert; it’s now in my daily routine.” – Lisa Hannam, Web Editor
Bioderma HydraBio H2O Moisturizing Make-Up Removing Micelle Solution, $20