What is 'micellar water', and does it work? (Spoiler alert: Yes, yes it does.)

Images: Priceline Pharmacy.

If you’d mentioned the words “micellar water” to me this time last year, I’d have either looked at you blankly, or assumed you were telling me about water in your cellar (which is a pretty odd choice of conversation topic).

At that point, only those in ‘the know’ understood the cleansing powers of micellar water. However, this mythical substance has since infiltrated every beauty aisle in the country, promising a soap-free, alcohol-free and relatively fragrance-free way to remove makeup and cleanse your face gently with no need to rinse afterwards.

RELATED: What happens when you stop using cleanser?

Intrigued? Scared? Excited? Let’s walk through this brave new terrain together.

Is it a new thing?

Our publisher Mia Freedman has used micellar water


Nope. Far from it. Although it's flooding the market right now, micellar water has actually been around for years — 100 of them, according to Elle. Word on the street Internet is the formula was first created in Paris to help residents deal with the region's famously 'hard' water supply ('hard' referring to its high mineral content).

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Originally it was prescribed only by dermatologists, but then makeup artists and skincare professionals caught on and the rest is cult beauty history. Until recently, Bioderma Crealine H2O was the It Girl of micellar waters, with one bottle of the stuff selling internationally every three seconds and celebrities (like Ada Nicodemou) and makeup artists raving about its powers.

Last year, Bioderma's micellar water finally became available in Australia — and other beauty brands including Simple, Garnier, L'Oreal and Avene began producing their own versions. In other words, it's gone completely mainstream. (Post continues after gallery.)


Um, is this magic?

I had my suspicions too, but no — Harry Potter had nothing to do with the creation of micellar water. As our beauty director Nicky Champ explained last year, the liquid's cleansing and makeup-dissolving efficiency comes down to particles called micelles:

"The micelles (an aggregate of molecules in a colloidal solution, such as those formed by detergents) help capture fatty molecules such as dirt, oil, and make-up, leaving sensitive, intolerant skin cleansed and soothed without reddening the face."

How do I use it?

Like this!


Like a regular makeup remover — you just squirt some onto a cotton pad and swipe it over your face. Use two if you've got a fair bit of makeup on, just to make sure you get it all off. The best part is you're not left with any oily residue and there's no need to rinse your skin afterwards. So you can just wait a couple seconds until it all dries, then moisturise.

REMOVER: What really happens to your skin when you don’t wash your makeup off?

Does it actually work?

The short answer? Oui. I'm hooked.

I wear liquid eyeliner almost every day, which can be quite stubborn. With regular makeup removers, I find the oily residue quite irritating (especially if it seeps into my eye, which occurs frequently) — but micellar water just feels like... water.

RELATED: The way we’re putting on eyeliner might be ruining our vision.

I've been genuinely stunned by how quickly and efficiently it gets rid of my makeup, without needing any forceful rubbing or dragging. It even works a charm on my most stain-tastic lipsticks, like the one in the photo below. This could mark the end of my love affair with face wipes.

My face pre- and post-Micellar water. All makeup gone in a flash.


As for cleansing... well, I've been using the Garnier version for a few months now, and until writing this article I didn't realise it could serve as a general face cleanser as well as a makeup remover. That serves me right for not reading the bottle properly, I guess.

This week I've been testing out four different brands of micellar water — Bioderma, La Roche-Posay, Simple and my ol' faithful Garnier — to see if there's any major discernible difference between them. The verdict? Not really. The Bioderma version has a more pleasant, noticable fragrance, and seems to be slightly more efficient (this might be confirmation bias), but they were all great.

RELATED: Public service announcement: You’re washing your face wrong.

I will say this, however: Micellar water is the ultimate Lazy Woman product. There are so many nights where I go to bed without washing my face (naughty, yes) because removing my makeup, then splashing water on my face, lathering up with a cleanser, rinsing and drying just seems like too much effort. This is precisely why women love makeup wipes so much; the problem is they're not great as an all-face cleanser, and aren't necessarily as effective or good for your skin as they seem.

Being able to soak a cotton pad, swipe it over your face and have clean skin, makeup-free in about 10 seconds flat? I'm sold.

Have you ever used micellar water? Were you impressed?

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