WTF: Cleansing Balm Edition

2 years ago if you told me that I would be using oils to clean my face on a daily basis I would have laughed it off. I'll blame that partly on the oil cleansing method which to this day I still find too complicated to try.

But since then I've seen the light and am fully committed to the double cleanse life. I can't imagine a nighttime skincare routine without a balm cleanser. So in today's post, I'm explaining what are balm cleansers, how do they work, when to use them, and also reviewing the 10 I currently have in my stash!

As always with my WTF posts, I would like to disclaim that I'm not professional. I'm just a girl, who likes skincare, who easily gets distracted by google...and reddit...and the internet in general.

What are cleansing balms?

Cleansing balms are basically solid, oil-based cleansers. They differ from traditional face washes since they have an oil base as opposed to a water base. This means they're very effective at removing sunscreen, makeup, and sebum! If you've ever cleansed your face with a regular ol' face washed and then realized you still have leftover brown gunk all over your face, chances are your face wash hasn't really cleansed off all your makeup. Enter cleansing balms.

How do cleansing balms work?

So cleansing balms have two phases. First, they're an oily consistency that you rub into your face to remove all that surface debris we talked about-- sebum, sunscreen, and makeup. Then when you add water, they turn into a milky consistency and wash away.

As to why they work better than regular cleansers for removing all that surface debris, I like the following explanation. Let's flashback to high school chemistry class for a moment. Even if you forget everything about polarity and bonds and intermolecular forces and all that jazz, hopefully, you remember the mantra: like dissolves like. Oil likes oil. That same shit applies to cleansing balms.

Your sebum, makeup, and sunscreen like your oil-based cleanser (in this case a cleansing balm) better than your water-based cleanser.

Let's move onto phase two.

Balm cleansers (and cleansing oils for that matter) differ from straight up oils because they contain an emulsifier (and sometimes surfactants as well) which means ideally they're supposed to turn into a milky consistency when met with water and wash away easily without leaving a greasy residue behind. Because I was curious, I decided to do some rudimentary ingredient analysis. I compiled the ingredient list of various popular cleansing balms and plugged them into cosdna.

Here's a screenshot of the table down below. I highlighted the ingredients cosdna identified as emulsifiers in pink and surfactants in green. As you can see, every single balm has an oil base and then contains at least one emulsifier to help wash everything away.

How do you use them?

Usually as your first cleanser. If I'm wearing a full face of makeup I'll usually apply a micellar water, then a cleansing balm, and then a traditional cleanser but that's just because I'm a lil' bit extra.

When applying your cleansing balm, MAKE SURE YOUR HANDS AND FACE ARE DRY! If they're wet, your balm will start to emulsify before you've gotten a chance to work it into your skin.

After you've rubbed it into your face, wet your hands with water and start rubbing your face to emulsify the balm. If your balm works properly, it should turn into a runny, white liquid that easily washes away.

What's the point of double cleansing?

Like I mentioned up above, balm cleansers are typically better at removing surface debris in comparison to traditional cleansers. While technically you could wash your face multiple times with a traditional cleanser to remove all your makeup, a lot of the times that can be too harsh or drying. In comparison, double cleansing is quite gentle and very effective at properly cleansing your face and removing all traces of sunscreen and makeup.

Review time!

Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm

Price & Size: $29.50 for 3.8 oz available via Sephora, Ulta, Nordstrom, & Macy's
Ingredients: Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Caprylic / Capric Triglyceride, Sorbeth-30 Tetraoleate, Polyethylene, PEG-5 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Water / Aqua / Eau, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol

This was the first cleansing balm I ever tried and it instantly turned me into a double cleansing convert. It's very no fuss no muss formula and could even be considered boring by some, but it really get's the job done. It removes every speck of makeup, emulsifies well, doesn't leave behind any firlm or residue, and most importantly-- doesn't sting my eyes at all no matter how hard I rub or how much I apply. It also doesn't have any sort of discernable scent.

I'm currently finished with my tub (I featured it in my September project pan post) and will definitely be repurchasing another tub during the holiday sales.

Heimish All Clean Balm

Price & Size: $17.00+ for 4 oz available via Ohlolly Beauty, Amazon, & Jolse
Ingredients: Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Polyethylene, PEG-8 Isostearate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Fruit Extract, Freesia Refracta Extract, Iris Versicolor Extract, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Extract, Lilium Tigrinum Extract, Leontopodium Alpinum Extract, Nelumbium Speciosum Flower Extract, Narcissus Pseudo-Narcissus (Daffodil) Flower Extract, Rose Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Amyris Balsamifera Bark Oil, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Juniperus Mexicana Oil, Boswellia Carterii Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, 1, 2-Hexanediol (Note: they have recently repackaged & reformulated their balm; this ingredient list is from Ohlolly which I believe is the most recent formulation)

If you're familiar with the online K-beauty community, chances are you've heard of the famous Heimish All Clean Balm. It all started when detractors of Banila Co banded together to create Heimish and an improved version of Banila Co's best-selling Clean It Zero cleansing balm (reviewed later in this post.) This may very well be an urban legend I read on Reddit but I enjoy the drama either way ๐Ÿ˜

I will say I like the Heimish Balm 10x better than the Banila Co. It cleanses my makeup off well and emulsifies nicely. I do have two issues with it, though.

