Micellar Water: What Is It, And Does It Really Work?

First things first…how do you pronounce “micellar”?

When Sam and I first started looking into this trendy facial cleanser, we would both giggle and look at each other nervously when we tried to pronounce “micellar water”.

“Mee-cellar? Miss-ellar? OMG you know what I mean!”

So to avoid any further agony, let’s set the record straight and learn the pronunciation once and for all! Ladies and gents, this magical water is pronounced my-SELL-ar.


The Science Part: What is micellar water?

Now, we move on to the nerdy stuff. Who’s ready for a science lesson??

Micellar water is made up of micelles, which are basically tiny little cleansing oil molecules that are attracted to dirt and oil. For all of eternity, we were taught that oil and water don’t combine. So naturally, you may be picturing micellar water as a layer of oil sitting on top of a layer of water. That doesn’t really sound like something we’d want to put on our face, right? WRONG!

This is where the magic of micelles comes in. Micelle molecules are considered surfactants. (I know, I know! Too many words! But hear me out for a sec.) Surfactants have two ends: a head that is attracted to water and a tail that is attracted to oil and dirt. And because of this, the water-loving end mixes perfectly with water while the dirt-loving end goes to work on your face. In other words, oil and water live in harmony in the micellar world!

The History Part: Where did this trend originate?

Even though the micellar water trend just recently caught on in the US, this stuff has been the French-girl’s go-to for quite some time! In this Byrdie article, dermatologist Debra Luftman explains that because the tap water in France is very harsh on the skin, the French have come to rely on micellar water as a gentler form of cleansing. Hence why the leading micellar water brand is French-born, Bioderma Créaline H2O Micelle Solution.

But with a $30 price tag, we were like “uh-uh honey!”

So instead, we gave its American counterparts a try to see if these wallet-friendly magical waters could become a part of our regular cleansing routine.

Garnier, Simple and Pacifica…are you ready for the #COtest?

Products: Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water | Simple Cleansing Micellar Water | Pacifica Cactus Water Micellar Cleansing Tonic

Garnier Ingredients: Aqua / Water, Hexylene Glycol, Glycerin, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Disodium Edta, Poloxamer 184, Polyaminopropyl Biguanide Fil B162919/3

Simple Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Hexylene Glycol,Glycerin, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) FlowerExtract, Panthenol, Niacinamide, Sodium AscorbylPhosphate, Peg-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, DmdmHydantoin, Cetrimonium Chloride, TetrasodiumEdta, Citric Acid, Potassium Chloride, SodiumChloride, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate

Pacifica Ingredients: Aqua (Purified), Sorbiatn Oleate Decylglucoside Crosspolymer, Decyl Glucocide, Glycerin, Cereus Grandiflorus (Cactus Flower) Extract, Jasmine Offincinale (Jasmine) Flower Water, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Water, Rosmarinus Officinale (Rosemary) Leaf Water, Phenoxyethanol, Ethy Hexyl Glycerin, Parfum (All Natural)

Retail Price: $8.99 (13.5 oz.) | Simple: $7.99 (13.5 oz.) | Pacifica $12.00 (8 oz.) (prices vary by retailer)

Where to buy: Target, Walgreens, Ulta, Amazon our right through our SHOP page!

Time Used: 1 month

Garnier Perks: Wallet Friendly | In-Store & Online | No Alcohol | No Perfume | All Skin Types

Simple Perks: Wallet Friendly | In-Store & Online | No Harsh Chemicals | No Artificial Perfumes | No Dyes | All Skin Types

Pacifica Perks: Wallet Friendly | In-Store & Online | Vegan | Cruelty Free | Gluten Free | No Phthalates | No Parabens | No Sulfates | No Propylene Glycol | All Skin Types

We received a message from an Insta friend a few months ago asking if we had jumped on the micellar water trend yet, and we honestly couldn’t believe we hadn’t! We immediately started our research and ran off to Target and Walgreens to pick up a few bottles to try.

Us Trend-Testing-Queens move pretty fast when we feel left out! Especially when we get requests from YOU about which products we should try!

