There is something undeniably luxurious about rubbing cleansing balms into the skin, and watching all the makeup and grime simply melt. Balm cleansers give a feeling of retro self-care, and using them feels like something that is just natural and correct.
While it may seem like cleansing balms are a new thing that is just starting to have its moment, the truth is that people have been using them for many many years. Theatre actors in the early 20th century relied on balm cleansers to remove the heavy layers of grease paint that they used as makeup for the stage.
This is because balm cleansers were an excellent way of removing heavy layers of makeup gently, without taking a toll on the skin. Instead, balm cleansers leave the skin nourished and supple to the touch.
These days cleansing balms have received a modern twist, and an especially big resurgence on the Asian beauty scene. These wonderful cleansers have predominantly natural formulas, so those in the green beauty realm are also big lovers of these products. They have a similar effect to oil cleansers, but their thicker formula means they’re less messy.
In this article, I explain exactly what cleansing balms are, how they work and what are the best balm cleansers to try. I clarify the difference between oil cleansers and balm cleansers, and I’ll help you figure out which balm cleansers are best for which skin type. Once you’ve chosen the best cleansing balm for your skin, you want to make sure you use it properly, so you’ll definitely want to follow the directions I give.
Guide to the Best Cleansing Balms for Face: Contents
• 24 Best Cleansing Balms for Every Skin Type
• What Is Cleansing Balm and How Does It Work?
• What Benefits Do Balm Cleansers Bring for Your Skin?
• Cleansing Oil vs. Cleansing Balm
• How to Choose the Best Balm Cleanser for You?
• How to Use Cleansing Balm
To get you started on cleansing in this totally different way, I’ve collected 24 best cleansing balms on the market today, and I review each one so you can figure out which will work for you.
1. Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm
Thousands of thrilled reviewers are not wrong – this classic product is one of the best cleansing balms for literally any skin type. Since it is fragrance free it is especially recommended for sensitive skin, while the non-comedogenic ingredients like safflower oil are great for oily and acne-prone skin. It removes makeup quickly without leaving a residue. Buy it from Sephora!
2. Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm with Echinacea GreenEnvy
This is another one of the cult favorite cleansing balms that work well for all skin types. It melts into an oily texture, but can be removed with water and it really takes everything off including mascara. It leaves the skin feeling plump and moisturized. The jar comes with a spatula to help keep things sanitary. It is available for purchase at Sephora.
3. Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm
This is one of the most moisturizing cleansing balms on this list, which is most recommended for those with dry and maturing skin. It is made with nourishing almond oil and anti-aging elderberry oil, along with a collection of skin-supportive extracts. It comes in a jar, and includes a spatula and a face cloth! You can pick it up from Nordstrom.
4. Sunday Riley Blue Moon Tranquility Cleansing Balm
This rinse-clean cleansing balm turns into milk once it comes into contact with water, and leaves the skin feeling luxuriously soft. It is made with sugar-based surfactants, and a collection of hydrating oils, along with azulene-rich essential oils to soothe the skin. It’s one of those balm cleansers that can work for every skin type. You can order it online through Sephora.
5. It Cosmetics Bye Bye Makeup 3-in-1 Makeup Melting Cleansing Balm
Like a cleanser and anti-age treatment in one, this cleansing balm removes makeup completely while nourishing the skin and loading it up with anti-aging ingredients. It is worth leaving it on for a minute before removing, to allow the skin to absorb all the beneficial ingredients in it, including peptides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides.
It is most recommended for those with dry and mature skin, although it can work for all skin types. Find this cleanser at Sephora!
6. Julep Love Your Bare Face Cleansing Stick
The cool thing about cleansing balms is that they don’t all have to come in a jar. If you want to avoid mess or need something that’ll work on the go, a stick cleansing balm might be exactly the right thing for you, as you simply twist it up and rub it into the skin or into your hands. Once water is added it will lather and come off completely, so it’s great for all skin types. It can be purchased at Nordstrom.
7. Glamglow GALACTICLEANSE Hydrating Jelly Balm Cleanser
This is another take on balm cleansers that are super fun and unique to use. It actually comes as a jelly, but the formula is rich in nourishing and skin-cleansing oils like other balms. Its dark color comes from meteorite powder that lightly exfoliates the skin. All makeup will be gone, and it’ll rinse away like a dream. This cleanser is available for sale at Sephora.
8. Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm
Used with a washcloth, this cleansing balm leaves the skin feeling cleansed yet toned. It contains purifying moor mud and nourishing almond oil – a blend that works for every skin type. The scent of this balm is controversial, so keep that in mind before purchasing. You can pick up a jar at Sephora.
