Whether you're a skincare obsessive or not, many bedtime beauty routines aren't complete without a double cleanse starting with a bottle of micellar water. Designed as a precursor to a proper water-based cleanse, sweeping a micellar-drenched cotton pad over your face works to remove most traces of makeup, sunscreen and everyday grime. It makes that second cleanse (which removes sweat, bacteria and old skin cells) much easier, and in turn, allows your skin to absorb all the essential ingredients in your nighttime skincare products, such as retinol and salicylic acid.
But according to Paula Begoun, original skincare influencer and founder of bestselling brand Paula's Choice, regardless of how much we've come to rely on them, micellar water cleansers are potentially just another skincare fad. Just like beauty fridges (which the pro says could 'separate' the ingredients in your products, rendering them less effective) and facial massage (a technique she believes tugs the skin unnecessarily), Paula thinks we should be using micellar water sparingly, or rather not at all.
"I don’t dislike micellar water – it’s just a cleanser – but it’s not a very good cleanser," she told R29 when we met up with her in London recently. "Micelles (surfactants suspended in liquid) don’t work very well for removing makeup," especially if you wear full coverage foundation and stubborn mineral sunscreen on a daily basis, Paula mentioned. "Most micellar cleansers I’ve seen on the market also have a lot of fragrance in them. Whether it's an essential oil or not, I don’t want you to put that on your skin," and that's especially important if you're prone to sensitivity. It isn't just the ingredients in the formulas, though, as Paula says the motion of removal could be too harsh on delicate skin, especially around the eye area. "When your skin is dry and you’re wiping and pulling it in that way, it's not great for it. It’s like going back to the old cold cream days."
So is micellar water ever useful? Perhaps as a super quick once-over to remove any traces of eye makeup after a water-based cleanse. "I don’t like harsh scrubs and I never have, so I use a skin balancing cleanser combined with a washcloth," explained Paula. "I go over my face twice and whatever stubborn eye makeup is left, I remove that with my eye makeup remover. While this method may not be for everybody, I have always been a triple cleanse person in theory, because my foundation contains my sunscreen and I like to wear that liberally."
That said, dermatologists argue that it pays to be sensible about cleansing, as over-washing can lead to dryness, sensitivity and irritation. Your need to double (or even triple) cleanse really depends on your lifestyle. "Take into consideration if you live in a polluted city or if you wear more makeup, for example," said Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and author of The Skincare Bible: Your No-Nonsense Guide To Great Skin. "There are no real drawbacks to giving double cleansing a try, provided you use the right type of products and are gentle. Different skin types will respond better to different cleansers and it’s often down to personal preference. However, the ideal everyday cleanser should be sulphate-free to avoid stripping the skin of its natural oils. Be careful not to rub the skin too harshly and only use lukewarm water to avoid irritation and dryness."
For an effective water-based cleanse, try Elemis' Pro-Collagen Rose Cleansing Balm, £43. When combined with water, it emulsifies into a silky milk to dislodge makeup. Ole Henriksen's Wonderfeel Double Cleanser, £23, is a lightweight cream texture, which is gentle on skin, while Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Cleanser, £19, is beneficial for oily skin types prone to spots and blackheads.
If you don't want to give up your trusty bottle of makeup remover just yet, choose something which is kind on skin and supercharged with beneficial skincare ingredients. Institut Esthederm's Osmoclean High Tolerance Eye Makeup Remover, £22, is one of a few dual-action makeup removers with the power to dissolve waterproof eye makeup and heavy duty lipstick in one go. The formula is smooth and when decanted on to a cotton pad, doesn't pull the skin. A'Kin's Cleansing Micellar Water, £12.50, is soap-free and infused with coconut water and green tea extract to calm skin as it cleanses, while Vichy Pureté Thermale Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover, £12, has been developed with sensitive eyes in mind. It's also non-comedogenic, so is less likely to block your pores.