Tired of common cleansing products that dry out your skin? A good cleansing balm can help you get rid of daily makeup and grime buildup and provide your skin with much-needed moisture or act as the vital first step in your double-cleansing routine. However, not all cleansing balms are effective! Many may contain oils without strong surfactants.
Make sure to pick out a cleansing balm that can provide strong cleansing power. If you're confused about which product to buy or just want to learn more, keep reading! Our 10 best cleansing balms and buying guide, reviewed by a board certified dermatologist, will give you some tips in choosing the right product. Check out our favorite, Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm by Elemis. It's great for all skin types and can even work for anti-aging care.
Cleansing balms have a high oil content. They help remove dirt, impurities, and excess sebum for clean, glowing skin. Unlike other abrasive cleansing products that might be overly drying, cleansing balms are moisturizing and can enhance your skin's protective barrier.
Although cleansing balms and oils seem to have similar ingredients, they are completely different in consistency! Oils are liquid and can feel a bit heavy, especially for those with oily skin. However, cleansing balms are formulated with waxes and polyethylene. They tend to be more lightweight and creamy or buttery in texture.
If you're traveling, cleansing balms can be a great option since they don't leak and are unlikely to cause a mess!
When choosing a cleansing balm, consider factors such as the cleansing power, consistency, and ingredients. Take a look at our buying guide for more details!
Many cleansing balms are infused with oils that can nourish our skin. However, they may not contain surfactants that can melt away tough waterproof makeup or remove impurities. Keep in mind that without those active cleansing ingredients, the oils in the balm might block your pores and cause breakouts.
One of the most effective ingredients is mineral oil, but it might cause mild irritation to those with sensitive skin. Instead, look for ingredients like ethylhexyl palmitate, caprylic capric triglyceride, or cetyl ethylhexanoate. These all have strong cleansing potential that can remove the toughest makeup and still be gentle.
There are various ingredients in cleansing balms that can improve your skin. However, some ingredients might not be suitable for your particular skin type. So take caution and try to pick a product that can support the condition of your skin!
Many people assume that using a balm for oily skin will just worsen the condition, but that's not always true! Cleansing balms break down any dirt, makeup, and grime from the day and lift the excess oil or sebum from your pores, all while keeping your skin hydrated.
Many who are concerned about their oily skin think they should go for a harsh face cleanser, but this can strip away too much of your skin's natural moisture. A better choice is to switch to a cleansing balm to keep sebum in check, and then follow up with a water-based cleanser.
However, some balms do feel greasy on the skin. So if you're not a fan of a dewy look, pick a product with a fast-absorbing, sherbet-like consistency. You can also look for ingredients that can unclog pores like eucalyptus oil, or those that help shrink your pores like moringa seed oil.
If you have oily skin, follow up your double-cleanse with a water gel-based cleanser. This will help remove any residual oil from the cleansing balm. Additionally, do not double-cleanse every day. Instead, reserve double-cleansing for after using heavy makeup. You can also use the cleansing balm two to three times a week instead of nightly as your skin allows.
If you knowingly have sensitive skin, you should choose a product with soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredients such as aloe vera, rose extract, or chamomile oil. These ingredients calm irritation while protecting your skin barrier from the damaging effects of free radicals.
Sensitive skin is fickle and can be easily irritated, so you should do a patch test before actually applying anything to your skin. Phthalates, fragrances, and alcohols can be irritating to sensitive skin, so you'll want to proceed with caution if you decide to use products with these ingredients.
Many cleansing balms are formulated with plant-based extracts and essential oils. However, those ingredients are not necessarily safer. If applied in a high concentration, certain essential oils can cause irritation to the skin so it is best to perform a patch test if you have sensitive skin.
However, for any rinse-off products, you shouldn't need to worry too much as long as you do not leave the product on for a prolonged period of time. Most cleansing balms are made to wash off, but do be aware of these essential oil ingredients moving forward.
If you have a history of eczema, contact dermatitis, or rosacea, avoid essential oils in your cleansing balm. These are common causes of contact dermatitis and skin irritation. Also, avoid fragrance and preservatives as these can exacerbate these conditions.
