Micellar water – Yay or Nay?

Way back when I started in the makeup industry you couldn’t find a make-up artist without Bioderma Micellar Water in their kit, it had an unshakeable cult status within the beauty industry. It was a perfect backstage companion for quick and easy makeup removal. If you wanted to get it though, you had to stock up while in France or had to order it from a French pharmacy website.

Fast forward a good few years and now you can get Bioderma in Boots along with various brands bringing out their own version one after the other. Micellar water has become a trend but I feel there’s a little bit of confusion around it that needs to be cleared.


First things first though, what exactly is micellar water and why is it so popular? The concept of micellar water is older than you would think. Back in 1918, there was a water shortage in France and they used the first formulations of cleansing waters as an alternative. Later in the 1990s Paris’ hard water, which can be very detrimental for skin health, resulted in the revival of cleansing waters which led to the launch of Bioderma Sensibio H2O in 1995.

The modern formula is made up of small cleansing molecules (they are called surfactants) that are kept in a water solution. Applied on the skin these micelles attract the oil, dirt and grime which makes it a great makeup remover. The reason why Bioderma has been popular backstage and on sets, where you didn’t have access to water, is that it is convenient, quickly removes makeup and it suits all skin types, even the most sensitive ones. Equally, the general public loves the concept of a micellar water because they believe it is quick and easy yet effective.

We mustn’t forget though that while some authentic French brands make their formula really gentle without fragrance, alcohol or preservatives that can strip and dehydrate the skin, the majority of the new generation cleansers contain some just to extend their shelf life. I feel some companies a taking it too far saying their product is so mild that they won’t irritate the skin and you don’t need anything else for cleansing. Here’s the thing: these formulas are only to be used occasionally, not as the sole source of cleansing. I am not surprised that some call them ‘glorified wipes’. They can contain some serious irritants, they can make the skin dryer and you are basically not removing dirt and pollution thoroughly with them so they can lead further skin problems.

All the above doesn’t mean we shouldn’t touch micellar water at all, of course, they are incredibly useful, we just need to learn utilizing them properly. Use it occasionally when you don’t have access to water when you’re flying, camping, or have photoshoots at remote locations, etc. If you have access to water, than use it for quick makeup removal, rinse it off the face (these cleansers are practically detergents that are designed to break down oil and dirt, it only makes sense to rinse them off and not leave them on the skin) and follow it with a proper gel/cream/balm cleanser.

I certainly wouldn’t use micellar water as my sole source of cleansing so please, try to ignore misguided magazine articles encouraging the public to leave their usual cleanser behind for micellar waters because this is when we bump into problems and start advocating beauty myths. I think in many people’s mind it sounds like a quick and easy solution because a good few PR campaigns told us so but cleansing with a nice cream cleanser and a cloth actually could be quicker with the difference of the cream being more effective and less drying, irritating.

There is a wide variety of choice in micellar waters on the high street with different price ranges but I think in this respect it is perfectly fine to stay in the budget/mid-range zone. My favourites are Bioderma (£10.80 for 250ml), Garnier (£4.99 for 400ml), Filorga (£20.00 for 400ml), Caudelie (£19.00 for 400ml) and B. from Superdrug (£4.49 for 400ml). Would I buy the Dior one for £29.00 or La Mer for £70.00? Absolutely not, I don’t see the point since it is on your skin only for a few seconds, and then you rinse it off. I prefer to splash out on a good serum instead.


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