Whether you spend the day sweating, applying (and reapplying) heavy-duty SPF, or wearing a full face of makeup, washing it all away before bedtime can be incredibly satisfying. What isn’t satisfying is getting through your skin care routine, only to notice some lingering foundation or mascara that your cleanser didn’t pick up. Using a cleansing balm can help prevent those frustrating moments without stripping your skin of necessary moisture.
What are cleansing balms, and how do they work?
Most cleansing balms have a thick, if not totally solid, consistency. A balm usually thins out and becomes more lotion- or cleanser-like when it’s warmed up, either when it’s rubbed between your hands or when it’s applied to your face. As you massage the balm into your skin, it breaks down dead skin cell build-up, sebum, and facial products like sunscreen and makeup, Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell–New York Presbyterian Medical Center, tells SELF. “Based on the principles that oil attracts oil, by using an oil-based product [like a cleansing balm], it can help to draw out excess oil and makeup without irritating the skin,” she explains.
Although balms are effective cleansers, they won’t wash away all the oils on your skin, Lauren Penzi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Medical Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York, tells SELF. She explains that most of them are formulated with nourishing skin care ingredients like jojoba, argan, or grapeseed oils. “Rather than stripping the skin of its natural oils, [a cleansing balm] instead restores and reinforces lipids in our skin barrier, keeping the skin smooth and hydrated,” she explains. (In a nutshell, lipids are fatty compounds in your skin that help it retain moisture and stay healthy.)
Most balms will rinse away with water, though it’s possible that they’ll leave a little residue behind, Brendan Camp, MD, FAAD, a double-board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, tells SELF. Your face may feel slightly greasy, depending on the product you use, but it’s nothing a little double cleansing can’t fix.
What’s the best way to use a cleansing balm in your skin care routine?
Unlike standard face washes, most cleansing balms work best if you start with a dry face and then work the product into your skin—it should liquify as you massage. You can absolutely use one as your main face wash, but following it up with a water-based cleanser (like the SELF-approved La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser, $17, or Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser, $3) will ensure that you remove any leftover residue on your face, Rebecca Marcus, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Dallas and the founder of Maei MD, tells SELF. Just use them one after another, then continue with the rest of your regimen as usual.