If you’re a skincare newbie, you might be confused about different products, their layering techniques, ingredients that should not be mixed, comedogenicity, and all that mumbo jumbo.
For instance, let’s talk about micellar water and toner.
Both products are good for cleansing your skin. But do you ever wonder if they have the same function? Which one comes first? What would happen if you use them in the wrong order?
A cleanser is the first step of any skincare routine, used to remove makeup, oil, and residual impurities from your face. Whereas, a toner balances and preps your skin for the next skincare product.
What about the micelles water? Is it a substitute for cleanser or toner, or maybe even both?
Read on to find out all you need to know about the difference between micellar water vs toner.
Is Toner And Micellar Water The Same?
No, toner and micellar water are not the same.
Micellar water is a watery cleanser made of water, oil, and other constituents used to dissolve makeup, oil, and other residue from your face.
On the other hand, a toner is a water-based liquid used AFTER cleansing to prep your skin for the next step in your skincare and balance the skin’s pH.
Micellar water cleanses the skin while a toner helps maintain the skin’s pH balance. Sometimes, toners are packed with skin-benefiting ingredients formulated according to skin concerns.
When used correctly, both micellar water and toner can keep your skin healthy, clean, and refreshed.
Now let me briefly explain how these two products differ.
Micellar Water Vs. Toner – Key Differences
Here is a list of key differences between micellar water vs toner:
- What is it: Micellar water is a water-based cleanser that removes impurities. Meanwhile, a toner is a watery (sometimes milky) product used to prepare the skin for subsequent skincare products, restore the right pH, and provide ingredient-based benefits.
- What it does: Micellar water serves as a makeup remover and a gentle cleanser. On the contrary, a toner removes the residual impurities left behind after the cleansing routine and balances the skin’s ph level.
- How does it work: The surfactants in micellar water form micelle bodies (oil droplets in soft water) that dissolve makeup, dirt, and grease. Whereas, a toner delivers benefits (hydration, nourishment, exfoliation, etc) according to the formulation, while restoring pH level and skin moisture barrier.
- When to use it in skincare routine: Usually, micellar water is used before using a facial cleanser to wipe away makeup and grime from the face. Meanwhile, toner is used after cleansing (read more about differences between toner vs cleanser).
Can I Use Micellar Water As Toner?
No, you cannot use micellar water as a toner.
We get the question “Does micellar water tone skin?” a lot, so let’s break it down for you. In the contrary to popular belief, micellar water and toner are not substitutes1.
Toners are supposed to be left on the skin. Since micellar water contains surfactants and oils, it can clog pores and lead to acne breakouts if not washed.
Also, the oil residue from the micellar water will not allow the next products to absorb properly into the skin, resulting in a waste of time, effort, and money!
Always follow with a facial cleanser after using micellar water.
Everything You Need To Know About Micellar Water
To fully understand the differences between these two products, and how your skin can benefit form them, you need to know more about each of them.
Let’s start with micellar water.
What Is Micellar Water?
Initially formulated to combat skin issues hailing from hard water usage (such as dryness, and clogged pores), micellar water has gained a lot of popularity among skincare enthusiasts.
Micellar water is a type of cleanser comprising of oil, water, and surfactants. It is ideal for dry or sensitive skin types as it gently cleanses the face by removing makeup, excess oil, and dirt.
People with oily and acne-prone skin can also benefit from micellar water, assuming they get the ones formulated to suit their skin types.
How Does Micellar Water Work?
Micellar water is basically made up of water and oil. Ever notice the oil layer on top of the water layer in micellar water?
Once you give it a shake, the surfactants in micellar water help the oil and soft water combine to form micelle bodies.
As you may know, micellar water is used by dispensing it on a cotton pad. The hydrophilic (water-loving) head of the micelle binds to the cotton pad whereas the part that comes in contact with your skin is the lipophilic (water-resistant) tail of the micelle.
It removes makeup and residual impurities, without disrupting the skin’s moisture barrier.
Is Micellar Water The Same As Other Cleansers?
