Micellar Formulations – Old Wine in New Skins?

K. Brandt, J. Venzmer

An increasing number of “micellar” formulations (e.g. micellar water, micellar shampoo, even micellar laundry detergent) has recently been introduced to the market, causing quite some confusion among both consumers and surfactant experts.
Since every aqueous formulation containing surfactants above their so-called Critical Micelle Concentration (CMC) contains surfactant micelles, micellar formulations have been around basically forever. However, a simple soap solution does not get the “micellar” marketing claim because it fulfills neither the performance requirements nor today’s mildness expectations.
The new feature of modern “micellar” formulations is that they are now both highly effective when it comes to solubilizing (“deep cleansing”) and – especially in case of micellar water for skin cleansing – exceptionally mild and gentle.
Examples of such modern – nowadays called “micellar” – formulations for both skin and hair cleansing will be given. Contrary to some expectations, there is no direct correlation between micelle size or CMC and mildness or performance; according to latest research, another crucial parameter for mildness seems to be the charge density of the surfactant micelles.
All in all, the modern “micellar” formulations should not be considered as “old wine in new skins”, but rather as “new wine in old bottles”.

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