A blog that gets nerdy for beauty

Micellar Water: Is it worth a spot in your skin care routine?

Micellar Water: What was your first impression when you first heard of Micellar Water?  Well, for me, a very sharp memory of my mid-morning chemistry class tells me that this isn’t a scientific breakthrough – it just came from a very common chemistry term –Micelles.


What are Micelles?


Micelles are formed by soaps and detergents –the handy cleaning partner that has been around since your grandma’s grandma. Soaps and detergents are both surfactants. Surfactants are the workhorse of many cleaning products: for your laundry, kitchen, toilet bowl, floor –name it. Basically most products used for cleaning or removal of dirt and grease require surfactant and thus create micelles. Surfactants are unique because their molecules are Bipolar (no, not the mood-swing disorder). Bipolar, because it hates, and loves water at the same time. How is it possible? Read on.

Oil and water do not mix –they just hate being around each other.  But what’s cool about surfactants is they’re super friendly molecules who are perfectly fine in hanging around with both oil and water. A surfactant has two ends that makes it bipolar: a lipophilic end (oil lover, water hater) and a hydrophilic head (water lover, oil hater). When surfactants are suspended in water, the water loving head joins with water, while the oil loving end joins with dirt and oil on your skin. These surfactants then form a spherical structure called Micelles. It entraps dirt and oil inside the small spherical structure. This makes removal of dirt and sebum much easier.

Cleansing Agents: Their Micellar mode of action


But what’s so awesome about micellar water/cleansers? Unlike your usual facial cleansers, micellar water does not need rinsing and only requires cotton pad to remove excess products (perfect for lazy gals like me). Surfactants in micellar water do not foam, and are mild enough to be left on skin and not cause irritation.


How does it differ from a  make-up remover?


Well honesty, I’m sorry but it confuses me too. It’s more about the marketing placement of the product because a good micellar water can effectively remove make-up too, and may also be marketed as a make-up remover. Make-up removers (at least most of what I’ve tried), contains heavier oils and leaves an oily, eeeekyweeeky residue on your face. The oils present in make removers dissolves the oil-based ingredients  (because oils loves oil) found in your make-up. Unlike micellar water, however, make up removers (that contains heavy oils) need to be followed with surfactant-based cleanser (i.e, foaming cleansers).  Make-up removers are designed to remove heavy and water-proof make up however, a well formulated micellar water should be able to do the same job without leaving your face greasy.


Is micellar water for me?


Generally, micellar cleansing water works best for normal to dry skin. Many micellar water are also formulated for sensitive skin. It is a gentle cleansing product, but can be too mild for those with very oily skin. If you think that your skin is too oily or that your make-up is too thick and heavy and requires hardcore cleansing powers – then micellar water may not be the best product for you.  Micellar cleansing water is not formulated to penetrate the deep in to your pores to remove oil and excess keratin. Hence, for acne-prone skin, I would not recommend this as a substitute to a good anti-acne facial wash with salicylic acid.


Micellar Water in the Market (Philippines)


1.Garnier/Maybelline Micellar Water

Brand: Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water

Price: 1.9 per mL

Where to buy: http://www.lazada.com.phhttp://www.beautymnl.com

Brand Name: Maybelline Micellar Water

Price: PHP 1 per mL

Where to buy: http://www.lazada.com.phhttp://www.beautymnl.com

Maybelline Micellar Water/ Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water

Yep, Maybelline and Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water both contain the same ingredients, and there is no significant advantage in choosing one over the other except the difference in price . I love that this product is cheap and contains just what you need in a micellar cleanser. The polymer cleansing agent also improves the cleansing powers of the surfactant.


2. Simple Micellar Cleansing Water

Brand: Simple Micellar Cleansing Water

Price: PHP 2.5 per mL

Where to buy: Where to buy: http://www.lazada.com.phhttp://www.beautymnl.com, Any Watsons Store

Simple Micellar Cleansing Water

Simple micellar water costs about twice as Maybelline but contains additional beneficial ingredients for your skin. It claims to be gentle on skin, which is reflected on the presence of chamomile extract, an anti-irritant and soothing ingredient. It also contains niacinamide, a very powerful moisturizing ingredient.  Vitamin C, in a form of sodium ascorbyl phosphate is a very good antioxidant, but because it is packaged in a clear bottle (Vitamin C is oxidized by sunlight), I’m quite doubtful about its potency after long term storage. The presence of a formaldehyde releasing preservative, is a turn off, though scientists have proven this ingredient to be safe at minimum concentration (let’s just trust that Simple is working within safe concentration levels).


3. Bioderma Sebium H2O Micellar Solution

Brand Name: Bioderma Sebium H20 Micellar Solution

Price : PHP 4.6 – 6 per mL

Where to buy: http://www.lazada.com.ph

This product is marketed for combination to oily skin- a unique placement for a micellar water. It contains sugars and polysaccharides that’s not so common in most micellar cleansing waters in the market. The product also features a patented technology (zinc gluconate and copper sulfate) that claims to target sebum production. Zinc gluconate has anti-inflammatory and sebum-regulating properties, while copper sulfate has wound healing properties. It’s a good product to supplement in skin care routine for acne and blemish prone skin. However, if acne is a major skin concern, you cannot rely on this product alone as cleanser as it does not effectively dissolve deep seated sebum and keratin as effectively as other anti-acne products like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.


Take Home:

  • Micellar water is just a fancy term for rinse-less soap. It works on the same principle (at least in molecular level) as normal soaps except the ingredients present are mild enough to not cause irritation on skin when left without rinsing (unlike most soap products).
  • Micellar water’s greatest advantage is that it does not require rinsing –if you’re comfortable with the idea of waterless skin care routine
  • Micellar water can be a great everyday gentle cleanser especially for dry and sensitive skin. If soaps and foaming cleansers are too harsh for you, give micellar water a try.
  • It may take patience to remove water-proof and silicone based make up when using micellar water, and in most cases, an inferior product to use compared to most oil-based cleansers.
  • If you’re a gal on a budget, products from Maybelline and Garnier are great – they contain just what you would as for from a micellar water.
  • If you have a sensitive skin, you might enjoy the benefit of more expensive product with the additional soothing and anti-irritating ingredients. But if cheaper ones work fine, there is no need to pull out extra cash for additional ingredients with no significant effect on skin.
  • Because micellar water is not completely stripped off from your skin, an additional ingredient with moisturizing, antioxidant and anti-acne properties are great – if you’re willing to pay for extra price. (I’m talking about Simple and Bioderma in this case)



Article written by:

Anne Porter

Hi! I’m Anne. I am a chemical engineer from Cebu, Philippines. I created Zarins Beautylab because of my love for cosmetics, skin care products and all other stuff that makes me (and you) look and feel beautiful. My semesters of chemistry courses come in handy as I explain the science behind different beauty products: which works and how it works. Well, Sometimes its science and sometimes its just good ol’ common sense.

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  1. Avatar

    Elana44 asks…Lately i see a lot of brands coming out with something called micellar water . What are they, what do they do to skin? How are they different from regular water or a toner we all are used to see around? What do they put in there that makes it micellar ?

    • admin

      Hi Elana, micellar water is formulated to clean face without the need for rinsing (unlike facial cleansers). They contain SURFACTANTS. These are similar to what’s found in your soap, except they are non-irritating and are safe to be left on skin without rinsing. Surfactants can penetrate through oily barrier of your skin while regular water cant.

      Toners are formulated to deliver active ingredients on your skin (i.e, whitening, exfoliating, acne-control etc.) while micellar water is mainly formulated for water-less cleansing.

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