Micellar Water Vs Toner: Differences & Which Is Best
This post may contain affiliate links.
What’s The Difference Between Toner And Micellar Water?
Toner and micellar water are not must-haves in your routine, but if you have any interest at all in skincare, you might wonder what the differences are between micellar water vs toner and if you need them in your routine. No matter how much of an expert you are in skincare, sometimes all these new products and terms can get confusing. So, I’m here to help answer a commonly asked question: which is better micellar water or toner?
The answer isn’t as simple as you may think and it’s not a clear comparison because micellar waters and toners are actually very different!
What Is Toner?
When you think of toners you probably think of astringent type toners that you use to treat acne or something like witch hazel. However, modern day toners have come a long way and they are much different (and better for your skin) now! Toners are a water-y like consistency that can have an array of skin benefits.
Depending on the formulation, toners can help with anti-aging, acne, dry skin and pretty much any other skin concern. Toners tend to have skin-loving ingredients like anti-oxidants, chemical exfoliants and other hydrating ingredients.
When used in a skincare routine, toners help to remove any excess product, dirt or cleanser that didn’t get washed off, and they also help add hydration back into the skin, adjust the skin’s pH levels and more depending on the active ingredients in the toner.
Benefits of Toner
Depending on the toner you are using, they can have so many different benefits. From soothing and hydrating to exfoliating and bacteria killing. With the right ingredients, they can help hydrate, soothe, exfoliate, brighten, fight acne, aging and so much more.
Toners typically always have hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid or glycerin to add lightweight hydration that all skin types can benefit from. Some may have extras like salicylic acid to unclog pores and treat acne. While others may have centella asiatica to calm the skin.
Each toner on the market is different and usually geared toward certain skin types or issues, so they can treat a very wide rage of conditions. There’s a toner out there for everyone!
Related post: Should Toner Burn Your Face?
Cons of Toner
Toners have a tendency to have a bad rep because when toners first came out, they were full of irritating and drying ingredients like alcohol, fragrance, etc. Unfortunately, you can still find some toners with these ingredients, but for the most part, modern day toners are incredible for the skin.
Another drawback is that toners really aren’t used for cleansing. Think of them as a thinner serum. So this means it cannot replace a cleanser or micellar water and may add an extra step in your routine if you choose to use one.
How To Use Toner
There are a couple different ways you can use toner in your routine. One of the most common ways is to saturate a cotton pad and swipe it over your skin to remove any residue, balance and tone the skin. The other, less wasteful, way is to pour a few drops into the palm of your hand, rub your hands together and press the toner into the skin. With this way, you don’t really get the cleansing action of the cotton pad, but if you’re using the right cleansers, that shouldn’t be an issue.
Using your hands also saves a lot of product, as much of the toner gets wasted because of the cotton pad.
When To Use Toner In Skincare Routine
Toners should always be used right after cleansing. Toners should come before any serums, treatments or other products. Since toners are usually water-y in texture, it follows the thinnest to thickest rule. Plus, toners help adjust the pH of your skin, so they need to be used right after your cleanser.
Is Toner Necessary?
No, toner is not a necessary step in your skincare routine! Although toners can have a ton of benefits and provide extra hydration and other targeted ingredients in your skincare routine, you can certainly do without them if you prefer a more simple routine.
What Is Micellar Water?
Micellar water is essentially made of two ingredients: oil and water. Many people wonder is micellar water a toner or cleanser? Long story short, it’s a waterless cleanser. Of course, there are other additives, but the oil and water are the main two ingredients. In the micellar water, there are tiny little droplets of oil, called micelles. If you’ve ever seen micellar water on the shelf, you may have noticed how the oil and water layer separate. Then when you shake it up, the oil droplets disperse throughout the water.
The oil helps to break down any makeup, dirt and oil so it is removed easier from your skin. It helps get skin clean and make sure you aren’t leaving any residue or dirt on your skin.
Micellar water is supposed to be used on a cleansing pad or cotton ball. Then you swipe the cotton ball all over your face to remove makeup and any extra dirt or bacteria. Many people use micellar water before cleansing to remove makeup.
Many people wonder “does micellar water tone skin?” and the answer is no. Micellar water only cleanses skin.
It’s important to note that micellar water should not take the place of an actual cleanser. Although it does do a good job of cleansing, it’s still not enough to rely on on its own. Plus, the oil in micellar water can break some people out if left on the skin. This can be why some people say micellar water is bad. Micellar waters are not bad, it’s just that people often use them incorrectly.
Related post: Does Micellar Water Have Oil In It?
