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Why Micellar Technology Cleans Smarter—Not Stronger

BY Arden Fanning Andrews

Originally born in Paris, micellar technology was once the French girl’s secret to inexplicably clear skin. 

Now, it’s recognized by dermatologists worldwide as one of the gentlest, most effective ways to cleanse skin of every tone and type. Why? More like a magnet for impurities than a traditional moisture-stripping soap, this “soft water,” when incorporated into products, respects your complexion’s natural barrier. “It is really a major advancement in micellar water products,” says New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Neil Sadick as he takes a moment from his celebrity clients to explain what micellar means for your skin. “Micellar products, or micellar water, is a popular derivative of what is called ‘soft water,’ and has tiny capsules of oil that are suspended within the water. That is how it really gets its name–micelles,” he explains of the tiny oil spheres that allow for “maximal cleansing and hydration” without that squeaky, too-dry feeling often associated with old-school soaps. It’s this dual-action relationship between water and oil that transforms the process–and your expectations of what clean skin looks and feels like.

Magnetic Powers

“Micellar water is able to rid the skin of dirt, while the oil removes excess sebum–and the water hydrates the skin while the oil is able to condition it,” Dr. Sadick shares. And instead of depriving the skin of its entire protective layer, micellar products–like Function Of Beauty’s just-launched Custom Micellar Gel Cleanser–act like a magnet targeting pollution and impurities, without ever being harsh on skin. “It has all the surface cleaning benefits, without any dermal disruption,” says Beverly Hills-based dermatologist (and co-host of The GIST) Dr. Ava Shamban of the way micellar technology differs from harsh scrubs and drying soaps. How? “The extremely mild cleaning molecules group together to form microscopic spheres called micelles, which act as powerful magnets gently attracting dirt and oil, lifting them from the skin surface without any prerequisite rubbing or disruption to the lipid barrier and skin matrix,” Dr. Shamban says. This natural barrier, or matrix, is what helps your skin function at peak performance.

Smart Enough, Soft Enough

Just because it’s powered by “micelles” doesn’t mean that the Custom Micellar Gel Cleanser can’t stand up to oily skin. Applied to wet skin, it lathers up and rinses clean without leaving skin feeling tight. “We created a micellar gel because we wanted to fuse the familiar gel cleanser format with the gentle, non-stripping attributes of micellar water,” says chemist Chiara Butler, who dives even deeper into the logic: “Surfactants, the cleansing ingredients in a cleanser, are molecules that have a water-loving ‘head’ and an oil-loving ‘tail,’” she explains. “When the micelle encounters oily sebum on the skin it can trap it in its oil-loving center, allowing water to wash it away.” This means that instead of washing off and throwing out all of your complexion’s healthy oils and bacteria, it cleans smarter, not stronger.

Absorbing The Good

The icing on the cake is that this type of smart cleansing helps your skin accept the good ingredients that you layer onto it. “Micellar water is also included in many skincare products because of its enhanced hydration and ability to penetrate actives,” says Dr. Sadick. “It protects and hydrates the skin.” Already packed with glycolipids (made from sugar and essential fatty acids) that condition and moisturize and betaine (an amino acid naturally found in your skin) to hydrate and plump, the Custom Micellar Gel Cleanser starts feeding your complexion with nourishing ingredients it needs more of right away. Every serum or moisturizer that comes next will only absorb faster and work smarter thanks to the formula’s skin-respecting science. It’s time to nurture your skin–not aggravate it–from the first step.