Using Micellar Water And Cotton Pads? This Dermatologist Has A Warning For You

Your skin might not thank you for it.
Aleksandra Shamomina / EyeEm via Getty Images

When it comes to removing makeup at the end of the night, for many of us, a combo of micellar water and cotton pads is a total no-brainer. It’s fast, removes even the most stubborn mascara and you can bag a bottle for fairly cheap too.

However, in a now viral video on TikTok, user @IamKareno shared a video (which has 5.9 million views) of the negative impact her facialist said the combo has had on her skin.

In the video Kareno says “I just came out of a facial and the facialist said that I have these raw spots on my cheeks because my skin barrier is so weak there because I’ve been using micellar water and a cotton pad to rub my face. Don’t do that, I’ve learnt the hard way. It’s raw.”

But is this rooted in any truth? Well, according to one dermatologist, we should actually be opting for a different way to cleanse our skin.

We spoke to Skincare Specialist, and Founder of Bedew Skin, Rachael Robertson to answer all our burning questions.

What’s the skin barrier?

According to Robertson, the skin barrier can be thought of in the same way as you would the body’s immune system.
She explains: “It’s there to protect us and keep the bad stuff out and the good stuff in. If you have an impaired immune system, you are less protected from infection than if you had a fully functioning one. It’s the same for the skin that if your barrier is impaired, you’re more likely to experience skin concerns. Products also cannot work to their full potential if it’s impaired.”

What can damage the skin barrier?

Everything from abrasive or harsh topical products/tools, lack of SPF protection, pollution and our environment can damage our skin barrier, says Robertson.“When your barrier is damaged skin may feel dry, dehydrated, irritated and raw. You may have patches of flaky or discoloured skin, inflammation, redness and breakouts with skin that feels sensitive/reactive,” she adds.

So, what’s the deal with micellar water?

While Robertson doesn’t recommend micellar waters, she says that if you do like to use them use them as a first cleanse, make sure you remove it all with your second cleanse.

She explains: “They are formulated to break down dirt oil and makeup on the skin and the ingredients to do that can be a bit harsh so it’s best not to leave them on your skin once you’ve used it. An oil-based cleanser is much better for the skin though so if you can, I’d swap it out.”

And what about cotton pads? Are they bad for my skin?

Although they’re nice to use, cotton pads aren’t actually that great at cleaning skin. Robertson advises them as a first removal step if you really want to use them, but don’t expect them to shift SPF and makeup effectively.

“What you’ll tend to find is that you’ll use more and more pads with more and more micellar water because you keep seeing dirt on the cotton pad - it’s going to take a very long time to get your skin anywhere near clean! This excessive cleansing over and over is what can cause the skin barrier damage,” she says.

Okay, so how do I fix my skin barrier?

Fortunately, this bit is straightforward.
Robertson advises: “Strip your routine right back to basics and come from a place of hydration and nourishment. During the day, cleanse with a gentle oil cleanser and remove using a cleansing cloth, use a hydrator, seal with moisturiser and wear SPF.
“In the evening the same routine without SPF will be best to get your skin barrier happy and healthy. From here you can start to expand your routine again if you want to, just be careful not to overdo it.”