“I have been a fan of micellar waters for quite a while, so I was definitely intrigued when this concept was extended to hair care,” says Whitney Bowe, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist. She says that the popular skin-care ingredient can also be a gentle, mild way to clean impurities (think dirt and excess oil) from your hair.
So what exactly are these miraculous micelles? For a refresher, I turned to Rachel Zipperian, chemist for P&G. A micelle is a molecule with opposite ends, she says—one that is attracted to water, and one that is attracted to oil. “The difference in polarity is what makes it so effective at grabbing what it needs to grab and rinsing away very quickly,” Zipperian says. They work the same on your skin to grab up dirt and oil as they do in your hair. The key difference? When you use micellar water to wash your face, you don’t need to rinse afterwards. But you have to rinse your micellar shampoo out when you’re done lathering, says Zipperian. That’s because the dilution that activates the micelles occurs while you’re washing your hair, while micellar water you use on your face is pre-diluted.
Like a clarifying shampoo, Zipperian says, micellar water shampoos are solely removing the oils and dirt that need to go away. Most do not add anything else into your hair (say, conditioning ingredients). But unlike a clarifying shampoo, both Zipperian and Bowe say micellar shampoos are gentle enough to use every day, because they don’t totally suck all the natural oils out of your hair. Clarifying shampoos, meanwhile, can actually damage hair when used too frequently, and can lessen the life of your hair color.
That said, they don’t necessarily replace a clarifying product already in your routine. “I think micellar shampoos are more of a gentle, in-between option as compared to traditional clarifying shampoos,” says Bowe. Zipperian agrees. “If you don’t necessarily have a dirt or oil problem but if you want to wash every day, this is ideal because it’s not over-cleaning,” she says, especially for a medium-to-fine hair type. Bowe also likes it for people with color-treated hair to get a gentle cleanse without repeatedly stripping hair with harsher ingredients.
But its powers do have limits. “These shampoos wouldn’t likely work as well on hair that is oily or on hair that is really gritty with dirt,” says Bowe. That’s when you’d turn to a traditional clarifying product. It might also not be good for daily use if you have drier hair, Zipperian says, as “it’s not designed to deliver moisture every day.” It’s a lighter, more volumizing product, Zipperian says—which might not be desired by more curly, frizzy, thicker hair types.
That said, micellar shampoos are also relatively new to the market, making them ripe for experimentation. “I’m interested in trying different types to see what works best on my hair and will recommend that my patients do the same,” Bowe says. Start by using it how you would your normal shampoo to see how it works on your hair type.
If you’re curious about trying the trend, here’s what’s out there:
This new option from Herbal Essences is out in January. Like the other products in its bio:renew line, this shampoo has antioxidants that will repair and protect your hair long after it’s rinsed out.
This option from Pantene is one of the cheapest out there, and helps volumize hair as it cleans.
Buy it: $4, target.com
This product is specifically designed for curly hair, and has moisturizers like jojoba to help make curls look their best.
Buy it: $28, sephora.com