The luxurious addition to your skincare routine that will melt away makeup in an instant
If you follow a double-cleanse routine, then where do you start? Makeup wipes? Micellar water? Well, hear us out, because you might want to consider introducing a cleansing balm into your skincare routine.
Rubbing and scrubbing your face with a wipe or wash cloth will eventually remove every trace of makeup. However, to cleanse and nourish skin in one move, you should opt for a cleansing balm. They’re packed with skin-loving ingredients that will not only melt away makeup and sunscreen in one fell swoop, but also notably soften and hydrate skin better than other cleansing options. Plus, they’re a particularly good choice for those with dry or sensitive complexions, since most contain beneficial ingredients such as vitamin E. Most come as either solid or buttery formulas in the tub, which melt into a silky cleansing oil or milk on contact with the skin.
Cleansing balms are also great for indulging in a spot of facial massage, which in itself delivers a wealth of skin-boosting benefits. By sculpting your cheeks and jawline and stimulating lymphatic drainage – in turn, boosting blood flow – facial massage encourages relaxation and skin rejuvenation, helping to combat ageing, acne, sinus pressure and much more.
READ NEXT: Best tinted moisturiser
The best cleansing balms: At a glance
- Best for dull and uneven skin: Wishful Clean Genie Cleansing Butter
- Best for removing makeup: Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm
- Best value cleansing balm: Soap & Glory Glow Your Mind Nourishing Cleansing Balm
How to choose the best cleansing balm for your skin
Which cleansing balm is right for my skin type?
The key to choosing any product for your skin type lies in the ingredients. Cleansing balms are packed with natural oils that have some of the highest levels of skin-loving fatty acids out there. Apricot oil is packed with vitamins B and E, so it’s great for drier skins, as is rosehip and avocado oil, while those with sensitive complexions should lean towards soothing ingredients like camomile and balancing jojoba oil.
If you’re prone to breakouts and oiliness, look for formulas that are non-comedogenic (formulated without pore-clogging ingredients that can trap dirt and sebum); lanolin and coconut oil are common culprits. Read labels carefully and look for non-comedogenic oils such as jojoba, grapeseed, squalane and sunflower seed oil. When skin is dehydrated, it begins to over-compensate by producing even more oil. By hydrating your skin efficiently – with a cleansing balm, for example – it should become more balanced and less prone to breakouts.
READ NEXT: Our favourite foundation brushes
How do I use a cleansing balm?
A balm cleanser should be the first step in your skincare routine – think of it as a makeup remover with benefits. Most cleansing balms work best when applied to dry skin: simply take a small dollop, massage it into your face, and add water to loosen. Once you’re done, a balm is best removed using a damp flannel or muslin cloth, before following up with your favourite water-based cleanser and creams.
Can I use a cleansing balm every day?
Since balm cleansers are particularly effective at dissolving everything from dirt and impurities to makeup, without leaving your skin feeling dry or tight, they can be used morning and night – although we suggest using a balm as part of your evening routine. If your skin is feeling particularly parched then you could even use it as a mask, applying it to dry skin and leaving for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing.
How we test cleansing balm
We incorporate a huge selection of cleansing balms into our nightly skincare routines, closely examining consistency, scent, how easy they are to rinse off and any immediate or longer-term differences we see in the condition of our skin. We also consider how well they perform for removing makeup and grime by using a toner and reusable cotton pad after use. Since cleansing balms are best used on dry skin, we apply each formula with dry hands to a dry face, unless otherwise recommended. These are the cleansing balms we feel deserve a place on your bathroom shelf.
The best cleansing balms you can buy in 2023
1. The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter: The best cleansing balm for sensitive skin
Price: £11 (90ml) | Buy now from The Body Shop
There’s a reason one of these beauties sells every 22 seconds in the UK. Not only does it come in at a reasonable price point, but it offers the most gentle yet effective cleanse, removing everything from lipstick and foundation to heavy eye makeup in less than a minute – and all without leaving skin feeling dry or tight. The texture is soft, light and buttery without feeling greasy, and though it’s not fragrance-free, the scent is subtle. The hero ingredient is soothing camomile extract, which makes it great for those who suffer dry patches, breakouts, or have particularly reactive skin. Bonus points for the widely recycled aluminium packaging, too.
