Micellar Water vs Toner: Which Is Best?

In the realm of skincare products, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of things out there we should be doing for our skin.

Micellar water and toner are two that commonly get confused, given their lightweight watery feel, but they’re more different than most people realize.

Is micellar water or toner better?

Both micellar water and toner cleanse the skin in a certain way but should be used at different stages. The former is better for lifting makeup and oil before washing the face, while the latter is more about cleansing the skin after it’s been washed.

If you’re looking to add either of these products to your skincare arsenal, our guide to micellar water vs toner will help you figure out which is best.

We’ll compare them and look at their best and worst points so you’ll know exactly which one to incorporate into your routine.

What Is Micellar Water?

Micellar Water vs Toner: Which Is Best?

Micellar water was first developed in France in the early 1900s and in recent years, has become a staple in many people’s skincare routines.

Made with a combination of ingredients including purified water, moisturizers, and surfactants, you can purchase micellar water to meet just about any skin type, requirement, or concern you have.

The goal of micellar water is to be a gentle cleanser but some people reportedly use it as a toner, face wash, essence, and more.

The most common method is to dab a small amount of the liquid onto a face pad or cotton ball and then wipe your face and neck, removing oil, dirt, and makeup from your skin.

Micellar water’s main drawcard is that although it’s a cleanser it’s also extremely hydrating which is a benefit for people with already dry skin or those who don’t like the feeling of tightness that some toners leave behind.

It does a good job of lightly cleansing the face in preparation for the next step, ensuring you get every bit of oil and makeup, and the rest of your products work effectively.

The Pros

Micellar Water vs Toner: Which Is Best?

Micellar water has become a gamechanger in the world of skincare and beauty, and it’s all thanks to the many benefits it offers.

Here are some of the pros that this water can deliver if you add it to your lineup.

Gentle option

If you’ve found other cleansers to be too harsh and even cause irritation, there’s a good chance micellar water won’t do the same.

This is considered a gentler approach to cleansing and one that suits even those who are brand new to skincare.


A bottle of quality micellar water is reasonably expensive when you stack it up against other cleansers on the market.

You can get a whole lot of use from it as well, so it’ll be one of your longest lasting skincare products.

Effective cleanser

Micellar water gets the job done if you’re looking for a simple daily cleanser and don’t wear any makeup.

It’s even better as the first step in a double cleanse treatment when you follow up with something more powerful. 

Spot cleanser

If you ever need to remove some poor makeup choices or switch from a day to night look, a little micellar water on a Q-tip can work wonders.

It won’t impact the rest of your makeup and wipes away without leaving any oily residue behind.

The Cons

Micellar Water vs Toner: Which Is Best?

For all the good that it does, micellar water isn’t a one-stop solution to all of your skincare problems.

These are some of the disadvantages that people have found when using this skincare product.

Nasty ingredients

Often touted as the ‘gentle’ cleanser, micellar water can still have a lot of bad ingredients in it.

Check for signs of anything that can be harmful to your skin and scan the ingredient list for alcohol, preservatives, and fragrances.

Doesn’t remove it all

Some people find that using micellar water simply pushes the makeup and grime around without actually removing it.

Not all waters are made equally so test yours to make sure you can see whatever you’re trying to remove on the face pad.

Not thorough

If you only want to use one cleanser, micellar water isn’t the best option. This is only meant to provide a simple cleanse done before your next step and it’s not as thorough as some other types out there.

Extra costs

Although micellar water is a cheaper option, you have to fork out for cleansing pads or cotton balls to make it work.

It’s not as simple or adorable as just rinsing your face with it in the shower, so factor in these hidden costs.

What Is Toner?

Micellar Water vs Toner: Which Is Best?

Toner has been one of the most ambiguous skincare products of all time with not everyone understanding their role or purpose.

The first iteration of a toner was in the 16th century when they were made from ingredients like wine and spices although not as effective as the formulas we use today.

Toner’s place in your skincare routine should be after you’ve already removed your makeup and washed your face with a cleanser, and usually done in the evenings.

The toner is then wiped over your face using a cotton pad or fabric wipe and left to dry completely before moving on to the next products, like serums and moisturizers.

