Cleansing and makeup removal are likely the most tedious steps in your skincare routine—but find a great cleansing balm, and suddenly you’ll trade several minutes of harsh scrubbing for just a moment of gentle cleansing. Yep, you heard that right—you can combine two steps in one (kind of), to painlessly remove a day’s worth of makeup and grime. While most skin types will still want to go in with your usual face wash after using a cleansing balm, these formulas make the entire getting unready process so much easier.
But just like other skincare products, not all cleansing balms are the same. So to help you discover which one is best for you, we put dozens of popular formulas to the test and evaluated them based on consistency, oiliness, hydration, cleansing ability, and appearance. And ahead, we’re sharing the formulas that our testers rated the highest.
Meet the Expert
Carmen Castilla, M.D. is a New York City-based, board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai. She specializes in cosmetic and medicinal dermatology.
Juno & Co. Clean 10 Cleansing Balm
Dissolves makeup effortlessly
Easily transforms into a milky consistency
Leaves skin feeling hydrated but not oily
What starts out as a solid texture seamlessly transforms into a balmy oil once applied to the skin before reaching its final state as a milky cleanser when combined with water. Unlike many cleansing balms, which are either so thick and oily that they’re hard to remove or so lightweight that they’re not malleable, this strikes the perfect balance, maintaining a workable consistency. Formulated with Japanese pearl barley, which helps moisturize the skin and brighten hyperpigmentation, this formula works effortlessly to break down stubborn makeup and SPF without being stripping.
Unlike similar products she’s used in the past that left her oily skin feeling even more oily, our tester shared that this cleansing balm left her face feeling clean, balanced, and hydrated. It took very little effort to remove a full face of makeup, has a nourishing formula, and doesn’t leave a greasy residue behind, making it a product we couldn’t recommend more.
Price at time of publish: $15
Key Ingredients: Japanese pearl barley, orange peel oil | Size: 3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
“This cleanser has been fantastic for me because it thoroughly cleans without drying out my skin. My skin actually feels more moisturized and supple after using it.” —Daniela Galvez, Product Tester
innisfree Pore Clearing Volcanic Cleansing Balm
A little bit goes a long way
Effectively removes makeup
Leaves skin feeling balanced
Contains some clumps, uneven texture
If you’re new to cleansing balms and you want to test out the product category without spending a lot of money, we highly recommend checking out this affordable option. While the brand recommends it for oily skin as it’s formulated with Jeju volcanic clusters, which help to clear congested pores, our tester with dry skin loved her experience with it.
Aside from some textural inconsistencies in the form of little clumps (they did dissolve during application), she adored how easily it broke down her makeup and left her skin feeling calm and balanced. It effectively broke down all of her makeup—aside from waterproof mascara, which she needed to use a warm cloth to fully remove—and it didn’t feel stripping or too greasy on her skin. She also shared that she noticed a reduction in her facial redness over the period that she tested this product because it completely removed the need to harshly rub her skin to remove makeup and sunscreen.
Price at time of publish: $10
Key Ingredients: Jeju volcanic clusters | Size: 1 ounce | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Neutrogena Makeup Remover Melting Balm
Removes excess oil without drying the skin
Leaves skin feeling soft and balanced
Could be better at breaking down eye makeup
Looking for a convenient, affordable cleansing balm? Try this one. It has a lightweight, smooth consistency that’s formulated with vitamin E to nourish the skin while working to melt away makeup and grime. Contrary to what you might think, our tester with oily skin found that the balm actually helped to balance her skin despite its oily consistency, —removing her excess oil without causing dryness or a tight sensation.
While it did a great job at removing her face makeup and leaving her skin feeling comfortable, she noted that it could have done a better job at removing stubborn eyeliner and mascara. It wasn’t overly effective at breaking those formulas down, and she found that the formula got into her eyes, causing some blurriness—which is fairly common with cleansing balms. To avoid this, dip a cotton swab into the balm and pick up just a little bit of product before applying it to the eye area.
Price at time of publish: $11
Key Ingredients: Vitamin E | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Kokoberna Divine Origin Cleansing Balm
Lightweight, soft consistency
A little bit goes a long way
Leaves skin feeling soft and hydrated
Not ideal for waterproof makeup removal
Most true cleansing balms are just that—balms with somewhat solid consistencies. But think of this one as a middle ground between a traditional balm and a cleansing oil. It has a rich, oily texture that works to break down makeup while hydrating and soothing the skin. The formula contains West African botanical seed oils as well as flower essences to calm and support the skin barrier while offering makeup removal and moisturizing benefits. It also comes in a bottle with a pump, making it ideal for those who prefer not to stick their fingers into their skincare products.
