Just as declustered water and deconstructed water, micellar water is a figment of the imagination of marketing departments in the skin care industry. Why do they do this? Because a fancy name adds to the price you can charge for a product?
What the industry sells as “micellar waters” is a bottle containing water and oils. Water and oil are not miscible. You can see the two phases, the lighter, on top, is made of oily substances, the bottom phase is the water. When you shake the bottle, you can see little “bubbles” of oil swimming in the water. As soon as you stop shaking, the two phases re-form.
Why do “micellar waters” work as cleansers and make-up removers? The water will help remove water soluble stuff, the oil will help clean oil soluble make-up or sebum. What’s is in the now fashionable micellar waters available in the market? Mostly water plus silicones with a hint of surfactant, preservatives and fragrance. Also added sometimes: colorants (for prettiness), fragrances (to make you feel pampered) and all kind of label value ingredients.
I am proposing the following micellar waters for the wall of shame
Best candidate for fake of the year: Dior Hydra Life Micellar Water No Rinse Cleanser It contains only one ingredient “Natural Echinacea Flower Extract”. Ha!
How do you get a “micellar flower extract”? Easy, you start with water plus oil or any emollient (isohexadecane is used frequently) and preservative. Add it to Echinacea flowers (any amount will do), filter and voila! a micellar flower extract.
Second best (hard to decide) : La Mer The Cleansing Micellar Water
Ingredients: Declustered Water, Propanediol, Polysorbate 20, Bis-peg-12 Dimethicone, Trehalose, Seaweed Extract, Sesame Seed Oil, Alfalfa Seed Powder, Sunflower Seedcake, Sweet Almond Seed Meal, Eucalyptus Leaf Oil, Sodium Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Calcium Gluconate, Magnesium Gluconate, Zinc Gluconate, Tocopheryl Succinate, Niacin, Sesame Seed Powder, Sea Salt, Chestnut Seed Extract, Kel) Extract, Laminaria Digitata Extract, Sucrose, Caffeine, Glycerin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Butylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance (Parfum), Disodium Edta-copper, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Benzoate, Coumarin, Citronellol, Linalool, Limonene, Blue 1.
Why is the La Mer entrant such a good candidate? It starts with a nonexistent ingredient, declustered water. La Mer is famous (infamous) for inventing non-existent versions of water, like deconstructed water. Taking into account that the brand started with a non-existent NASA scientist, it seems fit that they should be creative about ingredients too.
Best Faux French candidate: Le Couvent des Minimes Loving Care For The Face 3 In 1 Micellar Water. Does it contain a botanical extract with magical healing properties? Not exactly.
Water, polysorbate 20, pentylene glycol, Althaea officinalis root extract, Centaurea cyanus flower water, bisabolol, glycerin, sodium benzoate, fragrance.
Why is this one in the list? Because they use the name of a hotel in France to give the product a romantic/historic tint, but they use mostly laboratory made chemicals (not made at the hotel!) to formulate their product.
And finally, what are micelles in the scientific (not marketing) world?
When you add an emulsifier like egg yolk to water, you don’t get a solution. Because the phospholipid in egg yolk has two “sides” to it, one with affinity for water and another one that is “hydrophobic” (dislikes water) the lipid molecules arrange themselves in a way that pleases both sides. Thse phospholipid molecules will arrange themselves in space as a hollow sphere: the hydrophilic water loving) side will face the water while the hydrophobic tails will face the inside of the sphere, thus avoiding contact with water.
Once again, the industry has borrowed a term from science and misused it. Micelles are not what you get in “micellar water”. For real science you have to go for Skin Actives Scientific.