9. Bobbi Brown Extra Balm Rinse
Glycerin and olive oil are the secrets to why this is one of the most moisturizing balm cleansers on this list. It’s ideal for all skin types except oily, since it conditions the skin thoroughly while breaking down makeup completely. It is best removed with a face cloth or sponge. Find it for sale at Nordstrom!
10. Boscia Charcoal MakeUp Melter Cleansing Oil-Balm
This is another one of the best balm cleansers made for all skin types, including oily skin. Non-comedogenic sunflower oil is the key for melting down makeup, while charcoal powder helps mattify and pull impurities from the skin. It comes with a spatula, and emulsifies to rinse off with water. You can buy it from Sephora.
11. Darphin Aromatic Cleansing Balm with Rosewood
This is one of the lighter cleansing balms on this list, which is perfect for all skin types. It envelopes the skin in a collection of light, anti-aging oils and luxurious and mood-lifting essential oils like rosewood and sage. It rinses clean with water. It is sold through Nordstrom.
12. Ren Clean Skincare Rosa Centifolia No.1 Purity Cleansing Balm
This cleansing balm comes in a complete set, with an enclosed muslin cloth for removing everything at the end of the cleansing. The formula itself is rich and nourishing, and yet it rinses completely with water so it is adequate for all skin types. It includes chamomile to calm down the skin, and almond oil to moisturize. If you’d like to try it, buy it in a squeeze tube from Sephora.
13. Olehenriksen Uncover the Truth 3-in-1 Melting Cleanser
This balm cleanser has the unique texture of a gel, although it makes on contact with the skin and transforms into a makeup-melting oil. Once water is added, it turns into a milk, and can be rinsed away. It includes vitamins E and C, as well as a collection of nourishing oils. It works best in a double cleansing routine, or to remove lighter makeup. Get this cleanser at Sephora!
14. By Terry Cellularose Nutri-Pure Comforting Balm Cleanser
If you don’t like jar containers, you will likely prefer one of these cleansing balms that come in a squeeze tube. This balm has a rose scent that instantly takes over your senses and puts you in a great mood, as the collection of oils and emollients in it breaks down impurities and moisturizes the skin. It’s a great choice for all skin types. It is available for sale at Nordstrom.
15. Estée Lauder Advanced Night Micro Cleansing Balm
Made with the essence of chamomile and lavender, this is a super soothing take on cleansing balms. It is made with a mix of surfactants for easy rinsing and light oils like safflower for perfect cleansing and a silky feel. It’s a fantastic makeup remover for all skin types. You can buy it from Sephora.
16. Diptyque Nourishing Cleansing Balm
This rich cleansing balm looks like a wax at first, but it melts to gently remove all traces of dirt, sweat, and makeup from the skin while leaving it feeling hydrated. It is great for all skin types, and has an essential oil blend of astringent and anti-aging flowers that smell gorgeous. It comes with a little spatula for dispensing. It can be purchased from Nordstrom.
17. Eve Lom Gel Balm Cleanser
This is another gel to balm cleanser that comes in an easy-to-carry tube. It removes makeup extremely effectively, including waterproof mascaras. The formula is very moisturizing, with shea butter, grape seed oil, and more, but it is non-comedogenic and works for all skin types. Pick it up from Sephora!
18. The Organic Pharmacy Carrot Butter Cleanser
If you love a lavender scent and a soft skin feel, then this is the cleansing balm to choose! It has a thicker texture and is best removed with a washcloth. The formula is full of nourishing oils and soothing plant extracts, so it is best for those with drier skin.
There are no surfactants in the mix, so this is definitely one of the most natural options on this list. It can also double as a skin-softening mask. This balm cleanser is sold at Nordstrom.
19. Charlotte Tilbury Multi-Miracle Glow Cleansing Balm
This hydrating balm cleanser is super creamy, with lots of glycerin and just a touch of camellia oil. It’s almost reminiscent of a cleansing milk, although it does a very thorough job of cleansing the skin, no matter the skin type. It is available for sale at Sephora.
20. Dior Le Baume Démaquillant Rose Cleansing Oil-Balm
There is something that screams luxury about balm cleansers, but Dior has taken it to the next level with a beautiful rose-inspired formula and package. The jar is gorgeous, and the product itself is creamy and beautifully fragranced. It is on creamier side of things, and is best for dry skin. Find yourself a jar at Nordstrom!
21. Pevonia Botanica Timeless Myoxy-Caviar Balm Cleanser
While advertized primarily for mature skin, I’m pretty sure that this balm to lather formula will work for all skin types, including oily. It’s a formula with a lot of surfactants that is a great choice for newbies to balm cleansers that might be a little nervous. It does contain a touch of antioxidants to protect the skin from premature aging. Order it online through Dermstore!
