The water in Paris is notoriously hard, meaning that it contains a high percentage of dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium. This makes it pretty much the last thing you want to be washing your face with, particularly if you have dry, sensitive, or acne-prone skin. Why? Well, because these particles strip away or at least irritate the surface of the skin with every cleanse. (It’s also a nightmare for your hair, causing it to dry out and lose its shine unless you counteract the damaging effects with an appropriate clarifying treatment.) For years, the solution to this hard water problem, and one of the most revered French beauty secrets, has been micellar water.
So, what exactly is micellar water? Well, it’s a solution of pure, soft water containing small, round molecules called micelles. These have two parts: oil-loving ‘tails’ that attracts dirt, oil, and makeup and water-loving ‘heads’ that dissolve impurities so that they can be wiped away. Together, they act like a miniature sponge, mopping up the mess of a day in the city and hydrating the skin in the process. This cleansing method is so gentle that it can be even be used for your eyes. To apply micellar water, you simply soak a cotton ball or pad and pass this once or twice across your face.
For those habituated to the idea that cleansing requires a whole lot of lathering and face splashing, this super-rapid wipe down might seem, at first glance, inadequate. However, it is guaranteed to leave your skin glowing and without any tightness. If you don’t trust us, take the word of hundreds of models, makeup artists, and beauty editors who couldn’t live without it. Of course, this is just the first phase of the Parisian skincare regime, which sticks to a simple three-step routine of cleansing, toning, and moisturizing. For best effects, start young, go for natural products, and follow it consistently every day.
You’ll find a variety of micellar waters in every pharmacy in Paris. It’s hard to pin down exactly which brand is the country’s favorite but Bioderma’s CréalineH20 Micelle Solution and SensibioH20 are certainly very well loved among beauty professionals. Other products to look out for are Vichy’s Pureté Thermale 3-In-1 One Step Solution, La Roche-Posay’s Physiological Micellar Solution, Avène’s Micellar Lotion Cleansing and Makeup Remover, and Caudalie’s Micellar Cleansing Water. Fortunately, micellar water is becoming increasingly popular and more widely available outside of France and you can also purchase them on Amazon by following the links above.