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Why Skin Pros Say to Swap Your Everyday Cleanser for Micellar Water + How It Removes Makeup in Just a Few Swipes

Plus, find the one that will work best for your skin type

Micellar water might be a relatively new skincare staple, but this liquid cleanser and makeup remover has quickly taken the beauty world by storm and earned endorsements from makeup artists and dermatologists alike. While it’s most often used as a facial cleanser, the clear, watery liquid can be used in other ways. Here, dermatologists and skincare experts share how to use micellar water, plus they reveal the ones they like best.

What is micellar water?

Bottle of micellar water and cotton pads

“Micellar water is purified water that contains micelles, which are tiny cleansing oil molecules that break down dirt, oil and impurities, cleansing the skin without the need to rinse with water after,” explains Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD, dermatologist, President of Modern Dermatology in Westport, Connecticut and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital. These micelles have a unique structure: one end is attracted to water and the other to oil, allowing them to draw out impurities, including makeup and pollution, without stripping the skin’s natural oils, adds celebrity facialist Vee Mistry of

Because it is so gentle, Dr. Robinson says it’s a great choice for anyone who has dry, inflamed or irritated skin that might be further exacerbated by traditional cleansing. In fact, studies show that micellar water is one of just a few cleansing formulations that actually help maintain and protect the skin barrier while it works.

Not only is micellar water effective at cleansing the skin and removing impurities, it also acts like a magnet to attract and lift away makeup, rather than smear it around, notes Mistry. What’s more? Its gentle formulation helps balance skin’s pH and preserves skin’s barrier, says medical aesthetician Kristin Gunn of This also prevents the water from irritating skin, and the oils in it hydrate and soothe even the most inflamed areas, helping the complexion look plump and smooth, while also reducing redness. 

How to use micellar water as a cleanser

“The standard way to use micellar water as a cleanser is to wipe the face with a cotton pad soaked in micellar water,” says Valerie Aparovich, biochemist and certified cosmetologist-aesthetician at OnSkin. “Then, continue wiping the face with additional micellar water-soaked pads as needed until the last one remains white.” The water works by breaking down and removing any makeup, oil and impurities from pores, while the pads whisk it away.

mature woman using micellar water to cleanse skin in mirror

While you can simply allow your face to dry or wipe it dry after cleansing with another cotton pad. Aparovich recommends that those with oily and combination skin should complete an additional cleansing step with a water-soluble foam or gel cleanser to ensure no unwanted residue remains and compromises your skin. Simply wet skin and wash your face as normal with your preferred cleanser. Then, rinse fully and pat skin dry before applying facial moisturizer to lock in hydration.

For more tips on how to use micellar water, check out the below video from @OluchiOnuigbo on YouTube.

Related: Dermatologists: If You Wear Makeup and Aren’t Double Cleansing, You’re Going to Bed With a Dirty Face

How to use micellar water to thwart hair thinning

As a makeup remover, micellar water’s cleansing compounds whisk away skin-clogging oil and buildup. And surprisingly, when used on the scalp, it works just as well to remove the hair follicle-clogging oil and buildup that leads to increased hair shedding and fallout. To get the benefits, shampoo hair as normal and rinse. Then, pour ¼ cup of micellar water onto the scalp, rub in with fingertips and let sit five minutes before rinsing.

How to use micellar water to clean makeup brushes

Additionally, micellar water can be used to clean makeup brushes, says Gunn. Simply fill a glass ¼ of the way full with micellar water, swirl your brushes in the liquid at the bottom of the glass, then let sit for 1 minute. Rinse brushes under running water from a faucet until the water runs clear or swirl the brushes on a silicone brush cleaning mat, like Norate Store Brush Cleaning Mat (Buy from Amazon, $5.99) as you run them under the faucet; let air dry fully.

Related: Dirty Sponges and Makeup Brushes Could Make You Sick, Cautions Dermatologist — Here’s the Best Way to Clean Them

To see the makeup brush cleansing technique in action, check out this YouTube video from @mylittleworld5691.

What to look for in a micellar water

Micellar water itself doesn’t change much from product to product, but it is often combined with other ingredients to suit specific skin needs.

If you have dry skin: look for micellar waters that include additional hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, antioxidants and ceramides.

If you want to even out and brighten your skin tone: look for one that contains brightening vitamin C. 

If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin: it is advisable to avoid extra ingredients that could further irritate your face, like fragrances. Also smart: Try a formula with a gentle add-in like soothing aloe that will calm inflammation or irritation.

The best micellar water for normal to oily skin

Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water

Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water (Buy from Amazon, $12.99)

If you are looking for one that is suitable for all skin types, including normal to oily skin, Aparovich recommends this one by Bioderma. The cleansing water is toxin-free and well-tolerated by all skin types, yet has all of the deeply cleansing qualities. “While it has potent cleansing and makeup-removing properties, it doesn’t disrupt the moisture barrier and helps soothe the skin thanks to the calming cucumber extract in the formula.”

The best micellar water for sensitive skin

La Roche-Posay Micellar Cleansing Water Ultra

La Roche-Posay Micellar Cleansing Water Ultra (Buy from Amazon, $17.99)

This micellar water by La Roche-Posay “is always my preferred recommendation for sensitive skin,” says Gunn. “It’s a stand-out due to its gentleness, effectiveness and fragrance-free formula.” Plus, its humectant glycerin, makes the formula particularly beneficial for dry skin types by drawing moisture into skin. Even better? Citric acid in this water gently exfoliates to remove dead skin cells and excess oils, says Gunn. “This not only brightens the complexion, but also prepares the skin for absorption of your next steps like serums and moisturizers.”

The best micellar water for rashy, irritated skin

Avene Tolerance Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion

Avene Tolerance Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion (Buy from Avene, $27)

If you want a great option for cleansing, hydrating and calming the skin, this one from Avene is a great choice, says Dr. Robinson. “It immediately calms the skin and soothes discomfort from irritation.” Plus, it can be supportive of skin that’s healing as it helps to restore the skin barrier while protecting from dryness and future irritation.

The best micellar water for dry skin

Typology D11 7 Ingredient Micellar Water

Typology D11 7 Ingredient Micellar Water (Buy from Typology, $21)

“This indie brand of micellar water only has seven ingredients, but those seven ingredients pack a punch,” says Rachel Lee Lozina, New York State Licensed Esthetician and Founder of Blue Water Spa in Oyster Bay, New York. “Pentylene is derived from sugarcane and imparts a layer of hydration into the skin, and the glycerin adds a secondary hydration to the skin.” Additionally, the formula is free of any skin-irritating fragrance.

The best micellar water for acne-prone skin

Elemis Cleansing Micellar Water

Elemis Cleansing Micellar Water (Buy from Amazon, $39.90)

“This product not only efficiently removes daily dirt, grime and makeup, but it also contains ingredients that protect and nurture the skin barrier,” notes Mistry. The combination of cleansing ingredients (like apple amino acid, rosehip seed oil and Indian soap nut) and anti-inflammatory ingredients (like chamomile and rose extracts) is especially beneficial for acne-prone skin as they calm and soothe, while providing a thorough cleanse without stripping the skin’s natural oils, she adds.

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