Micellar water isn’t new to the skincare scene. In fact, it’s been around since 1995, promoted as a multipurpose miracle tonic for removing impurities and hydrating the skin.

For those of us who prefer to stick with classic cream or foam cleansers, micellar water tends to draw quite a bit of scrutiny. How could something that looks like a plain bottle of water do the work of ultra-rich face washes without requiring any extra steps?

If you’re still skeptical about giving micellar water a try, we’ll break down what it is, how it works, and things to keep in mind before you make the switch.

How Micellar Water Works

Despite its appearance, micellar water is a bit more complicated than what you can get from your tap. It’s common knowledge that water and oil don’t mix. They repel. That’s why trying to wash your face with water alone won’t do much in eliminating pore-clogging sebum.

Facial cleansers contain a compound called surfactants to counteract this issue. While many different types of surfactants are available, some are harsher than others. That’s why you’ll find that some face washes leave your skin feeling tight and itchy when you finish up your cleansing routine.

Micellar water takes advantage of tiny particles called “micelles,” an ultra-gentle yet effective surfactant.

These microscopic skin sponges consist of two different poles, much like a magnet. One is a hydrophilic head, which means it “loves” water, while the other is a lipophilic tail, which “loves” fats and oils. When there’s a high enough concentration in water, they arrange into spheres, with all heads pointed outwards and the tails towards the center.

When you pour micellar water onto a cotton cleansing pad, they readjust with the heads towards the pad and the tails sticking out, allowing them to do their job of attracting oil, pollutants, and cosmetics, pulling them away from your skin.

The big takeaway is that micellar water relies on a sensitive-skin-friendly surfactant with very few additional ingredients– often just a moisturizer like glycerin and purified water. This means that it’s an excellent alternative to other cleansers that tend to cause irritation, redness, and dryness but still do a surprisingly great job of getting rid of oil.


  • Micellar water is great on the go because you don’t need additional water to prep or rinse.
  • For those with extremely sensitive skin, it’s an excellent alternative to traditional cleansers.
  • The simple ingredient list ensures you know exactly what you’re putting on your skin.
  • It’s far better for your skin than most makeup wipes.
  • Most brands don’t contain alcohol, which severely dries out your skin.
  • It’s excellent to have on hand for cleaning up cosmetic mishaps, like smudged eyeliner or smeared lipstick.


  • It’s not enough to remove waterproof makeup, which leaves users prone to over-rubbing or leaving behind more residue than oil-based cosmetic removers.
  • Micellar water lacks ingredients that can address specific skin concerns, like salicylic acid for breakouts or AHA for exfoliation.
  • Those with dry skin won’t get the same boost of hydration that a humectant-rich, cream-based cleanser provides.
  • Oily skin requires more than a simple swipe of a micellar-laced cotton pad to cleanse the excessive levels of sebum trapped in the pores.

Is Micellar Water the Right Choice for Your Skin?

Like every skincare product, micellar water isn’t a surefire solution to your skin woes. It’s an excellent choice for normal, dry, and sensitive skin types who want to avoid stripping away too much of their natural oils, but those with acne-prone, oily skin will likely find that it lacks the cleansing power of more potent options.

If you’d like to try micellar water, we recommend Jane Iredale’s BeautyPrep™ Face Cleanser. It’s formulated with micellar cleansing water, antioxidants, and vitamin-rich liposomes to remove oils and impurities.