Take it all off with Micellar Cleansers: Smackdown of Drugstore & Highend Brands!

August 30, 2014

I’ve been dabbling with micellar water cleansers on and off for awhile now. When I first tried it more than 3 years ago, I thought, wow what a wonderful new invention! But it didn’t quite take off (back then), and it was pretty expensive for water… and a part of me that’s been so used to double cleansing, just felt it wasn’t enough. So I went back to my oil/cream makeup removers + foaming cleansers routine. And then Bioderma came to market, and everybody thought it was the best invention since sliced bread. Today, it seems like Bioderma has become synonymous with micellar cleansers the way Xerox was associated with photocopiers and Kleenex with tissue paper. The trouble is, I’ve never had any luck with Bioderma. It just didn’t remove my makeup easily and effectively. I had to go over everything multiple times, and follow up with a foaming cleanser afterwards… sort of defeats the purpose of an easy & gentle 1-step cleanser.

Miceller water cleanser

So what are Micellar Cleansers??

Micellar cleansers are basically water-based cleansers that contain “micelles”. Micelles are tiny emulsifiers which have a dual water-repelling end and a water-loving end. When applied to skin, the water-repelling end of the micelle will break up oily substances, cling onto them while the water-loving end pulls the entire mix towards water, thereby allowing everything to be wiped off effectively. In contrast, traditional oil / cream / balm makeup removers merely attempt to dissolve the bond between the makeup and the skin, thereby allowing you to wipe or rinse off. This often leaves an oily residue, which requires a foaming cleanser to remove. Micellar cleansers are therefore gentler on the skin, and saves time required for a follow-up rinse.

But are all Micellar Cleansers made the same?

Generally speaking, I’m very easy with cleansers… I only need them to do their job effectively and gently. However, as my experience with Bioderma has shown, micellar cleansers are not all made the same. I currently have 4 in my stash, covering a spectrum of drugstore to high-end brands, and here is a quick smackdown for you!

Chacott Beauty Cleansing Water

chacott cleansing waterChacott Cleansing Water [SGD23 for 500ml] is part of the Chacott for Professionals beauty line targeting stage performers. Designed for removing heavy stage makeup, it removes most of my makeup quickly and effectively. There is no detectable scent, and it comes in a simple, understated, plastic bottle. My first impression when I tried it was “wow, this is really effective!”. I was really enjoying this until I found my skin starting to dry up after a few days’ consecutive use. It also did not remove my waterproof mascara, although it did clean up eyeshadow and waterproof liner well enough.

Bifesta Cleansing Lotion

Bifesta Cleansing Lotion

Bifesta Cleansing Lotion [SGD16.90 for 300ml] is a drugstore offering from Japan, and the brand specializes in micellar cleansers. I actually really enjoyed this, and have been using this on and off for the past 2 years as deluxe travel sizes of this kept falling into my hands along the way. Bifesta cleaned my skin very thoroughly leaving no trace of any dirt afterwards.  It was also able to remove my eye makeup, including waterproof liner and mascara although I had to leave it on and wipe a few more times to get everything completely off. There are 4 versions of this to suit different skin types. And whilst it did not dry up my skin the way Chacott did, it also had a tingling sensation for as long as I left it on, so I still had to rinse off and wipe down thoroughly with toner afterwards.

Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water

koh gen do cleansing spa water

As with all its other skincare products (reviewed here), Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water [SGD50 for 300ml] is formulated using the nutrient-rich Onsen water, and is infused with other skin-protecting essential herbs such as rosemary, sage, lavender, artemisia princeps, perilla ocymoides, and ginger root. It felt the gentlest out of all 4 being compared today, and left my skin feeling right the way it should feel – no feeling of tightness, no unnatural cooling or refreshing feel, etc.

I can see why Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water received all its accolades when it was launched in the US. This removed my face and eye makeup easily without much work. However, I found it did not clean my skin very thoroughly – even after going over my entire face twice with 2 fully saturated cotton pads, when I followed up with toner, my cotton pad came back dirty. So it seems a foaming wash is still needed to be completely rid of the day’s grime.

Crème Simon Micellar Water Makeup Remover For Eyes & Face

Micellar Water Makeup Remover For Eyes and FaceCrème Simon is a historical brand from France which has been recently updated with the Asian market in mind. It’s Micellar Water Makeup Remover For Eyes and Face [SGD55 for 150ml] is priced on the higher-end of the market, and in addition to makeup removing properties it also claims skincare benefits. The product includes Crème Simon’s proprietary Activ-Fleur Complex, an exclusive botanical elixir of 7 flowers and plants to brighten the skin. The brightening effect is further enhanced by rose, iris and jasmine extracts, and wheat oligosaccharides complex.

It has a gentle floral fragrance thanks to the floral extracts, and felt gentler on my skin than either Chacott or Bifesta, but not quite as soothing as Koh Gen Do. The winning point for this was how amazingly how well it removed all my makeup, including eye makeup, waterproof liner and mascara, as well as lipstick!! This is the only micellar cleanser which I feel comfortable enough to not have to follow up with a foaming cleanser at all. In fact, I didn’t even feel like I needed toner!  Once I started on this, I was hooked and would reach for my bottle without pause every night. I loved cleaning my eye makeup with this as it didn’t require any rubbing, nor did it leave my eye area oily. Simply perfect!

Concluding thoughts…

I have not had the opportunity to use any of the 4 micellar cleansers discussed today long enough to ascertain any of their longer-term skincare claims. Bear in mind these are meant to be cleansers (as opposed to serums), and so the beneficial skincare ingredients are in very low doses, thus requiring protracted periods of use for any visible results. Based on my initial experiences, I love the gentleness of Koh Gen Do’s Cleansing Spa Water, but Crème Simon’s Micellar Water Makeup Remover For Eyes and Face strikes the best balance in terms of gentleness and effectiveness. On the other end of the pricing scale, Bifesta Cleansing Lotion is a really lovely affordable, no-frills option. Chacott Beauty Cleansing Water is certainly effective though not suitable for sensitive and dry skin.  There are subtle differences between them, although I am not sure if it warrants the massive price gap.

Have you tried any micellar cleansers? If so, which is your favorite? xoxo