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What Is Micellar Water, How To Use It, and the Best Types for Women Over 40

Learn about this popular skincare product.


There are a million anti-aging products on the market. In my experience, however, the most effective tool for preventing wrinkles is a consistent skincare routine that matches your skin type — and the most important part of that routine is facial cleanser. Whether your goal is to remove makeup at the end of the day, remove dirt and impurities after a workout, or simply to leave your skin feeling renewed, finding skin care products that are simultaneously effective and gentle is the key to keeping a youthful glow. Recently, a cleanser and toner hybrid product that checks both (and more) of those boxes was introduced to the skin care game. It’s called micellar water, and it claims to meet your skin care, cleanser, and eye makeup remover needs in a single step. So what is micellar water, and how do you use it? Keep reading for information about this new skincare phenomenon.

What is micellar cleansing water?

Micellar water might be a relatively new oil-free skincare staple, but its popularity is huge thanks to its myriad benefits for oily skin and acne-prone skin (as well as other skin types). Over the past couple of years, it’s taken the makeup world by storm and earned endorsements from makeup artists and board-certified dermatologists alike. Micellar water is most often used as a cleansing face wash, but unlike many harsh makeup removers and cleansers, it’s gentle, hydrating, and nourishing. 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. This means you can scrub away makeup and grime without stripping skin of its vitally important protective natural oils. If you have dry skin, protecting your skin’s moisture barrier is crucial.

So, what exactly is micellar water? In terms of ingredients, it’s a cleanser made of purified water, moisturizers, and surfactants (cleansing compounds). These ingredients join together and create micelles, large molecules responsible for the deep cleaning required to remove things like waterproof mascara. One of the best things about using micellar water instead of traditional makeup removers is that it’s free of alcohol, which can be drying, and can contribute to pesky wrinkles and other signs of aging. If you’re looking for a cleanser that doesn’t feel like it’s attacking your skin or entrenching your fine lines and wrinkles, micellar water might be the cleanser for you.

How To Use Micellar Water

There are a couple ways you can incorporate micellar water into your skincare routine. I like using it as the first step in a double cleanse: First, I wipe away makeup and oil-based grime with paraben-free micellar water-based makeup wipes, and then I use my normal water-based cleanser before moisturizing with cream or lotion. Honestly, my skin has never felt quite as hydrated and soft.

I like applying my micellar water to a cotton pad and using it to fully wipe my face before following my regular cleansing routine. That said, micellar water can be a one-stop cleansing shop. Simply apply it to a cotton ball or cotton pad and wipe down your face — no need to rinse it off. The no-rinse factor makes micellar water very convenient for things like vacations and post-gym skincare, when an all-in-one cleanser lightens your bag. Micellar water and a cotton swab, and you’re good to go.

Micellar water also makes a convenient solution for cleansing between sunscreen applications or after a long-haul flight. I even use micellar water to clean my makeup brushes — I just stick them in a glass with the solution and let them sit for a few hours. The dirt and makeup residue literally melts away. Truly, it’s one of the most versatile cleansers available.

Types of Micellar Water

So which type of micellar water product is best for your skin type, whether oily, dry, or combination skin? The answer is in the formulation.Micellar water itself doesn’t change much from product to product, but micellar water is often combined with other ingredients to suit specific skin needs.

For instance, I have dry skin, so I look for micellar water cleansers that include hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, and ceramides. If you want to even out and brighten your skin tone, look for a cleanser that contains micellar water and vitamin C. If you have sensitive skin, you might not want extra ingredients that could irritate your face or exfoliants that require harsh rubbing. Instead, look for fragrance-free micellar water cleanser (or possibly one with gentle add-ins like aloe) that won’t cause inflammation or dryness. When it comes to choosing the best micellar water product for you, it’s really about your individual skin needs. Is your skin sensitive, dry, oily, or acne-prone? Your answer will determine the type of micellar water cleanser that’s right for you.

What are the benefits of micellar water?

Among cleansers, micellar water is a skin care holy grail. Here are just a few of its benefits. 


If it feels like your skin never has sufficient hydration, you’re not alone. Anyone with dry skin can tell you that balancing it with cleansers that strip skin of its protective moisture barrier has been — until now — next to impossible.

The secret is to find products that can do multiple things at once: cleanse and exfoliate while protecting your natural skin barrier. If, for example, you have dry skin and want to exfoliate, you might use a serum with AHA exfoliants, plus humectants and ceramides to pile on the moisture. And if you need a good cleanser, you’ll want one that’s gentle enough to leave that crucial moisture barrier intact even after scrubbing away dirt. Micellar water serves that combination purpose because of its surfactants, or cleansing molecules, which are nonionic. They get the job done, but they’re far less harsh than surfactants in other cleansers, and they don’t need to be rinsed away after applying. In other words: If hydration is what you’re looking for, get yourself some micellar water.

Great for Sensitive Skin

All the same factors that make micellar water effective for cleansing dry skin also make it work for sensitive skin. One study found that micellar water is even suitable for people with rosacea as long as it’s fragrance-free. The nonionic surfactants won’t irritate skin, and the glycerin in micellar water is hydrating and soothing to even the most inflamed areas.

Removing waterproof mascara and stay-all-day foundation without destroying skin’s barrier in the process is another reason micellar water is preferred over other cleansers.

May Support Clear Skin

Adult breakouts are no joke. Changing hormone levels during menopause can wreak havoc on the face. Cleansing regularly to remove grime and makeup is the best way to prevent pimples, and cleansing with micellar water takes this one step further, helping to clear both skin and pores. Also, applying micellar water with disposable cotton pads or cotton balls makes you less likely to spread pore-clogging bacteria while cleansing. If you’re looking to keep hormonal (or any other type of) blemishes in check, use micellar water to cleanse your face. It works. Period.

A Fresh Perspective

A great skincare routine is vital to reducing signs of aging, and micellar water is a key ingredient in that routine. Gentle and hydrating, it removes even the most stubborn waterproof makeup without forfeiting your skin’s natural barrier. In other words, it cleanses without amplifying fine lines and wrinkles. I truly couldn’t live without this product in my bathroom cabinet, and after you give it a try, I suspect you’ll feel the same.

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