Micellar Water vs. Toner vs. Cleansing Oil

Micellar Water vs Toner vs Cleansing Oil

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If you’re confused by the different skincare products designed to remove makeup and clean your face, you’re not alone. There are so many kinds of skin cleansers and treatments – how can you tell which one is right for your skin type?

Here we’ll examine micellar water, toner, and cleansing oil and reveal their benefits. Everything you ever wanted to know about micellar water, toner, and cleansing oil is right here. 

These three skincare products – micellar water, toner, and cleansing oil – may seem similar, but they work quite differently. Here is a rundown of what this trio of treatments does. 

Micellar Water

Micellar water is a multi-purpose skin care product that’s become a go-to for quick, no-fuss, gentle cleansing; it is made from purified water, moisturizers such as glycerine, and mild surfactants for cleansing.

Micellar water is named for the micelles, a spherical compound formed by the surfactants that pull makeup, dirt, and grime from the skin.  

For decades, micellar water has been a favorite skincare product in France. It is alcohol-free so that it won’t dry skin, but don’t let its gentleness fool you. Micellar water is an effective cleanser and has the added benefit of adding moisture to the skin. It’s suitable for all skin types, and dermatologists say micellar water is a great combination of cleanser, toner, and moisturizer.


Toner and micellar water look very similar, but what they do is quite different. While micellar water can take the place of a toner, since it works as a three-in-one skincare product, a toner can’t take the place of micellar water. This is because toner is not designed to be a makeup remover or cleanser.

A blend of water plus other ingredients that can include acids, alcohol, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory additives, toner is applied to the skin after being cleansed with a face wash or cleanser. It adjusts the skin’s pH level, deeply cleanses and tightens pores, and prepares skin for serums or moisturizers. 

Allure recommends using a toner whenever skin has been cleansed with soap, face wash, or a cream-based cleanser, day or night. Toner will leave skin ready to absorb the benefits of additional day or night treatments.

Cleansing Oil

If the idea of cleaning dirt, oil, and makeup off your skin with oil sounds counterintuitive, bear with us. The healthy oils of cleansing oil – some are made with botanical oils including sunflower, sesame, and almond – clean away sebaceous oil build-up from the skin without leaving it dry and irritated.  

Cleansing oils can be an excellent option for most skin types, although those with oily skin should use cleansing oils with botanical amino acids, dermatologists say.

FAQs about Micellar Water, Toner, and Cleansing Oil

That just covers the basics of these three skincare products, but you may have more questions about how to use these products for best results. Here are several frequently asked questions where we come clean about clean skin.

Can I Use Toner if I Have Dry Skin?

People with dry skin can include toner in their daily skincare regimen, but the toner they use should be alcohol-free and gentle. It should be the middle step of skin cleansing, following a non-drying face wash. After toning, those with dry skin should always moisturize. 

I Have Acne. Can I Use Micellar Water or Cleansing Oil?

There’s a misconception that those with oily skin or acne should avoid moisturizing products. Skin that’s too dry can become inflamed and prone to more breakouts. Light moisture that won’t clog pores is essential.  

For those with oily skin, cleansing oil that includes botanical amino acids could be an option. Micellar water will gently clean all skin types, but those with very oily skin may want to use it only a few times a week instead of twice a day.

Why Shouldn’t I Use Soap on My Skin?

Some find soap-and-water cleansing to be drying for the skin. Enter micellar water and cleansing oils. For those who want to avoid soap’s drying effects, micellar water and cleansing oils are two different options to clean skin while leaving it moisturized.

If you do like lathering up to clean off dirt, oil, and makeup, use a toner afterward to remove traces of soap, return skin to its natural pH and leave pores ready to receive all the benefits of a moisturizer.

Will Toner Help Remove Dead Skin Cells?

Cleansing skin will often exfoliate the surface. Using a toner will remove those dead skin cells, tighten pores, and remove any residue of cleanser.

Can You Use Micellar Water as a Toner?

If you are out of toner, then micellar water can do in a pinch. Micellar water is formulated to cleanse as well as tone skin, and it leaves behind moisture. If you use micellar water as a toner and then apply moisturizer, your skin may have too much moisture.

I Don’t Wear Makeup Every Day. Should I Still Use Micellar Water or Cleansing Oil?

Letting skin go makeup-free once in a while is healthy, and there are times when wearing makeup isn’t practical. Skincare, however, should be done every morning and night, whether you’re wearing makeup or not.

Micellar water or cleansing oil will clean any dirt or excess sebaceous oil from the skin, leaving behind moisturized, clean skin. Generally, if you want a lighter amount of moisture, use micellar water. Choose cleansing oil for more moisturization.

I Have Sensitive Skin. What is the Best Cleansing Oil for Me?

Cleansing oils are gentle, but those with sensitive skin should choose a cleansing oil that’s olive oil-based. This usually helps those with sensitive skin avoid allergic reactions.

Do I Need to Rinse Off Micellar Water or Cleansing Oil?

One of the perks of using either of these two skin-cleansing options is that you won’t need to rinse them. If you’re camping or traveling, you can give your skin a refresh with a quick wipe of micellar water or cleansing oil without needing water or a towel. Rinsing would rob your skin of the moisture these two products leave behind to nurture skin.

Will Micellar Water Remove Sunscreen?

Wearing sunscreen is a great way to protect your skin from the ultraviolet rays that can age skin. Micellar water will remove traces of sunscreen along with any makeup, grime, and excess oil, leaving skin clean at the end of the day. 

I Have Combination Skin. Is Micellar Water Right for Me?

Because micellar water is gentle and good for all skin types, those who have skin that’s oily in some areas, such as the nose and forehead, and dry in others, such as around the eyes, may benefit from using it morning and night. It removes makeup and dirt without drying skin or clogging the pores in oily areas.

Is Baby Oil a Cleansing Oil?

Often used as an inexpensive eye makeup remover, baby oil is not a true cleansing oil for skin. While it will remove makeup, baby oil can leave behind an oily residue that will clog pores.

Will Micellar Water Remove Heavy Makeup?

For hard-to-remove makeup such as waterproof mascara, gentle micellar water may not be up to the task. Micellar water is fine for removing most makeup, but if you find yourself scrubbing, use a makeup remover to get rid of stubborn, heavy makeup first. Then follow up with micellar water to leave skin fresh and clean.

Bottom Line – Which One Should You Choose?

Harsh cleansers often remove more than makeup. Some soaps, cleansers, and face washes leave fragile facial skin stripped of moisture. Lack of moisture can make the skin inflamed, more prone to breakouts, and dry. Over time, this can age skin prematurely.

Using gentle cleansers such as micellar water or cleansing oil will remove makeup, oil, dirt, and grime without drying skin. Both types of cleansers leave behind moisture to keep skin supple and healthy.

While micellar water and cleansing oil can perform the roles of cleansing and moisturizing, a toner is a different type of skincare product. Toners are designed to be used after cleansing. They remove any leftover traces of face wash, correct skin’s pH, remove dead skin cells and tighten pores. It is not a multipurpose product.

Now that you know the differences and benefits of these three different skincare products, you can choose the one that will leave your skin clean, fresh, and glowing.

Judy Rose

Hi, it’s Judy!

I’m a passionate skincare specialist and writer. I have more than 7 years of experience as a beauty, fashion, and lifestyle writer and editor, and I’m extremely passionate about what I do.