Benefits of Micellar Water
If you choose a good micellar water, they can have many different benefits for the skin. While they’re ideal for dry and sensitive skin types, oily and acne prone skin can also use them as many brands make micellar waters suited for these skin types as well.
Micellar water is very gentle and lightweight on the skin, which makes it perfect for sensitive skin. This is because it’s non-foaming and doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals or ingredients that can strip the skin. Most micellar waters also contain ingredients like glycerin or chamomile to help hydrate and calm the skin.
Micellar water can be more convenient to use as a cleanser when you’re away from home, especially if you’re camping or something and don’t have access to water.
Related post: Does Micellar Water Cause Breakouts?
Cons of Micellar Water
Micellar water does have a few drawbacks to keep in mind. Since it contains oils, those with oily and acne prone skin types should be careful because the oils can end up clogging pores and leading to acne.
Micellar water also isn’t as powerful at removing heavy or waterproof makeup as a dedicated makeup remover or oil cleanser would be.
How To Use Micellar Water
Micellar water will typically be used as your first step: cleansing. Simply pour some micellar water onto a cotton pad and swipe over your skin to remove makeup, dirt and oil. Micellar water is best used as part of a double cleanse, so to do that, you would just follow up with a regular cleanser.
When To Use Micellar Water In Skincare Routine
Many people wonder “do you use micellar water before or after cleanser?” If you do decide to use a micellar cleansing water, then it’s important to use it at the right time in your routine. Micellar cleansing waters should be used before your cleanser.
Is Micellar Water Necessary?
Nope! Micellar water is not an essential step in your routine, although it can be helpful to have, especially if you wear a lot of makeup. But you can get by with a regular oil cleanser or balm.
Is Micellar Water A Toner?
Micellar water is often marketed as a makeup remover or cleanser, but can it also be used as a toner? The short answer is no, micellar water is not a toner. Micellar water is a gentle product designed to remove makeup, oils and dirt from the skin. Micellar water contains micelles, which are tiny balls of oil that help to dissolve stubborn makeup and remove impurities from the skin.
This makes micellar water an incredibly effective cleansing agent, but it does not hydrate, balance the pH of the skin or treat the skin in any way like a toner does.
Related post: Micellar Cleansing Water vs Cream Cleansers
Micellar Water Vs Toner: What’s The Difference?
So, now that we know what micellar waters and toners are, what’s the difference between micellar water and toner? When it comes to the debate of which is better micellar cleansing water vs toner, it’s pretty easy because they are very different products!
Micellar water is meant for cleansing. Sort of like a “pre” cleanse. It’s great to remove makeup or any dirt off your skin, but it’s not meant to replace a cleanser or have any other skin benefits. Whereas toners do have skin benefits and they are not meant to cleanse the skin.
Micellar water should be used before your regular cleanser to remove any makeup, dirt and oil. Whereas toner should be used after your cleanser to rehydrate the skin, treat any skin concerns, adjust the pH and remove any extra dirt, oil bacteria, etc.
Micellar waters do sometimes have skin-benefiting ingredients, like glycerin or anti-oxidants, but oftentimes toners are more concentrated and will do a better job if you’re looking to clear up any skin concerns.
Related post: Witch Hazel Vs Micellar Water: Which Is Better?
Micellar Water Vs Toner For Acne
When it comes to toner vs micellar water, is one better for acne?
Toners are definitely the better choice for acne! Since toners often have active ingredients like sulfur, salicylic acid or other acne fighting ingredients, toners will help to treat and prevent acne, whereas micellar waters do not contain active ingredients like this and typically only contain micelles (or oils) which can potentially clog pores, depending on your skin.
Toner Vs Micellar Water: Which Should You Use?
Now that we know all about micellar water vs toner, you might be wondering should I use toner or micellar water?
Toners are a great addition to your skincare routine, but not a necessary one. If you’re all about simplicity, then you can definitely skip toners. However, pretty much every one can benefit from a toner, especially if you have any skin concerns you are wanting to address.
Toners can hydrate, exfoliate, calm, treat acne, boost collagen production and more. So, if you’re looking to add an extra step in your routine and want to address certain skin concerns, toners are a great option for you!
Bottom line, toners can be used by anyone, but aren’t a necessary step in your routine.
As for micellar water, anyone can use micellar water, but they are especially beneficial for those with more sensitive skin types. Some micellar waters do not require water and claim they can be replaced as your cleanser in your routine. However, I do not recommend this, especially if you wear makeup! I have tried many micellar cleansing waters and put this claim to the test.
I found that when I wore makeup, I had to use multiple cotton pads and go over my face quite a few times to get all the makeup off. For me, it’s just not practical and is very wasteful because of the amount of cotton pads and products you have to use.
