We all have our own different skincare routines that we work to perfect by finding the right products that serve a specific purpose, address a unique concern, or deliver a certain result.
With all the different skin care products on the market, and the instinctive need to want to try new formulas to help take our routine to the next level, it is easy to see how certain products can be tricky to differentiate from one another.
Toner and micellar water, for example, are two products that target similar areas of the face, but serve two different purposes within your skin care routine.
Both toner and micellar water have been popular skin care staples for decades, and in the past several years there has been a resurgence of popularity with a spotlight put on both products to highlight their benefits.
Toner is a crucial part of the K-Beauty inspired skin care routines, while micellar water is a perfect way to capture the French skin care method. The popularity of both products have also resulted in new innovations of their formulas to be enhanced and expanded to include versions that suit many different skin types and concerns.
So, what is the difference between toner and micellar water? While both products are similar, toner is meant to balance the skin’s pH and prepare your skin for the rest of your skincare routine and micellar water is a gentle cleansing water that can be used to remove makeup without stripping the skin.
There are many versions of each type of product that can work for different skin types, or target different skin concerns. Below, we’ll discuss in depth the differences and similarities between toners and micellar water, when to work them into your routine, and how to determine which product is best for your needs!
What Is A Toner?
Over the years, toners have evolved with different versions to cater to various skin types and skin concerns. Decades ago, toners were focused on clearing acne-prone skin and included harsh astringents to rid the skin of excess oils which could be stripping and intense for most skin types.
However, now toners are available to comfort, soothe, hydrate, or balance the skin depending on your personal needs.
Toners (we love this one with witch hazel from Thayers) can help to hydrate and treat the skin, while also balancing the skin’s pH levels. They are formulated with a mixture of ingredients meant to target your skin concerns, while also ridding your skin of any excess dirt, oil, makeup, or debris.
By removing any excess grime your cleanser may have missed, toners are used to help the skincare products following in your routine absorb more thoroughly.
Through removing build up of dead skin cells, excess oil, or any remaining makeup on the skin, toner essentially can be seen as a “primer” for your skincare serums, creams, and oils. It allows the skin to be ready to receive all the benefits of the other products in your routine at a deeper, and more effective level.
For a tutorial on using a toner, take a look at this helpful video from ehowbeauty on YouTube.
Who Should Use Toner?
As the market for toner has expanded over the years, there is a toner available for every skin type. Anyone can use toner, no matter what concerns you are looking to address. Most skincare brands offer several options for toners in their product lineups, to cater to all the unique skin combinations and concerns we wish to target.
If you are finding that your skin care routine is addressing most of your skin needs but you want the products to be elevated, adding a toner into your routine will allow you to see and feel the benefits of your serum, oils, and creams to give you the best results.
When Do You Use Toner?
No matter what skin type or skin concern you have, toner is a product that is recommended to be used day and night.
After cleansing your skin with your regular face wash, toner can be used in the next step of your skin care routine. It is best to use the toner shortly after cleansing your skin, immediately after cleansing, in order to receive the most benefits of the product.
When you are applying toner, it can be applied in a couple of different ways depending on your preference. One of the most common ways to apply toner is to saturate a cotton round with the product, and gently sweep it across the face.
By using the cotton round, you will be able to lightly exfoliate off any dead skin cells, while also removing any excess oil or makeup that is remains on the skin.
Another application method that became popularized with the increase attention on K-Beauty skincare routines is to pour the toner into your hands and then gently pat the product into the skin.
Often times this method is used several times in a row, allowing time for the skin to absorb each layer of toner in between. This method helps the product work into the skin quickly and be absorbed deeply, while providing a brighten and plumped appearance to the skin.
What Is Micellar Water?
Micellar water (we love the line from Bioderma) is a cleansing water that contains small particles of cleansing oil molecules to gently remove dirt, oil, and makeup from the skin without stripping it of its moisture.
The unique cleansing oil particles are called micelles, and are meant to trap any debris that collects on the skin to be wiped away. It is also meant to dissolve away impurities on the skin and remove makeup to prepare the skin to be fully cleansed,
Micellar water is a gentler alternative to other makeup removers, such as makeup wipes, and it will balance the pH levels of the skin compared to some facial cleansers.
The oil-in-water suspension on the cleansing molecules helps to clean the skin without compromising any of the skin’s natural moisture, while also hydrating the skin on its own.
As it was originated in France to help calm and cleanse the skin, while offering hydration against the harsh water, it is meant to provide an easy and gentle clean feeling on the skin.
While the product is a cleansing water, and it does remove makeup, dirt, and oil from the skin, it does not clean as deeply or as thoroughly as a facial cleanser would, however, and is recommended to be used as part of your cleansing routine rather than a cleanser on its own.
For a tutorial on using micellar water, take a look at this helpful video from Oluchi Onulgbo on YouTube.
Who Should Use Micellar Water?
Much like toners, micellar water can be used on any skin type or any skin concern. There are a variety of micellar waters on the market: some that are formulated for sensitive skin, some with added ingredients to hydrate dry skin, or formulas that will work well with oily skin.
