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It might sound dramatic, but micellar water saved my skin. As an admitted beauty obsessive—fine, hoarder—testing out products is one of my favorite pastimes, so I’m never loyal to anything. However, after a recent experiment called “make your own apple cider vinegar toner with too little water because you’re bored” left my skin a legit disaster, I grabbed the micellar water under my sink and decided to give it a try.
I started using a cotton pad soaked in the stuff every night and, to my surprise, watched the dry patches on my cheeks and chin vanish, and my tone evened out. After about a week and a half, my whole face looked hydrated to the point that I stopped slathering on moisturizer before bed.
All well and good, but I still didn’t know exactly why it improved my face. Turns out, it’s pretty powerful stuff. Yeah, it looks and feels like plain old water, but it’s made up of gentle microscopic oil molecules called micelles suspended in soft water that attach to dirt, grime, makeup, and other gunk your skin has going on. But instead of foaming and stripping your complexion like soap and cleansers, micelles dissolve the bad stuff, while keeping the good stuff on your skin intact.
The irony: Micellar water doesn’t require actual water to work, so there’s no rinsing allowed.
I should note that I don’t wear makeup every day, but when I do, it’s usually all over: A light foundation (holla, Bobbi Brown Tinted Moisturizing Balm!), concealer (Pixi Undercover Crayon), and a little bronzer (still looking for the perfect one—suggestions welcome), so it took a few cotton pads to get it all off—a big change from my Clarisonic-or-bust approach to squeaky clean skincare. And while I’m still not 100% confident the micellar water removed all my makeup, my skin hasn’t been any worse for the wear.
You also might have heard (or, like me, are tired of hearing) about how French women live and die by micellar water, and—thanks to France’s harsh H2O—never let tap water touch their face. Unless they bathe in it, that’s pretty hard to do, but I am wondering if limiting my tap-water exposure to showers is benefiting my face. I’m not really sure, so until I’m rich enough to install faucets and showerheads that spew micellar water 24 hours a day, here are some that’ll do the trick.
Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water
The one that arguably started the revolution, I make fun of this French face wash for its ability to make editors, bloggers, and makeup artists freak out over how amazing it is, but its makeup-removing and skin-perfecting prowess is legit. It’s packed with soothing, decongesting ingredients, and it’s no longer only available at French pharmacies.
$11.74 at Amazon
Decléor Paris Aroma Cleanse Micellar Water
This one’s slightly more floral, and includes Rose Essential Oil, which protects the skin against aggressors, and soothing bisabolol extracted from Candeia Wood Essential Oil. The light Rose floral water note is gentle on even the most sensitive skin.
$26.50 at Amazon
Simple Skincare Micellar Water
It was only a matter of time until micellar formulations broke into American drugstores, and this hydrating version is packed with vitamins B3 and C, and Triple Purified Water.
$4.69 at Target
Valmont Swiss Poly-Active Micellar Water
The gold standard in micellar technology, this super-luxe cleanser is made from rare Swiss ingredients, including glacial water and purified rose oil to gently remove makeup and dirt.
$95.53 at Amazon
Botanics All Bright Micellar 3 in 1 Cleansing Solution
Botanics’ (formerly Boots Botanics) version removes makeup super-quickly and is formulated with brightening hibiscus.
$6.99 at Ulta
Caudalie Micellar Cleansing Water
A soap-free and no-rinse, clean beauty option that suits all skin types.
$14-$28 at Sephora
CeraVe Hydrating Micellar Water
Like the rest of the brand’s products, this makeup remover contains three essential ceramides for delivering moisture back into the skin as cosmetics are being stripped away.
$12.99 at Ulta
Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water
The no-rinse micelles in this makeup remover act as magnets, snatching up dirt on top of the skin.
$6.74 at Ulta
It Cosmetics Miracle Water
A skin brightener and cleanser in one? There’s a reason it’s been labeled a miracle.
$38 at Sephora
Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water
This mineral-rich water is also infused with white birch sap to provide the skin with a slew of vitamins and minerals as you continue your cleansing routine.
$17-$62 at Sephora
La Roche-Posay Micellar Water
This one promises to remove 99 percent of your makeup as well as nourish your naked skin (thanks to glycerin).
$15.99 at Ulta
Neogen Calendula Cleansing Water
Calendula petal extracts are a soothing skin cleansing option for anyone with sensitive skin.
$22 at Soko Glam
Pacifica Coconut Water Micellar Cleansing Tonic
Vegan and cruelty-free, this coconut water-based solution is also a gentler remover for those easily irritated by wipes or oil-based formulas.
$12 at Ulta