Beauty product review: Micellar Cleansing Water

Hi everyone, Marta here! Today, I thought I’d share with you a little bit of my experience with some beauty products, particularly micellar waters.

Both Mandi and I love it when we read honest reviews from other bloggers about products we want to try out but are afraid of potentially wasting our money on. Their experiences can help us make the decision to try stuff out, or just not even bother. So we thought, let’s do the same for our fellow readers, while also adding some fun scientific information on how the beauty products work!

Understanding how something works, particularly beauty products or solutions, helps the potential user make an informed decision about whether or not what is being advertised is legit… or if what is being promised is even possible!


We all have a love/hate relationship with makeup to varying degrees, and a sometimes contradictory one at that. While we want it to be waterproof and last all day, we also want it to be removed easily after we get home. If you are like us, you have probably tried a lot of products that claim to remove makeup (particularly mascara and eyeliner) easily. Sadly, while some of them are very good, they are either pricey, harsh on the skin or leave an oily residue.

I suffer from severely oily, acne-prone skin, so I need to make sure the products I put on my face are non-comedogenic and oil-free (the last one mostly because I despise feeling oily). The makeup removers that have worked for me in the past have really been home-made ones based on coconut oil or olive oil, or store-bought ones that are oil and water emulsions.  Of course, if they are oil-based, then they leave an oily residue. I HATE removing my makeup only to feel super oily in the face and having to wash it with soap or cleanser several times to get rid of that feeling. So, when I first heard of micellar water a few years ago, and their promises of “no-rinse” waterproof makeup removal I was very intrigued, particularly because of how clever it was. I was surprised that no one had tried to do this before, especially knowing how micelles work. I tell you, without science, life would be very difficult lol ;-).

erlenmeyer flask




So, what are micelles and how do they make this beauty product work?

Micelle 1

A surfactant molecule (which can be seen in the diagram below) is an organic (i.e. contains carbon) compound that is composed of two main parts: a hydrophilic (“water-loving” head) and a hydrophobic (“water-fearing” tail). Surfactants are one of many components that make up detergents, emulsifiers and foaming agents. They are present in shampoo, for example, and if you see a solution bubbling up, it will contain a surfactant almost 100% of the time.

When surfactant molecules are in aqueous solutions (i.e. water-based) they tend to aggregate together forming little rings with their hydrophobic tails safely tucked together repelling water.

Now, how do they work to remove makeup?

First, an example… do you remember ever trying to mix oil and water and how that is never possible? You always get two distinct “phases” at the end. But, if you add a surfactant molecule, the hydrophobic tail that dislikes water actually likes the oil. It surrounds it inside a micelle and ta da!! It allows the oil to “mix” with the water, holding it in solution and allowing for its removal.

Well, when makeup is on your face it mixes with your body’s own oil (sebum) throughout the day. By using a solution that contains micelles in just the right amount, you can surround that oil/dirt/makeup mix and remove it with a mostly water-based solution without feeling soapy or oily.



However, even though micellar cleansing water has been around for a while, and knowing that it should work exactly as advertised, the skeptic in me made me resist the purchase of a product for the longest time until more evidence of its effectiveness was accumulated. It happily turns out that, as I was about to buy, Mandi gave me her very own review… She loved it! That made me feel even better about purchasing one, since I trust her opinion and the thorough research she does on products (as a scientist herself).

Here are my reviews on three of the main micellar cleansing waters available in grocery and retail stores galore:

  1. Garnier SkinActive All-in-one Micellar Cleansing Water (13.5 oz, Target $6.99 or 0.517 cents per ounce, Walmart $6.96 or 0.515 cents per ounce)


This product is marketed for all skin types and for waterproof makeup removal. Some of its sites even say it promises a clean face with one application (cue the skeptic in me!). It is very gentle and doesn’t really have a scent. I liked it the first time I tried it, but it seems it was because I didn’t really have a lot of makeup on at that time. The more I use it now, the less I think it is a “problem-solving micellar water” as it is advertised. It actually leaves my face feeling slightly greasy, so I clearly do not believe the “no-rinse” statement it brags about. It does remove makeup quite well, except for some of my waterproof mascaras (for reasons unknown as of yet). I did have to scrub my eyes with it a lot to get the mascara off. As such, I do not see any potential improvement from oil-based or other types of makeup removers. I want my face to feel clean afterwards, not greasy, since I then end up overwashing it to make it feel clean, and as such strip away more of my natural oils than I should (which in turn lead to breakouts).

As you can see from the picture below, it is very different from other Micellar waters in that it actually has distinct phases in the solution (two to be exact). Kind of like oil in water, very similar to oil-based makeup removers. This is most likely because it is targeted for waterproof makeup (even though I did not feel it was particularly efficient at dealing with it). Some surfactants have a more oily consistency (such as hexylene glycol, which this product has) but that does not mean that using an “oilier” surfactant will make you have two phases in your solution. Rather, it depends on the amount of surfactant used in the product.


2. L’oreal Skin Experts Micellar Cleansing Water (13.5 oz, Target $7.89 or 0.584 cents per ounce, Walmart $7.86 or 0.582 cents per ounce)


This product is marketed for Normal to Oily skin (me!) to purify and mattify. No promises of waterproof makeup removal with one try, which is good because I would be very skeptical about that. I do have to say, this product removes makeup vey well (still you have to go at it several times for waterproof mascara removal) and did leave my skin feeling very clean. No need to rush and wash it off as well. It is also very gentle, without any real smell. It is more expensive than the Garnier one, but it did do what it promised so it is a favorite of mine.

3. Simple Micellar Cleansing water (6.7 oz,  Walmart $3.97 or 0.593 cents per ounce, 13.5 oz, Target $8.99 or 0.665 cents per ounce, Walmart $8.96 or 0.664 cents per ounce )


This was the first micellar water I tried after Mandi recommended it to me. It was my favorite before I compared it to the L’oreal one, and that one won solely based on price per ounce. The Simple product leaves no residue, it is very gentle and good at removing the majority of makeup. You also have to try a little harder when removing waterproof mascara, but not a full-on painful scrubbing. It basically felt idential to the L’oreal one, though ingredients seem to be slightly more targeted to the sensitive-skin individuals with Simple.

Overall,  ALL the micellar waters reviewed here do what they are supposed to do: surround dirt and oil and make it easier for removal. They contain simple surfactants that are very gentle and safe (hexylene glycol or disodium cocoamphodiacetate, for example). However, in my opinion, only two live up to the “no rinse” clean-feeling hype.

My two favorites are the L’oreal and the Simple micellar waters, but like I said, if I had to pick just one, then L’oreal wins because you get more for less money. If you don’t care about that as much, or want the extra benefits of sensitive-skin targeted reagents, then Simple is for you. Either product is just as effective at removing makeup without leaving your face greasy. Your complexion does feel mattified at the end, which is a plus for me. The ingredients for all are very standard in cosmetics, and all show no evidence of being toxic at the very low levels used in beauty products.

If you have any other questions about these products, or would like us to review and “science fact” any other cosmetics, shoot us a comment and we will try to help out as much as we can. 🙂


CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) 2016.

Rosen MJ & Kunjappu JT (2012). Surfactants and Interfacial Phenomena (4th ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. p. 1. ISBN 1-118-22902-9.


6 thoughts on “Beauty product review: Micellar Cleansing Water

  1. You might enjoy the Garnier Micellar water for oily and acne prone skin, it’s great for oily skin! Great post💗


  2. Pingback: Mask Monday – The Style Chimera

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s