There’s a good reason why cleansing balms are becoming the holy grail products of beauty aficionados: they not only take everything off (waterproof mascara included), but they’re also like a spa facial in a jar. For many of us though, cleansing just isn’t that much of a priority; we just want to wash the day off, and get it done as fast as possible, and traditional foaming cleansers seem like the easiest solution. But cleansing balms are incredibly potent and incredibly skin-loving.
Cleansing balms melt away dirt, oil and makeup, moisturize your dry patches thanks to their emollient-rich solid oil formulation, and because of the nature of the product itself, these balms are usually kind to both sensitive and acne-prone skin. (They’re usually formulated with ultra-gentle plant oils and anti-oxidant rich extracts because they easily emulsify to lift dirt and oil-based impurities without stripping the skin.) These balms are also often infused with aromatic essential oils that make the experience of cleansing feel more like a treat than a chore.
While many people follow up with a foaming cleanser after using a balm, I personally love the semi-hydrated feel you get from a single balm cleanse. Skin always seems much softer and happier after it’s been treated with a natural, non-stripping oil, and a dab of toner is usually enough to remove any leftovers that a water-rinse might have missed. Balm cleansers really do make a world of difference, especially if your skin is acting up and in need of one of those “reset” products that normalizes its behaviour again. If you’re new to the charm of the balm, here are the best ones worth trying right now.
Banila Co.’ s Clean It Zero ($21) is a cult classic in the K-beauty sphere. Not only is its sorbet texture incredibly velvety as it melts down, the solid oil is infused with exfoliating papaya extracts that gently resurface the top layer of your skin. Acerola and raspberry leaf extracts provide both a hefty dose of antioxidants and a lovely, light scent, making this the perfect starter balm if you’re skeptical and really need to be convinced that cleansing balms can work for your skin type.
If Banila Co’s Clean It Zero reigns supreme in the K-beauty realm, one of the foremost and best beloved cleansing balms in the North American sphere would be Eve Lom’s Cleanser ($58). This little number is luxurious without being overpowering thanks to its conditioning chamomile oil base, but its true power lies in its use of clove and eucalyptus oils to decongest and condition skin, while hops oil evens out skin tone and cocoa butter nourishes. And fear not the oils in this product — this balm is wonderful for all skin types.
Here is a cleanser that I don’t mind admitting partiality toward: I’ve been smitten with OLEHENRIKSEN’s Uncover the Truth 3-in-1 Melting Cleanser ($39) since first using it two years ago because its got one of the best vitamin C-heavy formulations on the market right now. Rose hip and cherry seed oils provide a luxurious glide and hefty helping of protective antioxidants, while vitamin E and sweet almond oil ensure that your skin stays deeply hydrated. As far as cleansing cocktails go, this one is solidly formulated, especially if you’ve got combination/dry skin like I do.
Dermalogica’s monopoly on results-first-drama-later products has finally unlocked a new iteration within the cleansing balm world: the brand’s first ever PreCleanse Balm ($62, available September 7). A biolipid complex locks in hydration while apricot kernel oil conditions the skin, but, the best thing about this product is that it understands the dual purpose of any cleansing balm. Balms clean and condition, yes, but they also encourage you to massage your face — and thereby boost your skin’s circulation — because balms need to be worked into your skin, not just applied superficially. The PreCleanse Balm comes with an exfoliating mitt for that very purpose, allowing you to give yourself a mini facial worthy of a spa with every cleanse so that clean, smooth skin becomes an easily achievable reality.
By far the priciest balm on the list, Omorovicza’s Thermal Cleansing Balm ($135) nonetheless has a cult following within high-end beauty circles because it’s both effective and, well, luxe. The base of Hungarian moor mud is incredibly mineral-rich, meaning it soothes inflammations while effectively detoxifying pores. Sweet almond oil, squalane and acerola extract deeply nourish the epidermis, and the inclusion of therapeutic orange blossom oil (and its bracing, uplifting fragrance) results in a cleansing experience that is both calming and comforting while being deeply effective.