Our tester adored this product, saying, “I could go much longer without a moisturizer compared to other cleansing products that make your skin dry after you use them.” In addition to not stripping her skin of essential moisture, it effectively removed her face makeup, was easy to apply, and came in mess-free packaging. Her one gripe? It wasn’t fully able to break down waterproof mascara.
Price at time of publish: $95
Key Ingredients: West African botanical seed oils | Size: 1.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Not known | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for All Skin Types
Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm
Incredibly soft, creamy texture
Effectively breaks down makeup
Leaves skin feeling hydrated and soothed
It’s pricey considering there are other very effective options on the market
This cleansing balm is incredibly well-loved in the beauty community, and its popularity is absolutely justified. The most notable thing about it is its heavenly texture—it’s like a hybrid of a solid balm and a cream, making it both pillowy soft, and workable. It’s formulated with a blend of nine different hydrating oils, ensuring that it won’t strip the skin of moisture as it does its job.
It effectively removes makeup, SPF, and grease, and our tester loved how seamlessly it transitioned from a balm to an oil to a milky consistency—it made using it foolproof. Because the formula isn’t overly oily, isn’t dry and crumbly, and doesn’t contain exfoliating acids, it’s a great choice regardless of your skin type. It’s effective, soothing, and the formula feels luxurious thanks to the gorgeous texture, but it is quite pricey compared to other similar options on the market.
Price at time of publish: $16, $40, $66, $110
Key Ingredients: Elderberry and starflower oils | Size: 0.7, 1.7, 3.5, 7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Dry Skin
Versed Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm
Soft, oily consistency
Leaves skin hydrated and glowing
Cleansing balms, in general, are great for people with dry skin due to their hydrating formulas, but they’re certainly not all created equal. While some offer drier, more crumbly textures, others—like this one—are richer and more oily. Formulated with a blend of nourishing oils, it’s no surprise that this formula is pretty oily on the skin.
Our tester shared that the consistency became more oily as she worked it across her face, and it took a bit of effort to fully remove it with water. However, she was really impressed with its performance, as claimed there was a noticeable difference in the appearance of her skin. “I could tell a real difference in my skin, which I don't usually notice with other skin care products,” she explained. “There was a glow to my skin, and it was softer to the touch.”
While she didn’t mention being bothered by the fragrance, several online reviewers have noted that this balm is heavily fragranced. If you’re sensitive to scent, this is definitely something to consider.
Price at time of publish: $18
Key Ingredients: Vitamin E, jojoba oil, avocado oil | Size: 2.3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Oily Skin
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Hyaluronic Marine Meltaway Cleanser
Lightweight, gel-like texture
Leaves skin feeling balanced
Not ideal for waterproof makeup removal
While this cleansing balm is certainly appropriate for those with dry skin as our tester shared it left her dry skin feeling soft and non-stripped, it’s a fantastic option for people with oily skin who prefer to avoid oils in their skincare products. The oil-free formula has a gel-like texture that feels comfortable and light on the skin, and it includes hyaluronic acid, marine algae, and aloe for soothing and hydrating benefits.
Despite the lack of oil in the formula, our tester shared that it felt soft and oil-like on her face, which helped to maintain comfort as she massaged it around to break down her makeup and sunscreen. If you’re a consistent waterproof makeup wearer, this might not be the ideal cleansing balm for you as reviewers say they struggled to remove stubborn makeup with it, but it’s a great choice for no makeup or minimal makeup days.
Price at time of publish: $13, $30
Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, marine algae, aloe | Size: 2, 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin
Erborian Centella Solid Cleansing Balm
Smooth, even texture
Removes even waterproof makeup
Leaves skin feeling balanced
If you have sensitive skin, then you know how irritated it can get when you need to scrub or tug at your skin to remove your makeup. If this experience sounds familiar, then we highly recommend that you invest in this cleansing balm. The texture is buttery soft, allowing it to break down makeup and glide across the skin effortlessly, and it’s formulated with centella asiatic—also known as tiger grass—which is a plant used in Korean medicine for its healing benefits.
Besides appreciating how smooth the consistency was and how hydrated it left her skin feeling, our tester shared that it worked to completely melt away her waterproof mascara without needing to rub her eye area. She also noted that it effectively cleansed excess oil and didn’t leave her skin feeling taut.
