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Micellar Mania: New Mass Skin and Hair Launches Tap Micellar Technology

U.S. CPG companies have expanded the cult French skin-care staple to the hair and body categories.

Micellar technology has officially taken hold in the U.S. mass market. Early 2018 saw the major CPG companies — from Procter & Gamble to Unilever and Johnson & Johnson — deploy micellar-based product launches across the skin, body and hair categories, each of them accompanied by marketing campaigns touting the gentle yet purifying benefits of micelles. The latest of the bunch is Pantene’s Micellar Gentle Cleansing Water and Gentle Moisturizing Milk, the brand’s first higher-priced offering.

The science behind micellar technology is nothing new, but increased awareness of micelles — microscopic molecules suspended in water that draw oil, dirt and impurities out of the skin — has increased tremendously in the past few years. The number of micellar product launches globally across all beauty categories grew 380 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to Mintel research, with the biggest markets being Europe, Asia-Pacific and the U.S.

Facial skin care is the biggest category within micellar products, but hair and body are growing rapidly. “A lot of [the awareness around micellar technology] stems from what we’re seeing with consumers expressing concerns over different types of surfactants and sulfates and how much all that stuff can be drying and irritating for the skin and bad for the environment,” said Sarah Jindal, senior innovation and insights analyst, beauty and personal care at Mintel. “Consumers over the last year have become comfortable with using micellar cleansers on skin and understanding that it is something they don’t have to rinse, it’s gentle and gets the job done.”

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Mintel’s research indicates that micellar technology is no passing trend. Because micellar cleansing waters don’t need to be rinsed, they can be spun as a waterless beauty product and their purifying qualities can translate to antipollution product marketing. The gentleness of micellar products also makes them a boon for baby care — the category which, per Mintel, holds the greatest untapped opportunity for U.S. companies.

Here, the mass market’s latest micellar-based launches.

PANTENE: For its first premium-priced launch — the Micellar Gentle Cleansing Water and Gentle Moisturizing Milk Conditioner have an SRP of $5.99 for 10.1 ounces to $9.99 for 17.9 ounces — Pantene formulated a shampoo and conditioner set based on micellar technology. The products are designed to gently cleanse the hair without stripping it of moisture, and are aimed at consumers with fine texture. Pantene is banking on the duo luring women back to traditional shampoo amidst the seemingly never-ending fervor for dry shampoo. “When we talk to women, there’s this fear that shampoos can be harsh. There’s this tension — shampoos are still one of the most valued products in a routine, yet the number-one reason women are holding back from washing is fear of stripping,” said Dr. Jeni Thomas, global science communications leader for Pantene at P&G. “The micellar water is about bringing the cleansing but also the hydration and suppleness.”

GARNIER: L’Oréal’s Garnier brand put micellar cleansing water on the map in the U.S. market with the launch of its SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water in 2015. The product proved a hit with consumers and has fueled exponential growth in Garnier’s facial cleansing business — category sales grew 60 percent in 2017. Garnier has expanded its micellar franchise to include wipes and travel sizes, and in early 2018 launched the SkinActive Micellar Foaming Face Wash. “We wanted to deliver on, ‘What are the formulas she’s using and how can we offer a micellar solution?’” said Anncy Rowe, Garnier’s senior vice president of marketing. Rowe is bullish on micellar technology’s staying power in the mass market. “For us, education is key. It’s true that consumers are doing more research and asking, ‘Why is it new, better, different?’ We needed to really explain that micelles attract dirt and makeup like a magnet and use that in all our communication.”

NEUTROGENA: Neutrogena’s latest skin-care launch — the Deep Clean Purifying Micellar Wipes — infuses micellar technology into the Johnson & Johnson brand’s signature facial wipe product. A proprietary “triple micellar technology” is said to dissolve the toughest of makeup and rid the skin of oil and dirt without disrupting the skin’s barrier. In formulating the Deep Clean Purifying franchise, which also includes a micellar water and clay mask, among other items, Neutrogena’s senior director of marketing Kerry Sullivan said the brand was targeting Millennials, along with a new demographic the brand has coined “Zillennials,” or college-aged consumers wedged between Millennials and Generation Z. “She’s more demanding than her older sisters,” Sullivan said. “She lives an urban lifestyle, she’s going through multiple makeup looks throughout the day, there’s toxins and environmental aggressors — we needed to develop a line to keep up with her.” Sullivan added that Hispanic Millennials are another “huge part of the marketing plan” for Deep Clean Purifying.

UNILEVER: After launching the first micellar water in the U.S. mass channel under the Simple brand in 2015, Unilever has expanded the technology to other categories and brands in its personal-care portfolio. In January, Dove began rolling out its Purify and Strengthen shampoo and conditioner, along with its Anti-Stress Micellar Body Wash and Beauty Bar. Additionally, TRESemmé introduced its Thick and Full collection with glycerol and micellar technology for thickening and volume.

BIODERMA: French company Bioderma launched the first micellar water — a cleansing product designed to remove makeup while refreshing the skin — in 1992, and since then it has become a cult skin-care staple worldwide. The company officially entered the U.S. market in 2015, and is currently sold on Amazon and in independent pharmacies. “We are growing way faster than expected,” said François Compagnion, product manager, Bioderma USA. Bioderma would not discuss financials, but industry sources estimate the company sells about 50,000 units of the Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water a day.