My Garnier SkinActive Micellar Water Experiment

If I’m being honest, I was a bit hesitant about trying this product. It felt a little too “trendy” for me so I didn’t really think it would work. Plus, you know we like to stick to mostly clean and organic skincare products, so this was a bit of a departure for us. But being that it was one of the most recognized brands in the micellar world, we knew we had to try it! 

I decided I would only incorporate this micellar water into my morning, post-gym routine. It seemed like a super easy way to quickly get the sweat and grit off my face after my morning workout. So after an extra sweaty outdoor run, I put Garnier to the test.

Because it was my first time trying this product, I still washed my face beforehand in the shower with my trusty Acure. (I’m a Scorpio…it takes a LONG time for me to trust you! And yes, that goes for products too! #cray). As soon as I got out of the shower, I dried my face, doused a cotton pad in micellar water and wiped away.

I will never forget what I saw next…

The DIRTIEST freaking cotton pad ever! No joke. I was shocked. And I was also instantly hooked. (I guess it really only took about 5 seconds for me to trust this one.)

Seriously guys, this stuff is magical. Even after washing my face, there was plenty of nastiness that had yet to come off. GROSS. And don’t get me started with the residue that comes off after my night shower. Let’s just say that cotton pad is about 10x dirtier…you think you got your makeup off with your face wash? HA! Think again.

Not only does it leave your face nice and clean (You don’t even need to rinse after!), but it also moisturizes it thanks to those molecular oils we talked about earlier. My face never felt dried out or irritated! I continued to use this brand for the next two weeks…and you bet your pretty face I used it ERRDAY. I was literally shocked at the sight of my cotton pad every single time.

Since my first experiment went so well, I decided to try another brand to see if the magic of micellar water was a universal thing.

Simple Cleansing Micellar Water…You’re Next!

I decided to try Simple’s Micellar Water next because I liked the fact that it had chamomile extract…nothing better to calm the skin! Not that my skin was irritated or anything, but it doesn’t hurt to use natural, skin-loving ingredients, right?

My routine with Simple was the exact same as with Garnier. I used it after my workout in the morning and after my shower at night. I would wash my face, dry it and wipe away at the excess dirt and oil with Simple.

You’re not going to believe this though…this stuff managed to take off even MORE dirt and makeup than Garnier! At this point, I’m starting to wonder how much I trust my trusty face wash.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Micellar water is not meant to take off stubborn makeup like waterproof mascara (unless you get the Waterproof Makeup version of Garnier like Sam did!) or super thick foundation. But for us girls that use a pretty light layer of makeup, it is a great option!

After a month of micellar water experimenting, my skin feels cleaner and even looks a little more glowy! And best of all, I didn’t break out once. Again, a lot goes into good skin. But the fact that I know my skin is extra clean and extra moisturized leaves me feeling extra happy.

Comparing Garnier Micellar Water to Simple Micellar Water

Let’s compare the nitty gritty details and see who my chosen winner is…

  • Cotton Pad Shock Levels: Ummm Simple wins by far. I don’t know how or why, but those dirty cotton pads never cease to amaze me. The Garnier shock effect was pretty good, but nowhere near as gasp-worthy as Simple! I even took a picture after using Simple for the first time and sent it to Sam because I was so shocked. Sorry you had to see my nastiness!
  • Post-Cleanse Feeling: My face felt more moisturized after using Simple. They claim to “instantly boost skin’s hydration by 90%” and I believe it. Garnier left my face a little stiff, which makes me think it dried me out a tad too much.
  • Price: They’re both cheap! And they both come in great travel-friendly sizes so you don’t have to compromise clean skin on your next vacay.
  • Ingredients: Even though Simple has more ingredients than Garnier, I’m a total sucker for anything that has natural extracts in it. They both have many ingredients I can’t pronounce (booo!), so I’m going with the one that seems to have a few more skin-loving ingredients.

As you can see, Simple won my micellar water experiment! And I have to say, I am a total micellar water fangirl now. It’s cheap, effective and instantly gratifying – talk about a Millennial triple threat!

Next up is Sam’s experiment! It’s Garnier vs. Pacifica…this should be good!