Besides their effective cleansing power, cleansing balms are well-known for their moisturizing effects. They are formulated with a high concentration of oil and butter-based ingredients. Still, not all balms are created equally.
If you are looking for ultra-hydrating effects for your dry skin, especially during the winter, then seek ingredients that help retain moisture or increase moisture levels, such as hyaluronic acid, sunflower oil, or avocado oil.
Sunflower oil helps your skin to retain water, and avocado oil contains ingredients like potassium and lecithin that will nourish your skin. Apart from their moisturizing properties, they help prevent inflammation and can heal the barrier of your dry skin.
Cleansing balms are great for those with dry skin because they can act like an occlusive and help keep moisture in the skin. The problem is that more water is needed to remove the cleansing balm, and the second cleanse in the double-cleanse process can further dry out the skin by impairing the skin barrier.
For a double-cleanse with dry skin, choose a cream-based second wash. Make sure you are following up cleansing with a hydrating cream-based moisturizer. Look for one with ceramides!
Here's a list of the 10 cleansing balms we like best from the choices highly recommended by reviewers. We made our choices based on the points listed in the buying guide below, as well as reviewer comments when available.
*Please note that these products were chosen after extensive research by mybest writers. The choices are not necessarily affiliated with or recommended by Dr. Lauren Levy unless explicitly stated so.
Youth to the People
Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm
All Clean Balm
Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm Purifying
Bye Bye Makeup
Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm
The Perfect Matcha
Makeup Remover Melting Balm
Superberry Dream Cleansing Balm
Junoskin Clean 10
Best Balm Recommended by a Dermatologist
Best Lightweight Cleansing Balm
Best Cleansing Balm That Protects Skin Against Drying
Best for Calming and Soothing Redness
Best Skin-Softening Balm for Aging or Dry Skin
Best for Brightening Your Skin and Smoothing Bumps
Best Balm for Makeup Removal and Improved Cell Turnover
Best for Travel and Makeup Removal On the Go
Best for Cleansing and Fighting Breakouts
Best for Oily Skin, With Few Ingredients
|Skin type||Any||Oily, normal, sensitive||Dry, normal, sensitive||Acne prone, sensitive||Dry, aging, normal||Dry, normal, oily||Sensitive||Any||Any, especially dry or acne-prone||Oily, normal|
|Potential irritants||Essential oils, fragrance||-||Essential oils||Phenoxyethanol, fragrance||Essential oils, fragrance, alcohol, mineral oil||Phenoxyethanol, linalool, citrus oils||Fragrance, orange oil, phenoxyethanol||-||Phenoxyethanol, fragrance||Orange oil|
|Main ingredients||Sweet almond oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, oat and wheat germ oil, shea butter||Ethylhexyl palmitate, safflower seed oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride||Ethylhexyl palmitate, cetyl ethylhexanoate, shea butter, coconut extract||Cetyl ethylhexanoate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, PEG-20 glyceryl triisostearate, botanical extracts||Ethylhexyl palmitate, safflower seed oil, macadamia oil, shea butter||Cetyl ethylhexanoate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, PEG-20 glyceryl triisostearate, botanical extracts||Cetyl ethylhexanoate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, PEG-5 glyceryl triisostearate, botanical extracts||Isopropyl palmitate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, glyceryl triisostearate||Sunflower seed oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, rice bran wax, moringa, jojoba||Ethylhexyl palmitate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, glyceryl triisostearate|
|Amount||3.5 oz.||3.8 oz.||4.06 oz.||3.38 oz.||2.82 oz.||3.4 oz.||1.4 oz.||2 oz.||3.4 oz.||3 oz.|
|Potential irritants||Essential oils, fragrance|
|Main ingredients||Sweet almond oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, oat and wheat germ oil, shea butter|
|Skin type||Oily, normal, sensitive|
|Main ingredients||Ethylhexyl palmitate, safflower seed oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride|
|Skin type||Dry, normal, sensitive|
|Potential irritants||Essential oils|
|Main ingredients||Ethylhexyl palmitate, cetyl ethylhexanoate, shea butter, coconut extract|
|Skin type||Acne prone, sensitive|
|Potential irritants||Phenoxyethanol, fragrance|
