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Have you ever bought a highly-raved cleanser, and come home to use it only to find out that it didn’t remove your makeup? Your cleanser is not to blame. Even though most people use one single cleanser to wash their face and remove makeup, the latter actually requires another product. Enter cleansing balms!
Cleansing balms make makeup removal easy and effortless, make your evening skincare routine fun, and make your face cleanser work better! Ever since I discovered that cleansing balms offer a downright proper way to remove hard-to-remove makeup that doesn’t require scrubbing, I’ve been hooked!
If this is going to be your first time trying a cleansing balm, I’m genuinely excited for you! Find below everything you need to know about cleansing balms and the best cleansing balms to try!
What Is a Cleansing Balm?
A cleansing balm is an oil-based type of cleanser that breaks down makeup, excess oil, and hard-to-dissolve substances like sunscreen on the skin. It’s made of emollient oils and emulsifiers. A cleansing balm is usually used as a makeup remover rather than a face wash. It’s used in the first step of a double cleansing routine, which is removing makeup with an oil-based cleanser and washing everything away with a regular cleanser.
Benefits of Cleansing Balms
- Cleansing balms remove your makeup thoroughly and completely. This level of makeup removal is impossible with a regular cleanser no matter how good the cleanser is.
- Cleansing balms are made of gentle oils. You can open your eyes while using a cleansing balm. Because of this, you can take your time with eye makeup removal and not deal with burning, watery eyes, which usually happens with a regular cleanser.
- Because of their structure, cleansing balms are inherently moisturizing. After you wash your face, your skin feels softer and plumper.
- Cleansing balms require a little bit of rubbing on your part. You need to massage your skin with that nourishing oil, which is something we don’t usually do in a typical skincare routine.
- Unlike makeup, sunscreen is invisible and you can’t always be sure you’ve completely removed it. Since cleansing balms are more thorough, you can use one to get rid of sunscreen and prevent it from clogging your pores. Even if you don’t wear makeup, you can still use a cleansing balm.
- As a makeup remover, a cleansing balm is the gentlest option you can use. Unlike makeup-removing wipes or some micellar waters, cleansing balms are non-drying and don’t strip your skin of its natural oils or leave it dry. They’re hydrating, soothing, and moisturizing for the skin.
Cleansing Balms vs Cleansing Oils
Both cleansing balms and cleansing oils serve the same exact purpose. Both of them are oil-based formulations and are used as the first cleaners in a double cleansing routine. The only difference is their form: one is solid and one is liquid. As a result of this, you scoop out a cleansing balm while you pump out a cleansing oil. Some people argue that cleansing oils are more hygienic as you don’t need to stick your fingers into the jar to get the product. On the flip side, cleansing balms tend to be mess-free while cleansing oils can get messy because they’re runny. At the end of the day, they do the same thing and it’s all about your personal preference.
Best Cleansing Balms
1. Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm
This is pricey for sure. And you might think that nobody needs to splurge this much on a cleansing balm. But believe me when I say that it deserves every single penny! This is by far the most effective makeup-removing cleansing balm I’ve ever used!
Its luxurious, soft texture breaks as soon as you touch it. Whether it’s several coats of waterproof mascara or several layers of foundation, it works very fast to dissolve and melt away your makeup. It doesn’t require too big of a scoop to do so. It smells simply amazing and allows you to enjoy moisturized, radiant skin no matter your skin type.
Key Ingredients: Elderberry oil, borage seed oil
Size: 3.5 oz/100 ml
Good To Know: Recyclable packaging
2. Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm
This is such a gentle, easy-to-use formula that you’re going to love it no matter your skin type. It’s made with sunflower seed oil and comes in a satisfyingly, almost crunchy, texture. The fragrance-free formula removes everything from your skin by quickly melting with heat and breaking down makeup.
And it leaves your skin as if you haven’t just slathered on a balm. No greasy, oily residue whatsoever! Whether you have oily skin, combination skin, or acne-prone skin, or you wear heavy makeup or not, this is one of the best cleansing balms to double-cleanse your face with.
Key Ingredients: Sunflower seed oil
Size: 3.8 oz/125 ml
Good To Know: Fragrance-free, non-comedogenic
3. The Inkey List Oat Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm
This cleansing balm comes in a tube, which is more convenient and hygienic than a jar. A little squeeze is enough to break down your makeup. The best part is that because this is made with oat, which is anti-inflammatory for the skin, it literally calms down irritation and redness while you’re removing your makeup.
That’s why I love this cleansing balm for fellow rosacea sufferers with sensitive, redness-prone skin. It leaves the skin feeling velvety and incredibly soft, which is great for people with dry skin too.
Key Ingredients: 3% oat kernel oil, colloidal oatmeal
Size: 1.7 oz/150 ml
Good To Know: Fragrance-free, cruelty-free, vegan
4. Youth To The People Superberry Dream Cleansing Balm
If you have dry skin or a compromised skin barrier, adding a cleansing balm into your skincare routine can help prevent skin dryness caused by using a regular cleanser twice a day. If that’s you, your skin is going to thank you for this makeup-melting butter! The vegan formula is a treat for the senses!
It’s nicely scented and contains moisturizing oils as well as a rich blend of antioxidant-rich extracts like goji berry, acai, and prickly pear. But more importantly, it works very fast to dissolve your face makeup and stubborn makeup, leaving your skin clean and replenished. The hydrating makeup removing balm will stick to oils and waterproof makeup on your skin, making it much easier to wash off.
