Why Micellar Water Is The One Thing You Need For Better Skin This Winter

For every American celebrity with clear, flawless baby-angel skin who claims that water is her ride-or-die beauty secret, there’s an equally radiant French ingenue who says micellar water is hers. Micellar water, for the uninitiated, is not just a fancy type of H2O, a gimmick preying on the same type of people who insist on sparkling spring water instead of tap even if you’re at Wendy’s.
Rather, it’s a different kind of special water, one that uses tiny micelles, which are clusters of fatty-acid esters, to dissolve dirt, makeup, and oil on the skin without drying — gentle, no-rinse cleansers that wipe away waterproof mascara and dulling dead-cell buildup in one fell swoop. What’s fancier than that?
But micellar water is more than just expensive makeup remover. The reason it’s so popular with in-the-know Parisians is because the city’s tap water is notoriously hard, meaning it has a high mineral composition containing heavy metals like iron, copper, zinc, and nickel, which aren’t so hot for your skin. Micellar water, then, is not just a luxury — it was developed out of necessity in France in the 1990s to help people avoid washing their faces with tap water in the first place. “They’re great as an alternative to traditional cleansing,” says dermatologist Julie Russak, MD. “Squirt onto a cotton ball or pad and wipe it over skin and eyelids; no rinsing necessary.”
So get out your bag of triple-size cotton balls and let the micelles work their magic. Ahead, our top picks for the best micellar waters on the market… including the one that started it all. Garance Doré would be proud.
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No conversation about micellar water is complete without a mention of this classic standby, formerly known as Créaline, which started out as an under-the-radar pick beloved by models and makeup artists. Once only available via your chic globe-trotting friend’s checked luggage (or by paying insane customs fees to get it shipped stateside), you can now find the ultimate “French-girl beauty secret” in legit U.S. stores and online — and yes, it’s just as good at removing every last trace of makeup as every pro swears.

Bioderma Sensibio H2O, $14.90, available at Ricky’s.
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Simple was one of the first drugstore brands to get in on the micellar water game with its original formula, which we’ve been secretly hoarding ever since. The collection has since grown to include micellar makeup-removing wipes and this (even more) sensitive skin-friendly option. Specifically targeted toward dry, dehydrated, touchy skin types, it’ll rehydrate a thirsty complexion as it sweeps away makeup and debris.

Simple Water Boost Micellar Cleansing Water, $8.99, available at Target.
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If you want your micellar water and seven nourishing extracts thrown in for good measure, too, this refreshing cleanser is where it’s at. Infused with green tea, rosemary, licorice root, and a handful of other skin-boosting ingredients, the gentle formula leaves skin feeling cleansed without drying — and the brightening herb complex is a major bonus.

Erborian Cleansing Micellar Water, $26, available at Sephora.
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Putting micellar water on a cotton ball is easy, but using a face wipe that’s already saturated in the stuff is even easier. These towelettes are super soft and gentle, so you don’t have to worry about irritation from rubbing, and the oil-free, fragrance-free formula is soothing to even the most sensitive skin.

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Makeup Removing Towelettes, $6.99, available at Ulta.
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You don’t have to spend $90 just to get a good micellar water by any means, but it’s still good to have options, right? Even better if those options include La Mer’s impossibly luxe take on the category, which pairs micellar cleansing technology with the brand’s signature Miracle Broth to hydrate, soothe, and renew the skin while clearing away makeup and impurities, too.

La Mer The Cleansing Micellar Water, $90, available at La Mer.
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Another French pharmacie go-to, this efficient, no-bullshit cleanser removes everything from long-wearing foundation to buildup from environmental pollution using the brand’s proprietary thermal spring water, hydrating glycerin, and a mild cleanser called poloxamer that’s so gentle on eyes, you’ll also see it used in contact-lens solution.

La Roche-Posay Micellar Water Ultra, $19.99, available at Amazon.
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This 100% vegan, cruelty-free tonic works double duty: The micellar cleansing technology lifts away dirt, oil, and makeup, while glycolic acid brightens and gently exfoliates skin in a single sweep. Plus, it’s formulated with coconut water, calendula, grapefruit extract, and — yes — actual kale, so it smells like a tropical fruit salad in the best way.

Pacifica Kale Water Micellar Cleansing Water, $12, available at Pacifica.
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