Micellar (pronounced my-sell-er) water is a combination of purified water; hydrating ingredients, such as glycerin; and low concentrations of extremely mild surfactants, according to cosmetic chemist Joseph Cincotta.
“The molecules of those mild surfactants naturally group together to form microscopic spheres called micelles, which act like magnets for dirt and oil,” Cincotta explains.
When you wipe a cotton ball soaked with the cleanser along your face, the micelles adhere to the cotton while pulling makeup, sebum, and any other daily unpleasantness off the skin. The formulas are so light and gentle that there’s no need to rinse them off, which means that the moisturizing ingredients can stay behind to be absorbed.
“They’re especially great for acne-prone types,” says dermatologist Francesca Fusco. “They remove trapped debris from the skin but don’t dry it out. I also tell my patients to use a micellar cleanser between reapplications of sunscreen during the summer to avoid clogged pores.”
If you’re ready to pare down your skin routine, check out some of our favorite micellar cleansers.