Price at time of publish: $45
Key Ingredients: Centella asiatic extracts, coconut and sunflower oils | Size: 2.8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
“My skin looks and feels great after using this. I feel like I've done no damage to my skin since I barely even needed to scrub it..” —Agne Numaite, Product Tester
IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Makeup Cleansing Balm
Melts and emulsifies quickly
Breaks down SPF effortlessly
Leaves skin feeling smooth
Could be a bit more hydrating
If you prefer multitasking beauty products that serve more than one purpose, you’ll love this cleansing balm. It works to dissolve makeup and SPF, acts as a brightening facial cleanser, and can be used as a hydrating face mask if applied to clean skin for 10 minutes. It’s formulated with a blend of vitamin C, rosehip oil, ceramides, and shea butter to nourish the skin as it melts away a day’s worth of grime. Our tester can attest, saying she was incredibly impressed by how easily it broke down her sunscreen.
Though she said she would have liked it to be a bit more hydrating for her dry skin, our tester shared that it was not drying, like many of the cleansing balms she’s tried in the past. She also appreciated how quickly the balm melted and emulsified and transformed into a milky consistency to cleanse her face and leave it feeling balanced.
Price at time of publish: $42
Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, rosehip oil, ceramides | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Waterproof Makeup Removal
Keys Soulcare Nourishing Cleansing Balm
Very soft, smooth texture
Removes waterproof makeup effortlessly
Non-stripping on the skin
Many cleansing balms are capable of effectively removing face makeup and SPF, but when it comes to removing waterproof makeup—especially stubborn mascara—most formulas just don’t deliver. This one, however, is in a category of its own. Our tester was blown away by how easily it melted both her foundation and complexion makeup, as well as her waterproof eyeliner and mascara. “Even waterproof, rub-proof graphic eyeliner didn't stand a chance against this cleansing balm,” she said. “Sunscreen and makeup removed easily with minimal resistance after a few rubs of this balm.”
In addition to how well it removed her makeup, she shared that it didn’t feel stripping on her incredibly dry skin. Rather it left her skin feeling comfortable and looking glowy and hydrated.
Price at time of publish: $30
Key Ingredients: Bamboo charcoal, shea butter, sunflower and macadamia seed oils | Size: 2.8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
“I felt like this cleanser was the perfect balance of oil and balm. I didn't need to rub hard for it to melt into a smooth, slippery oil on my skin, and it was very effective at removing sunscreen and makeup.” —Cai Cramer, Product Tester
Best Gel-Like Formula
Shiseido SHIKULIME Gel-to-Oil Cleanser
Comes in squeeze tube
Has a malleable texture
Makes skin look radiant
Leaves a bit of a greasy residue on the skin
Some people simply don’t like putting their fingers into a jar of product—and unlike many cleansing balms, this one ensures you don’t have to. It has a gel-like balm formula that’s packaged in a squeeze bottle, making it hygienic and easy to dispense. Although described as a gel-to-oil formula, our tester did not find it overly oily, in fact, she said the texture was dense enough to make it malleable and easy to work with.
She noted that it effectively removed her makeup and cleansed her skin, leaving it feeling balanced and looking glowy. While she loved the radiance it gave her skin, it’s worth noting that some online reviewers felt that the glow was the result of a bit of residue, so it’s best to follow up with a second cleanser.
Price at time of publish: $28
Key Ingredients: Japanese lime, safflower grape seed oils | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm
Effectively removes makeup and SPF
Soft but not greasy
Leaves skin feeling soft
Formula can be slightly clumpy
Not ideal for waterproof makeup removal
This cleansing balm is a favorite among our editors as well as a beloved product in the beauty industry. It has a sorbet-like texture that can easily be scooped out of the jar and melted onto the skin upon contact. Truly, the texture is very unique and pleasant to work with. It feels incredibly soft, though not too oily, and the fairly dense formula makes it simple to apply to the skin while remaining effortless to transform into a milky consistency. It’s excellent for removing SPF, complexion, and lip makeup, and it works to soften the skin without leaving a greasy residue behind. We also love that despite containing papaya enzymes which are great for exfoliation, the formula is incredibly gentle–-it never leaves skin feeling sensitized or stripped.
While we (and most of the beauty community) recommend it, there are a few things our tester didn’t love about the formula. First, it’s not ideal for breaking down waterproof makeup—it requires some rubbing to fully remove mascara and stubborn makeup. The texture can also be slightly clumpy in the sense that when you apply it to your skin, it doesn’t melt evenly. However, we think the pros far outweigh the cons, so it’s absolutely a product we recommend.
