Ingredient Spotlight: Micellar Water
Incredibly, the biggest breakthrough ingredient for cleansing your face is…water?
Yup, specifically micellar cleansing water, and it’s a total departure from the occasionally-rusty stuff that issues forth from your bathroom tap.
Micellar water is “soft” water that contains one or more surfactants, meaning a substance that dissolves whatever is on the surface of the skin, especially makeup, oil and stardust (okay, more likely just plain urban grime) that's constantly filtering down onto your skin from the atmosphere.
Micellar water splashed on a cotton pad offers an instant and deluxe clean—no irritating alcohol, and no need to rinse it off.
No plumbing? No problem
Micellar water as a prep-step is nothing new to those worldly Parisians, since the metropolitan water quality in the City of Light has long been less than Oh-la-la!-worthy, and the air is so gritty it’s trés chic.
That’s why micellar cleansing water is a time-honored must for makeup artists in the dressing rooms of runway shows and fashion shoots, where there often isn’t even a sink. You may find it handy for après-gym, sweaty festivals, and keeping yourself fresh during plane-travel, whether you’re headed to Paris or Pittsburgh.
Beyond water for better skin
Does the water from your faucet at home smell like a fish-tank?
Do you have trouble rinsing out shampoo and conditioner thoroughly?
Does your hair feel rough, and does your skin feel itchy?
Then you probably have hard water (common in the US), loaded with calcium and magnesium. This high concentration of minerals in hard water makes it difficult to dissolve soaps and detergents.
Buildup accumulates in the pipes, and leaves a soapy residue on you.
Micellar water is a brilliant cleansing, toning alternative wherever and whenever your water-quality is not so great.
A swipe with a micellar-soaked cotton pad before (or even instead of!) your usual face-wash may make your cleanser more effective, since the surfactants melt makeup in one pass.
Surfactants are key to the action of soap, detergent, shower gel, and shampoo—and they’re even in moisturizers and mayonnaise.
In terms of chemistry, surfactants stabilize mixtures of oil and water (usually arch-enemies!), and keep emulsions blended into a smooth, uniform texture.
That’s why there are surfactants in mayonnaise-- to keep the oil and water from separating into layers (you’ve no doubt seen this with oil-and-vinegar salad dressing and other condiments).
A surfactant contains both a water-soluble component and an oil-soluble component, and that’s how surfactants keep oil-and-water mixtures stable.
The “head” of the molecule seeks water and repels oil, while the “tail” seeks lipids (oil) and is repelled by water. Sort of a yin-and-yang situation.
On your skin, one end of the surfactant molecule is attracted to water, while the other end is attracted to grease and dirt.
When micelle water is splashed onto a cotton ball or pad and swiped over your skin, the lipid-seeking “tails” lasso those sticky globules of sebum and oil-based makeup, making it a refreshing toner step in the ultimate cleanse.
More love for Micellar
In addition to getting your skin clean and keeping it soft, micellar is fab for makeup touch-up (another reason it’s always on hand backstage at the catwalk).
- Use micellar and cotton pads instead of makeup-remover wipes.
- Dampen a cotton pad or Q-tip with micellar water to gently whisk away eye-shadow fallout, or fix eyeliner or lipstick that’s gone off the rails.
- Do the same when your eye makeup is still on-point, but your face make-up needs an emergency transfusion. Use a pad soaked with micellar water from the lower lashes down to create a clean canvas in a few strokes. Then reapply foundation, concealer, blush, bronzer, illuminizer, et Voila! – no running water, no towel needed.