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Dull to dewy: transform your skincare routine with cleansing balm

Cleansing balms have risen from niche favourites to cult classics, gracing bathroom shelves and stealing hearts (and makeup) with their unique, luxurious experience. But what exactly are these balmy wonders that have transformed the skincare routine, and why are they causing such a stir? Let's examine the world of cleansing balms and discover their benefits, drawbacks and how to find the perfect one for your skin.


A woman in her bathroom using a cleansing balm
The hydrating sensation of a cleansing balm can make the evening skincare routine a spa-like experience

A balmy skincare routine odyssey: from solid to silky smooth


Unlike traditional gel or water-based cleansers, cleansing balms begin their lives as solid sticks or in tubs. But don't let their solidity fool you! Upon contact with warm skin, they transform into a silky oil, gently melting away makeup, sunscreen and impurities without stripping your skin's natural oils.


This oil-based magic lies in their carefully crafted formulas, often combining nourishing oils like jojoba, coconut or olive with emollients and humectants for a deeply cleansing yet hydrating experience.


Going beyond makeup removal, they are a multitasking marvel.


While makeup removal is their claim to fame, cleansing balms offer a plethora of benefits. These include:


  • Gentle yet effective: their oil-based nature provides a gentle cleansing experience, making them ideal for sensitive skin types prone to irritation.

  • Nourishing boost: packed with nourishing oils and extracts, they leave your skin feeling soft, supple, and hydrated, unlike some drying cleansers.

  • Double-duty cleansing: forget the double cleanse! Many balms effectively remove even waterproof makeup, eliminating the need for separate makeup removers.

  • Multi-textured transformation: their unique texture allows for multitasking. Massage them on dry skin for a nourishing cleansing experience, or use them on damp skin for a lighter feel.

  • Soothing relief: certain balms boast calming ingredients like chamomile or green tea, offering relief for irritated or inflamed skin.


Solid cleansing balm in a pot and on a spatula
Cleansing balm is solid until it comes into contact with the warmth of skin. Most people warm it in their hands before applying to the face

Unmasking cleansing balm drawbacks


While cleansing balms are praised for their versatility, it's important to consider potential downsides:


  • Oily residue: some balms may leave an oily residue, particularly on oilier skin types. Experiment with different formulas to find one that emulsifies well and rinses clean. This is now quite rare, in my experience, and most balms ‘soap’ on contact with water and completely rinse away.

  • Comedogenic concerns: Some oils used in balms can be comedogenic, meaning they can clog pores and exacerbate acne. Opt for non-comedogenic formulas or consult a dermatologist if you have acne-prone skin.

  • Price point: compared to traditional cleansers, balms can be pricier. However, their multi-tasking abilities and potential longevity may justify the cost for some. If you are looking for a budget cleansing balm, try Peachy Clean by W7 or one from brands such as e.l.f.


Finding your balm soulmate for a luxurious skincare routine


With so many cleansing balms on the market, selecting the right one can feel overwhelming. 

Know your skin type. Oily skin needs non-comedogenic formulas, while dry skin benefits from richer, more hydrating balms. Sensitive skin requires gentle, fragrance-free options. 


Anti-ageing balms, for example, include Emma Hardie’s Moringa Cleansing Balm and the Pro Collagen balm from Elemis. Both are available in trial sizes. An all-rounder, for easy makeup removal, is Clinique’s Take The Day Off. If you are interested in probiotics, Aurelia London is a brand worth exploring. 


Use a balm that will target your concerns. Do you want extra hydration for a soft, dewy finish, pore-cleansing power or soothing relief? Choose a balm formulated for your specific needs.


Embrace the patch test. Apply a small amount of the balm on your inner arm to check for any potential reactions before applying it to your entire face. This is especially important if you are buying inexpensive balms online.


Read reviews and recommendations. Do your research and, if in any doubt, consult with skincare professionals for personalised guidance.


A woman rinsing her face with water
When you are done, rinse your face with water

The cleansing balm ritual: unlocking a spa-like experience

Now that you've found your perfect balm, let's explore the cleansing ritual:


  1. Warm up: massage the balm onto dry skin using circular motions, allowing it to melt makeup and impurities.

  2. Emulsify: add warm water and continue massaging, watching the balm transform into a milky emulsion.

  3. Rinse thoroughly: wash your face with lukewarm water, ensuring all traces of the balm are removed.

  4. Pat dry: gently pat your face dry with a soft towel.

  5. Apply your regular toner, moisturiser and other skincare products as needed.


If you want to embrace a double cleansing routine, always use the balm first. I shift between balms by Aurelia London, Emma Hardie and Beauty Bay, and follow up with a glow-boosting foam cleanser. Works a treat, leaving my skin totally clean before I tone, apply a serum and moisturise.


Cleansing balms offer a luxurious, effective and multi-tasking approach to cleansing, leaving your skin feeling soft, nourished and makeup-free. While finding the perfect balm requires understanding your skin type and needs, the journey can be as rewarding as the results. So, embrace the balm trend, indulge in the spa-like experience and witness your skin's transformation.


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