Micellar water has been floating around the beauty blogosphere for years, mostly thanks to French girls and their “magic” testimonials about Bioderma micellar water. Luckily for us stateside gals, the stuff is easier to try than ever. Brands are jumping on the trend left and right and micellar waters have been hitting the shelves at all price points. I’ve tried several of them over the past year or so, with mixed results. Keep reading for my guide to understanding and choosing micellar water makeup remover/cleansers.

What IS it?

Micelles are “charged ions” that adhere to dirt and oil and gently remove it, without the need for water or foaming action. What “micellar water” really means is simply that tiny drops of oil are suspended in a soft water base. When you wipe a cotton pad soaked in the stuff over your face, the idea is that the oil attracts and helps sweep away makeup and dirt, without stripping your skin of natural moisture or leaving behind any residue whatsoever. It’s not harsh or drying like a toner, and usually contains very few ingredients. Micelles are not a new technology; it’s how you describe the action of any cleanser ingredient suspended in a liquid (which is how most cleansers work).

The Ingredients

The main ingredients in micellar waters (besides the water) are a surfectant (cleansing) agent, glycerin, and perservatives. Avoid any with additional fragrance or coloring! Some also contain witch hazel, rosewater, or other additions. I recommend choosing a micellar water without witch hazel or other irritating ingredients for use on the eyes.

The Benefits

One of the main pros of micellar water is that it is a gentle, water-free alternative to removing makeup or cleansing the skin. It is non-foaming and does not leave a noticeable residue behind. Nor does it strip or dry skin like traditional toners that contain alcohol, witch hazel, or salicylic acid. Micellar water is the ultimate lazy girls facial cleanser! I found myself relying on it almost too much, every time I didn’t feel like tying back my hair and going for a full wash. Perfect for travel, airplanes, camping, hard water, makeup testing, or waterless situations. Many testemonials exist online written by people who love the stuff. The product us available at all price points.

The Drawbacks

I personally felt like I was wasting cotton pads unnecessarily, and when using it twice a day, I ran through a fair amount of micellar water each month. Even though any cleansing is good, there really is nothing like an actual deep cleansing wash. After wearing a lot of eye makeup, I often had to “double cleanse” – I used a face wash first, then removed the last smudges of residue with micellar water. Micellar water is not strong enough to cut through waterproof makeup or heavy products. Some brands I tried really stung my eyes, as well. While I like to keep a bottle handy (see my recommendations below) for easy clean ups while doing makeup, I hide it under the sink so I won’t be tempted to use it more. My skin was fine while using it exclusively, just not quite as clear and bright as when I completely wash. If it was out in plain sight I’d probably never wash my face again, outside of the shower :/

Micellar Waters I’ve Tried

My absolute favorite is Boot’s Botanics 3-in-1 Micellar Water – available at Target for less than $7. I went though about four bottles of this stuff over the summer, and kept returning to it after trying other brands. It’s cheap, odorless, has a short ingredient list, and best of all, doesn’t sting my eyes.

Others I’ve tried are: Argan+ 5 Morrocan Rose Micellar Water (stung my eyes a bit, but smelled pretty), Bioderma Crealine micellar water (expensive version of Boot’s), Jean Pierre Micellar Water (stung my eyes), and Pearlessence Micellar water (the worst eye burner!).

Final Thoughts

Micellar water is a “new” product utilizing an old strategy. I like it because it provides a much gentler product option for removing makeup and cleansing without water. There’s no real need to spend much money on pricey waters – it’s a light cleanser and nothing more. It can’t remove blackheads, help wrinkles, or wipe away stubborn waterproof mascara. Micellar water is fine for all skin types, especially those with sensitive skin or a water allergy.