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The micellar water bubble trick: What is it?

The micellar water hack—which creates sudsy bubbles—might not be worth all the hype.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Oct 10, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
cotton pad micellar water
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Oct 10, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

There’s a viral new cleansing method taking off on social media—the micellar water bubble trick. Is it legit, or is it all hot air?

Micellar water is a popular makeup remover that’s highly effective and gentle on the skin. Its hydrating molecules cling to oil and dirt to effortlessly remove impurities (and stubborn makeup) from the face without stripping away natural oils.

Traditionally, micellar water is dabbed onto a cotton round and then applied to the face. But the latest TikTok craze suggests a new method. The viral trend suggests wetting a cotton round with micellar water, holding it to your lips, and blowing through the round until tiny bubbles form on the opposite side. Then, you cleanse by dabbing the foaming bubbles on your face.

Many fans of the micellar water bubble trick believe it’s the best way to remove makeup and wash the face. But does it work any better than the directions on the bottle? We’re not quite convinced.

Here we’ll explain micellar water, how it cleanses the skin, and its potential benefits and side effects.

What is micellar water?

Micellar water is a gentle cleanser with hydrating properties. It’s commonly used to remove makeup without the need to scrub or rinse, which makes it great in a pinch or as part of your nightly routine.

Micellar water is a “skin-first” makeup remover combining water and micelles, which work like magnets to encapsulate and lift material on the skin, such as waterproof makeup, dirt, and oil.¹ Micellar water has a gel-water consistency that doesn’t clog pores and generally works for all skin types. A 400-participant study showed that micellar water improved unpleasant skin sensations in as few as two days, especially for sensitive skin.² 

Micellar water expires, just like all skincare products. It should be used within six months after opening, but that shouldn’t be too hard; micellar water is versatile, so there are plenty of options for its use.  

Why is micellar water trending on social media?

Micellar water is not new to the social media spotlight. TikTokers use it to turn eyeshadow into eyeliner, prepare the skin for sunscreen, and remove heavy makeup.

The latest videos demonstrate how to use micellar water as a bubbling foam cleanser for the face. Proponents like the soft, foamy texture, but there’s no evidence to suggest this provides additional benefits. In a nutshell, using micellar water as directed—dabbed onto a cotton pad and applied to the face—is just as good as creating tiny bubbles. No activation necessary!  

The bubbles created by the micellar water trick method mimic blowing through a bubble wand or using a foaming hand wash. As air moves through the cotton round, the surfactant (micelles) makes space for the air by creating tiny bubbles. The more micellar water used, the foamier the outcome. There’s a misconception that foaming cleansers work better. In reality, there’s no difference, except that most people go through foaming cleansers faster because they use more. Not to mention, this trick may come with some unwanted side effects (more on that in a bit).

Is micellar water good for your skin?

Absolutely! Although it’s now being used for creative makeup hacks, micellar water was designed as a gentle and effective way to remove makeup and cleanse the face. Here are a few potential benefits micellar water provides for the skin:

  1. Cleanses. Micellar water is a mixture of water and micelles. Micelles attract dirt and grime to gently cleanse the skin without harming its protective barrier.³ Micellar water doesn’t usually tend to leave skin dry, red, or irritated, so it’s generally safe enough to use on the most sensitive skin, including around the eyes.  

  2. Promotes hydration. Micellar water formulations have short- and long-term moisturizing effects on the skin.⁴ Many contain hyaluronic acid, which is a humectant that draws water to the surface from deeper skin layers to protect the stratum corneum (surface).⁵ 

  3. Removes stubborn makeup. Micelles act like tiny magnets to attract and encapsulate oils, including those found in makeup. All you have to do is moisten a cotton round and wipe over stubborn or waterproof makeup to remove—no scrubbing needed.  

  4. Helps prevent acne. Acne often occurs when dead skin cells and sebum clog pores. Micellar water is not an “acne treatment,” nor does it contain anti-acne ingredients, but it can still play an integral role in skincare, as cleansing is an essential step in any routine. People who are experiencing breakouts may want to consider double cleansing. Begin with micellar water, followed by a cleanser for acne-prone skin. Acne treatment should also include products with acne-fighting ingredients, such as tretinoin.

  5. Works in a pinch. This may not be a medical benefit, but it’s definitely a perk of micellar water over other cleansers: There’s no need to rinse! When you’re tired at the end of the day or find yourself staying at a friend’s place, you can quickly and efficiently remove makeup or cleanse your face with just a few wipes of a cotton round soaked in micellar water.

