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If you struggle with dry skin like I do, then you know what it’s like to have a million moisturizers crowding your bathroom counter. And whether you look at the array of greasy bottles and see them as half-empty or half-full, one thing is objectively clear: no matter how much lotion you slather on your flaky face, none of these creams ever seem to do the trick.
Maybe it’s not your moisturizer that’s the problem. Maybe it’s your cleanser that is cursing your complexion.
Hear me out, because I’ve been there. I was the girl who, once charmed by the cult-like commercials, made a beeline in the bath-and-body aisle to the same, sale-priced scrub. For less cash than the cost of a Starbucks latte, I could pick up a plump tube of apricot-infused goo that promised to purify my pores with its magic microbeads.
Did the cleanser smell amazing? Yes! Did the beads brush across my face in a delightful, stress-melting massage? Absolutely. Did the golden goo get rid of the grimy residue? Probably. But what I didn’t realize was that my cleanser was also stripping my skin of its much-needed moisture. Hello, chapped cheeks and flaky face.
Now, I’m not blaming that once-beloved, clearance-marked cleanser for my skin problems. As I didn’t learn until later, most surfactant-based cleansers, like the exfoliating scrub I was using, contain harsh chemicals that strip your skin of its natural oils. A better solution, say dermatologists, is to ditch the detergents and freshen up your face with a cleansing balm — a creamy facial cleanser formulated with natural oils.
What Is A Cleansing Balm?
“Cleansing balms typically contain more natural ingredients than other types of cleansers, and they don’t contain any harsh chemicals or sulfates,” explains Cheryl Rosen, M.D., Director of Dermatology at Bow Tied Life. “They also tend to be more moisturizing, which is important since dry skin can lead to acne, premature aging, and other skin problems.”
Okay, teenage acne was bad enough, but acne as we’re aging? No, thank you, I’ll stick with natural creams. But wait, if cleansing balms are free of detergents, are they equally effective at deep-cleaning the dirt?
Of course, claim the dermatologists — and they’re not just good at melting away the mud. According to Dr. Rosen, “cleansing balms are designed to remove all of your makeup, including waterproof mascara, as well as sunscreen.”
The other benefits of cleansing balms? “They contain emollients and liquids that help to hydrate and nourish the skin,” Rosen says. “They can also be used as a first step in your skincare routine to prepare your skin for further treatment.”
For all of these advantages, you’d think these cleansers would be complex to apply but, no, assures Rosen; the process takes just a few steps.
“To use a cleansing balm, scoop a small amount out with your fingers and rub it between your hands to melt it. Then, apply it to your face and massage it in using circular motions,” explains Dr. Rosen. “Wait a few moments for the balm to dissolve all of your makeup and sunscreen, then rinse your face with warm water. Finish by applying moisturizer,” she says.
Oh, so that’s how you get your moisturizer to smooth and silken your skin.
Sold on cleansing balms yet? So are we! But before you kick your harsh cleansers to the curb, you should know which products to purchase in their place. “Look for a cleansing balms made with natural ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and jojoba oil,” Dr. Rosen recommends.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to sift through the snake oils. Based on dermatologists’ direction and our well-rounded results, we’ve compiled our list of the best cleansing balms below. Cleanse your skin and your spirit with these purifying products!
Clean It Zero
Banila Co’s best-selling balm contains active botanicals, hot springs water, and Vitamins E and C to melt away your makeup and retain your skin’s moisture. This cleanser has a 4.8-star rating with one reviewer commenting, “It melts easily in your hands and has a very smooth texture and glides over my face easily. It doesn’t have a strong smell and it takes off ALL my makeup! I will never use another oil cleanser.”
Deviant Skincare Cleansing Concentrate
This balm-to-milk cleanser is a blend of sacha inchi, blueberry, and borage with balancing hemp and camellia seed to soothe your sensitive skin. The product has a perfect 5-star rating, with one reviewer raving, “I look forward to slathering this all over my face at the end of each day. Emulsifies like a dream. It says something that I would spend money on this product over any other expensive serum any day if I have to choose.”
SHOP AT DEVIANT SKINCARE – $42.07
Derma E Universal Cleansing Balm
This cruelty-free cleansing balm contains rosehip oil, camellia oil, cocoa and shea butters, and citrus oils to dissolve dirt and hydrate your complexion. The cream has a 4.3-star rating. One reviewer noted, “I love how easily and effectively it removed makeup, even eye makeup. Need to rinse with warm water to remove well. Leaves skin feeling soft and clean.”
Youth to the People Superberry Dream Cleansing Balm
This superberry solvent combines antioxidants like maqui and prickly pear, nutrient-rich seed oils, and hyaluronic acid for a gentle, flash-melting formula. The cleanser has a 4.6-star rating and 91% recommendation rate with one reviewer writing, “I have used cleansing creams that are just so greasy and clog your pores; this does not. Water-soluble makes your face feel clean but not dry after rinsing it off. Gets all my makeup off and you only need a small amount.”
Then I Met You Cleansing Balm
Charlotte Cho’s cleansing balm is a signature blend of seaberry oil, persimmon extract, olive oil, and Vitamin E to remove oily residue in every sorbet-like scoop. The award-winning balm rounds to a 5-star rating. One reviewer raved, “My favorite way to remove my makeup. It’s gentle, efficient, and smells amazing! Price is so worth it to me; it lasts so long. A little can go a long way.”
