What is Micellar Water?

Written by: James Smith

Updated: March 16, 2023

It’s the latest craze taking over the fashion world, and since it involves water we thought we’d take a closer look. Today, we look into micellar water.

makeup bottles

Chances are, if you’ve read any fashion magazines recently, you’ve seen beauty editors rave about micellar water (pronounced my-sell-er). It’s quickly becoming part of more and more people’s every day skin care regimen. But what is micellar water, and why is it so popular?

Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we may make a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

What is micellar water?

Micellar water looks and smells just like water, but it has microscopic oil particles suspended in it. You know how you can’t mix oil and water? Well, you can actually, thanks to ‘micelles’. These are clusters of atoms that group together and remain suspended in a liquid.

These microscopic spheres that are suspended in the water, attract and trap oil and dirt in the same way as a magnet. This makes micellar water perfect for cleansing skin.

This solution of tiny oil particles combined with water means that you can use micellar water to get the cleansing and non-drying properties of oils, without the greasiness or mess of actual oil cleansing.


How does oil cleansing work?

It may seem counter-intuitive to use oils to clean even greasy skin, but it’s true.

The fact is, your skin produces oils all the time. These oils are important for the health of your skin, and perform several important functions:

  • They clear your pores. Again, it may seem counter-intuitive, but as oil is produced and flows onto the surface of your skin, it carries with it any microscopic dirt and debris that may have been trapped inside your pores.
  • They protect your skin from dirt and damage. Having a surface layer of oil on your skin traps and holds small dirt particles, dead skin cells, pollution, and the like, keeping those unwanted particles from rubbing on your healthy skin cells and potentially damaging them.
  • They heal and moisturize your skin. Your natural skin oils heal and moisturize your surface skin cells, keeping them from getting dull and dry, and helping to repair them. 

Even for people with oily skin, the natural oils themselves aren’t really the problem. The problem is that your natural oils, in the course of doing their job, get dirty and sticky and greasy-looking, particularly if you wear makeup.

When cleansing with oil, instead of using harsh surfactants (cleaning agents) that strip your skin of all protection, you are basically applying a new layer of oil that will attract and hold all those dirt and debris particles trapped in the outer layer of your natural oils.

When you gently wipe away the oil, you remove all that dirt, but leave a thin layer of your natural oils intact so they can continue to protect your skin. It’s a way of cleaning your face that both heals and moisturizes too.

cosmetics cases

Micellar water works the same way as oil cleansing, with microscopic oil particles that attract and contain dirt and debris from the surface of your skin, but without stripping away your natural skin protection.

When a cotton pad is dabbed with micellar water, the micelles break apart, re-aligning the atoms so that the surface is covered with microscopic oil particles that trap and hold dirt, which then clings to the cotton pad as you wipe your face clean.

Where does micellar water come from?

While micellar water has only recently become a big deal in the United States, it was actually invented in Paris in the 1990s.

Paris has hard water and centuries-old plumbing, resulting in tap water that is harsh and drying on the skin. Parisian women needed a more gentle, effective way to cleanse their skin while protecting it, and didn’t want to use hard water that dries and damages the skin.

French pharmaceutical company Bioderma Laboratories invented the first skin-care micellar water in 1991, and since then many different formulations of micellar water have been developed and marketed all over the world.

wash face with water

Advantages of micellar water

Micellar water is a fantastic way to clean and protect your face, and has many advantages over other cleansers and methods:

  • Doesn’t require water: if you have hard water, or want to cleanse your face on the go, you only need micellar water and a cotton pad
  • Doesn’t dry or damage the skin: micellar water uses the cleansing power of oils, to clean without stripping, drying, or damaging the skin
  • Effective makeup remover: depending on your makeup, removal can be difficult and time-consuming, but is important for healthy skin. Micellar water makes it easy to quickly and thoroughly remove makeup.
  • Requires no additional products: many skin care regimens call for a makeup remover, then a cleanser, then a toner. Micellar water replaces all of these.

Different kinds of micellar water

Today, there are hundreds of different formulations of micellar water available, so it’s important to remember that not all brands are created equal.

Some may have harsher ingredients or surfactants, and it may be better to rinse the face with pure water after using them. Some have additional ingredients, like aloe vera, tea tree oil, or plant extracts designed to care for different skin types.

Micellar water is a fantastic way to clean your skin, but, just like every beauty product, read the label and reviews before choosing one.

  • Micellar water shampoo

Recently, the same principles that make micellar water great for cleaning skin have been adapted to hair care. It’s now possible to get micellar water shampoos. These have many of the benefits of a clarifying shampoo, because they clean product build-up, but do so gently and without stripping the hair of natural protective oils. There are several micellar water shampoos available now, and expect the trend to continue as we advance this technology in the coming years.

Micellar water is a fantastic solution for skin care. Unlike many beauty products, that require time-consuming, expensive, multi-step processes, micellar water is fast, simple, portable, and good for your skin.

It’s also a great product for regions with poor water quality, or situations where water is scarce, when traveling or on the go. It’s no wonder that people all over the world are adopting this trend and using micellar water to clean and protect their skin.

Curious which states have the best water in the US? Check out this article to get the answers.

Follow us on social media to see articles like this every day. There’s a Facebook link on the right.

About the Author James Smith

James is the chief water geek here at His mission is to empower the consumer and allow people to take control of their health. His passion for water health is contagious, hopefully unlike your tap water!

>Learn more about James and

>View his published work on the site

Connect with me

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}