Micellar water is an increasingly popular beauty trend that many are touting as a potential replacement for cleaning and moisturizing supplies. Those who are unfamiliar with micellar water may wonder how it can revamp their wellness routines.
Chemistry at the root of micelles
The story behind micellar water begins with a cursory lesson in chemistry. Micelles are chemical structures that contain both hydrophilic and hydrophobic structures. Hydrophilic parts will mix in with water and hydrophobic repel water and are also lipophilic, meaning they like to absorb oils. Micelles form when there is an ideal temperature in the medium. In the case of micellar water, this is the water itself and a certain concentration of electrolytes, referred to as the Critical Micelle Concentration.
According to the beauty science resource Lab Muffin, a micelle is essentially a ball-shaped cluster of a bunch of surfactant molecules. Surfactants are the important ingredients in soaps, detergents, and shampoos. They help make oils and makeups soluble in water.
What do micelles do?
Micellar water has the viscosity of water and it looks like water. But when feeling micellar water, people can tell that it feels softer and has a different texture than water. The idea is that water-loving “head” of the micelle will adhere to the water and cleansing cotton, while the oil-absorbing “tail” of the micelles are attracted to dirt and oil and can draw out impurities in the skin. But micellar water is gentler than many surfactants used in cleansers, so it will work without irritation or drying out the skin. That is why it is often marketed as a facial wash, moisturizer and makeup remover all in one.
Micellar water is not new. In fact, it has been around and used for more than 100 years, first gaining momentum in France, where it was designed to help Parisians deal with the harsh water in France. When new soaps and lotions were developed through the years, micellar water fell out of favor in different areas of the world. However, it recently has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity and is attracting many new fans.
According to dermatologist and Simple® brand skincare expert Dr. Debra Luftman, micellar water is safe for all skin types and is designed to be used without having to wash off the product afterward. It may not work well on waterproof mascara or other stubborn eye makeup, and people with oily skin may find it isn’t thorough at removing all oil. Micelle tails can only hold on to so much grime; therefore, it may take a few fresh passes to get skin extra clean.
Earlier incarnations of micellar water were only available in France, but manufacturers elsewhere have jumped on the craze. Micellar water can now be found in many retail shops as well as online. HW186036