Potential side effects of the micellar water bubble trick

The viral bubble trick may seem harmless, but some dermatologists caution that blowing hot air through micellar water may actually spread bacteria. The outcome: microbes on the skin that can promote infection.

Here’s what Curology certified nurse practitioner Laura Phelan had to say: “In theory, with this method, there is a chance that you could contaminate the cotton round with the bacteria that live in your mouth before applying it to your face. As the benefit of this trick doesn’t appear to outweigh the potential risk, it’s best to use your micellar cleanser as directed.”

When to use micellar water in your skincare routine

pured water over cotton pads

Micellar water can be used daily in any skincare routine, and there are several ways to incorporate micellar water into your skincare plan:

  1. Makeup removal. To do so, use a cotton round soaked in micellar water to gently lift makeup, then follow up with a gentle cleanser. Using micellar water first can help you avoid scrubbing which can possibly irritate the skin. Micellar water is also gentle enough to use around the eyes. 

  2. Cleansing. Micellar water is a lightweight, no-fuss cleanser that doesn’t require rinsing. Use it as part of your daily skincare routine instead of a traditional cleanser. In a morning rush? Skip the moisturizer (but not the sunscreen). Micellar water is also moisturizing, so it won’t hurt to skip moisturizer on occasion.

  3. Refreshing on the go. A travel-sized bottle is perfect for rejuvenating the skin, wiping away grime after working out, or prepping the face when it’s time to reapply sunscreen. It can also be great as a pick-me-up during or after a long flight. 

  4. More than just your face. Micellar water can also be used on the hands if you need a quick cleanse. The best part? It generally doesn’t dry out the skin! Squeeze a small amount into the palms and rub them together. Voilà!

Curology provides micellar water and more

Curology helps take the guesswork out of your skincare routine. Our licensed dermatology providers work with you to examine your skin, assess your skincare goals, and provide custom treatment options.

Signing up is easy. Just answer a few questions and snap some selfies to help us get to know your skin better. If Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with one of our in-house licensed dermatology providers.* They can prescribe a personalized prescription formula to address your skin goals and recommend dermatologist-designed non-prescription products, including the Micellar Makeup Remover.

FAQs

What is micellar water?

Micellar water is a gentle cleanser with hydrating properties. It’s commonly used to remove makeup without the need to scrub or rinse, which makes it great in a pinch or as part of your nightly routine.

Why is micellar water trending on social media?

Micellar water is not new to the social media spotlight. TikTokers use it to turn eyeshadow into eyeliner, prepare the skin for sunscreen, and remove heavy makeup.

The latest videos demonstrate how to use micellar water as a bubbling foam cleanser for the face. Proponents like the soft, foamy texture, but there’s no evidence to suggest this provides additional benefits. In a nutshell, using micellar water as directed—dabbed onto a cotton pad and applied to the face—is just as good as creating tiny bubbles.

Is micellar water good for your skin?

Absolutely! Although it’s now being used for creative makeup hacks, micellar water was designed as a gentle and effective way to remove makeup and cleanse the face. Here are a few potential benefits micellar water provides for the skin:

  1. Cleanses. Micellar water is a mixture of water and micelles.

  2. Promotes hydration. Micellar water formulations have short- and long-term moisturizing effects on the skin.

  3. Removes stubborn makeup. Micelles act like tiny magnets to attract and encapsulate oils, including those found in makeup.

  4. Helps prevent acne. Acne often occurs when dead skin cells and sebum clog pores.

  5. Works in a pinch. This may not be a medical benefit, but it’s definitely a perk of micellar water over other cleansers.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Walters, R.M., et al. Cleansing formulations that respect skin barrier integrity. Dermatology Research and Practice. (2012).

  2. Taieb, C., et al. Interest in micellar solution to reduce unpleasant skin sensations. Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology. (2021).

  3. Walters, R.M., et al. Cleansing formulations that respect skin barrier integrity. Dermatology Research and Practice. Ibid.

  4. Sensitive skin compatibility of micellar water. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2017 June 1).

  5. Harwood, A., et al. Moisturizers. StatPearls. (2022 August 21).

Laura Phelan is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Benedictine University and went on to get her post-master’s certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of Cincinnati.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Image of Laura Phelan Nurse Practitioner

Laura Phelan, NP-C

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