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Cleansing your skin, along with applying SPF daily, is among the most critical steps of any skincare routine. That’s why you’ll find hundreds of different types of face washes and cleansers on the market, including gels, oils, creams, foams, and, last but not least, balms. According to Diane Madfes, MD, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, cleansing balms are unique because they are formulated to be used as a two-step, double-cleanse.
“The physical act of rubbing achieves two goals,” she continues, telling The Daily Beast, “First, the balms are transformed from [a] solid into a smooth oil or milk cleanser for gentle cleansing and, secondly, exfoliation occurs.” So not only are you effectively moving debris, makeup, lingering SPF, and other impurities from the day, but you’re also gently sloughing off dead skin.
Ultimately, it’s safe to say that the best cleansing balms are those that gently but effectively melt away makeup—waterproof products included— sunscreen, excess sebum, and grime. “It is essential to look for ingredients that will suit your skin type,” explains New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Michele Green, MD. For example, she recommends that individuals with oily skin opt for a non-comedogenic cleansing balm (it won’t clog your pores). Meanwhile, those with dry skin should choose cleansing balms formulated with “moisture-retaining ingredients” like ceramides and shea butter.
Regardless of your skin type, though, Dr. Green says there are a few ingredients all skin types should steer clear of. “It’s best to stay away from cleansing balms that contain alcohol, dyes, or fragrance, as these can lead to irritation and exacerbate inflammatory conditions such as rosacea.”
Below, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite cleansing balms on the market—including dermatologist-approved picks. Best of all, each is infused with potent skincare ingredients for an extra dose of nourishment.
Farmacy Green Clean Cleanser & Makeup Removing Balm
Dr. Madfes recommends the Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm for its impressive vegan formula. Not only is this cleansing balm enriched with hydrating moringa and sunflower seed oils and moisturizing glycerin, but it’s also spiked with papaya enzymes, which, per Dr. Madfes, offer gentle exfoliation.
Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm
The acclaimed Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm is a personal favorite for its ability to effortlessly melt away makeup, sunscreen, dirt, and more. Its nutrient-dense, non-greasy formula features fatty acid-packed seaberry oil, moisturizing olive oil, and skin-softening vitamin E. The refreshing citrus scent and vibrant yellow hue—courtesy of the seaberry—are incredible added bonuses.
Versed The Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm
“[This formula] is excellent for removing makeup and cleansing the skin without stripping away the skin’s natural moisture barrier,” says Dr. Green. It’s also spiked with jojoba and avocado oils to cleanse and nourish the skin, eucalyptus, and clove leaf oils to soothe the skin, and vitamin E to soften and protect the skin from free radical damage.
ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm
The fan-favorite ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm starts off as a rich balm before melting into a lightweight oil, which, when massaged into the skin and mixed with water, transforms into a milky lather. Its gentle albeit effective formula is enriched with conditioning shea butter, hydrating collagen, and protective glycerin—that is, in addition to a slew of nourishing botanical oils.
Naturium Purple Ginseng Cleansing Balm
Per Dr. Green, Naturium’s Purple Ginseng Cleansing Balm is especially ideal for those with sensitive skin thanks to its nourishing formula that’s 1) vegan and 2) gluten-, paraben-, and fragrance-free. Its hero ingredient, purple ginseng, is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Other honorable mentions include skin-soothing jojoba seed oil and aloe extract.
Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm Makeup Remover
Clinique’s Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm Makeup Remover is ideal for sensitive skin and eyes since it’s both dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-tested. It’s also non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, and phthalate-free. Its hero ingredient, fatty acid-packed safflower seed oil, is a natural emollient, meaning it’ll help leave skin feeling soft and nourished.
CeraVe Cleansing Balm for Sensitive Skin
While the CeraVe Makeup Removing Cleanser Balm works well on all skin types, Dr. Green specifically recommends it for oily skin due to its non-comedogenic formula. “This product is formulated with three essential ceramides to maintain and protect the skin’s natural moisture barrier, as well as plant-based jojoba oil to cleanse and nourish the skin,” she says.
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