Using Micellar Cleansing Water? Read this! Especially if you have oily, acne skin.

Using the wrong micellar cleansing water can cause your skin to oil up, leading to acne. 

What is micellar cleansing water? How do they work?

Micellar cleansing water, also known as micelle solution, has been in the beauty market for a while. Basically, this water is made up of microscopic micelle molecules suspended in soft water. A micelle molecule is a spherical molecule with a hydrophilic (water-loving) exterior and a hydrophobic (water-hating) interior.

When we pour the micelle solution on a cotton pad and apply the cotton pad on our skin, the pressure causes the micelle molecules to open up. This exposes the hydrophobic interior, which will attract and attach itself to other hydrophobic molecules (e.g dirt, grime, make up, etc). Once the pressure is lifted, the micelle molecule closes and forms a sphere again, trapping the dirt inside the molecule. This lifts the dirt and non-water molecules off your face, thus cleansing your skin in the process.

My experience with Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Solution

I have been looking for a make up remover that works for oily/ acne skin. Being super acne-prone, I wasn’t comfortable with using oil cleaners. I have been using milk cleansers but I didn’t like the after feel of the milk cleanser.

So, I was really excited when Bioderma Sensibio H2O was launched. I bought a 250ml bottle as it was bundled with a 100ml free bottle. I can’t remember the price though as it was more than two years ago.

My first experience was good. It did remove my make up satisfactorily. I also preferred the after feel of the micellar water to the milk cleanser. I was happy that I could finally stop using my milk cleanser. After using Bioderma cleansing water, I followed up with Skinlycious Anti-Acne Wash (now known as Calming Cleanser), even though it was not necessary as micellar solution is suppose to be a rinse free cleanser. However, I am afraid of acne outbreaks, so I continued with my usual routine of Skinlycious products.

My happiness didn’t last long.

The next morning, I woke up with a very oily complexion. I have yet to wake up with oily skin ever since I used only Skinlycious products in my skin care routine. It didn’t occur to me it was the Micelle Solution until my skin oiled up again by noon even after I had washed it in the morning. This had not happened to me for a long time. Of course, my face was more clogged up then usual due to the increased oiliness. Acne started popping up.

A Déjà vu feeling set in. I knew it was the micellar cleansing water as I did not change my diet nor other skin care products. I had this experience before when I was trying to formulate a cleanser for normal skin to add to the Skinlycious brand. We were testing out and trying different versions of sulfate-free cleansers with milder surfactants. The first few versions I tried oiled me up by noon.

My chemist and I worked hard to improve on the formulations. I, having acne-prone and combination skin, tried 10 different formulations, but all gave me an oily complexion though the last version was not as bad. My best friend, who has normal acne-free skin, went through the 10 rounds of testing with me. The first few versions made her normal skin oil up by noontime as well. The subsequent versions did not cause her skin to oil up.

However, we decided that Skinlycious should focus on being an anti-acne brand as that’s where our uniqueness lies. And with more experience in testing, I also found out that certain preservatives and other ingredients can also cause my skin to be oily. These are not taught or found in textbooks. It’s only because I have super acne-prone skin that I am able to test, feel and know the difference between the different formulations.

I stopped using the Bioderma cleansing water and went back to using milk cleanser for my make up removal. It took about 4 weeks for my skin to regulate back to normal, i.e. oiliness sets in only in the late evening.

I didn’t think of trying another brand of micellar cleansing water for two reasons :

1) Bioderma is supposed to be the best-selling and the pioneer, so they should be one of the best cleansing water. If it doesn’t suit me, I guess other brands would not as well. After all, they all work on the same concept of using micelle molecules.

2) I didn’t want to risk getting acne again by trying new products. Sometimes, it takes much longer for the skin to regulate back to “normal”.

Leave us a comment if you have similar experiences where cleansers oil up your face and cause outbreaks.

Behind the scenes of formulating Skinlycious Cleansing Water –
9 months; trials on real people with acne-prone skin

Round 1 – Testing on my own skin

Working with my chemist, we had to try a few versions before we came up with a formulation that doesn’t make my skin oily after use. This took a very long process as every time when I tried something that causes me to oil up, I had to stop, go back to my old routine, and allow my skin at least two weeks to tune back before I try another formulation. This process took me 4 months to find a formulation that I am fully satisfied with and importantly, it doesn’t oil me up. It’s alcohol free, parabens free, oil free and soap free. Let’s call this Version 1.

Round 2 – Getting some friends and top customers to try

We contacted a few selected customers, who have been consistently using Skinlycious products for quite a while. These are customers, who have had their acne cleared from using our products. I also asked a few close friends, who have normal skin and have been using my serums and sunscreen (suitable for all skin types), to try. I made a batch of 20 samples of Version 1 and sent it out to them.

The feedback that came back was that it cleanses well. A few feedback that smell was ok but many feedback that they didn’t like the smell. My bestie called me up and told me that she didn’t like the smell. When asked if they preferred citrus or flowery smell, most feedback that citrus refreshing smell would be nice. So, we tried an improved version with citrus smell.

