You may not given much thought to removing your makeup — that is, until you've experienced the transformative luxury of a buttery, melty cleansing balm. While many of lived through the era of scrubbing off excess product with a pre-soaked Neutrogena towlette, the early-2010s rise of K-beauty and the associated popularity of double-cleansing (applying a succession of oil- or cream-based cleansers in lieu of a single soapy one to wash skin) brought select gentle cleansers to the market — and now it seems like it’s a must-offer for most major personal care brands, from mainstream stalwarts to clean-beauty up-and-comers.
If you're not acquainted with such formulations, cleansing balms have a lot going for them — as the name implies, they generally have creamier, balmier consistency than their soapy (and sometimes skin-stripping) counterparts. In addition to whisking away every last morsel of stubborn makeup and leftover sunscreen, these cleansers tend to be much gentler on the skin than a wipe or cotton pad. (Some fancy ones even boast brightening and hydrating ingredients for added skin-care benefits.) We're clearly fans of the stuff, but we’re not alone — passionate skin-scrubbers across the world wide web have publicly declared their loyalty to these soft cleansers in copious reviews and five-star ratings. Ahead, we've rounded up seven of the internet's most beloved cleansing balms at every price point, ranging from K-beauty OGs to sleeper drugstore hits.
Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm, $38
"I'm not sure if I'm honestly going to find a cleansing balm that I'll love more than this one!" raves one Soko Glam reviewer. "It takes off all my sunscreen, is super nourishing and moisturizing, and smells amazing." With ingredients like anti-inflammatory sea buckthorn extract (which gives the balm its signature yellow hue) and olive oil to nourish skin, it's quickly become one of the best balms on the market. "As someone with dry skin, having a balm that's super moisturizing and leaves your skin feeling soft and nourished is awesome," writes another reviewer.
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm, $34
This buttery balm is one of clean-beauty brand Farmacy's most beloved gems — and a personal favorite of mine. It has papaya enzymes to gently exfoliate but feels incredibly gentle despite its ability to obliterate waterproof makeup. "[It] feels like a spa treatment, which is crucial when you dread washing your face after a long day," writes one Sephora reviewer. "And it removes all makeup like a dream. All the stars!" Another customer described Farmacy’s blend as “gorgeous,” claiming it “melts down seamlessly” with a residue-free finish.
Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, $64
Is it expensive? Yes. However, as many reviewers attest to, a little goes a long way to stretch the lifespan of this skin-softening cleanser. "This balm is my favorite," writes one Ulta reviewer. "It lasts such a long time because you don't need much to remove a full face of makeup." Another satisfied customer attests, "It feels and smells luxurious — the price is ridiculous, but one tub lasts a long time." We even have a first-hand endorsement from within our own walls — Commerce VP Sam Baker swears by this formula in her evening double-cleansing skin care routine.
Banila Co Clean It Zero 3-in-1 Cleansing Balm, $19
One of the first K-beauty cleansing balms to touch down stateside in the early 2000s is Banila Co's $19 vitamin E-infused balm, which now comes in a variety of formulations for various skin concerns. "I love cleansing balms, and I feel like compared to others I've tried, [this one] much more lightweight and doesn't leave that greasy residue that's hard to get off," writes one oily-skinned Ulta reviewer. Having tested this one myself, I concur — so if you're wearing a full face, you may need something with more makeup-removing power.
Dermalogica PreCleanse Balm, $45
Dermalogica's balmy offshoot of its iconic PreCleanse oil features a richer texture that reviewers simply cannot get enough of. "This had a thicker consistency than some cleansing balms I have tried," writes one Dermstore reviewer. "I also liked that it comes in a squeeze tube and not in a pot or jar." Another reviewer mentions that regular use has even helped keep clogged pores at bay: "It has helped tremendously with sebaceous filaments and leaves my skin feeling incredibly clean after my second cleans," they write. "I use this product at night to remove my daily SPF and makeup. It works like a charm!"
Neutrogena Makeup Remover Melting Balm, $9.79
Drugstore cleansing balms are few and far between, making this under-$10 Neutrogena find a popular choice among savvy Amazon beauty shoppers. "I saw this product recommended on a YouTube video," shares one reviewer. "I always used the makeup remover wipes, but felt horrible because they aren't necessary and just ruin the environment." Enter: This one-and-done nourishing balm-to-oil makeup remover perfect for even the most sensitive skin types. ”It works wonders,” wrote the reviewer. Melissa wrote: “I use this as part of a [two-step] cleanse to get my makeup off every night. It has no scent and doesn't irritate my sensitive skin or eyes. I don't understand why some reviews say it's greasy. It is a balm, but it does get creamy if you add water. You don't HAVE to do a two step wash if you add the water before you wipe it off with a damp cloth. This stuff is amazing!”
Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm Makeup Remover, $36
Fun fact: This aptly-named cleansing balm is what my mom (and many other department store beauty counter-loving moms, I'm sure) used for years – and it's still a hit today. "This is the best cleansing balm I have tried," declares one Sephora reviewer. "It does not dry out my skin but absolutely gets the makeup loosened up and does not require hard scrubbing." (Plus, for value-oriented folks, you can buy a 6.7oz jumbo size for $9 more than the 3.8oz standard size.) One expert reviewer cited Clinique’s formula — along with some other chart-toppers in our roundup — as a crucial component in their cleansing routine. “I love this product and I use it as first cleanse and then do [a] face wash for my second cleanse. I do switch between Clinique and Farmacy Green Clean and love them both. Great product for getting my make up off!”
Paula's Choice Omega + Complex Cleansing Balm,
This (currently on sale!) Paula's Choice cleansing balm features hero ingredients of omegas 3, 6, and 9 to help support a healthy skin barrier and soothe redness-prone complexions. "I cannot count the number of balm cleansers I have tried in search of the perfect one," writes one reviewer. "Some of them did not work well, some of them were insanely expensive, and all of them came in tubs, requiring the product to be scooped out, which I did not care for. I was so excited to see and try this cleansing balm in a tube! No mess, it removes makeup thoroughly, and the price isn't ridiculously high. Please don't ever stop making this." Plus, this is one that sensitive skin types can feel good about adding to their routine: "I really feel it soothing my rosacea and find that my skin is really clean without being stripped," adds another reviewer.
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