Why you need to ditch the micellar water

What is micellar water?

Five or six years ago, we had never heard of micellar water and now…one is sold every five seconds – Garner Miceller Water.  

First, let’s go over what micellar water is.   Micellar water is applied on a cotton disc to gently lift up dirt and makeup from the skin.  It’s made up of micelles which are tiny balls of oil molecules, suspended in soft water.  It looks like water, has the viscosity of water but when you put it on your finger and feel, it has a different texture than water.

To summarise, Micellar water is a cleanser, containing suspended surfactant molecules which, by nature, attract dirt and oil.

Micellar water is thought of as the ultimate one-stop practical cleanser and seemingly a god-send for many.  However, I am going to help you understand the science behind this apparent ‘must-have’ beauty product, touch on the problems it causes for some people and explain why I consider this skincare product a total waste of your money!!

What is the science behind micellar water?

Micellar water is made up of tiny surfactant molecules suspended in soft water. Yes, that’s right. It’s a mixture of soap and water with a fancy name!  The word micellar sounds like an innovative, advanced technology skincare word, but I am going to say two words…..Jargon alert!  (Bet you thought I was going to say BS lol!).    

Fact is, in cosmetic chemistry, surfactants or surface-active agents form clusters in water, forming spheres called micelles – hence the name – Micellar Water.

So these formulas must remove stubborn makeup, dirt and pollution, however, they have to do it delicately as it’s a product that you not only apply to the face but also around the sensitive eye area.    This is where the first red flag of using Micellar Water occurs….

Most good quality skincare products mimic our skin’s natural pH which is around pH5. However, micellar waters must be formulated to a pH value similar to that of our tears – pH7.4 – so as not to irritate our eyes.  This is where the trouble starts as studies show that using products with a higher pH (more alkaline) on our skin can affect its ability to both retain moisture and elasticity.   This is similar to using soap and water on your face – both drying and sensitising!   

How is micellar water different to a good cleanser?

Good quality cleansers contain ingredients which penetrate into the pore and cleanse much more deeply than a Micellar water which stays on the skin surface.  Many micellar waters can leave a surface residue on the skin due to the ingredients, meaning dirt and pollution from the day end up being moved around the face, rather than being removed from the skin.

What skin types shouldn’t use micellar water?

Micellar waters should not be used on skin that is congested, prone to breakouts or blackheads.  This is due to the ingredients in micellar waters leaving a surface residue on the skin which can act like a film, blocking the pores and disrupting oil production.   

Also those of us with sensitive skin shouldn’t, as micellar waters usually contain high amounts of bad alcohols that dry up the skin and are highly fragranced which is known to irritate sensitive skins.  

The lowdown

Some brands bulk up their micellar water with drying alcohols, fragrances and harsh preservatives for the purpose of prolonging shelf-life – just the same way manufacturers of face wipes do!

Just as with wipes, I see the problem as, you are just moving dirt, grime, oils and makeup around on the skin.   Throughout the day, you are touching everything, walking through polluted air, touching your face, whilst pushing oil out to protect your skin.   If you don’t thoroughly remove this build up, you are asking for blackheads, whiteheads and acne breakouts.

The issue for me is that people who use micellar water are not using it as a pre-cleansing step, which would be infinitely better, but as their main cleanser.  Just as with face wipes, using micellar water leaves you with an incomplete cleanse and a residue, like a semi-oily film, on the skin.   So not only will you clog your pores, but any serums or moisturisers will not penetrate properly.  

My advice

Double cleanse with a good quality cleanser with ingredients such as glycolic acid, lactic acid and salicylic acid, then your first cleanse removes makeup, dirt and bacteria. Your second cleanse removes the build-up of dead skin cells. Once the skin is properly clean this allows you to treat the skin with what you need, whether it be with acids or vitamins. 

Do I believe micellar water to be proper skincare – NO!  I can see why it’s popular just as face wipes are….if you want to have clear, healthy skin then you need to take the short walk to the bathroom and carry out a good skincare routine.  Skin health comes from a consistently good skincare regimen, whilst also being a monetary investment, it is a time investment too.