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Micellar Water is the Best Skincare Product You’re Not Using (Yet)

By Wendy Rodewald-Sulz / November 11, 2014

It’s big in Europe, particularly France, where many women forgo using regular tap water on their faces entirely in favor of cleansing with a cotton pad soaked in the stuff. If you haven’t tried micellar water, you’re missing out. Luckily, this skincare product — a non-greasy, non-drying cleanser/makeup remover hybrid — is getting easier to find for those of us who can’t make regular trips to a Paris drugstore.
So what exactly is it? A micelle is a droplet of surfactant suspended in a water-based solution, which allows for a best-of-both-worlds consistency. Micellar water feels like…well, water but cleanses like an oil. That means you can wipe away your lipstick and waterproof mascara without leaving your face covered in a greasy residue.
I use it to remove my makeup before I wash my face — my version of the double cleansing routine — or, since there’s no need to rinse it off, to take off my foundation before I work out. While pre-moistened makeup remover towelettes irritate my sensitive skin (they’re always too scratchy and too scented), a Shiseido cotton pad soaked in micellar water takes off everything without drying out my skin.
Ready to try it for yourself? Most of the brands that have a micellar water in their lineup are imports, but many are widely available in the U.S. Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water ($13) is sold at Sephora, while La Roche-Posay Physiological Micellar Solution ($20.99) can be found at many better-stocked drustores. (Bioderma — the makeup artist staple that’s unfortunately not so easy to find in the US — is also a micellar water.)
Lately, brands have been launching more targeted versions designed to treat different skin conditions. Avène’s Micellar Lotion Cleanser and Make-up Remover ($20) is made with only nine ingredients to be gentle on sensitive skin; one of them is the brand’s signature Thermal Spring Water which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Another French label, the super-luxe brand Orlane, has added a Brightening Micellar Water ($85) to its Soin de Blanc line. The water contains melanin-blocking arbutin to fight dark spots. Can your makeup remover do that?