However, although it is a product that can be used for any skin type, it is an ideal product for those who have dry or dehydrated skin, those who are especially sensitive, or those who are prone to experiencing acne breakouts.
When Do You Use Micellar Water?
There are many instances throughout your skincare routine in which micellar water can be used. It is a multi-functional product that can be used as a makeup remover, cleanser, or even a toner.
It is commonly used as a makeup remover is many skincare routines, as it is more gentle and hydrating that other makeup removing alternatives. However, if you are someone who likes to wear full coverage, or full glam makeup, micellar water may not be the best makeup remover choice for you.
Although it can be used as a cleanser, it is not meant to replace your deep cleansing routine or your facial cleanser. It is an ideal cleanser for flights, travel, or quick cleanings to refresh the skin.
While micellar water will remove any impurities from the skin, it will not provide the thorough cleanse that your skin requires on a daily basis.
As a toner, micellar water will balance the skin’s pH levels and will remove any remaining dirt, oil, or makeup from the skin prior to the rest of the skin care products being applied.
However, it is not meant to ready the skin for the following products to penetrate deeper layers of the skin like a toner does. Micellar water is ideal to use at the beginning of your cleansing routine.
Micellar water can be used in many ways, but most commonly it is applied by saturating a cotton round and sweeping across the face to begin the process of cleansing. For a more sustainable option, the micellar water can be poured onto a reusable makeup cleansing towel instead of a cotton round.
Using a makeup remover towel can also be great application method for those with sensitive skin, as the towels are often made of soft microfibers that can be gentler on the skin compared to the texture of a cotton round.
If you are using micellar water as the first step in your cleansing routine to remove your makeup, it should be followed up with a more thorough cleanse. If you typically wear waterproof makeup, like mascara or eyeliner,
it is best to saturate the cotton round or makeup towel with micellar water and let it sit on the eye for about 15 seconds so it can begin to breakdown the waterproof bond and allow the makeup to be more easily removed without having to tug or pull unnecessarily at the delicate eye area.
Is Micellar Water A Toner?
While it can be used in similar ways, and both products do have similarities, micellar water is not a toner and is not meant to be. Along with their many similarities, they are also different products that are formulated to perform different tasks in your routine.
Micellar water is a cleansing water that is created with oil-based molecules to remove and dissolve impurities on the skin to begin the cleaning process.
Toners are meant to balance the pH levels in the skin, that can be unbalanced after the use of a cleanser or makeup remover. They are meant to prep the skin for the rest of the products to follow in the skincare routine, to be able to perform to the best of their abilities.
Toner Or Micellar Water First?
If you are looking to add a micellar water or a toner into your routine, but are unsure where to do so, it is helpful to use micellar water first to begin the process of removing any makeup, dirt, or oil from the skin.
As part of the cleansing routine, micellar water will begin to breakdown the makeup to allow the facial cleanser to work more efficiently and thoroughly. However, if you are wearing full glam, or more intense makeup, something like a cleansing balm may be a more effective product for you.
Toner can then be used after your regular facial cleanser to remove any remaining impurities and lightly exfoliate. The toner will re-balance the skin and prepare the skin to receive the following serums, oils, or creams deeply into the skin.
Should You Use Both?
Though these two products seem similar, you can use both in your routine as they serve different purposes and target the skin in different ways. Depending on your skin type, you can find both micellar water and toner to be beneficial to the overall appearance of your skin.
Similarly, depending on your skin concerns, either one of these products can be customized to fit into your makeup and skincare routine seamlessly to help various products deliver the best results for your skin.
Certain skin concerns, such as oily skin or full coverage makeup wearing, may require either of these products to be altered to provide a completely cleansed and primed base for your skin care. However, both can be used together to create the perfect skin care routine for your unique skin type and concerns.
Overall, toner and micellar water are similar products, however their differences are enough to have both of them fit easily into your regular skin care routine.
Toner is meant to balance the skin’s pH levels that can be altered from the cleanser, while micellar water is a cleansing water that can be the first part of your skin care routine. Based on your skin type, you can find a product in both a toner and a micellar water that will treat, calm, and cleanse your skin while targeting your specific skin concerns.
If you are someone who has acne-prone or oily skin, a toner can be a perfect addition to your skin care routine, as you can ensure the skin is completely cleansed of dead skin cells and other impurities that can clog the pores or cause future breakouts.
On the other hand, if your skin type is more on the dry, dehydrated, or sensitive side, you may benefit from adding a micellar water into your routine as it will be gentler on the skin than other potentially harsh makeup removers, without stripping the skin of moisture.
However, no matter your skin type, anyone can benefit from incorporating one or both of these products into their cleansing routine.
Micellar water is a perfect first step in a skin care routine because it will prepare the skin for the facial cleanser to provide a more thorough clean, while trapping any dirt or impurities with the oil-based molecules and also breaking down makeup to be removed.
Toner is an ideal middle step to be completed immediately after cleansing, as it will prime the skin to absorb the other serums, oils, or lotions that will follow to receive their full benefits.
Incorporating both micellar water and toner into your skin care routine will help to further protect your perfect skin care routine to deliver you the best results.