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The Girlfriend’s Guide To Micellar Water

Does this Frenchwoman’s face cleanser deserve a spot in your medicine cabinet?

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 young woman cleaning her face with micellar water in the bathroom
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The name alone might set off your “beauty scam” antennae. ($20 for water? Really?!?) But micellar water is much more than hyped-up fancy spring water. In fact, it might be one of the most useful skincare products around. Here’s what you need to know:

It’s a super-efficient way to remove makeup. Micellar water contains micelles — minuscule clusters of lipid molecules — that attract and dissolve dirt and makeup without stripping away your skin’s natural oils. (Think of it like a kinder, gentler dish detergent for your face.)

The micelles are suspended in soft water, which contains fewer dissolved minerals than hard water and leaves behind less residue. As a result, you don’t have to rinse off micellar water like you would with a regular cleanser — just apply to a cotton pad, wipe across your face, and go. Or put a few drops on a cotton swab to erase makeup mistakes, like a weird squiggle of eyeliner.

It’s good for sensitive skin. Hard water can be harsh on skin. In fact, micellar water has been popular in Paris for decades as an antidote to the city’s infamously hard water. If you have hard water in your home, using micellar water to wash your face can help you avoid irritation and breakouts — especially if your skin is dry or sensitive. Still, if you have very oily skin or wear a lot of makeup, it might not be enough to truly get your face clean.

It’s been around more than 100 years. The oldest formulas for micellar water date back to the early 20th century, and were developed based on research out of the University of Bristol in Britain. So why haven’t you heard of it? Up until a few years ago, micellar water was difficult to find outside of France, making it one of Europe’s best-kept beauty secrets.

Here are a few to try:

Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water
$10, Amazon
A cult favorite among Parisians and makeup artists, it's the original brand that launched the trend.

Simple Micellar Cleansing Water
A gentle cleanser that's good for dry or sensitive skin.
$8, CVS