First off is the scent. I've seen people describe it as herbally but personally, I would say it reminds me of something rotten in the state of Denmark... On the plus side, I honestly stopped noticing the scent after using it for a few weeks.

My second issue with it is that it doesn't do the best job at removing waterproof mascara. And if I use too much or rub it in too hard, it stings my eyes.

But even with those two issues, I will probably still repurchase this at some point! I like using it on days when I don't wear waterproof mascara. They've also since reformulated it without the donkey milk so perhaps it smells different now!

Erborian Solid Cleansing Oil (PR Gift)

Price & Size: $39.00 for 2.8 oz available via Sephora, Soko Glam, & Feel Unique
Ingredients: Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Mipa-Laureth Sulfate, Laureth-3, Cera Alba/Beeswax, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Laureth-7 Citrate, Glyceryl Dibehenate, Centella Asiatica Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Ophiopogon Japonicus Root Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hydrogenated Palm Glycerides Citrate, Tocopherol, Tri-Behunin, Glyceryl Behenate, Tocopherol, Butylene Glycol, Aqua/Water, Parfum/Fragrance, Limonene, Linalool, Ci 42090/Blue 1, Ci 19140/Yellow 5

Out of all the cleansers in this post, this has my favorite consistency. It sort of reminds me of vaseline? Despite its viscosity, it still emulsifies really well! Plus it has a very refreshing, tea-like scent. You can read my full thoughts on it in my Instagram post. I also reviewed their cleansing oil in the post; spoiler alert-- I did not like it at all.

Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm

Price & Size: $34.00 for 3.2 oz available via Sephora, Cult Beauty, & Farmacy
Ingredients: Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Peg-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Peg-10 Isostearate, Polyethylene, Phenoxyethanol, Sorbitan Sesquioleate, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Melia Azadirachta Flower Extract, Amino Esters-1, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Amber Powder, Cananga Odorata Flower Oil, Coccinia Indica Fruit Extract, Solanum Melongena (Eggplant) Fruit Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Extract, Corallina Officinalis Extract, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Water/ Aqua/ Eau, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Echinacea Purpurea Root Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Moringa Pterygosperma Seed Extract, Disodium Phosphate, Citric Acid

I remember when this came out last holiday season-- I put myself on the waitlist on the Farmacy website and eagerly waited. The second they restocked I placed my order! Just an FYI: Farmacy runs a toooon of great promotions around the holidays. I believe when I ordered this, it came with 2 or 3 deluxe sized minis of their products. It might have even been 20% off too. But anyways, I'm getting side-tracked.

This cleansing balm smells beyond amazing. And even though it has a strong scent, it doesn't sting my eyes. I actually wrote a review of it earlier in my spring favorites post ๐Ÿ˜‰

Pixi By Petra Double Cleanse (PR Gift)

Price & Size: $24.00 for 3.8 oz available via Dermstore, Target, Cult Beauty, & Pixi
Ingredients: Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, PEG-8 Isostearate, Polyethylene, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylgylcerin, Astrocaryum Murumuru Seed Butter, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Camellia Japonica Seed Oil, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil

So this cleanser actually comes with two cleansers! But because we're talking about cleansing balms today, I'll only be chatting about the cleansing balm side.

It reminds me of the Clinique Take the Day Off Balm except somehow more boring? I'm not sure how that is because the Clinique balm is as basic as it gets lol.

Basically, it checks all the boxes: cleanses well, emulsifies well, doesn't sting my eyes, removes all my makeup. Like the Clinique, it also doesn't have any scent. The one thing I'm not crazy about it is the packaging. I don't like the split pan because it spells DISASTER for a klutz like me. I have to make a concerted effort to not accidentally mix the two sides.

Sunday Riley Blue Moon Tranquility Cleansing Balm

Price & Size: $50.00 for 3.5 oz available via Sephora, Space.NK, Cult Beauty, Nordstrom, Dermstore, Anthropologie, & Barney's
Ingredients: Glycerin & Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides & Aqua & Sucrose Laurate, Jojoba Esters (And) Acacia Decurrens Flower Wax (and) Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax (and) Polyglycering-3, Glyceryl Behenate, C10-18 Triglycerides, Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides (Coconut Oil), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Moringa Oil/ Hydrogenated Moringa Oil Esters (Moringa Butter), PEG-8 Beeswax, Cetyl Alcohol (and) Ceteth-20 (and) Steareth-20, Polyglyceryl-6, Polyglyceryl-3 Beeswax (and) Cetyl Alcohol, Squalene, Tangerine (Citrus Tangerina) Oil, Citrus Sinensis (Sweet Orange) Oil, Tanacetum Annuum (Blue Tansy) Leaf Oil, Matricaria Recutita (German Chamomile) Essential Oil, Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract, Ylang Ylang (Cananga Odorata) Flower Oil, Citrus Aurantium Var. Amara (Neroli) Flower Oil, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile Roman) Flower Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Caprylyl Glycol