|Main ingredients||Cetyl ethylhexanoate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, PEG-20 glyceryl triisostearate, botanical extracts|
|Skin type||Dry, aging, normal|
|Potential irritants||Essential oils, fragrance, alcohol, mineral oil|
|Main ingredients||Ethylhexyl palmitate, safflower seed oil, macadamia oil, shea butter|
|Skin type||Dry, normal, oily|
|Potential irritants||Phenoxyethanol, linalool, citrus oils|
|Potential irritants||Fragrance, orange oil, phenoxyethanol|
|Main ingredients||Cetyl ethylhexanoate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, PEG-5 glyceryl triisostearate, botanical extracts|
|Main ingredients||Isopropyl palmitate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, glyceryl triisostearate|
|Skin type||Any, especially dry or acne-prone|
|Potential irritants||Phenoxyethanol, fragrance|
|Main ingredients||Sunflower seed oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, rice bran wax, moringa, jojoba|
|Skin type||Oily, normal|
|Potential irritants||Orange oil|
|Main ingredients||Ethylhexyl palmitate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, glyceryl triisostearate|
A cleansing balm helps remove impurities and makeup effectively. If it's applied incorrectly, it might not be as effective. Check out our tips to learn how to appropriately use a cleansing balm!
When applying your cleansing balm, make sure to use it with clean, dry hands. The moisture from wet hands might not blend well with the oil ingredients of the balm. Warm the balm up between the tips of your fingers and emulsify it a little before applying to your dry face.
You should spend a little bit of time using your fingers to gently massage in circular motions. Start from your T-zone, which is known to be the oiliest area on your face, and move towards drier areas, such as your cheeks.
Massage the cleansing balm into your skin for around 30 seconds to two minutes, depending on how much makeup you wear. If you have eye makeup on, lightly massage around those areas with extra care so as not to get any product in them.
After massaging your face, rinse your face thoroughly to ensure that no residue is left behind. Cleansing balms are a bit tougher to remove than other cleansers, so you should dampen a soft towel and gently wipe your face to remove it completely. Try not to scrub the product off your skin since it might cause irritation.
For some products, the residue can act as a moisturizer, so it's okay to not completely wipe those balms away! To finish up, use a dry towel to remove any remaining water before using a water-based cleanser or applying other skincare products, like a moisturizer, serum, or night cream.
Still not quite sure about what a cleansing balm does or what it's good for? Dr. Levy is here to ask some commonly asked questions!
"Double-cleansing is when you wash your face with two different types of cleansers, one after each other," says Dr. Levy. "An oil-based cleanser is usually done first, followed by a water-based cleanser.
The benefit of double-cleansing is that the first oil-based cleanser will remove makeup, dirt, sebum, and oil, while the second cleanser will help hydrate the skin or exfoliate. You do not have to double-cleanse with every face wash, and it should only be done once a day at most. If you have dry skin, you can double-cleanse one to three times a week and should save it for when you may have extra product on your face like makeup.
It's very effective at removing dirt and oil from your skin, but the benefit of the process depends on your second cleanser, as this one can be tailored for your skin needs - hydration, exfoliation, or even acne. If you have acne-prone skin, I recommend being careful with the oil cleanser as it can trigger acne outbreaks. Make sure you're using an acne wash for your second cleanser!"
Dr. Levy says, "Many cleansing balms are oil-based and can clog pores if you are acne-prone. On the other hand, cleansing balms are very effective at removing oil, dirt, and makeup, which is beneficial in preventing acne outbreaks.
If you want to double-cleanse but may be prone to acne, use an acne wash or salicylic-based product for your second wash to help treat and prevent clogged pores."
If you're not up to using a cleansing balm every day, try alternating with some other reliable makeup removers. We've even tested out some of them in our Tokyo office!
Not sure a cleansing balm is right for you? Take a look at what Amazon buyers like for removing makeup and washing your face.
This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.
Author: Thuy Nguyen
Updated by: Susan Lucier-Ogawa, 12/01/2021
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