No, micellar water is different than other cleansers.
More often than not, facial cleansers contain harsh chemicals, stripping away the natural oils from your face. This can damage the skin barrier and lead to drying of the skin and irritation.
On many websites you can read that micellar water is enough to cleanse your face and you don’t need to rinse it off or use a foam/gel facial wash afterwards.
The truth is, even though micellar water can remove dirt, makeup and excess of oil from your face, it’s not enough to cleanse your pores deeply.
Moreover, it can leave some residue on your skin and even lead to breakouts if you don’t wash it off.
I don’t recommend using micellar water as a replacement for regular foam or gel cleanser.
Of course you can use only micellar water for cleansing if your in a hurry and you’re not wearing heavy makeup, but in the long run it’s best to use it only as a first step in two step cleansing method, just for removing surface impurities and follow up with regular cleanser.
Remember that micellar water is not some kind of miracle product, and your skin still needs proper cleansing with water and facial wash.
Micellar water is best as a part of double cleansing method2.
When Should I Use Micellar Water In My Skincare Routine?
Dermatologists recommend micellar water to be used before your facial cleanser. This can remove light makeup, dirt, oil, and even remove sunscreen.
Next, always follow with a cleanser. Though it cleanses well, it would be wrong to rely solely upon micellar water.
The surfactants and oil in the micellar water can clog pores and cause buildup in some people, hence it is recommended to wash the face with a cleanser after using micellar water.
Benefits Of Micellar Water
- Cleans the face
It gently removes excess sebum, dirt, makeup, and pollutants from your face, without drying the skin out.
- Makeup remover
One of the most loved features of micellar water is its effectiveness as a makeup remover.
Special formulations include extra oils that easily remove waterproof makeup, making micellar water an excellent choice for an eye makeup remover.
- Hydration burst
Micellar water contains hydrating ingredients such as glycerin, chamomile, and other humectants that calm and hydrate the skin.
The best part? It does not contain any alcohol, so it does not strip the skin of its natural oils.
- Suitable for everyone
Unlike other cleansers, micellar water is suitable for all skin types, especially when used correctly.
It is great for sensitive skin, so don’t shy away from using micellar water even if you have skin issues like rosacea or dermatitis.
If you’re away from home and do not have access to water, this little buddy comes in handy and helps you clean your face easily.
What Is The Disadvantage Of Micellar Water?
A few disadvantages of micellar water are:
- May not remove heavy makeup
Though it cleanses well, micellar water may leave some traces of heavy makeup that need to be cleansed with a cleanser.
- The surfactants can be dangerous
Surfactants can weaken the skin barrier by altering the skin structure. This exposes us to acne-causing bacteria, yeast growth, and impurities.
- Not sustainable
Since you need to apply micellar water with a cotton pad, you will need to stock up on those indefinitely.
- It can cause breakouts
Since micellar water contains oil, it can lead to clogged pores and oil entrapment, leading to acne. So individuals with acne-prone skin and oily skin types should be mindful of using micellar water.
To avoid that, invest in micellar water designed for your specific skin concerns.
Everything You Need To Know About Toners
Now let me share some details about facial toners.
What Is A Toner?
A toner is a water-based liquid used after cleansing in your skincare routine for balancing the pH of your skin and prepping it for the next product.
It leaves the skin feeling soothed, refreshed, and hydrated (according to the active ingredients).
Using a toner is not a necessary step, but if you want to address a specific skin issue, the right toner can work wonders for you.
How Does Toner Work?
A toner penetrates into your skin and prepares the skin for the next step in your skincare routine (serum, moisturizer, or cream).
It is also effective to balance pH and remove any residual impurities left behind after using a cleanser.
Modern toners today contain skin-loving ingredients that provide hydration, exfoliation, and rejuvenation (as per the ingredients).
In this article I explain more what toners do and how they can benefit skin.
How Do You Use A Toner?
After thoroughly cleansing your face, you can use a toner as follows:
Use a cotton pad: Dab some toner on a cotton pad or ball and swipe it all over your face and neck.
