Micellar Water vs Cleansing Balm and Cleansing Oil

If you don’t like using makeup wipes, you may be debating between micellar water vs cleansing balm and cleansing oil! As a skincare blogger, I have to urge you to ditch the makeup wipes and switch to gentler (and less wasteful) ways of removing your makeup. Your skin will thank you for it! But now on to the pressing question… which is better? Micellar water or cleansing balms/oils?!

That’s what we’re here to find out…

What is micellar water?

Micellar water, or cleansing water, is a skin cleanser that is a pretty innovative way of cleansing the skin. This kind of cleanser is amazing for removing eye makeup (it can usually handle even waterproof makeup), base makeup, dust and sweat and SPF from the skin. To use micellar water, put some on a cotton pad or reusable cotton round and gently massage the makeup off your skin.

Cleansing water can be fragranced or unfragranced, and I would always recommend going for fragrance-free makeup and skincare because it’s gentler on the skin.

This type of cleanser is mostly water, but it also contains micelles which are the things that really put in the hard work. Micelles are surfactants which dissolve the oil and makeup on our skin (using their lipophilic tails), which are then rinsed off and removed by water in the micellar water.

I hope you’ll excuse the science there but I really think micellar water is pretty cool. Because of the way micellar water works, you can remove makeup without having to scrub or rub your skin too much. However, some friction is required to remove makeup and SPF this way (due to the cotton round), and it can be tempting to rub harder than necessary to speed up the cleansing process. Being rough with your skin can be irritating, it can damage acneic skin causing scars and it ages the skin.

Micellar waters should always be followed up by a second cleanse (using a gel, foam, powder or cream cleanser). This is really important as micelles aren’t the best to leave on your skin. Although technically they don’t have to be rinsed off (and all micellar waters will tell you they’re ‘no rinse formulas’), it’s best to remove them as there will be traces of cleanser, makeup, dust and SPF left behind.

I always think of it this way: the first cleanse removes SPF and makeup and the second cleanse properly cleans the skin.

Cleansing balm and cleansing oil

Cleansing balm and cleansing oil are a very different way to cleanse the skin. These should also be used to remove makeup and SPF (and can be used on the eye area) before following up with a second cleanser.

Like micellar water, these break down the oils in makeup, allowing it to be washed off. Firstly, take a good amount of cleanser and massage it into the skin. Watch how the makeup immediately spreads around because it’s breaking down! But here’s where cleansing balm and oil really differs from micellar water: to remove a balm or oil cleanser, you have to emulsify it. This means adding a little water to the cleanser on your face and watching how it turns milky or foamy.

Emulsifying a cleanser allows the oil to bind to water, meaning it’ll rinse off effectively (instead of having a thick layer of oil on the skin that can’t be removed easily). Balm and oil cleansers allow you to get a really effective, deep clean.

An advantage of this type of cleanser is that you don’t have to scrub, rub, or pull at the skin. It’s all very gentle- you literally just massage your skin!

So… which is best?

Both micellar water and balm/oil cleansers are great, and both have their advantages.

1) Cleansing power

Both cleansers are pretty effective at cleansing the skin, but I believe that cleansing balm/oil has stronger cleansing power. This type of cleanser is amazing at removing makeup, and removes it a little better than micellar water. This is especially the case with Korean lip tints and waterproof eye makeup.

2) Eco-friendly considerations

I have yet to find a plastic-free or low-waste micellar water. This is important to me because I’m trying to reduce my waste and live consciously. However, I’ve found several low-waste balm and oil cleansers that come in tins or glass bottles, making them better choices for the environment.

Further, to use micellar water you need to have cotton pads. These aren’t very ecological because growing cotton is damaging to the environment due to the large amount of water it requires to grow. There’s also the plastic packaging of these cotton pads to consider, too. You can buy reusable ones to help reduce your waste though!

Micellar Water vs Cleansing Balm

3) Ease of use

Although both cleansers are easy to use and take about the same amount of time to effectively remove makeup, I find that micellar waters are easier to use around the eyes. My eyes are easily irritated, and using water near my eyes to rinse my balm/oil cleanser can make them quite red and sore.

On the other hand, when you use cleansing balm/oil you don’t need any extra tools, whereas to use cleansing water you need cotton rounds.


Overall, both micellar water and cleansing balm/oil are the best ways to remove makeup and pre-cleanse (in my opinion!). For a full makeup wipe rant, head over to my skincare guide.

It’s hard to say which one is better because they have different advantages! However… Because cleansing balms and oils are gentler and cleanse the skin better than micellar water, these might be best for the skin. But, if you’ve got sensitive eyes, I recommend micellar water for removing eye makeup because it’s less messy and there are less chances of getting cleanser or water in your eyes.

So, are you team micellar or team cleansing balm/oil? Let me know in the comments!

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Bye for now,

Jazmin xx


3 thoughts on “Micellar Water vs Cleansing Balm and Cleansing Oil

  1. Great article and something I have been curious about for a long time. I personally have been a long time fan/user of bioderma sensibio micellar water. My face feels so clean and fresh after using this product without any irritation. It’s simply wonderful. As some one who has reactive acne prone sensitive skin that swings from oily to dry pending on time of year, this product has been a consistent repurchase for me and works perfectly on my skin throughout its seasonal changes and needs. My mom also is a long time user/fan of this product and even though her skin needs are quite different than mine, it works perfectly for her as well. I think one thing that does give micellar water an edge over cleansing oil, in my opinion, is that it is generally more convenient and therefore I feel a better option for travellers, adventure seekers, or even just those a bit lazy on their cleansing routine (which I have been guilty of) as it does not require any added rinsing water, a sink, cloth etc. If you do not have easy access to water, such as a bathroom sink etc when traveling and/or camping then this product is a life saviour. A few swipes on my face and it feels clean and ready for the day or night without having a need for much more effort. I do agree that following up with a cleanser is a good idea especially when wearing a full face of product, but sometimes it is not an option so For those instances, I just double cleanse with micellar water. In the mornings, just one pass over my face of micellar water will do. Lastly, I am super impressed to read your mentioning of eco-friendly packaging being important. This is something I personally value highly in choosing products as well and I too have not had any luck finding eco friendly options for micellar water so for the time being I only purchase the largest bottle available which reduces my frequency of discarding waste and from that bottle I refill a small glass bottle for more convenient use. I also use reusable bamboo face rounds with this product. I do like cleansing oil but overall I would have to say that I am team micellar water. I should also mention that not all micellar waters are the same. The ONLY one I use is the bioderma sensibio, all others leave a subtle weird film on my face that I’m not particularly fond of. Bioderma sensibio though is perfect for me and my lifestyle and skin needs.


    1. Hi Chelsea, thanks for your comment! It’s so cool to see your thoughts on the micellar water/cleansing oil debate hahaha! I definitely love how convenient micellar water is, if I’m on the go or I want to just cleanse something small, it’s so much easier to use micellar water. Like you, I prefer reusable wipes, it’s such an easy swap to make things a little bit more eco-friendly! I think I may have come across a more eco-friendly micellar water, which I’ll post about if I can get my hands on it to try!

      I’ve tried the bioderma one, I like it too. It absolutely doesn’t leave a film and its so so gentle.

      Thanks for subscribing, I’m so glad you enjoy my content!


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