As essential as cleansers are to a solid skincare routine, they can also be the unexpected culprit of irritated and dry skin. Some cleansers have a tendency to strip your skin—meaning they remove too much of the skin's sebum (aka oil) and leave it feeling dry and tight. When this happens, the skin can sometimes overproduce oil to make up for what it has lost, which in turn can cause breakouts. But before you panic, there’s a potential solution to this vicious cycle: switching to a cleansing balm.
“Cleansing balms are oil-based cleansers that are particularly suited as a nighttime cleanser for people with dry and sensitive skin,” explains Dermatologist Arash Akhavan. “A small amount applied to the face and then mixed with water forms a luxurious-feeling emulsion that effectively removes makeup, sunscreen, dirt, and excess sebum in the pores without overdrying or causing irritation. I also recommend them to all of our patients at The Dermatology and Laser Group–including patients with normal or even oily skin–as part of an evening double cleansing routine. First, remove the day’s skincare products and makeup with a cleansing balm, then follow that with a traditional soapy or foaming cleanser to deeply cleanse the pores.”
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Dr. Akhavan explains that because some of the oil from a cleansing balm can be left behind on the skin even after rinsing, it’s super important to pay attention to the formula’s ingredient list and the quality and type of oils being used. “I love products that contain anti-inflammatory oils and ingredients such as rose oil and chamomile oil,” he says. “I suggest avoiding cleansing balms that contain coconut oil, which is a great moisturizing ingredient for the body but can cause breakouts on the face.”
Below are eight of the best cleansing balms for every skin type to consider trying. Bonus: the first four picks have already been given rave reviews by Ipsters who received these faves in past Glam Bags.
This balm's invigorating scent will take you straight to the spa. It’s made using a base of sunflower and ginger root oils, which easily removes and melts away your makeup (yes, even your matte liquid lipstick). Turmeric and moringa extract then come into play, helping to treat breakouts and protect your skin against free radicals. Finally, papaya enzymes naturally exfoliate dead skin cells away.
After using this cleansing balm, one Ipster wrote, “This stuff is amazing. I don’t think I can use any other cleanser on my face. It takes all my makeup off and leaves my skin feeling soft.”
If you have some seriously long-lasting makeup you need to take off, CLINIQUE Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm is the product you want for the job. Waterproof mascara, longwear foundation, and heavy eye makeup are no match for this nourishing cleansing balm. The base of this balm is safflower seed oil, an oil high in linoleic acid, which helps make the skin more receptive to other ingredients found in product formulas. It’s also high in antioxidants, which brings you an anti-aging benefit that will help you say goodbye to fine lines and wrinkles.
“It’s the optimal product to remove makeup, cleanse, and moisturize your skin all at once,” writes one Ipster. “I have oily skin but this doesn’t aggravate it, it actually made my skin chill a little and look healthier.”
If you’re new to using solid balms and you want a formula that’ll help you get used to the idea of a cleansing oil, this hypoallergenic option is a great way to give it a try (especially if you have sensitive skin!). It starts as a balm, melts into an oil, and then acts more like a milky cleanser when it comes into contact with water. While its water-activated creamy consistency may feel familiar to you, the extreme hydrating benefits are likely to feel entirely new. After using this cleanser, one Ipster wrote, “I felt like my skin was glowing and so clean after cleansing with this balm.”
If you have sensitive skin or skin that's prone to irritation, lather on this nourishing, ultra-gentle balm that's packed with balancing probiotics, oil-controlling niacinamide, and firming collagen. With an ingredient list that's 94% natural, it's also a top contender for those who like to keep their skincare routine super clean.
"I've been using this every day for the past two weeks and I love it," one Ipster writes. "I use it in the second step of my cleansing routine. It doesn't strip my skin and my skin doesn't feel dry afterward. I have oily skin as well so someone with dry or normal skin can use it as well."
Create the ultimate spa experience at home with this luxurious, rich cleansing balm. With a honey-like texture, this formula uses ingredients like marula oil, sage, ylang-ylang, and rosewood essential oils to totally transform your skin. With regular use, expect your skin to be hydrated, smooth, supple, and radiant. If you're prone to dry skin, this moisturizing, milky formula will make for a great addition to your everyday routine.
This skincare essential begins as a buttery balm when applied to dry skin and transforms into a milk when you add a touch of warm water. The fatty acid-rich formula hydrates with ingredients like avocado oil, meadowfoam seed oil, sunflower seed oil, and crambe abyssinica, while rosehip oil helps to boost cell turnover and rosemary extract helps to depuff and soothe skin. A ton of benefits packed in one jar? Pretty much.
If it’s luxury you’re after, it'll be hard to find a better option than this cleansing balm formulated with cashmere, gold, and pearl. Colloidal silver provides antibacterial benefits; gold increases skin's elasticity and brightens; and cashmere protein protects against moisture loss. On top of that, shea butter provides extreme moisture while tea tree oil keeps your skin's oil production balanced. To really reap the benefits of this luxe product, try occasionally using it as a face mask. Leaving it on for 15 minutes will enhance its plumping and brightening powers.
If you’re always on the go, this travel-friendly stick just might become your new BFF. To use this balm, simply apply the stick directly to your hands and lather. It’s made using a combination of all the good oils like sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil. It also contains Korean salicornia extract to strengthen your skin’s barrier and provide deep hydration while aloe vera and cucumber soothe your skin.
Are you a fan of cleansing balms? What is your favorite formula? Tell us on Instagram and Twitter—you can find us @IPSY. And remember, if you’ve received any of these in a recent Glam Bag, be sure to leave a review on its Glam Bag page.
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