All formulas are made with different ingredients but at their core, they’re water based.

They feature a range of other components like acids, antioxidants, and glycerin, working to balance the pH level of the skin, remove dead skin, minimize pores, and add some moisture. 

The Pros

Micellar Water vs Toner: Which Is Best?

Minimizes pores

Toners work wonders at minimizing pores which means less chance that other issues will arise.

Many of the common skincare issues are due to larger pores so you’re fixing problems before they occur.

pH balance

The pH balancing efforts of toner make it a standout and are especially helpful for people who need assistance getting their skin under control.

This can help regulate oil production as well.

Helps other products

A freshly toned face that has followed on from the cleanser will be able to absorb anything else that’s applied to it more effectively.

You’re guaranteed to get the most out of serums and moisturizers that go on after when you’ve toned first.

The Cons

Micellar Water vs Toner: Which Is Best?

Can be drying

Some toners can use alcohol and other dry ingredients that dehydrate the skin. If you already have a dry complexion or don’t like the feeling of tightness that comes after toning, it might not be for you.

Sometimes harsh

People with sensitive skin may find toners to be excessive and cause irritation and redness, especially when used too frequently.

You’ll need to shop for a toner made specifically for your skin type if this sounds like you.

Not always necessary

The main goal of a toner is to restore the pH balance of your facial skin and considering many modern cleansers do this for you, it’s not always necessary to add a toner into the mix.

How Micellar and Toner Compare

Micellar Water vs Toner: Which Is Best?

The best way to determine which of these skincare products should be added to your arsenal is to see how they compare.

Check out the similarities and differences between micellar water and toner for a better idea of what sets them apart.

Their Similarities

Aren’t skincare staples

Although micellar and toner have lots to offer, they’re not always necessary in a skincare routine.

Most people add them in for additional cleansing or to reduce pore size, but if you don’t have any specific skincare requirements you might not find them a necessity.

Water based and lightweight

The feel of these products is lightweight and both are usually made with water based formulas.

There are no gels, creams, or anything too heavy and they don’t leave behind a lot of residue or oil when you’re done with them.

Affordable and easy to use

Both products are affordable when you compare them to other skincare solutions and they’re easy enough to add to your arsenal.

A good toner or micellar water should cost no more than $20 and the bottle will last all year, even with daily use.

Applied similarly

Toners and micellar water only require a cleansing pad or cotton ball to apply to the face. The solution is wiped across the skin and should be left for a short time to dry before moving on to the next step, so it’s hard to get it wrong.

Their Differences

Their purpose

The overall point of using a toner is to balance pH and exfoliate the skin gently so that other products absorb better whereas micellar water is to provide moisture and cleanse the face.

As two totally different skincare solutions, it’s easy not to mix them up.

Their ingredients

The key ingredients used in toners and micellar waters are vastly different and depend on what the skincare requirements are of the person using them and what the product claims to do.

Micellar water features more moisturizers whereas toners might provide stronger components like AHAs and BHAs for gentle exfoliation.

Their order of use

These products should be used in different positions of a skincare routine because of what their purpose is. The toner is used after cleansing but before your serums and moisturizers, allowing them to absorb better.

However, micellar water is used before applying a cleansing wash so you can get an effective double cleansing experience. 

Skin type suitability

The best skin types to use these products are also different, so they’re not made for everyone.

People with dry skin would benefit more from the hydration that micellar water provides and those with oily skin would be better off using a toner as it can regulate this oil production somewhat.

If you’re somewhere in between, you might find joy from using both of them or experimenting to see which one delivers the results you’re after.

The Verdict: Which One Should You Use?

Micellar water and toner both have a place in a skincare routine but it all comes down to the individual when determining which is best.

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, following up cleansing with toner is ideal, but if you need more hydration and want to remove makeup before washing your face, add micellar water to your routine.

For the best results, you can implement them both and adjust your skincare schedule to meet whatever your face needs.

Coming up with a skincare routine should be all about tailoring it to your skin type and concerns.

If you’re wondering what some of the more popular K-beauty skincare products and treatments are, we’ve answered a few FAQs that can teach you the basics.