Spritz it on your skin: If it comes in a spray mist bottle, spray it all over your face. No more wasting cotton pads!
Use your hands: Pour some toner directly on your clean hands and pat it gently on your skin.
Once it is dry, move on to your favorite moisturizer.
What Are Different Types Of Toner
In the olden days, toners were usually astringent in nature, targeting oily and acne-prone skin. But due to the alcohol content, they were really drying.
Gentle preparations available today e.g. K-beauty toners focus on nourishing and hydrating the skin.
Aimed at dry skin, these toners contain moisturizing ingredients (hyaluronic acid, glycerin, vitamin E, etc) that lock in moisture and make the skin plump.
Aimed at oily and combination skin types, they contain acids (AHA, BHA, PHA) that remove dead skin cells, excess oil, and buildup, yielding a better complexion and improved skin texture.
Aimed at the sensitive skin type, they contain soothing elements such as chamomile, oats, rose water, and aloe vera.
Since they never have alcohol, they do not irritate the skin and maintain the skin barrier while calming the skin’s redness and irritation.
Formulated for the oily skin type, these toners deep cleanse the impurities that are responsible for clogging pores and causing acne.
They contain hydroxy acids and niacinamide which control oil production.
Modern toners are augmented with anti-aging, acne-fighting, skin-brightening, and soothing ingredients that nourish the skin while combating certain skin concerns such as acne, dull skin, hyperpigmentation, signs of aging, and more.
When Should I Use Toner In My Skincare Routine?
You should use a toner after cleansing your face, usually followed by moisturizing skincare products.
Benefits Of Toner
Preps the skin
A facial toner prepares the skin so it can better absorb the next product of your skincare routine. This also improves the efficacy of other skincare products.
Toners can unclog pores and remove dead skin cells, excess oils, and any residue left after cleansing, leaving the dull skin refreshed and clean.
Minimizes the appearance of pores
Toning your skin can tighten pores temporarily and give the appearance of tightened skin.
Hydrates the skin
A hydrating toner that contains moisturizing ingredients leave your skin hydrated, making your skin plump and dewy.
The soothing ingredients in toners can also rejuvenate the skin.
Balances the skin’s pH
Toners work to keep the skin’s pH balanced. This protects the skin barrier and allows our skin to function optimally.
Controls acne and oil production
Some toners contain acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid. They prevent acne by removing dead skin cells and excess sebum.
Such toners can be quite beneficial for oily skin and acne-prone skin types.
Offers gentle exfoliation
Exfoliating toners contain active ingredients such as glycolic acid and lactic acid that refine the rough patches of the skin by sloughing away old skin cells, grime, and oil, revealing smooth skin and an even-toned complexion.
Potential Negative Effects Of Toner
If a toner is not rightly suited to your skin type, it can result in damaging your skin. For example, alcohol-containing toners can wreak havoc on dry and sensitive skin types.
Always perform a patch test before using a product.
Difference Between Micellar Water Vs. Toner
The difference between micellar water vs. toner3 can be summed as follows:
1. Main Action
Micellar water is a water-based cleanser that can remove sunscreen, makeup, skin buildup, and dirt from the face. If you wear makeup, it can serve as the perfect gentle cleanser.
The oil droplets in water dissolve all grime and leave the skin ready for your facial cleanser.
Meanwhile, a toner is a water-based product used to prepare the skin for subsequent skincare products by balancing the pH of your skin.
A toner also removes makeup and residual impurities left behind after the cleansing routine.
2. Added Benefits
Constituted with soft water, micellar water can add hydration to the skin, apart from cleansing.
Whereas, a toner has various active ingredients that address specific skin concerns (aging, dullness, acne) apart from prepping and balancing the skin.
3. How To Use It
Another difference between micellar water and toner is the way they are applied.
Micellar water can only be applied via a cotton pad, whereas toner can be applied via cotton pads, spray bottles, or even directly with your hands.
