The gentle facial cleanser has been around for years in Europe and is starting to take off in the U.S.

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Perhaps you’re curious about the chemically enhanced water that’s a relatively novel (to America) beautifying face cleanser.

You’ve probably seen the clear liquid sitting around in large bottles bearing a striking resemblance to regular water. But maybe you’re wondering how many more steps your low-key beauty routine and budget can handle.

Well, good news, micellar water could arguably take the place of several items you currently use.

It’s not toner, but it can take the place of one. It can also take the place of your face wash and even a serum or two.

Micellar water is a new category here, but the product debuted a few dozen years ago in France. It was originally designed to help Parisian women deal with the region’s notoriously harsh tap water.

Micellar water is made up of micelles, which are tiny spherical clusters of molecules suspended in water.

Beauty writer Jordan Savage describes how they work in a blog post for the Missouri-based beauty company Bee Naturals, which has a micellar cleansing water product.

Each micelle molecule has “a water-loving end (hydrophilic) and an oil-loving/water-hating end (hydrophobic),” she says.

Left to right: Bee Naturals Micellar Cleansing Water, $13 at beenaturals.com; Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water, $9 at Ulta; Simple Micellar Cleansing Water, $8 at Ulta; e.l.f. Micellar Cleansing Water, $7 at Target; Bioderma Sensibio H2O Make-up Removing Micelle Solution, $17 at amazon.com
Left to right: Bee Naturals Micellar Cleansing Water, $13 at beenaturals.com; Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water, $9 at Ulta; Simple Micellar Cleansing Water, $8 at Ulta; e.l.f. Micellar Cleansing Water, $7 at Target; Bioderma Sensibio H2O Make-up Removing Micelle Solution, $17 at amazon.com

When applied to the skin, or a cotton pad, the ball-shaped cluster splits open, allowing the oil-loving middle to feed on the dirt, oil and makeup that has accumulated on the skin. Micelles lift and encapsulate impurities from the surface of the skin. “From here, they are easily wiped away, without rubbing or rinsing,” Savage explains.

Bee Naturals founder Barbara Chappuis says micellar water is “the only thing I ever wash my face with because it’s that good. It’s great for oily skin or dry. It’s a universal solvent that removes dirt and oil and leaves the skin feeling smooth and soft. It’s a seriously handy thing.” And she says this while admitting that she sells eight other facial cleansers.

One of the cult favorite brands of micellar water in Europe comes from the French company Bioderma.

The company’s medical strategy director, Michele Sayag, says that typical soap works by having a higher pH than skin. It’s rough, drying and ends up disrupting your pH-balance, which is why a toner is often recommended to correct the imbalance and soothe the skin.

However, micellar water has the same or a very similar pH as human skin, and unlike toner, is alcohol-free.

Sayag says that as long as you keep using a clean cotton pad, you’ll see the full results, but admits that the no-rinse part might take some getting used to.

Bioderma developed its micellar-water product in 1995, and it remained a dermatologists’ secret for the rich and famous for years, Sayag says.

“It was kind of a secret for a while, until a few famous women mentioned the product in interviews,” she says.  “Then it became very, very popular.”