However, micellar waters can be a great first cleanse to help break down and remove makeup. Then by following up withe a second cleanser, that cleanser will remove any extra makeup, dirt or residue and actually clean your skin.
So, bottom line, anyone can use micellar water in their skincare routine, but I wouldn’t rely on it by itself to thoroughly cleanse your skin.
Related post: Can Micellar Water Remove Sunscreen?
Micellar Water Vs Toner: FAQ’s
Now that we know the difference between micellar water and toner, you might still have some questions about which one is right for you. Here are some commonly asked questions about micellar water vs toner.
Can Micellar Water Be Used As A Toner?
No, micellar water cannot replace toner and should not be used as a toner for a few different reasons.
In general, it’s best to rinse off micellar water or cleanse the skin after using micellar water if at all possible. The micelles can leave an oily residue on the skin which can lead to breakouts. Micellar water also does not have any hydrating or special ingredients like toners do so they really do not have the same benefit.
Micellar water cannot tone the skin, hydrate, balance the pH and treat skin conditions like toner can.
Is Micellar Water Good For Acne?
Micellar water is not good or bad for acne. Micellar waters do not contain any ingredients that would help or treat acne. If anything, the oil in the micellar water could end up clogging your pores and creating new acne. This is also why I recommend following with a separate cleanser if you use micellar waters and are acne prone!
This is a key differences when it comes to micellar water vs toner. Micellar water does not have any active ingredients that can help treat acne, but toners can if they’re formulated with the right ingredients.
Do you need to moisturize after micellar water?
You should always moisturize after cleansing your skin, whether you use a micellar water or regular cleanser. No matter how gentle your cleanser is, it will still strip your skin of its moisture to some degree. So, even if you have oily skin, you should always moisturize after using micellar water!
Should You Wash Your Face After Using Micellar Water?
Many people use micellar water as a cleanser but do you need to cleanser after micellar water or is it ok to use micellar water as a cleanser?
In my opinion, yes you should always wash your face after using micellar water because micellar waters can leave an oily residue from the micelles which can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. Not to mention if you’re not cleansing after micellar water, you are likely leaving behind a lot of impurities. However, I know some people use them by themselves and everyone’s skin will react differently.
Can I Use Micellar Water And Toner At The Same Time?
You can definitely use micellar water and toner in the same routine. If you use micellar water and a cleanser then your routine should be micellar water, cleanser, then toner. If you just use micellar water and toner, then you would just use micellar water then follow up with your toner.
Can Micellar Water Dry Out Skin?
It’s definitely possible for micellar water to dry out skin, but it’s unlikely. Micellar cleansing waters were actually developed for dry and sensitive skin types as a way of cleansing without stripping the skin.
Should I Use Micellar Water If I Don’t Wear Makeup?
You definitely can! Especially if you wear sunscreen, micellar water can help break down the sunscreen so you’re ensuring you get everything off at the end of the day. Even without makeup, micellar water can help break down the oil and dirt on your skin and ensures you’re getting your face clean at the end of the day.
Is Micellar Water Or Toner Better?
One is not better than the other because these two products are very different. Micellar waters focus on cleansing the skin, whereas toners are used to treat certain skin issues like acne, dryness, etc. It all depends on what you are wanting to use them for.
Is Micellar Water Better Than Face Wash?
No, micellar water is not better than face wash. It cannot replace the powerful cleansing of a dedicated face wash. However, it can be a gentle, first cleanse but you should not solely rely on it to get your face clean.
Can You Use Micellar Water As A Toner?
No, you cannot use micellar water as a toner because micellar waters do not have the active ingredients like toners to regulate the skin pH, add hydration or fight skin concerns like acne. Using micellar water as toner will not give you any benefits.
Should I Use Toner or Micellar Water First?
Micellar water should always be used first in your skincare routine because its purpose is to help cleanse the skin. Toner should always be used after cleansing and before serums and moisturizers.
Do I Need Micellar Water and Toner?
Technically, you don’t need micellar water or toner in your skincare routine. Micellar water is not a toner and the two have different purposes in your routine.
If you wear light makeup, a micellar water can be a great first cleanse. It can also be helpful for those with sensitive skin. Toners can be of benefit to anyone – they balance the skin’s pH and can tackle many different skin concerns.
But are either must-haves? Not really. Unless you have a good cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen, you don’t need much else, unless you just want it!
Which Comes First Micellar Or Toner?
Micellar water should always come before toner. It’s used to cleanse the skin whereas toner is used to balance, rehydrate and target certain skin concerns.
Can I use toner after micellar water?
Yes, toner can be used after micellar water. In fact, it’s great to use toner after micellar water to help remove any residue from the water to prevent clogged pores and breakouts.