Price at time of publish: $24, $36
Key Ingredients: Papaya enzymes, sunflower and ginger root oils | Size: 1.7, 3.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
The Juno Skin Clean 10 Cleansing Balm is our favorite formula that we tested. It has a soft texture that turns into a milky consistency, dissolves makeup quickly, leaves the skin feeling hydrated and not oily, and is one of the more affordable options we tested. If you prefer a formula that comes in a squeeze bottle so that you don’t have to scoop product out of a jar, we recommend the Waso by Shiseido Shikulime Gel-to-Oil Cleanser. And if you’re looking for a luxurious, creamy product that’s excellent for all skin types, the Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm is the one for you.
How We Tested
Each tester used one cleansing balm at home over a period of two weeks. After reading the manufacturer's instructions, they used the products as directed to remove makeup, SPF, and dirt at the end of the day. They gently massaged it across their skin, wetting their fingertips to emulsify the formulas and effectively remove makeup where applicable. For the purpose of this test, they did not follow up with another cleanser as part of a double cleansing routine, although this is often recommended. After using their cleansing balm, each tester evaluated and rated it based on consistency, oiliness, hydration, cleansing ability, and appearance, and those that scored highest appear on this list.
Other Options We Tested
Banila Co. Clean It Zero Original Cleansing Balm
Though our tester adored the consistency of this popular cleansing balm, she found that it left her combination skin feeling pretty dry and stripped.
Holifrog Kissimmee Vitamin F Therapy Balmy Wash
Our tester appreciated that this gel-like cleansing balm felt soft and comforting on her skin, but she explained that it wasn’t oily enough to effectively break down and remove her makeup.
Charlotte Tilbury Multi-Miracle Glow Cleansing Balm
Although she recognized that this luxe cleansing balm did help make her skin feel more hydrated, our tester shared that the texture felt too slippery, making it difficult for her to work it into her skin and thoroughly cleanse her face.
What to Look For When Buying a Facial Cleanser
Though cleansing balms are wash-off products, it’s still important to consider their ingredients when selecting one that’s right for you—especially if you have sensitive skin. According to Dr. Castilla, there are a few ingredients that people with acne-prone and sensitive skin should avoid. “Heavily fragranced cleansing balms can be irritating to dry and sensitive skin types,” she says. “Lanolin should also be avoided as it can lead to a contact allergy, and it can sometimes clog pores. If you are acne prone, avoid cleansing balms with coconut oil as this ingredient can clog pores.” Have sensitive skin and want a cleansing balm that will be effective for you? We love the Erborian Centella Cleansing Balm.
As for ingredients to seek out, Dr. Castilla says those with dry skin should look for jojoba oil and ceramides, as they’re great for hydration. For oily skin, she recommends a formula with safflower or grapeseed oil. Why? “These formulations tend to be a bit thinner and are less likely to leave a greasy residue,” she explains.
While most cleansing balms come in a jar and have formulas that start out solid and transform into a milky consistency, there are some other options to consider. If you prefer more liquidy formulas that come in a tube or bottle rather than a tub that you have to dig into, we recommend the Waso by Shiseido Shikulime Gel-to-Oil Cleanser, the Kokoberna Divine Origin Cleansing Balm, or the Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Meltaway Cleanser. These options are also a bit more lightweight than many solid formulas, making them great for people with oily skin or those who prefer thinner textures. If you prefer creamy, richer textures, we highly recommend the Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm.
How do cleansing balms work?
“Cleansing balms are cleansers that use oils and emollients to remove dirt, makeup, and buildup from the day without the need for harsh scrubbing,” explains Dr. Castilla. “They are able to cleanse without stripping the skin of its natural oils and damaging your skin barrier.”
She also shared that the oils in cleansing balms are better able to break down heavy makeup than traditional liquid makeup removers, making them great options if you’re wearing waterproof formulas.
Are cleansing balms good for people with all skin types?
You might think that if you have oily skin, cleansing balms would be too heavy or oily for you—but that’s not necessarily true. According to Dr. Castilla, they make for great makeup removal options regardless of your skin type. However, she says that those with oily skin should implement a double cleansing routine and follow up with their regular cleanser after using a cleansing balm.
Why Trust Byrdie
Alyssa Kaplan is an experienced writer in the beauty industry and product tester specializing in cosmetics. She has many cleansing balms, including several on this list. She received a bachelor’s degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she studied marketing and product development in the cosmetics industry as well as fashion business marketing. Alyssa has been a commerce writer at Byrdie since 2022, where she covers all things beauty.