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What is micellar water and what does it do?

Last Updated: November 4, 2021


What is micellar water, and how does one bottle do the job of a shelf full of beauty products? We answer all your questions about this French beauty secret.

You’ve probably heard of micellar water. This French beauty secret claims to do just about everything to beautify your visage — remove waterproof makeup, cleanse, tone, hydrate, and even out your skin.


But what is micellar water, and how does just one bottle do the job of a shelf’s worth of beauty products? Come along for the ride as we answer all of your burning questions and discover the magic behind micellar cleansing water.

So what is micellar water?

Micellar water cleanses the face in a very fancy, lazy-French-girl way because of these little things called micelles.


Micelles are tiny balls of glycerin and surfactants that work like sponges to soak up gunk without drying skin out. Surfactants have an oil-loving “tail” that attracts and pulls up dirt, oil, and makeup — and its water-loving “head” holds on to those impurities and makes them easy to wash away with the swipe of a micellar water-soaked cotton ball.


Check out this video by chemistry Ph.D. graduate, Michelle from Lab Muffin Beauty Science, who beautifully explains the science behind micellar water.


Grove Tip

Is micellar water good for sensitive or dry skin?


Oily skin, sensitive, acne-prone, dry — no matter what skin issues you’ve got, micellar cleansing water is gentle enough to use on your face daily.


Micelles pull out pore-clogging oil to help reduce breakouts, and it’s alcohol-free and hydrating, so it’s a great choice for anyone with sensitive skin or a condition like rosacea.

Try Rooted Beauty's Sensitive Skin Micellar Cleansing Water

Image of Rooted's Sensitive Skin Micellar Cleansing Water

This micellar cleansing water is beloved for its gentle toning and makeup-removing abilities. This version includes aloe and chamomile extracts to soothe irritated skin.


Dawn F. says "So great even my fiancé uses it. I have EXTREMELY sensitive skin and all of the Rooted Beauty Sensitive Skin products work so wonderfully well. I have searched in vein for years and these products are 100% on point! Impressed and excited by this find!"

Is micellar water a toner?

Illustration of an upside down bottle with a drop coming out.

Micellar cleansing water and toners aren’t exactly the same, but they work to the same effect.


  • Micellar water cleanses and refreshes the skin, but it doesn’t have the same pore-shrinking quality as some toners.
  • Toners reduce the appearance of pores and refresh the skin using botanical ingredients, but they don’t cleanse the skin as well as micellar water does.
  • To get optimum results, use micellar water first, then follow with a toner.

Learn more about toners and how to use them visit our Health & Beauty team’s guide to natural toners.

Illustration of an essential oil dropper.

Micellar water vs. cleansing oil


Micellar water is a water-based cleanser, whereas cleansing oils are oil-based cleansers. Water-based cleansers wash away water-soluble particles like dirt. Oil cleansers dissolve oil-based makeup to make it easier to wipe away.


Even though micellar water is considered a water-based cleanser, all of those little micelles with their oil-loving tails do a fantastic job of washing away oil-based products, too. It’s truly the best of both worlds.


Some people use water-based cleansers and cleansing oils together for the infamous double cleanse.

How do you use micellar water?

Micellar water is a simple product that doesn’t require a lot of fuss.


To use micellar cleansing water, saturate a cotton ball, cotton pad, or reusable cotton pad, and wipe it over your face — just like a toner.


Micellar water doesn’t leave behind a residue, so there’s no need to wash or rinse your face after you use it.


Use micellar water in the morning, at night, or for a midday refresher.

4 benefits of micellar water in your beauty routine

Illustration of an eye

1. Makeup remover

Whether it’s waterproof mascara, dark eye makeup, cherry-red liquid lip stain, or a face full of foundation, micellar water is your one-step go-to for removing all manner of makeup.


Use a micellar water-soaked cotton swab to fix small makeup mistakes — like a cateye gone awry or lipstick that you overlined a bit too much.

2. Removes dirt and oil

Use micellar water as a cleanser in place of your face wash.


It’s especially handy after a workout or when you get home late at night and can’t be bothered to go through your entire skincare routine.

3. Hydrates skin

Micellar water contains glycerin , a humectant that draws moisture out of the air and traps it in your skin.


Glycerin keeps skin soft and hydrated all day, plus it helps reduce inflammation and irritation.

Illustration of red-orange lips with a green leaf over the top lip and blue sparkles

4. Better product absorption

Micelles help increase the skin’s permeability for better product absorption, and the glycerin in micellar water helps cleansers and products absorb more deeply.


Use micellar water at the beginning of your routine to remove impurities and prep your mug for maximum absorption benefits.

How to layer skincare products

There’s a lot to keep track of when it comes to your skincare routine and products. You’ll get the best results from your efforts if you use products in the right order.


As a general rule, use the lightest-weight products first and the heaviest last, since thinner products can’t penetrate through heavier ones.


Here’s the order in which you should use your skincare products. If you don’t use all of these, don’t worry — just skip over the stuff you don’t do, and move on to the next step in your lineup.


Screenshot this right now for quick reference — and click on the linked product types for a rundown of Grove members’ favorite picks in that category!

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U.S. companies make 76 million pounds of plastic every day, but only 9% of plastic is recycled. At Grove, we think it's time to stop making plastic. How are your shopping habits contributing to the Earth's plastic pollution?


Peach Not Plastic is removing plastic from personal care with innovative hair, face, and body care. Try it and help us continue to remove plastic from our oceans!

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