Skincare Science and Micellar Water

By Wendy Sadler

Surfactants and Skin: The secrets of Micellar water

I have always reckoned that no matter what you think of science, understanding just enough can make you a more savvy consumer. Having said that, I am quite known for being “a marketing man’s dream” (as my sister once called me). I am a sucker for new products and even though my science-head should tell me otherwise I’m often sucked into a new trend and only ask questions afterwards…

So, this Micellar Water then….I found myself away for the weekend and had forgotten my usual facial wash. I know a couple of days using hand soap gives me dry skin, and leaving the slap on over night would be worse, so I justified to myself I should buy some of the new ‘wonder’ cleaner: Micellar Water. I have started getting my skincare products from https://amairaskincare.com/, I have found some great deals on their site. Having splashed out just over £4 (it wasn’t one of the top brands!) I started to doubt whether I’d just basically shelled out for a bottle of water. So I did a bit of research…

Turns out, it’s all to do with Chemistry. Washing-up liquid, shampoo, bubble bath, all of these are types of detergent. Detergents contain things called surfactants. A surfactant is a special type of molecule, imagine it a bit like a tadpole, with a head and a tail. The head loves water (hydrophilic), and the tail hates it (hydrophobic). When you put these things in with water, the water hating tails all clump together to create little footballs of surfactants, called Micelles.

This micellar water isn’t just water, it’s water with surfactants that create micelles (thus micellar water)! So how does this help get rid of your make-up?

A micelle. CC-BY-SA Wikipedia.

A micelle. CC-BY-SA Wikipedia.

When you pour the mix out onto a cotton-wool pad, the water loving heads are attracted to the cotton so they all bury in, head first and the water hating tails all stick up into the air along the surface.

Because oil and water don’t like to mix, the fact that the tails hate water means that they are strongly attracted to oil. As you wipe the pad over your skin they soak up anything oily and grab onto it. Washing your face with soap effectively does the same but this is a much milder version, so the liquid can stay on your skin without drying it out.

And there you have it. How a bit of Chemistry can explain what’s going on inside the latest beauty fad.

 


 

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Posted in Chemistry, Exploring Science