22. Goop by Juice Beauty Luminous Melting Cleanser
This is one of the richer balm cleansers on this list, and it is by far most ideal for dry skin. It contains olive oil and shea butter to get deep and break down all of the unwanted impurities, and is best removed with a damp cloth. It has a fresh floral fragrance that you’re sure to enjoy. Buy this balm cleanser from Nordstrom!
23. Kat Burki Vitamin C Nourishing Cleansing Balm
This is a take on balm cleansers that have a lighter texture than many others, thanks to astringent mango butter, so while it is good for all skin types, those with oily and combination skin are likely to be the most appreciative of its effects.
It includes vitamin C to help brighten the skin – get the best of that effect by letting it sit on the skin for a few minutes before removing. Speaking of, this balm cleanser can be removed with warm water, but it’s best to use a face cloth. You can get it at Bloomingdale’s.
24. One Love Organics Skin Savior Waterless Beauty Balm
This is one of those organic balm cleansers that can also double as a moisturizer, since it is free of surfactants. No matter your skin type, you can use it for that critical first cleanse, while the coconut, soy, and jojoba oils will work as moisturizers if your skin is on the dry side of things. It is available for sale online at Dermstore.
A cleansing balm is a type of facial cleanser that utilizes oils and emollients to break down makeup, oils, dirt, sweat and other impurities that might be on the skin. Balm cleansers have the texture of a balm, or in other words, a buttery or waxy texture. They usually melt once heated up a bit, either with the hands or once they come into contact with the face.
Once all makeup and impurities are thoroughly dissolved, balm cleansers may be removed with a washcloth or, in some cases, with just a bit of warm water. Balm cleansers may contain surfactant ingredients, which allow them to turn milky or foamy once they come into contact with water.
In other cases they might be made strictly of oils and waxes, in which case they can only be removed physically with a washcloth, but then they can also double as moisturizers.
• Balm cleansers provide a very thorough cleansing to the skin. This is because like dissolves like, so balm cleansers can break down even heavy or waterproof makeup with ease. They get deep into the pores, and allow for a very thorough cleanse that isn’t drying or irritating to the skin.
• Unlike surfactant-based cleansers, balm cleansers are completely non-irritating to the skin. Surfactant-based cleansers can irritate the skin by drying it out, disrupting its pH, or by leaving behind a residue. Since balm cleansers are either totally free of surfactants or only include a small amount, they don’t cause any disruption to the skin. In fact, they can soothe redness and irritation since they contain high quantities of skin-repairing oils.
• Balm cleansers are extremely moisturizing to the skin, since they are comprised of skin-conditioning oils. They leave the skin feeling very soft and nourished. In some cases it is okay to skip moisturizing after cleansing the skin with a balm cleanser, since it is sufficiently moisturizing.
• Balm cleansers usually have very anti-aging formulas. This is because botanical oils, which are the key ingredients in balm cleansers, are very rich in antioxidants like vitamin E or polyphenols. These antioxidants protect the skin from free radical damage and prevent premature aging. Often balm cleansers will include additional anti-aging ingredients like peptides, ceramides, or humectants.
• Most balm cleansers are excellent multi-use products, as they can be used both for cleansing and for moisturizing the skin. If a balm cleanser contains surfactants, it should only be used as a nourishing mask, and left on the skin for a few minutes. If it is free of surfactants, it can double as a moisturizer or as an occlusive balm at the end of the skincare routine.
• Since balm cleansers have a thick texture that is solid at room temperature, they are not as messy as oil cleansers, which otherwise work very similarly. You don’t have to worry about errant spills when using cleansing balms.
You’ve probably already noticed that balm cleansers sound very similar to oil cleansers. It’s true, the main difference between oil cleansers and balm cleansers is that oil cleansers are liquid at room temperature, while balm cleansers are solid at room temperature.
Both types of cleansers do an excellent job of removing even heavy or waterproof makeup, both leaving the skin feeling super soft and moisturized. In both cases you can have cleansers with or without surfactants.
Some people prefer the easy, fluid texture of an oil cleanser, while others enjoy having to melt a balm cleanser in their hands or by rubbing it into their skin. If you’re clumsy or a fan of travel, you will likely prevent cleansing balms, as they are less likely to create a mess. On the other hand, if you mostly stick to your own bathroom, then oil cleansers shouldn’t pose an issue – especially if they come in a sturdy bottle.
There is a balm cleanser for every skin type, like you could notice it from our list of the best cleansing balms presented above. These are the tips to keep in mind while balm cleanser shopping!
Balm Cleansers for Dry and Maturing Skin
Cleansing balms are the perfect choice for those with dry skin that has smaller pores and produces very little oil, or whose skin begins to show signs of aging. This is because balm cleansers load the skin up with much needed oil and help prevent transepidermal water loss.