Key Ingredients: Moringa seed oil, goji berry, hyaluronic acid
Size: 3.4 oz/100 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free, recyclable packaging
5. Belif Aqua Bomb Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm
If your cleansing balm leaves your skin too oily, then it becomes a whole other thing to remove with your second cleanser. When you don’t completely wash away your cleansing balm, it might stay on your skin, clog your pores, and cause acne.
That’s why this is one of my favorite cleansing balms of all time and I think it’s absolutely amazing for people with oily skin. It’s very easy to rinse with your second cleanser and leaves no residue! The consistency is more creamy than it is buttery. And it leaves your skin hydrated but not drenched. Also, the jar comes with a spatula!
Key Ingredients: Lotus flower, marshmallow root
Size: 3.3 oz/100 ml
Good To Know: Recyclable packaging
6. The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter
I went through two jars of this balm and I think that it’s one of the most affordable and effective cleansing balms. Its buttery formula is made with soothing chamomile. It transforms into a light oil with heat as you massage it in. And it separates everything from heavy eye makeup to heavy foundation.
Also, because it’s so gentle and calming for the skin, and because it doesn’t require a lot of rubbing to get the job done, and it rinses away easily, I can comfortably use it even when my skin is acting up from rosacea.
Key Ingredients: Olive oil, chamomile extract
Size: 2.7 oz/90 ml
Good To Know: Vegan
7. Glow Recipe Papaya Sorbet Smoothing Enzyme Cleansing Balm & Makeup Remover
If you prefer something a bit more intense, this cleansing balm practically works like an exfoliating face mask while removing your makeup. It’s made with enzymes from papaya extract. Enzymes are gentle exfoliators that keep the skin surface smooth and flake-free.
The beautifully scented formula also packs antioxidant-rich blueberry extract and papaya seed oil. You can take your makeup off, give yourself a little facial, and do all of that without a greasy mess! The silky soft, smooth texture transforms into a nice oil consistency and eats away water-resistant makeup, sunscreen, and other impurities and dirt from the skin.
Key Ingredients: Papaya seed oil, papaya enzymes
Size: 3.4 oz/100 ml
Good To Know: Recyclable packaging, cruelty-free, PEG-free
8. Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm
This is a top-rated makeup melting balm highly popular among K-beauty lovers. And it’s for good reason! It has such a pleasant texture and an amazing scent. Once applied, it turns into a very satisfying consistency and wraps your skin with its rich blend of oils.
It picks up eyeliner, mascara, and base makeup, and oils from the skin and leaves it soft. It does require a bit of rubbing but it doesn’t hurt or irritate the skin. The formula is suitable for all skin types too!
Key Ingredients: Sea buckthorn oil, grape seed oil
Size: 3.17 oz/90 gr
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, PEG-free
So these are the best cleansing balms to get started on double cleansing with a balm cleanser. I think the safest option where you completely remove makeup and don’t deal with any uncomfortable residue is Clinique Take The Day Off. It removes all my makeup and leaves my skin soft.
A more affordable option is The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm which is just as effective in removing makeup but also helps calm your skin.
If you haven’t found what you’re looking for here, below are a few quick tips on how to choose a cleansing balm and what to keep in mind.
Things To Keep in Mind When Choosing Cleansing Balms
Your Skin Type
Cleansing balms are made of a blend of oils. These tend to be moisturizing and nourishing for the skin. But you need to make sure they’re the right ones for your skin type. For example, you can try rich cleansing balms made with a rich blend of oils if you have dry skin.
This ensures that your skin is moisturized in the process. But if you have oily skin, stick with more minimal formulations or cleansing balms that contain non-comedogenic oils like jojoba oil and sunflower seed oil. This minimizes the likelihood of clogged pores, breakouts, and blackheads from congestion.
Essential oils and fragrances add to the whole experience. But if you have sensitive, or breakout-prone skin, make sure your cleansing balm is fragrance-free or unscented and doesn’t contain essential oils that might irritate your skin.
Some cleansing balms, even if you wash them off, are so rich that they have other benefits. If you have certain skin concerns that you’d like to address with every single skincare product possible, you can make sure that your cleansing balm aligns with your skin goals as well.
If you have mature aging skin, look for antioxidants in your balm. If you have dry skin, look for occlusive oils like olive oil in your cleansing balm. And if you have reactive skin, you can look for calming ingredients as well.
How To Use a Cleansing Balm
Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to use a cleansing balm. It usually takes only a couple of minutes.
Scoop out a small amount of your cleansing balm using your fingers or using a scooper if you have one. The amount I show in the image above is enough to get rid of my full face of makeup. I use Clinique’s Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm here.
Start massaging the balm into the skin, allowing it to melt with the heat of your skin and fingers. Go over anywhere on your face where you have makeup using circular motions.
Start massaging the eye area and use a very gentle hand. Using slow circular motions, allow your mascara to dissolve and your eye makeup to separate. Don’t forget to massage the lower lashes as well.
You’ve just finished the first step of a double cleansing routine using a cleansing balm. Now, wipe your skin with a cloth or rinse your face with water to get rid of the dissolved makeup particles. After that, use your second cleanser, whether it’s gel or foam, and wash everything away. Done!