Micellar water – what's in the name? September 20, 2015 17:53

Micellar water is becoming more and more popular and we are now spoilt for choice. What is it exactly and how is it different from soap?

You might have read in the post about soap that in order to remove dirt and sebum from the skin we need a substance that acts on the surface, or a surfactant, i.e. enables mixing of water with oils by reducing the tension between them. Soap is just such a substance. Its spherical particles in aqueous solution have water soluble heads and oil soluble tails are the micelles. However, soap is not the only surfactant. In fact, there are several classes of these helpful substances: anionic, amphoteric and non-ionic (Ananthapadmanabhan et al., 2004). Their class depends on the properties of their heads. For example, soap (salts of fatty acids) is an anionic surfactant, with negatively charged head. Another anionic surfactants is sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), a synthetic detergent known for its skin-irritating properties, and its milder relative alkyl ether sulfate (SLES). The heads of amphoteric surfactants have both a negative and a positive charge, whilst the heads of non-ionic ones have none.  

Having read those difficult words you might ask – what does this have to do with micellar solution? These products are, in essence, water with micelles of surfactants such as non-ionic decyl glucoside or amphoteric disodium cocoamphodiacetate.  They are gentler on the skin than soaps and shower gels, which makes them particularly suitable for sensitive skin. Using a cotton pad means that the micelles can stick to it with their heads and stuck their tails out to sweep the make up and dirt from your face! Most micellar solutions also contain additional substances that moisturise or nourish the skin.

So – behind the somewhat mysteriously sounding word there is a product that is not so complicated after all...


Jadwiga Nazimek


Ananthapadmanabhan, K. P., D. J. Moore, K. Subramanyan, M. Misra, and F. Meyer, 2004, Cleansing without compromise: the impact of cleansers on the skin barrier and the technology of mild cleansing: Dermatol Ther, v. 17 Suppl 1, p. 16-25.