8 best cleansing balms
Swap messy oil for grime-banishing paste that dissolves every scrap of makeup, even waterproof mascara, to leave your skin glowing
If you've read anything about skincare in the past few years, you will likely have heard of the “double cleanse”, where you first use an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup, followed by a traditional cleanser.
But cleansing oils can be a little messy as they run through your fingers. Enter the cleansing balm, oil-based cleansers of a much thicker, paste-like consistency that do all the same work to dissolve grime but without the hassle.
All of our favourites remove makeup, including waterproof mascara, in one application; simply warm a little (around a 10p coin's worth, depending on how much makeup you wear) on your fingertips, massage into your face, adding a little water if you like, and remove with a warm flannel. Follow up with your usual face wash, toner, serum, moisturiser, and whatever else your skincare routine brings.
Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, 105g: £41, Feel Unique
This relaxing-smelling balm will transport you straight to the spa and leaves skin soft, nourished and supple. Rose and mimosa waxes combine with coconut, almond, elderberry and starflower oils, plus the firming effects of algae that give Elemis's Marine range its name. Our tester found a marked improvement in the breakouts she usually gets around her mouth. Comes with cleansing cloth.
Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm, 50ml: £52, John Lewis
Omorovicza is a Hungarian brand inspired by traditional hammam treatments and the Thermal Cleansing Balm is one of its most popular products. Applying this black balm brand to your face may seem a little counter-intuitive, but it lifts all makeup with the lightest touch. Our tester, who has sensitive, dry skin, found it cleansed without irritating or leaving it feeling tight and “squeaky”, “which is something of a miracle”. It comes with cleansing cloth and a little plastic scoop to get it out of the jar (we just used our fingers). There is also a 100ml pot, but - as with all good balms - a small tub will last you a long time.
Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm, 100ml: £47, Feel Unique
Moringa Balm is something of a cult product, winning multiple awards and being a staple on the bathroom “shelfies” of many a beauty editor. Its luxurious and fresh-scented blend of grape seed, almond and rose oils, plus moringa seed extract (which is packed with antioxidants) made light work of lip and cheek stain. We also found it helped balance an oily T-zone, helping makeup stay put for longer during the day. This comes with cleansing cloth and there is also a 200ml available.
Eve Lom Cleanser, 100ml: £55, Eve Lom
We love everything Eve Lom for its chic white and gold packaging alone. One of the first cleansing balms on the market, this, from the eponymous facialist's brand, has reached old faithful status. Chamomile, eucalyptus, hops and clove oils melt makeup and dirt, and our tester found that it helped reduce her winter-induced dry patches, too. Comes in three sizes.
Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm, 125ml: £24, Clinique
Clinique's balm version of its popular cleansing oil is cheaper per ml than most, fragrance-free and no-nonsense. It is quite solid in the pot but melts to silky on the fingers and lifts away all makeup to leave skin soft and clean. For price-effectiveness ratio, you can't beat it.
Dermalogica PreCleanse Balm, 100ml: £44, John Lewis
The balm version of Dermalogica's wildly popular PreCleanse oil takes a bit of squeezing to get it out of the tube, but those with hygiene issues about dunking fingers in a pot will prefer it. Skin feels soft and fresh after use, it leaves no residue and it gives one of the deepest cleanses we found, unclogging pores as well as removing makeup. It comes with a rubbery cleansing mitt. Also comes in a travel size.
Nyasa Pure Glow Nourishing Cleansing Balm, 100ml: £50, Nyasa
Nyasa's products combine standard skincare science such as hyaluronic acid and AHAs with the essential oils favoured by spa brands. Another alternative to a pot of balm, this comes in a bottle with a pump - which, again, takes a bit of work to dispense. Rosehip and sweet almond oils combine with fresh, citrusy essential oils including neroli, mandarin and bergamot, plus resurrection plant, a desert plant so called because it survives almost total dessication. Our tester reported that it initially feels a little sticky on the skin but soon melts to a silky, nourishing oil and left her ageing skin glowing and plumped as well as clean.
Frances Prescott Tri-Balm, 70g: £46, Frances Prescott
This is the first (and currently only) product from Frances Prescott, a makeup artist who works with celebrities including Judi Dench and Tilda Swinton, so you can rely on it to be practical and well-thought-through. A great choice for travelling with, Tri-Balm comes in a twist-up applicator so you can stroke it straight on to the face (or hands first, if you prefer), and it melts all makeup we tested it on.
The Verdict: Cleansing balms
For a no-nonsense, effective cleanser at a very reasonable price, it's hard to beat Clinique - though those with a little more to spend who are after a more luxury experience should try Elemis.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.