Key details – Key ingredients: Camomile, olive oil, sunflower oil, shea butter, tocopherol (vitamin E); Scented: Yes
2. De Mamiel Restorative Cleansing Balm: The best cleansing balm for a spa-like experience at home
Price: £70 (100ml) | Buy now from Cult Beauty
If you’re going to splurge on a cleansing product, let it be this one – and indulge in a bit of facial massage while you’re at it. This super-aromatic cleanser has a spa-like scent and a deliciously rich texture that melts into an oil on contact with the skin. It’s spenny – but a little goes a long way. Packed with complexion-boosting ingredients – including marula to encourage cell renewal, camelia with vitamin E, omega 9 and squalene, and cape chamomile to reduce redness and inflammation – it leaves skin feeling clean and calm. In fact, we’d even go as far as to say that this product has stress-relieving properties – place a hot cloth over your face and breathe in the essential oils for ultimate relaxation. Trust us, it works!
Key details – Key ingredients: Marula seed oil, camellia seed oil, sunflower seed oil, squalane; Scented: Yes
3. Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm: The best cleansing balm for mature skin
Price: £46 (100ml) | Buy now from Feel Unique
Ask any beauty editor or makeup artist about the cleanser they keep in their skincare kit, and this award-winning balm will get a mention. Nourishing and anti-ageing, this rich, buttery formula transforms into a silky oil as you massage it into the skin, then into a hydrating milky emulsion, leaving skin feeling super-soft after rinsing. Fatty-acid-packed elderberry, starflower and Optimega oils act as a magnet to draw out grime and impurities while providing intense moisture, while the blend of nine essentials oils – including lavender, chamomile and eucalyptus – give it a spa-like scent.
Key details – Key ingredients: Rose wax, elderberry oil, starflower, Padina Pavonica, eucalyptus; Scented: Yes
4. Farmacy Clearly Clean Cleansing Balm: The best cleansing balm for acne-prone skin
Price: £32 (100ml) | Buy now from Cult Beauty
If, like us, you’re fans of Farmacy’s cult Green Clean cleanser – another great option for acne-prone skin, by the way – then you’ll love this fragrance-free version designed especially for those with more reactive skin types. This dreamy balm is free of essential oils that might aggravate acne, but contains papaya extract to gently exfoliate skin and hydrating sunflower seed oil to effortlessly remove makeup without stripping. And it is effortless. The clear balm transforms into a silky oil when applied and then a pleasing milky lather, leaving skin feeling super-clean. It also comes with a handy and hygienic spatula for scooping out the product.
Key details – Key ingredients: Sunflower seed oil, papaya extract, moringa seed; Scented: No
5. Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm: The best cleansing balm for removing stubborn makeup
Price: £25 (125ml) | Buy now from LookFantastic
When it comes to makeup removal, this fragrance-free balm does all of the hard work, so you don’t have to. It’s formulated to suit all skin types and works almost instantly to melt away layers of eye makeup, sunscreen and surface oil with minimal effort, leaving skin feeling clean and revitalised. Solid in the pot, the balm transforms into an oil on contact with fingertips and is so light, it rinses off in an instant. It certainly feels like a premium product and is well worth its mid-range price tag. In fact, it’s little wonder it’s a reigning bestseller in the cleansing balm space.
Key details – Key ingredients: Safflower seed oil, tocopherol (vitamin E); Scented: No
6. Wishful Clean Genie Cleansing Butter: The best cleansing balm for dull and uneven skin
Price: £31 (100ml) | Buy now from Feel Unique
Antioxidant-rich green tea, cherry blossom extract and malachite are all key ingredients in this milky-textured cream-to-oil cleanser from cosmetics queen Huda Kattan. It works to melt away makeup while nourishing your skin to leave it looking fresh and toned. Unlike some balms, which can feel heavy upon application, this feels creamier, more lightweight yet velvety soft, and a scoop is sufficient to lift off even the most stubborn mascara with ease. After use, skin felt soothed and moisturised, and brighter too. We also enjoyed the fresh, cotton-like scent and the pretty turquoise colour!
Key details – Key ingredients: Green tea extract, cherry blossom extract, malachite stone; Scented: Yes
7. Soap & Glory Glow Your Mind Nourishing Cleansing Balm: The best value cleansing balm
Price: £9.95 (100ml) | Buy now from Boots
Suitable for all skin types and super-affordable, this balm felt thicker than some of the others we’ve tried, and although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it did take longer than some others to rinse off effectively. What it does do as brilliantly as its counterparts is dissolve stubborn makeup with almost zero effort and leaves skin feeling smooth, supple and ready for its second cleanse. It comes with a subtle, clean citrusy scent, which felt rather welcome after wearing a full face of makeup all day. Overall, a great value-for-money product that could well be worth double its sub-£10 price tag.
Key details – Key ingredients: Avocado oil, apricot kernel oil, jojoba seed oil, lemon peel; Scented: Yes