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We get it, you probably already have a ride-or-die face wash that’s always in your bathroom, no how many other new skincare products come and go. Perhaps it’s one that you’ve used religiously since Obama was president (the first time). Perhaps it’s one that is super affordable and you know works and you don’t want to mess with. But hear us out: There are a few different reasons why you may want to consider introducing a cleansing balm into the mix.
For starters, there are the legit skincare wins. Made with much higher amounts of hydrating ingredients—think butters, oils, and the like—cleansing balms are notably more moisturizing than any other type of wash. All you have to do is take a look at their thick, almost solid, consistency to see that they’re probably more closely related to the moisturizer in your medicine cabinet than your face wash. And here’s the other great thing: Many of the cleansing balms out there don’t even require water. That’s right, it’s as simple as wipe on, wipe off. That not only leaves behind those hydrating benefits but also makes your skincare routine that much faster and easier.
Sold on making the swap? Check out the best cleansing balms that really are the bomb.com. (Sorry, we had to.)
Best Overall: Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm
A balm that truly goes above and beyond the call of duty, they call this a ‘super cleansing treatment balm,’ a moniker we find completely accurate. A looong list of botanicals delivers all kinds of anti-aging, antioxidant, and collagen-boosting benefits. And all of that comes in a lusciously rich base packed with natural waxes and oils (starflower and elderberry, to name a few) that have some of the highest levels of fatty acids out there.
Massage it into dry skin then wipe off with a damp cloth, letting any traces left behind soak into the skin to further maximize the benefits.
Best for Glowing Skin: Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm
Winner of a coveted 2019 Byrdie Skincare Award, using this K-beauty balm is a joy from start to finish. Oil-based, it’s ideal for removing oil from your skin (read: not only actual oil, but also sunscreen and makeup, too). And the oils, as well as all the ingredients, are all carefully chosen with the ultimate goal of glowing skin in mind. Sea buckthorn, olive, and grapeseed oils are packed with protective antioxidants and tons of nourishing fatty acids. But especially noteworthy is the addition of persimmon extract to reduce hyperpigmentation, leaving your complexion more radiant than ever.
Best for Dry Skin: Eve Lom Cleanser
This team Byrdie favorite pulls off five different benefits, which is why it's a total gem. Yes, it’s nice and hydrating and all that good stuff, but it also decongests, exfoliates, tones, soothes, and deeply cleanses away impurities. Credit a combo of essential oils—including eucalyptus oil to decongest pores, antibacterial clove oil, toning hops oil, and skin-softening Egyptian chamomile oil—as well as cocoa butter (aka a godsend ingredient for dry skin) for it all.
It all makes for an end result that leaves skin with that clean feeling you crave, though without it ever feeling stripped. Bonus points for the fact that it comes in three different sizes, including a travel-friendly mini.
Best Drugstore: Pond’s Cold Cream Cleansing Balm
We have yet to find someone who doesn’t have some type of beauty memory associated with Pond’s Cold Cream, arguably one of the more iconic skincare products of all time. Instead of messing with a classic, the brand tweaked it and created a new product, transforming into a cleansing balm. It’s packed with oils to remove makeup and simultaneously deeply hydrate skin, similar to the way to OG does, though with a slightly larger emphasis on cleansing.
Best Splurge: Goop by Juice Beauty Luminous Melting Cleanser
Yes, this rings in pricier than others on this list, but if you really want to treat yo’ self, it’s well worth it. A blend of almond, coconut, olive, and jojoba oils, plus shea and cacao seed butter gives it a luxuriously sumptuous texture that feels good going on the skin and leaves skin feeling just as lovely afterward. Couple that with a spa-like fragrance (that comes only from essential oils, the formula is squeaky clean), and you’ve got yourself a product that will turn face washing from an everyday mundane task to a truly spa-like, self-care moment.
Best for All Skin Types: Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm
A universal crowd-pleaser, this cult-classic gets the job done on all skin types. The dry set will appreciate the addition of vitamin E, while those with oily or combination skin will appreciate the purifying moringa seed oil and wild sea fennel that helps to minimize the look of pores. Even the included cleansing cloth works for all; one side is made of microfiber for simply removing the balm, the other is an exfoliating muslin if you want a little bit more of a slough. The bottom line: You really can’t go wrong.
Best Budget: Palmer’s Coconut Monoi Facial Cleansing Balm
The brand may best be known for their beloved cocoa butter, but don’t miss out on this cleansing balm from their coconut line. Oil-based and touting coconut, monoi, macadamia, and almond oils (that are sustainably-sourced, we should add), it cleanses just as well as it takes off makeup. The smell is also delightfully tropical—just what you need to break up the winter doldrums—and not only is it super affordable, but a little goes a long way, making it an even better bargain.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Sunday Riley Blue Moon Tranquility Cleansing Balm
Cleansing balms are a great universal choice for anyone with sensitive skin, given that they’re usually always free of harsh soaps and deliver all of those hydrating benefits we keep talking about. But this takes it one step further; it touts blue azulene and German chamomile oils loaded with azulene, an ingredient that soothes irritation and redness. And to the point of being soap-free, this instead uses sugar-based cleansers to ensure you get a deep clean.
This formula pulls double duty as a mask. Slather on a thick layer and leave it on for 20 minutes before rinsing for a true self-care moment.
Best for Makeup Removal: Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm
No matter whether you want to use this all over your complexion, or just to remove stubborn eye makeup, it will get the job done. The creamy balm quickly transforms into an oil, whisking away all kinds of makeup, sunscreen, and other gunk and grim. Credit sunflower and ginger root oils, plus papaya extract for gentle exfoliation.
Keep massaging it into the skin and it turns into a milky lather that rinses away completely cleanly, without any of the unwanted residues that traditional makeup removers and/or cleansing oils can leave behind.
Best for Smoother Skin: Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm
If a rough texture is your primary complexion concern, reach for this guy. Manuka honey works to protect the skin barrier, while royal peptides accelerate cell renewal to promote smoother skin and better texture. Not to mention it also contains plenty of hydrating ingredients to combat dryness. The spa-like scent is just an added bonus.
Most Versatile: One Love Organics Skin Savior Multi-Tasking Wonder Balm
We don’t think we could come up with a more appropriate name for this product if we tried. Loaded with organic butters and oils, yes, it works great as a cleansing balm for sure. But it’s so delightfully hydrating that you can even use it on chapped lips or cuticles, or mix it with mineral powder to create a dewy skin perfector. It also contains plenty of anti-inflammatory vitamin B3 and zinc, as well as anti-bacterial lauric acid, making it a good choice to dab onto little cuts, scrapes, or bug bites.
Best Stick: Julep Love Your Bare Face Detoxifying Cleansing Stick
Given that cleansing balms tend to skew on the more solid side in general, we were happy to finally see one that was so solid it came as a stick. Not only does it make application easier than ever, but the portability factor makes it particularly ideal for travel and when you’re on-the-go. Plus, not only does it clean, but it also exfoliates, thanks to the addition of pomegranate enzymes. FYI, unlike many other balms, which are best applied onto dry skin, this works best on wet.