On Cleansing: The Micellar Side of Things


I used to be a devoted oil and balm cleanser advocate. The theory in support of it, which makes sense to me, holds that oily-type cleansers attract dirt and make-up and sebum, lifting it and melting it away. They are extremely effective at this, and ideally, can remove impurities WITHOUT damaging the skin’s protective moisture barrier and delicate pH balance. More in-depth detail on the pH balance and moisture barrier here in this post over at Skin & Tonics which basically changed my life. (I didn’t know my pH balance was off! I spend a lot of time wondering how my skin’s pH is doing… and what about my fatty acid situation? Am I in terrible need of ceramides??? And so on.) There are a few approaches that people try to use to protect these critical elements of skin health. Oil cleansing is one of them, or sometimes people search for pH balanced cleansers. I once tried the OCM method, in which one massages an oil, usually either olive or coconut oil, into skin and then removes it by steaming with a damp, hot washcloth and then wiping it away. It does totally remove makeup, and it leaves skin moist and supple. It did that, but also left me with red cheeks and deep, welty pimples. I think it works for many people, but I found that a rinse-off oil cleanser worked better. I’ve had good luck with this one, but I still felt that the act of massaging, emulsifying, and rinsing was a little too much for my skin lately.

Everyone is different, and we all know the expression YMMV (“your mileage may vary”) applies to skincare like nothing else. Looking back though, I just shake my head at some of the harsh cleansers I used on my delicate skin. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash, anyone? I abused my skin with that stuff for like 10 years trying to dry out my pimples and for most of those years, my face hurt because of my bad life choices. Nowadays, I’m starting to examine all sources of potential irritation and moisture-compromising activity in my skincare regimen. Some even posit that tap water itself can be an irritant, especially if you live somewhere with very hard water. So here’s where micellar water comes in, if you’re so inclined.

Micellar waters are cleansing waters with contain micelles, which are clusters of very mild surfactants which attach to dirt and oil and makeup and lift, lift them off the skin like magic. Ok, not really like magic, just a little chemistry. The most iconic of the micellar cleansers would be, of course, the bottle of Bioderma with the pink cap. I got my first bottle this Christmas from my lovely sister. Prior to that, I had been using this one from the Simple brand that I found at CVS. The price of this one was fairly cheap so I figured it wouldn’t be a huge risk if I didn’t like it. So, having tried both, how do the two compare?

While the Simple brand is approximately 1/4 the price of the Bioderma, give or take, depending on where you purchase, it works almost as nicely, plus it’s much easier to source. It removes almost all of my makeup, including my waterproof Dior curling mascara that usually puts up a fight. It’s also so soothing, weirdly. It’s cooling and softening and kind of angelic feeling?? But it does take about 4 cotton pads to get my tinted moisturizer and powder off, which is not a tremendous amount of makeup, so it can get a bit laborious to make sure every molecule of makeup is off and out of my pores.

The Bioderma micellar water, on the other hand, works more efficiently. So much so that some of the soothing quality is lost a bit, but not entirely, and it’s not irritating at all. It melts off waterproof mascara more quickly, and it takes only 2 or 3 cotton pads to remove everything, unlike 4 or 5 with Simple. I would say your choice of the two depends on how much makeup you need to remove and what your budget considerations are. I’ve been enjoying both by reaching for the Bioderma for my evening cleanse, and saving the Simple water for a refreshing swipe in the morning. In the meantime, in the absence of my oil cleanser and the tap water and my other cleanser and all that fussing, my skin seems much less red and more serene. Calm skin = happy Elizabeth.


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