Ah, the French, with their innate chic home decor and I-woke-up-like-this perfect hair. They really do seem to have it all. And while that sometimes feels like an overused cliche, we can’t deny that their perfect skin always has that je ne sais quoi: never too much makeup or effort, and always fresh-looking. If you peeked into any one of those Frenchies bathrooms, you’d almost be guaranteed to see one product in particular, which just so happens to be one of the main sources of that perfect skin: micellar water.
The simple staple that nearly every single (no, really, it’s that popular) French girl uses is so popular for its multi-uses, and its time-saving qualities.
But what exactly is micellar water, and do you need it in your life? The simple liquid that looks and feels just like regular water is actually more complex than you might think. Comprised of dirt-encapsulating micelle molecules that trap and remove dirt, oil, makeup, and pollution from skin, it works very hard for your skin. It acts as a no-rinse cleanser, but can also but used as a makeup remover (for even the toughest waterproof makeup) and toner—all while being gentle enough to respect skin’s pH.
Basically, that classic French ease translates to their cleansing technique, too. Micellar water is never too harsh or damaging, and is always free of alcohol and soap making it gentle enough to be used on sensitive skin daily. Just simply soap a cotton pad with the water, and swipe it gently on your face no need to rinse it off afterwards. All that multitasking cleansing and toning saves major time in the morning and night, too.
We asked Caudalie, one of our favorite French brands, and their incredible skin care specialist (straight from Bordeaux), Melissa Sarps, about the French way to apply micellar water.
“We use micellar water to clean our faces because it’s so gentle for the skin, but really removes everything,” says Sarps. “It’s like a Swiffer—for your face. It’s going to grab dirt from the skin, thanks to the particles in the micellar water.”
Well, darnit, we need this magical water in our lives. Here’s a few of our very favorites.
The Iconic French One
Bioderma Sensibio H2O, $6.90
So iconic and popular that a bottle of Sensibio H20 is sold around the world every two seconds. It’s one of the cultiest of culty, OG French products, and beloved by French celebrities (Jeanne Damas is a fan) and makeup artists. Its beauty lies in the chemical structure—glycerol ester assures its able to work with every skin type, and able to chemically balance skin’s pH without having to use water.
The Karl Lagerfeld-Approved One
Collosol Eau de Lait
This moisturizing milk/micellar water hybrid (created in Paris in the 1950s) is practically a cleanser, toner and moisturizer in a bottle.
And the Kaiser himself is obsessed with Eau de lait. “My bathtub is very big, so I use a full bottle of Collosol every day,” said Chanel’s longtime creative director Karl Lagerfeld to Elle. “But for one bath, it is one full bottle. I have good skin, but you have to work to keep it.”
Actress Clémence Poésy is a fan, too. “It’s a cleanser for baby bottoms, but it’s good for any type of sensitive skin,” said the actress to Allure. “You can use it to wash, tone, and hydrate.”
The Gentle One
Caudalie Cleansing Water
Soothing enough for even the most sensitive skin, this formula is lightly scented with orange and lemon blossom, watermelon, and mint leaves, making it a treat for both the skin and the senses.