This spring there were claims that this cleansing balm was being discontinued. But it's months and it's still on the market so I'm not sure how accurate those rumors were ๐Ÿค”

At the time I decided to crack open the mini I bought in a gift set from Sephora last year. I shared my first impressions on my Instagram. Since then, my thoughts are pretty much the same EXCEPT I like it a bit more. My favorite way to use it is in the shower in the morning or at night on a day where I'm not wearing any makeup. It provides some light exfoliation action and my skin is soft and hydrated afterward. It's not a cleanser I would use to remove makeup as it doesn't do the best job at that and also it's expensive as fuck. I'm not sure I would repurchase it for $50 because there are other luxury cleansing balms I would like to give a try.

Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm

Price & Size: $110.00 for 1.7 oz available via Sephora, Cult Beauty, & Look Fantastic
Ingredients: Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate, Sweet Almond Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearyl Heptanoate, Silt (Hungarian Mud), Jojoba Oil, Squalane, Beeswax, Polysorbate 20, Plum Seed Extract, Apricot Kernel Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, Parfum (Natural Fragrance), Limonene, Linalool, Ethylhexylglycerin, Acerola Fruit Extract, Vitamin E, Aqua, Zinc Gluconate, Magnesium Aspartate, Copper Gluconate

When I think luxury cleansing balm, I think Omorovicza.

I already reviewed this in a cleanser review post back in July but the tl;dr version is that it's nice, but not $100+ nice. If you would like to splurge on it, I recommend purchasing it from Cult Beauty or any other European retailer because it's much cheaper than buying it here in the US. Like more than 50% cheaper.

Botanic Farm Grain Ferment Cleansing Sherbert (PR Gift)

Price & Size: $30.00 for 3.38 oz available via Ulta, Botanic Farm, Yamibuy, Amazon, & Costco
Ingredients: Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Polyethylene, PEG-10 Isostearate, Rice Ferment Filtrate (Sake), Saccharomyces/Rice Bran Ferment, Lactobacillus/ Soybean Ferment Extract, Trihydroxystearin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Butylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance (Parfum)

First of all I gotta give a shout out to the Costco deal on this cleanser. For $26 you get TWO FULL SIZED CLEANSERS plus a mini travel sized version. In comparison, 1 full sized tub usually retails for $30.

I haven't tried this too many times, but so far I do like it! I feel like I'm repeating myself a lot in this post but it removes makeup well, emulsifies well, and doesn't leave a residue. Texture wise it's a bit thicker than the other cleansers in this post but it's still easy to spread. When rubbed into my skin, it also isn't as runny as some of the other cleansers. It does have a fragrance to it but it isn't overly noticeable to me.

I haven't tested it on waterproof makeup/ my eyes so I can't say if my eyes will sting from it or not.

Banila Co Clean It Zero Purity + Banila Co Clean It Zero Original

Purity Price & Size: $25.00 for 3.38 oz available via Soko Glam, Peach & Lily, & Amazon
Purity Ingredients: Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, PEG-10 Isostearate, Polyethylene, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Althaea Rosea Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Water, Epilobium Angustifolium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Beta-Carotene, Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Capryhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Abies Sibirica Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil
Original Price & Size: $20+ for 3.38 oz available via Soko Glam, Peach & Lily, & Amazon
Original Ingredients: Mineral Oil, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, PEG-10 Isostearate, Polyethylene, Butylene Glycol, Water, Rubus Suavissimus (Raspberry) Leaf Extract, Bambusa Arundinacea Stem Extract, Aspalathus Linearis Leaf Extract, Viscum Album (Mistletoe) Lead Extract, Angelica Polymorpha Sinesis Root Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Malpighia Glabra (Acerola) Fruit Extract, Epilobium Angustifolium Leaf Extract, BHT, Butylparaben, CI 16255, CI15985, Fragrance

Even though these two have different formulas, I find them to work pretty similarly. And I don't like either.

Both sting my eyes. Both don't remove all my makeup. Both are sorta runny when massaged into my skin. Both also break out my skin. I expected it with the original formula since it has a base of mineral oil (which I'm sensitive to), but I was shocked the Purity one did as it is marketed towards sensitive skin types and is mineral oil free.

At this point, I use them to clean my makeup brushes and it does a decent job for that!

And they all lived happily ever after

That's the round-up of all the cleansing balms in my stash! A few of them I've already panned, a few are on their way to be used up with the next month or two. Do you double cleanse? Do you have a favorite cleansing balm? Any recs for cleansing balms I must try? I'd love to know ๐Ÿ˜‰

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