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What Is Micellar Water? Here’s the 411 on the Gentle Makeup Remover Your Routine Is Missing

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Hailing from the shelves of French pharmacies, micellar water is the mysterious, buzzy beauty product that makeup artists, dermatologists, and beauty buffs just can't seem to get enough of. It's not hard to understand why. The no-rinse cleanser is one of the easiest and most effective makeup removers you can use in your skincare routine. Below, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about this increasingly popular product and how you can start using it ASAP.


About the Expert:

Jason Emer, MD, is a dermatologic surgeon based in Los Angeles. He runs his own practice in Beverly Hills and regularly shares skincare tips and insight into skin treatments on his popular Instagram page.

What is micellar water?

Is it water? Is it a cleanser? Is it a makeup remover? It's all of the above. Dermatologist Jason Emer explains, "Micellar water is a multipurpose skincare product, typically used to remove dirt, oil, and makeup from the face prior to cleansing. It can also be used on its own without washing off." Micellar water is made up of a combination of purified water, moisturizing ingredients like glycerin or aloe, and micelles which are tiny balls of oil molecules that attract, lift, and dissolve unwanted grime from your skin.

Unlike makeup wipes, which have a tendency to simply move the dirt around the surface of your skin, these tiny-yet-powerful micelles can effectively dissolve dirt once and for all. Dr. Emer says the combination of purified water and moisturizing ingredients found in micellar water formulas are what make it "a huge favorite with beauty influencers and dermatologists."

What are the benefits of micellar water?

In addition to thoroughly removing all traces of makeup from the skin, there are a couple of perks that make this product a skin essential. First, it's incredibly convenient. As much as we love an in-depth, 10-step skincare routine, it's hard to beat quick and easy skincare solutions. If you're short on time, rushing from the gym to the office, or you just don't have the energy for a super involved skincare sesh, micellar water is a great solution for removing makeup, cleansing, and hydrating the skin in a matter of minutes.

Soft water is better for your skin. The water used in micellar formulas is purified water (or soft water) and is free of the minerals often found in hard water (the kind that probably comes out of your bathroom sink) which can both dehydrate and leave build up on your skin. Soft water, on the other hand, allows for a more thorough and overall gentler cleanse.

How do I use micellar water?

To use micellar water, simply saturate a cotton pad or large cotton ball with the product and wipe it over a dry face to remove eye makeup, face makeup, and excess oil. (Tip: Gently press the cotton pad over your closed lids for a few seconds to break down extra-stubborn eye makeup.) This can be step one in your double cleanse routine, or if you're tight on time you can use micellar water on its own without rinsing it off. After using micellar water, your skin should be cleansed and totally makeup-free.

So the application sounds like a toner—is it the same? While micellar water and toner are applied in the same way, it's important to note that the two products are not interchangeable. Dr. Emer explains, "[Micellar water] breaks down the makeup and helps in removing oil dirt from the pores, whereas toners and cleansers will help to tighten your skin by cleaning and closing the pores." Toners are also often formulated with active ingredients to target specific skincare concerns while that's not always the case with micellar formulas. However, this can vary depending on the specific micellar water you choose to use.

Are there any downsides to using micellar water?

While all skin types can use micellar as a makeup remover, there are a few things to consider if you're using it as a no-rinse cleanser. If you have acne-prone or oil-prone skin, the oils left behind may end up clogging pores or causing breakouts if you don't wash your face with a cleanser after using micellar water. "Also, the oil and hydration it leaves behind may block active compounds," Emer says. Basically, if you're using micellar water as a no-rinse cleanser, the oils it leaves behind may block serums and other treatments from properly penetrating the upper layers of the skin. If you're committing to a multi-step skincare routine–one complete with toner, serum, eye creams, moisturizers, and oils–it's best to only use micellar water as step one of a double cleansing routine.

How often can you use it?

If you wear makeup every day, you can definitely use this general micellar water formula (that Dr. Emer loves) daily to quickly and thoroughly wipe away all traces of makeup. But because it can leave some residue behind, Dr. Emer doesn't recommend replacing your cleanser with micellar water 100% of the time. Instead, he says, "It's great for makeup removal and if you are on the go and don't have time to cleanse, but I wouldn't use it as a daily cleanser or moisturizer." (TLDR: Go ahead and use micellar water daily if it's part of a double cleansing routine, but try not to swap it out for your regular facial cleanser unless you're in a pinch.)

Micellar water cleansers we love

Now that you know more about this buzzy skincare product, what it can do, and if it's right for your skin, it's time to find your ideal formula. Below, you'll find four of our favorite micellar water cleansers—all of which are Ipster-approved. 

1. REFRESHMENTS Radiant Micellar Water

REFRESHMENTS Radiant Micellar Water

This no-rinse cleanser helps remove makeup, buildup, and excess oil—without stripping away your skin’s moisture barrier. Yep, this is real life. Plus, it’s ophthalmologist tested to be safe around your eyes, so go ahead and use it to help remove your mascara, liner, and shadow at the end of the day.

2. BIODERMA LABORATOIRE DERMATOLOGIQUE Sensibio H2O

BIODERMA LABORATOIRE DERMATOLOGIQUE Sensibio H2O

In addition to effectively dissolving all traces of dirt and makeup from your skin, this cleanser will also clear away impurities from pollution. Free of soap, harsh chemicals, and alcohol, this is a great choice for sensitive skin types. It can also be great for irritated or acne-prone skin thanks to soothing cucumber extract.

"This water is a miracle magic eraser," says one Ipster. "It makes it so much easier to remove makeup, and I don't have to spend much time scrubbing at my face, either."

3. DERMA E Vitamin C Micellar Cleansing Water

DERMA E Vitamin C Micellar Cleansing Water

This multitasking micellar water will cleanse your skin while also brightening up your complexion, thanks to an added dose of vitamin C. You'll also find probiotics in this formula which help to nourish skin and keep it balanced.

Ipsters love the way it simplifies their routine. “I LOVE THIS. It is so super nice for a lazy person like me. Gets rid of all my makeup and makes my skin feel super clean and refreshed,” says one Ipster. “I loved the fact that it made the appearance of my face brighter and refreshed,” says another.

4. SIMPLE Water Boost Micellar Makeup Remover Pads

SIMPLE Water Boost Micellar Makeup Remover Pads

Need a quick cleansing solution for your gym or travel bag? These convenient wipes easily remove waterproof makeup, dirt, and excess sebum without stripping your skin of much-needed moisture. This micellar water includes pentavitin extract which, like squalane, mimics natural hydrating substances found in your skin. Using an ingredient your skin can easily recognize leads to more effective moisturizing benefits and fast absorption.

“These are great. My skin is easily irritated when rubbing and these wipes don't do that,” says one Ipster. Another adds: “Removed my makeup without leaving residue or making my face red. I loved this!!“

5. PURIFECT BY SYMPHONY BEAUTY Micellar Cleansing Water in Coconut

PURIFECT BY SYMPHONY BEAUTY Micellar Cleansing Water in Coconut

The hero ingredient in this micellar cleanser is coconut extract, a natural hydrator with a long list of skincare benefits. In addition to moisturizing skin, it's also antibacterial and can even help to improve the texture of skin after extended use. As an added bonus, the extract gives this cleanser a natural tropical fragrance that can turn every cleanse into a quick aromatherapy session.

"Love this," says Ipster TSBEQUETTE. "Was great for a mid-day clean. Left my dry skin feeling soft and clean."

Love micellar cleansers? Let us know your faves @IPSY

Want in on all the IPSY Glam Bag fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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Article Last Updated May 18, 2022 12:00 AM