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It might sound dramatic, but micellar water saved my skin. In case you haven’t already heard about this incredible product, let me tell you a little bit about what it is and how I found it.
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 because I’d seen so many recent headlines about how it’s such a savior.
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 become more even. 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 skin care. 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 5 that’ll do the trick.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Botanics All Bright Micellar 3 in 1 Cleansing Solution
Botanics’ (formerly Boots Botanics) version removes makeup super-quickly, and is formulated with brightening hibiscus.
A version of this article was originally published in July 2016.