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No matter how much free time someone has on their hands, they’re probably still dreaming about a simplified skin care routine.

So, a product that claims to remove makeup and cleanse skin in one go is going to result in a yes from the majority of people.

Well, that product with a winning promise is called micellar water. Here’s everything you need to know about its benefits and setbacks.

Micellar water isn’t just normal water repackaged into a fancy bottle.

It does contain water, but it’s also full of tiny suspended oil particles known as micelles.

“Think of micelles as molecules that can attach to dirt and oil on one side and water on the other,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Erum Ilyas.

This unique composition makes micelles great at wiping away impurities and hydrating your skin at the same time.

Essentially, micellar water is billed as an all-in-one makeup remover, cleanser, and semi-moisturizer.

While other cleansers can strip natural oils from the skin, micellar water is much gentler.

“By drawing away impurities by attracting them to the molecules suspended in the water solution, micellar water is less likely to dry out and irritate the skin,” Dr. Ilyas says.

Not only does this gentle nature make it ideal for people with sensitive skin, it can also help combat dryness through a hydrating ingredient called glycerin.

Like any skin care product, you need to have realistic expectations when using micellar water.

It’s great for cleaning minor dirt, notes board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Michelle Lee.

However, it doesn’t penetrate the skin enough to give a deep cleanse.

Some people primarily use it to remove makeup, but its lightweight properties means it often fails to remove thicker or water-resistant products like heavy foundations and mascara.

Micellar water can be a beneficial addition to your skin care routine. But since it doesn’t really get down into your pores to clarify completely, it probably isn’t sufficient as your sole face-washing method.

According to experts, micellar water originated in France several decades ago.

Apparently, French water is harsh on the skin, leading the beauty industry to create a gentler way for people to wash their faces.

As new skin care inventions became available, micellar water fell by the wayside. Until recently, that is.

Now, this cleanser, which looks like water, has been adopted by skin care brands — big and small.

All you need is an absorbent item to apply micellar water. Cotton balls or pads are commonly used.

Simply soak the pad in micellar water and wipe it across your face. Try not to scrub the skin as this may cause irritation.

Note that you’ll probably need to use more than one cotton pad’s worth to sufficiently cleanse skin.

Once your face seems clean, you’re done. There is no need to rinse the product off.

Afterward, you can use a deeper cleanser or carry on with the rest of your skin care regime.

As well as removing makeup and cleansing skin, micellar water can be used to wipe off sweat after a workout or fix makeup mishaps.

It’s also a great option for keeping your face clean when you don’t have access to water, such as when you’re camping.

It may be all you need in the morning when your face is makeup- and grime-free.

But after a day spent out and about, your skin is likely to need a more intensive cleanse.

When stubborn makeup does not need to be removed, Dr. Ilyas says micellar water is “reasonable for [a] routine cleanse.” So on days you’re rocking a natural face, micellar is a great go-to.

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Yoram Harth points out that people with acne-prone or oily skin “would need to use a properly medicated cleanser to remove the oil from their skin and unclog pores.”

These skin types can still kick-start their routine with micellar water. But a traditional cleanser should be used straight after.

Whether you use it morning or night (or both), always start your skin care routine with micellar water.

Afterward, use your regular cleanser if needed. This will ensure a thorough cleanse of surface grime as well as deeper impurities.

You may choose to only double cleanse at night, when skin is likely to be at its “dirtiest.”

In the morning, follow the micellar water or secondary cleanser with moisturizer and sunscreen.

If using micellar water at nighttime, follow with your usual hydrating and moisturizing products which may include creams, serums, and oils.

With so many different brands and formulas around, choosing a micellar water can be difficult to say the least.

“Good micellar water should be free of parabens, sulfates, denatured alcohol, and dyes,” states Dr. Harth, who is also the medical director of MDacne.

You should also avoid any product with fragrance in the ingredients list if you have sensitive skin.

Luckily, there are also specific formulas for specific skin types. Here’s the lowdown on choosing the best formula for your skin.

If you wear makeup

No matter which you choose, micellar water probably isn’t going to remove every inch of makeup from your face.

But some formulas have been designed specifically for makeup removal.

Garnier’s SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water (shop here) comes in a special waterproof makeup version.

And if you want the best of both worlds, try Glossier’s Milky Oil (shop here) which combines both micellar water and a cleansing oil.

If you have ‘normal’ skin

No particular skin concerns? Then opt for any micellar water you like.

Caudalie’s (shop here) highly rated French formula boasts a fresh, fruity scent, while REN’s Rosa Centifolia Cleansing Water (shop here) is a three-in-one product designed to cleanse, tone, and remove makeup.

If you have dry or sensitive skin

Sensitive and dry skin types need to choose their micellar water carefully.

Look for a fragrance-free formula that’s gentle on skin and includes moisturizing properties.

Bioderma Sensibio H2O (shop here) has a large number of positive reviews for its soothing capabilities.

Simple’s Kind to Skin Micellar Water (shop here) contains vitamins to help with hydration.

If you have oily or acne-prone skin

Oily skin types will want to look for products that remove extra oil and leave skin with a non-shiny appearance.

Acne-prone types may benefit from micellar water that contains the likes of vitamin C, salicylic acid, and niacinamide.

Yes To Tomatoes Micellar Cleansing Water (shop here) features salicylic acid to fight off acne.

La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Micellar Water (shop here) uses zinc to get rid of excess oil.

If you have combination skin

Combination skin can be a little tricky. You want something that doesn’t leave skin oily, but also something that’s not too drying.

Lancome’s Eau Fraiche Douceur (shop here) is recommended for this skin type, thanks to the soft yet toned feeling it leaves behind.

Biore’s Baking Soda Cleansing Micellar Water (shop here) is recommended for its ability to cleanse skin without excessive drying.

Since micellar water is a daily (or twice daily) cleansing product, you should notice a difference almost immediately.

If that doesn’t happen, consider switching to a different brand.

Think of micellar water as a supplement to your everyday cleansing routine, rather than the sole part.

It will help gently cleanse your skin, but not enough to make it the only cleanser in your bathroom cabinet.


Lauren Sharkey is a journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraine attacks, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.