All I have to say is thank goodness that Insta-friend Claudia mentioned opened our eyes to micellar water. You guys…the amount of dirt that comes off your face when you use this stuff is UNREAL. I will never go a day without micellar water in my life. The question is…will I ever go without Garnier or Pacifica?

So I’m a total early morning person, but morning workouts? Not my thing. Alas, my workouts take place right after work, which usually means I workout with a full face of makeup on. Someone slap my wrists, please!

When I started looking into micellar water, I knew this could be the ultimate solution to my oh-so-bad habit. Both Garnier and Pacifica were put to the test during my commute from the office to the gym. It turns out I loved micellar water so much that I started using it again after my workout right before my shower!  

Okay, time for the Garnier vs. Pacifica showdown. Both products were tested during my work-to-gym and pre-shower routine!

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water (Waterproof Makeup Version) Experimentation

My first-ever experimentation with micellar water was with Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water. It had great reviews and was just a little over $3 for a travel size, so I had nothing to lose!

This stuff works wonders. Just a little on a cotton pad goes a long, long way! One cotton pad, front and back, cleans off my face makeup and waterproof eye makeup. Just a couple wipes and poof! All gone. After using this, my face does feel a little tight, so I always follow it with either Cocokind Chia Seed Oil (at night) or Glossier Priming Moisturizer (during the day).

My only con with this affordable option is the toxins that come with it. I usually try to avoid products like these but sometimes, you can’t escape them!

Escape the Toxins with Pacifica Cactus Water Micellar Cleansing Tonic

I decided I’d move up the price scale a little bit (not much!) to Pacifica in order to meet my less toxic goals. This micellar and cactus water blend was intriguing to me because I had never heard of the benefits of using cactus water on your skin. Apparently it’s a great toner, hydrator, and an anti-aging fighter. Cactus water, where have you been all of my life?

This micellar water mixed with cactus water is a mighty, magical elixir. The first time I used it, I felt a lot of tingling going on from the cactus water which made me a little uneasy, but it didn’t cause any redness! After using it regularly, the tingling sensation stopped.

Pacifica Cactus Water Micellar Cleansing Tonic is just as strong as Garnier in the makeup-removing department with one exception: waterproof makeup. Thankfully, I have my Cocokind Eye Firming Oil that also acts as a makeup remover to take care of that.

Overall, Pacifica’s micellar water feels a lot better on my face and has even helped improve my complexion in small strides!

The Final Garnier vs. Pacifica Micellar Water Verdict

For comparison’s sake, I’m going to copy Claudia’s micellar water comparison skillz.

  • Cotton Pad Shock Levels: For waterproof makeup…Garnier wins. For face makeup and general sweat, dirt, and grime…Pacifica wins!
  • Post-Cleanse Feeling: I feel like I can get away with using Pacifica and not following up with a moisturizer! Garnier definitely seems to strip my skin more, but followed with a moisturizer it’s not too bad!
  • Price: Pacifica is a tad more expensive (usually about $3 more) and you get less in the bottle, but the toxic-free life is totally me and totally worth it!
  • Ingredients: Again, toxic-free is for me!! Pacifica blows Garnier out of the water on this one.

Aaaand we have a winner! Pacifica Cactus Water Micellar Cleansing Tonic has found a permanent spot in my gym bag and vanity!

Just look at that cotton pad! Even though our Aha! Moment was kind of super gross, it was also totally eye-opening. We couldn’t believe how much dirt and makeup came off of our faces even after using face wash!

The number one secret to clear skin is…clean skin. And thanks to micellar water, we’re able to get our skin squeaky clean without completely stripping it of its essential oils. These magical waters have definitely earned a permanent spot in our vanities, gym bags, carry-ons, etc…

And the winners are…

Out of our three micellar water brands we experimented with, we have to say each of our favorites are Simple and Pacifica. They are gentle on our skin, are made with great ingredients and definitely get that extra layer of dirt and makeup off our skins.

Simple and Pacifica, here’s your stamp!

Which micellar water brands will you try next? Tell us your favorites below!