Micellar water is the Paris pharmacy secret that cool European girls swear by, but seriously, What is it?
French pharmacies are like Narnia. You walk in and are in a magical land surrounded by strange and wonderful things. Some of them are familiar, like sunscreen and dry shampoo, but some of the products are strange and mysterious. Like, what is thermal water? Or “prodigious oil“? I spend a lot of time researching beauty products, and still, I have never gone into a Paris pharmacy without running into at least one product that made me think, “WTF is that?”
It can be embarrassing to actually ask, “What is that?” without feeling like a total rube, but I’ve gone and done it anyway, so you don’t have to.
One of the more bewildering products I’ve handled in recent years was micellar water or “Eau micellaire,” but it is a cult product that a lot of people swear by as the perfect makeup remover and facial cleanser.
Micellar water is water that uses micelles–lipid molecules–to cleanse the skin. It looks and feels just like regular water. (I used it for months before bothering to google “micelle,” and I would never have guessed that there was oil involved in the product at all.) You just pour some onto a clean cotton pad and wipe your skin with it. The micelles pick up all the dirt, grime, excess oil, sunscreen, and makeup and leave your skin fresh, clean, and soft. You keep repeating until the cotton pads are clear, with no makeup on them.
In my experience, micellar water is very gentle and even removes sunscreen and eye makeup, though using a dedicated eye makeup remover first would probably speed the process up if you wear waterproof mascara.
Hard water can do a number on dry or sensitive skin, and micellar water does not need to be rinsed off after using, so it is great for people who live in places with hard water–which explains why it is so popular in Paris.
I am a sucker for a cult beauty product, so I started using Bioderma’s micellar water about a year ago. I used to have to buy the Bioderma from the pharmacy nearby that stocks French import products, but the last time I went to my friendly local drugstore, there was a whole wall of micellar waters by other companies, including Garnier, L’Oreal, and even a discount house brand. The glut of new cleansing waters has me feeling optimistic because they could be expensive, and more discount options is always good.
Micellar water might not feel strong enough for people with oily skin, and it might not feel necessary for people who live in a place with gentle water. But for dry- or sensitive-skinned people in places with hard water, it is fantastic. (And for those of us who are extremely lazy, Bioderma’s version comes in cleansing wipe form, which I like to keep around for laziness emergencies.)