Almost all balm cleansers should work well for dry and maturing skin, although you might find yourself looking for more explicitly anti-aging options. Some cleansing balms also contain humectant ingredients that pull water into the skin to plump it up and help it appear younger instantly.
Look for balm cleansers that include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, peptides, or super anti-aging extracts or oils like pomegranate oil or rosehip oil. You can decide for yourself whether you prefer balm cleansers free of surfactants, which can double as moisturizing balms, or a balm cleanser that can be rinsed away with water.
Balm Cleansers for Normal and Combination Skin
If your skin is normal and does not overproduce or underproduce oil, or if you have combination skin with both dry areas and oily areas to your face, you might want to be more precise in your search for the perfect cleansing balm. Most cleansing balms will work perfectly well to cleanse your skin, but you might as well look for one that goes the extra mile.
You might want to find cleansing balms that will help ward away premature aging, or you might prefer cleansing balms that will brighten your skin tone. Search for specific effects and ingredients, since balm cleansers totally double as skin treatments, and you might as well get more out of your cleansing routine.
If your combination skin leans slightly towards oily, you might prefer a cleansing balm that can be removed with just water, or you might want to use a cleansing balm as part of a double cleansing routine where you follow it up with a second gel-based cleanser.
Balm Cleansers for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin
It’s true, even those with oily and acne-prone skin can use cleansing balms! If you have larger pores, and your skin seems to produce a lot of oil, or if you happen to break out fairly regularly, that really doesn’t mean that you need to stay away from oil-based products.
The truth is that harsh cleansers can irritate your skin and compromise its barrier functions, which will only lead to more breakouts. With that being said, not all cleansing balms are created equal when it comes to those with oily or acne-prone skin.
If you break out easily, look for cleansing balms that have oils rich in linoleic acid, which is correlated with fewer breakouts. Acne-safe oils include sunflower oil, safflower oil, grape seed oil, rosehip oil, and shea butter. On the other hand, coconut oil for skin and almond oil have higher chances of breaking you out, so avoid them, especially if you’re looking at a surfactant-free formula.
Speaking of, if your skin is very oily, look for cleansing balms that do contain surfactants, as these are not going to leave any residue on your skin. You will know that a cleansing balm contains surfactants if its description mentions that it will turn milky or begin to lather once combined with water.
Lastly, you might prefer using cleansing balms only as part of a double cleansing routine where you use the cleansing balm first to remove your makeup, and then do a second cleanse with a gentle, low-pH cleanser or with micellar water.
Balm Cleansers for Sensitive Skin
If your skin becomes easily irritated, or if its default color is red and flushed, then you probably have sensitive skin. Almost all balm cleansers are an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin, because they contain very few irritating ingredients, and they tend to break down makeup, oils, and impurities without tagging at the skin or causing unnecessary friction.
Chances are most balm cleansers will work well for your skin, although you may particularly look for ones that include skin-soothing ingredients like green tea, coconut oil, chamomile extract, or sunflower oil.
Many people with sensitive skin find that they are likelier to have a negative reaction to a product that contains a lot of fragrance. If that’s the case for you, avoid balm cleansers with a strong scent or with a formula that contains many essential oils.
• Before you start cleansing, make sure your hands are clean by washing them thoroughly with soap and water. Dry your hands completely, afterwards.
• If your balm cleanser comes in a jar, dispense a nickel-sized amount with the help of a cotton bud or a clean cosmetic spatula.
• Rub the cleanser between your hands, and then begin massaging into your skin using primarily the top part of the palm of your hand and the lower part of the fingers. Use circular motions, and work upwards.
• As you massage the balm cleanser into your skin you will notice it melting into an oil-like texture, and dissolving makeup and impurities at the same time.
• For cleansing around the eyes, you can use your balm cleanser with a cotton pad, like makeup remover, or you can massage it around the eye area very gently, using the tip of your ring finger.
• Once you feel like all makeup has been completely dissolved (this will take between 15 to 30 seconds), you can remove the balm cleanser.
• You can rinse the balm cleanser away with a splash of lukewarm water, although in most cases it will be much easier to use a damp face cloth or muslin to wipe the face.
• Balm cleansers are excellent to use as a first step to double cleansing, if you are a fan of that method. This means that once you’re done removing your cleansing balm, you can go ahead and use a second cleanser. Most popularly, people tend to opt for a gel or foam-based cleanser.
• To finish off your skin care, apply your usual go-tos in the following order: toner, active treatments, hydrating essences, serums, and moisturizers. If you’ve followed this routine in the daytime, make sure to finish off with a healthy layer of SPF.
Photos via @beauty.amateur, @lifesslicesblog, @ms_tantrum, @kellilash