Honestly, I am very bad with smell. I think my nose is kinda spoilt. Sometimes, I can’t even smell my baby’s poop. The original version’s smell was acceptable to me. Nevertheless, I was glad that I didn’t launch the original version and gathered some feedback before I launch. More importantly, I wanted to make sure that Skinlycious micellar cleansing water doesn’t cause our skin to be more oily, which would possibly lead to acne.

Round 3 – Improving the formula, adding citrus essential oil, getting feedback from close friends.

We also gathered that waterproof eye makeup was not that easy to remove with Version 1. So, my chemist and I worked on it and did an improved version and changed it to citrus smell. Let’s call this Version 2. It did cleanse better than Version 1, especially so on removing waterproof eye makeup. I only made 3 samples of Version 2. One for me and two for my close friends. One was ok with the citrus smell but the other felt that it reminded her of detergent. So, I decided not to use citrus smell. Also, dosing in natural citrus essential oil might cause photosensitivity, so I decided against that. So, not all natural stuff are good. It depends on the dosage and where you use them on.

Round 4 – Letting the customers decide, launching what the majority prefer. 

Working with my chemist, we had to try a few versions before we came up with a formulation that doesn’t make my skin oily after use. This took a very long process as every time when I tried something that causes me to oil up, I had to stop, go back to my old routine, and allow my skin at least two weeks to tune back before I try another formulation. This process took me 4 months to find a formulation that I am fully satisfied with and importantly, it doesn’t oil me up. It’s alcohol free, parabens free, oil free and soap free. Let’s call this Version 1.

I decided to change and dose two different fragrances in very small quantity to Version Two. 

We came up with two versions of Version Two – GT1 or IV1. Thereafter, we sent out a set of GT1 and IV1 to customers and friends who gave feedback in our first trial.

Surprisingly, majority said they preferred IV1. 18 out of 20 preferred IV1. Many also feedback that it cleanses better than the earlier version. Some of you might ask, why not do away with fragrances totally? I did think of that. But I prefer to have a pleasant smell when I cleanse my face. It’s dosed in such a small quantity that it will most probably not cause problem for sensitive skin. However, for Skinlycious serums, they are all fragrance free. I prefer to have fragrance free serums as they are left on the face.

Round 5 – Launch of Cleansing Water

We launched Skinlycious Cleansing Water in September 2016. Reviews have been great. I’m just glad that I have a makeup remover that I love. No more oiliness after feel from milk cleansers. And importantly, no more breakouts or increased sebum production.

A move towards Clean Beauty – Fragrance free version

In 2020, we moved towards Clean Beauty removing artificial fragrance and natural fragrance (e.g essential oils) from Skinlycious. As I mentioned earlier, my cleansers had fragrances as I preferred the smell of it while I’m cleansing and these fragrances did not cause any sensitive reaction to my skin. Furthermore, they are washed away, thus I do not think it’s an issue. My leave-on products like serums and sunscreen, however, were fragrance free from Day 1.

However, this opinion changed when I tweaked the formula of Anti-Acne Wash (now known as Calming Cleanser), changing the artificial fragrance to natural tea tree oil. A group of customers broke out after using the Cleanser with tea tree oil. And after I removed tea tree essential oil, their skin recovered and had no more breakout. I was a little shocked that there were actually that many cases of allergic acne breakout from tea tree essential oil when tea tree is suppose to help in acne. 

However, this also taught me that Skinlycious is not just about Jasmine. I need to make it safer for everybody, reducing the risk of allergic breakouts to as many people as I can. Hence, I’ve decided to remove fragrance and essential oils from Skinlycious.

We are still in the midst of testing the fragrance free cleansing water formulation. We will update again once that’s launched.

Behind the scenes of formulating Skinlycious Soothing Cleansing Gel

Finally, in 2020, we managed to formulate a fragrance-free make-up cleanser. The first challenge was to find a surfactant that has good makeup removing power but yet doesn’t trigger increased sebum / oil production on my skin.

After many rounds of trial, I finally found a suitable surfactant. Afterwards adding turmeric extract, french pine bark extract and olive-derived moisturising agent, for anti-inflammatory and hydration benefits. This is version 7 (v7) of the soothing cleansing gel. v7 of the cleanser was sent to my customers to receive their feedback and intake on it. All of my customers were satisfied with the product especially Irene. For the past year, I had been customising a cleanser for Irene in my lab as she couldn’t use any other cleansers in the market. Her skin improved with the customised cleanser but it did not completely solve her oily acne skin issue. Within 3 days of using v7, Irene feedback that her skin cleared up and could stay matte much longer.

However, v7’s cost is high, so we did a v8 with a slight reduction in extracts concentration. Every other tester, including me, was cool with v8 except Irene. Irene’s face started oiling up again and pimples returned.

From this journey, I had learnt that a slight differ in concentrations of active ingredients does affect the skin greatly. In the end, I decided to launch v7 of Soothing Cleansing Gel in the hopes of helping others who has sensitive/sensitised skin like Irene to solve their acne problem. 

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