4. Different Purposes
Both micellar water and toner are two products with different purposes. Micellar waters are formulated to remove sunscreen, makeup, and dirt.
On the contrary, toners are used to prep the skin, balance the pH, add hydration and nourishment, (it won’t remove completely remove makeup, dirt and oil, but can help remove some residue left after cleansing).
5. Before Or After Cleanser?
Micellar water is used before a cleanser whereas toner is used after a cleanser.
6. Do We Wash It Off?
Micellar water needs to be followed by proper cleansing and washing, whereas toner does not require to be washed off. Doing so would result in losing its benefits.
Toner Vs. Micellar Water – Similarities
- Hydration: Both products provide hydration to the skin.
- Consistency: Micellar water and toner both have a watery consistency.
- Different formulations: They are generally suited to all skin types due to various formulations.
- Convenience: Both products are easy to use.
Which Is Better: Toner Or Micellar Water?
Since both products serve different purposes, it is best to choose what works better for your skin.
Micellar water is great as first part of cleansing, for removing makeup, dirt, and oil whereas a toner balances the skin and preps it for the next skincare products4.
Toner Vs. Micellar Water: Which One Should You Use?
Those who wear light makeup and sunscreen can benefit the most from micellar water.
On the contrary, toners should be used by anyone who wishes to amp up their skincare routine.
Differences Between Toner And Micellar Water – FAQ
Here are some commonly asked questions about micellar water vs toner.
Are Toners Really Necessary?
No. Toners are optional but if rightly suited to your skin type and concerns, they can improve the quality of your skin.
Should I Use Toner Everyday?
Yes, toners are gentle enough to be used daily.
Is Micellar Water Necessary?
No, but it can make your cleansing step easier, especially if you wear makeup.
Can You Use Micellar Water Instead Of Toner?
No, you cannot use micellar water as a toner. Often, people confuse micellar water and toner.
But can micellar water replace toner? No.
Micellar water cleanses the skin whereas a toner preps and balances the skin.
Can I Use Micellar Water And Toner In The Same Skincare Routine?
Yes, you can use micellar water and toner in the same skincare routine.
Should I Use Toner Or Micellar Water First?
You should use micellar water to remove makeup and dirt, followed by your favorite cleanser. After that, use your facial toner5.
Should I Wash My Face After Using Micellar Water?
Yes. Micellar water can end up causing acne by clogging the pores hence it is advisable to wash the face after using micellar water.
Is Micellar Water Better Than Face Wash?
Though micellar water is great to clean your face, (especially when you’re away from water), I would still opt for using a normal cleanser in my normal daily skincare routine.
Is Toner Or Micellar Water Better For Dry Skin?
Whether micellar water or toner is better for dry skin depending on what’s inside that bottles.
Just make sure to choose one that is packed with moisturizing ingredients.
Does Micellar Water Help With Acne?
Yes, micellar water helps with acne. The benefits of micellar water include combatting acne since it can remove makeup, oil, and dirt, which can otherwise lead to clogged-up pores and acne breakouts.
Can Micellar Water Dry Out Skin?
No, micellar water does not dry out the skin as it contains hydrating ingredients. It cleanser oil and dirt from your face, without stripping off the natural barrier.
Should I Apply Moisturizer After Micellar Water?
Yes, you should always apply moisturizer after cleansing, whether you use micellar water or a regular cleanser.
Wrap-Up: Micellar Waters Vs. Toners
There we go, that’s our take on the battle of micellar water vs toner.
Micellar water is a good temporary substitute for your regular cleanser (especially if you’re in a hurry or don’t have access to water) and a great means to remove makeup and impurities from the face.
However, in a normal daily skin care routine it should be followed by a proper cleanser.
A toner is a skincare product used to prep your skin for subsequent products and balance your skin.
According to the active ingredients, toners can hydrate, nourish, soothe, exfoliate, and fight acne and signs of aging.
If I were to choose micellar water or toner, I’d definitely choose a toner due to the wide range of benefits that come with it.
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