Micellar Water Vs Toner. What’s the Difference?

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Micellar Water has been making waves in the beauty scene for the past few years. And Toners have been around forever, but are coming back with a vengeance.

Is micellar water a toner? Do we use them together, or one instead of the other? Can we benefit from using both as part of our daily skincare routine?

If you’ve been unclear about the differences between micellar water vs toner, we’re going to break it down for you in this article.

Let’s get started!


Micellar Water

L'Occitane Micellar Water

Micellar water is a multi-use cleansing product made of micelles (tiny balls of cleansing oil molecules) suspended in soft water. 

Micelles are molecules which group together and attract dirt and oil. When a cotton pad with micellar water is wiped across the face, the micelles adhere to the cotton while pulling makeup and other impurities. They do this without drying and stripping the skin of natural oils, like traditional soaps and cleansers.

Though it looks like water and has the same viscosity, it has a slightly different texture on the skin.

Micellar water has gained a huge increase in notoriety in the last few years. Every skincare brand from high-end, specialist cosmeceutical labels  to drug store brands , now have their own version of this newest wonder skin care product.

Except it’s not new.

Micellar water has been used in France since the early 1900s, when tap water was harsh on the skin and not always easily accessible. As technology (and indoor plumbing) improved, it fell out of favor, to be replaced by fancy new products.

After all these years, it’s made a comeback.

Micellar water is now being marketed as the one-step alternative to using a cleanser, makeup remover, toner, and moisturizer.

It also makes for the perfect travel beauty product for when running water is not readily available. This is because micellar water has been formulated so you are able to cleanse and hydrate without having to use local water.

It should be noted that although you can use Micellar water as a light make-up remover, traditional Micellar water does not remove heavy foundations or stubborn eye makeup, like waterproof mascara.

But like all products that skyrocket to super trend stardom, you can now get micellar water in so many more different varieties – for dry , oily , and sensitive skin  types, in pre-moistened towelettes , and even micellar water to remove waterproof make-up .

Keep in mind that micellar water typically expires in 6 months after opening the bottle.

Facial Toner

Neutrogena Facial Toner

Toners in the past were more astringent and typically contained alcohol, as they were originally developed to remove soap scum when lye-based soaps combined with hard water left a sticky residue.

Times have changed and so has the availability of much milder cleansers, eliminating the need for alcohol, which is very drying, in toner.

It was also commonly thought that alcohol, because of its drying properties, was good for oily skin. Many believe it helped to get rid of the bacteria that cause acne and breakouts.

But using alcohol to control oily skin, breakouts, and acne has since been widely dismissed by dermatologists. Alcohol can in fact make it worse.

Most toners these days are water-based .

Toner is used after removing your makeup and you’ve used a facial cleanser. See our articles on Toners and Exfoliating and Toners and Masks for more information on orders and use.

Toner is water that contains skin-appreciating ingredients, like glycerin, hydrating acids, and antioxidants.

Toner is meant to remove any leftover traces of dirt and impurities trapped in your pores after you wash your face. Toner closes pores and restores your skin’s pH level.

If your skin’s pH level is not balanced, it becomes prone to excessive dryness. This leads to the overproduction of oils, and ultimately may leave your skin more susceptible to environmental damage.

Toner should be followed by a moisturizer .

Micellar Water vs Toner

Micellar waters and toner often look similar. They both tend to have a watery consistency and are usually applied using a cotton pad.

The main purpose of micellar water is to cleanse and remove light makeup. A toner is designed to be used after cleansing to rebalance the skin’s pH and close pores. Toners also clean up any residual cleanser or dirt left behind and remove excess oil.

Micellar Water is Great For:

Micellar water is ideal for those of us with dry and sensitive skin. It is gentle and hydrating.

Those with more congested skin may find that micellar water can leave a film, clogging pores.

Toners are Great For:

If your skin is already oily, you may want to opt for just a toner instead, which is likely a better option.

If you have dry skin, an uneven complexion, or combination skin, a toner with alcohol can exacerbate those issues. You might want to opt for the more gentle micellar water.

But if you have dry skin and prefer the feeling of a toner over micellar water, there are plenty of water-based toners made especially for dry skin, from budget-friendly  to the fairly pricy ones like Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner , which has actual rose petals in it.

Is Micellar Water a Toner

Micellar water is not technically a toner, but it generally has a similar effect to a hydrating toner. It cleans and lightly moisturizes the skin. Both toner and micellar water are lightweight, water-based products that can clean skin.

And while Micellar Water can replace a toner, that’s not its main function.

It’s important to note that micellar water is basically water with little balls of oil in it. It may also contain surfactants and other ingredients that can irritate the skin if not rinsed off.

If you have sensitive skin, it’s not likely to work as a toner for you and you will probably not want to use micellar water on its own, but follow it up with a cleanser, then a toner (and then a moisturizer).

In Summary

Micellar water can be used as a facial wash, light makeup remover, toner, and moisturizer. It’s a Jane of All Trades, especially if you are in a pinch and need something quick to use or you are somehow caught out without running water.

Though Micellar water can be used as a substitute for all of the above, if you need it to, it is not meant to replace all of your regular products on a daily basis.

Especially if you have more oily skin, Micellar water should be used as the first step of your skincare regime, before a cleanser. Follow with a toner if you feel you need it, then a moisturizer.

in the debate over micellar water vs toner, at the end of the day, everyone’s skin is different. Both micellar water and toner are stand-alone products. The perfect skincare routine for one person may not be ideal for someone else. It might take some trial and error to see where or if toner and micellar water belong in your daily skincare routine.

If in doubt, consult your dermatologist or esthetician to find a skincare regime that’s right for your skin.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).