Glow Recipe Papaya Sorbet
This PEG-free cleansing balm formula contains papaya enzymes, papaya seed oil, and blueberry extract to purify your pores, melt away makeup, and smooth and resurface your skin. The Glow Recipe has a 4.2-star rating and 81% recommendation rate with one reviewer raving, “Buy it! This stuff is my all-time favorite skin-care product. It smells soooo good and takes off even the most waterproof of mascaras. It leaves my face feeling so soft and clean.”
Versed Day Daily Cleansing Balm
This sustainable skin cleanser uses antibacterial eucalyptus oil and Vitamin E to rinse away residue with a milky mixture. The gentle balm has a 4.3-star rating and 70% recommendation rate. One reviewer noted, “I love the feel of this cleansing balm. It breaks down my eye makeup without stripping my skin, which is essential in winter. The scent is not overpowering; it’s a nice eucalyptus clove sort of scent that dissipated quickly.”
Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm
This gentle cleanser includes safflower seed oil for a silky blend that melts away makeup and sunscreen. The balm has a 4.5-star rating with one reviewer noting she was “impressed.” The reviewer wrote, “Was unsure about this, but it’s worth it! Removed my 24-hour eyeliner with ease. Only product I found that works great and doesn’t over-dry your skin.”
Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm
This multi-texture cleansing balm contains nine essential oils like lavender, chamomile, and eucalyptus to soothe and soften the skin while invigorating the senses. The melting cleanser has a 4.6-star rating with one reviewer calling it a “game changer.” The reviewer raved, “The pro-collagen cleansing balm literally melted the makeup off my face, meaning I used less product and spent less time doing so! To check, I used my face brush and there was no residue whatsoever. This has made me review my whole routine, and I can’t wait to use it again!”
elf Holy Hydration Cleansing Balm
This melting cleanser is packed with peptides, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid to nourish your complexion with a milky texture. This balm boasts a 4.7-star review. One reviewer called it the “holy grail.” The customer commented, “I decided to give this a try and OMG. I’m so glad I did. First of all, it removes even the most stubborn eye makeup. Second, I can wash it off with water and I’m not left with a sticky film on my face. It actually washes off very easily. Third, it has a very nice smell – not too strong – but very pleasant. Fourth, it has a very minimal exfoliating quality to it that makes it feel like it’s really getting into the skin. I absolutely love this and will keep buying it!”
Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser
Drunk Elephant’s cleansing balm is formulated with fruit extracts, seed oils, bamboo, and charcoal powder to hydrate and soothe the most sensitive skin. The cleanser has a 3.8-star rating with some customers finding it too oily or clumpy; but one customer called herself “Obsessed! I have dry and sensitive skin and was desperate to find a makeup remover that wasn’t abrasive. This is the stuff. I don’t use the exfoliant that often, but I use the butter every night, and my skin is so soft and youthful looking!”
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Cleansing Balm
This cleansing balm contains sunflower and ginger root oils, turmeric and moringa extract, and papaya enzymes to exfoliate and melt off makeup without stripping your skin of moisture. The product has a 4.5-star rating and 85% recommendation rate with one reviewer writing, “I think I’m on my fourth tub of this and it is my absolute favorite makeup remover I’ve ever used. It takes off every bit of makeup, but leaves your skin feeling comfortable and soft. It’s also not irritating to your eyes at all. I will never be without this.”
It Cosmetics Bye-Bye Makeup
This 3-in-1 mixture is a cleansing balm, instant makeup remover, and anti-aging serum in one! The formula features collagen, hyaluronic acid, peptides, and ceramides to complete a smooth and youthful complexion. This balm boasts a 4.8-star rating with one reviewer calling it “The very BEST makeup and eyebrow liner and eye makeup remover ever! I have sensitive skin and it does not bother me. Great stuff!” As for the anti-aging affirmation? One reviewer claimed, “I’m 78, but my skin looks like it’s so much younger.”
The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm
This cleansing balm contains oat kernel oil, colloidal oatmeal, and other natural oils to nourish your skin without irritation. The winner of the Allure 2020 Best of Beauty award, the balm earned a 3.8-star rating with some customers complaining about the smell or texture; but most expressed satisfaction with its treatment of their sensitive skin. One reviewer wrote, “Such a great product for anyone with dry skin who wants to cleanse skin without worrying about drying it out and damaging their moisture barrier. I love to use a cleanser after using this cleansing balm so it doesn’t leave any oily residue, but I really feel like this product keeps my skin healthy and hydrated. Totally worth it for this price point!”
Aqua Bomb Cleansing Balm
This creamy cleansing balm features lotus flower, marshmallow root, and lady’s mantle to melt away your makeup while minimizing your pores. The product has a 4.5-star rating and 92% recommendation rate with one reviewer writing, “I received this as a sample and have added it to my nighttime routine. I love the smell, texture, and fun of using this product. It removes all my makeup easily and leaves my skin feeling clean and hydrated. I’m not sure how it works, but I love it.”
Do you suffer from dry or sensitive skin? What are your favorite cleansing products? Recommend your best balms in the comments below!
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