Micellar waters are all the rage right now, so what’s the deal with them?
What’s a micellar water? These are water based products that contain a lot of water and a few other ingredients at quite low percentages iintended to be used as light, no rinse facial cleansers that remove make-up and oils from our face easily.
In general, these micellar waters will contain a non-ionic or neutrally charged surfactant that we’d normally use as a solubilizer for little titches of oil, like polysorbate 80, caprylyl/capryl glucoside, or PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, that’ll solubilize the oils and make-up on your face. We don’t use a lot of these – maybe 2% at the most – and you can mix and match to use a bit of one thing and a bit of another.
You could also use a foamy, bubbly non-ionic surfactant, like decyl glucoside, but you’ll only want a titch as you don’t want your skin to feel tight as you aren’t rinsing it off. Remember to alter the pH as this one’s anywhere from pH 8 to 11. Or you can use an amphoteric surfactant, like cocamidopropyl betaine or disodium cocoamphodiacetate, but only use a titch as these foam, too. (My testers weren’t fond of these versions, but you might like them!)
As an aside, we don’t really want to add anything oil soluble or anything that needs to be emulsified when added to water, like fragrance or essential oils, oils, esters, and so on. If you really can’t live without one of these ingredients, you could add a titch, and add more solubilizer to compensate. If you want a light fragrance to the product, hydrosols, floral waters, distillates, or waters like rose water or peppermint hydrosol are a great choice! If you want an emollient in this formula, consider a water soluble oil, like Olivem 300 or water soluble shea butter, that won’t tie up the solubilizer.
The other ingredients that’ll make your skin feel nice and hydrated are the humectants you’ll want to add, like propanediol 1,3, sodium lactate, glycerin, sorbitol, and so on. We don’t want to use a lot of something sticky as we aren’t rinsing this off, so I’d guard against using something like glycerin at 5% here, but we can mix and match them to get the skin feel we want.
You can add other water soluble ingredients, like witch hazel as an astringent, a hydrosol to smell nice, or an extract like chamomile to reduce transepidermal water loss. You could add a small percentage of a cationic polymer, like Honeyquat or polyquaternium 7, to act as a skin conditioner, or some hydrolyzed proteins to act as film formers and hydrators. I’ve added 1% panthenol to my micellar waters, which is nice as both a humectant and wound and cut healer.
Having said all of this, if you want to add a lot of things to this formula, you might want to consider making a hydrating toner to use after micellar water-ing your face, like this lovely one. One of the first posts on this blog in 2009 and the firat formula I shared was for this, my favourite toner, which is very much like the one I make today!
To every version, we’ll be using distilled water that has a nice neutral pH of 7, and a broad spectrum preservative that works with products that contain only water. I’ll be using 0.5% liquid Germall Plus, but you can use all sorts, so I’ll refer you over to the preservative section (on the old blog for now) to find one that suits both this product and your preserving philosophy. As we don’t have a ton of botanical ingredients in these products, we don’t need to consider using those that work best for hard-to-preserve ingredients.
As a note, thank you all so much for your patience with this series. I’ve been working on micellar waters since 2016, but I need to watch products over time to ensure their stability and lack of grossness as well as give my testers time to test. (Is it weird that I had Taylor Swift’s – no relation – song going through my head? Testers gonna test test test test test, soapers gonna soap soap soap soap…)
Related post: From 2012, and I looked at a few commercial versions
Join me tomorrow as we work through the creation of our first micellar water!