I Stopped Using a Face Wash and My Breakouts Disappeared

Close up photo of a woman showing the side of her face, neck and bare shoulders
Photo: PeopleImages/Getty

"Your skin!" my friend said with comforting glee from across the table. "What have you been doing?" To be honest, really the bare minimum, and I hadn't been washing it. And by that, I mean that I had completely cut out traditional cleanser — foaming, cream, gel, and all — from my routine for a little over three months and had only been cleansing with micellar water.

And during that time, I explained I've dealt with fewer random breakouts than I ever had around my T-zone, even when I was on my period. On top of all that, my skin was way less blotchy and red. While I don't have acne-prone skin, I do get zits here or there, just like the rest of us, fairly often.

She was shocked — and to be honest, I was too.

Here's the background. I was recommended to make the switch after I was dealing with some unpleasant reactions, like stinging and red patches, to literally everything I was putting on my face. It was considered the gentle alternative to the scrubs and acne-fighting cleansers.

For the past three months, I've cycled through multiple bottles of Simple Micellar Water ($8; target.com), Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water ($11; dermstore.com), and Garnier SKINACTIVE Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Makeup Remover & Cleanser ($8; target.com).

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Garnier SKINACTIVE Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Makeup Remover & Cleanser

Micellar water has been around forever, and it's just now becoming a beauty staple in your favorite brand's collections, but for a very good reason.

"Gentle, gentle, gentle," explained Dr. Kenneth Howe, a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology. "That is the main—and crucially important—benefit of facial cleansing with micellar water."

Micellar water works by using tiny spherical structures called micelles to lift dirt and oil from the skin's surface and then are washed away by the water, noted Dr. Howe. Interestingly enough though, he also said that micelles aren't exclusive to micellar water and that your average face soap probably has these particles in its formulation. Micellar water, however, has a "gentler concentration of the molecules that go into the formation of micelles."

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Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water

So why was I experiencing fewer breakouts than before I made the switch? It could be because I eliminated irritation.

"Many people with sensitive skin experience reactive breakouts," he explained. "Dryness, harsh soaps, irritating make up, cause their face to break out with acne. Eliminate the irritation, and the breakouts stop. I think that's what you did, by switching to micellar water."

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Simple Micellar Cleansing Water

But that doesn't mean micellar water is your answer to curing acne or even someone who has acne-prone skin. You really have to determine if it's right for your skin type and your routine — AKA how much makeup you wear on a daily basis.

"Micellar water cannot lift clear as much surface oil as a traditional facial cleanser," explained Dr. Howe. "So if you're oily or use a heavy foundation, you are unlikely to get clean enough with micellar water alone."

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In that case, maybe it's your first step in double cleansing, or perhaps you should opt for a more heavy-duty formula.

Me? I'm sticking to micellar water for the time being. My cabinets are stocked, and so far, my skin is in the clear.

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