Picking a micellar water is not three-dimensional chess. At no point should buying one from the drugstore (or buying one on drugstore.com!) turn into a game of strategy and wit, causing you to see visions of Cartesian planes amongst the aisles. Respect the realist in you and remember that this is just a makeup remover—albeit a makeup remover that also soothes the skin, either before a cleanse or in lieu of one because it's late and you should be in bed by now. Please rest assured that this decision should not result in the loss of any sleep.
That said, this would not be your favorite beauty site if we weren't the least bit tempted to overthink it. So if you were going to plot micellar waters on a 3D plane, your axes would be as follows: fragrance, price, and convenience of packaging. The options are all up to your discretion; there are no wrong answers here. But that doesn't mean that matters of personal preference aren't the most challenging of all. What's left for you is to look within your soul, level with your self, and ask: What do I really want, what do I really need out of my spa water? How can my spa water work for me? And there are many ways! See the whole board. Our selection plots as follows:
Moderately Priced + Unfragranced + Standard Packaging
The classic for a reason. The only makeup remover + skin refresher you'll find in any makeup artist's kit, Bioderma used to be the #1 export from students studying abroad in Paris. But now thanks to the internet, you can order it whenever you want, for a cool $15. The packaging is a little clunky, but iconic. And it doesn't even matter because the formula requires very little scrubbing and evaporates off the skin just like water. No leftover stickiness.
Inexpensive + Unfragranced + Standard Packaging
Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water
Look familiar? Yeah, thought so. Take the review above, reread it, and add a hint of residue to the rinse off. Not a deal-breaker though. At $9, this was the Glossier HQ top recommended cleansing water of the bunch.
Expensive + Fragranced + Conveniently Packaged
Dior Hydra Life Micellar Water
The packaging here is key. It's a press-top, which is the perfect evolution of the pump top. Simply place your cotton pad on top of the bottle and press down. Convenient! The formula is OK on most makeup (it struggled on kohl liner) and, like the rest of the Dior Life line, it's heavily fragranced. But look at that bottle. It's gorgeous.
Moderately Priced + Fragranced + Conveniently Packaged
Le Couvent des Minimes Loving Care For The Face Micellar Water
Cute name, right? And cute bottle for all the L'Occitane fans out there. If you're looking for French countryside—as opposed to Bioderma's Parisian sensibility—this is the brand for you. The pump top is a selling point. It is fragranced, but like a French baby product if that's your jam. Trace stickiness detected after use.
Expensive + Unfragranced + Conveniently Packaged
Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water
Another classic, packed with botanical extracts for additional skin benefits. But if clearer skin isn't enough of a selling point, get on board with any of the various packaging/sizing variations. Going on a plane? Bring the cloths. Got a guest bathroom? Get the cutie miniature. But our recommendation: Go big. The huge pump bottle means you won't skimp on your makeup removal routine, and you can repurpose it when it's all gone.
Moderately Priced + Dyed?! + Packaging Is Cute
Erborian Cleansing Water With 7 Herbs
It's blue. So if that's not for you, move along. If dyes don't bother you, you're more than welcome to enjoy the seven herbs (tiger grass, rosemary, chamomile, Japanese knotweed, licorice, skullcap, and green tea) that work to restore radiance and calm skin. For what it's worth, this one worked the best on removing otherwise removal-proof makeup. And it's super cute.
Expensive + Lightly Fragranced + Packaging Is Gorgeous
La Mer Cleansing Micellar Water
A $90 micellar water comes with the promise of no residue and a very stately cap. Seriously, if you're paying that much, just know: This stuff works. And it smells lovely—like the skincare you remember your mother using on special occasions. Sure, the cap is heavy and prone to falling on the floor. But again, it's very stately.
Inexpensive + Unfragranced + Conveniently Packaged
Simple Cleansing Micellar Water
The cheapest, simplest, surprise favorite of the bunch. (Also why we kept it for last—congrats to anyone who made it this far.) No pump top, but that's fine because it's a squeeze bottle. Fun! No smell, no stickiness, no nothing. Just affordable cleansing at its finest. The coordinating wipes are also fabulous.
Photographed by Tom Newton.
Read here for something a little stronger—the best makeup removers for waterproof makeup.