Should You Use Toner After Micellar Water?
You can totally use a toner after micellar water, but you don’t have to. Ideally you want to actually cleanse your skin with a regular cleanser after using micellar water to remove any excess dirt, oil or makeup that the micellar water didn’t get and remove any micellar water residue. If you’re in a pinch, you can use toner after micellar water, but it’s not ideal.
So really you’d want to do micellar water > cleanser > toner.
Can I Use Toner Instead Of Micellar Water?
No, micellar water cannot be used in place of toner. Micellar water has tiny droplets of oil that really need to be washed off and not left on the skin. Toners are meant to provide hydration and active ingredients whereas micellar water does not do these things.
Related post: Differences Between Micellar Water And Oil Cleansers
Best Micellar Waters
Best Micellar Water For Sensitive Skin
Bioderma Sensibio H2O
If you have sensitive skin, Bioderma is one of the best brands for you and their micellar water is no different. With limited ingredients and patented micelle formula, this will help remove makeup, dirt and oil all while maintaining and repairing skin’s moisture barrier. There’s a reason this one is a cult favorite!
Best Micellar Water For Acne-Prone Skin
Bioderma Sébium H2O Micellar Water
This one is just as good as the original (above) but formulated especially for combo, oil and acne prone skin. With added ingredients to help with oil control, this one is your best bet if you have more problematic skin.
Best Micellar Water For All Skin Types
Simple Kind To Skin Micellar Cleansing Water
With limited ingredients, plus skin-loving additions like Vitamin B3 and Vitamin C, this micellar water is perfect for all skin types. Simple is also a great brand for sensitive skin types because they use minimal ingredients and don’t use any harsh chemicals. So this is another great option for sensitive skin and it’s also more accessible than Bioderma.
Best Toner For Acne-Prone Skin
Deep Sweep 2% BHA Pore Cleaning Toner with Moringa + Papaya
With 2% Salicylic Acid + enzymes, this toner will help exfoliate dead skin, unclog pores and kill acne causing bacteria. Plus extracts that will help re-hydrate skin so it doesn’t get dried out.
Best Toner For Anti-Aging
Summer Fridays Soft Reset AHA Exfoliating Solution
This glycolic and lactic acid combo packs in 16% AHA, making it a strong and effective toner to help increase skin cell turnover, unclog pores, fight fine lines and wrinkles and smooth out skin texture. Plus Niacinamide to help even out and brighten skintone. This is a great toner for anti-aging, acne, dull skin, skin congestion and hyperpigmentation.
Best Toner For Dry Skin
Paula’s Choice RESIST Advanced Replenishing Toner with Hyaluronic Acid
With hyalyronic acid, evening primrose oil and essential fatty acids, this toner helps to strengthen and repair the skin’s moisture barrier, keeping your skin plump, hydrated and soft. It helps to replenish your skin’s nutrients to keep skin healthy, so it’s a great toner for rehydrating your skin after cleansing.
Best Toner For Sensitive Skin
Paula’s Choice CALM Redness Relief Toner For Normal To Dry Skin
This milky toner is ideal for sensitive skin types and those with reactive skin conditions like rosacea. With hydrating and skin soothing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and allantoin, this toner helps to replenish skin with hydration and calm irritation and redness.
Micellar Water Vs Toner: Bottom Line
So, which is better micellar water or toner? In my opinion toners all the way. Although I do like micellar cleansing waters, I just prefer a regular ol’ cleanser to get the job done. I have sensitive skin and never really found them extra soothing or better for my skin. However, I do know people that swear by them and they can be a great option!
Toners, however, have much more benefits to the skin and contain active ingredients that can help improve your skin concerns. So, if you have a cleanser that you love and are looking to treat a skin concern, definitely go with a toner!
Where do you stand on the micellar water vs toner debate? Do you prefer one or the other? Let me know in the comments!
Related To Micellar Water Vs. Toner:
- Facial Oils: Rosehip Oil Vs Marula Oil
- Vaseline Vs Aquaphor For The Skin
- Emulsion Vs Cream
- Eye Serum Vs Eye Cream
- Best Korean Toners For Dry Skin
- Toner Vs Cleanser – What’s The Difference?
What Is Micellar Water Vs Toner
Elizabeth is the owner of The Blushing Bliss, a skincare and beauty blog that she started to order to help others navigate the overwhelming world of skincare. With skincare trends constantly changing, there’s one thing that will always be true: science. Elizabeth is here to help decode the science behind skincare and with a background in chemistry and microbiology, she's a pro at deconstructing scientific studies and medical jargon. She’s on a mission to tell you what works and what doesn’t do you can save time and money and get the skin of your dreams.