I have a fuzzy memory of coming home from acting in a middle-school play and trying to stand still as my mother removed my stage makeup with the aid of a hefty tub of Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser. I don’t recall the name of the play I was in (I was some kind of fox??), but I do remember the rich smell and feel of Pond’s. It was the smell of a Grown-Up product, much like my father’s straw-colored Listerine. As I was a ways from adulthood, that would be the last time for quite a while that I washed my face with something so creamy, so solid. Even as a mid-twenty-something, I primarily relied on sudsy face washes and the occasional milky cleanser or oil cleanser.
These days, however, my skin craves more moisture, so I find myself reaching for something that both vintage screen stars and contemporary beauty gurus have relied on for deep (luxuriant!) yet gentle cleansing: a solid cleansing balm.
Like an oil cleanser, a cleansing balm puts oils to one of their best (if counterintuitive) uses—removing oily buildup, grime, and makeup in a way that nourishes rather than strips the complexion, leaving dewy, plump, and astonishingly soft and clean skin. Cleansing balms are often a best bet (or a least the first line of offense) for dissolving long-wear eye makeup without pulling or irritating the skin around the eyes. While cleansing balms may feel a bit heavy, modern formulations are more likely to help balance skin’s oil production rather than clog pores, making these cleansers a worthy staple for just about everyone—especially this time of year.
How to Use a Cleansing Balm
Have a soft washcloth, cotton round, piece of flannel, or muslin cloth handy. Using clean hands, massage a small amount of cleansing balm onto skin. For a quick routine, you can simply use your dampened cloth to gently remove excess cleanser. (This routine is great if you’re not wearing makeup or if you like to do a speedy morning cleanse.)
If you’re battling city grime and/or wearing makeup, an extended routine will probably serve you best. Massage skin with balm, and then lightly press a warm, damp cloth all over your face. This will help the balm further “melt” while opening pores for a more effective cleanse. Rinse cloth and skin, and give your face a second round of massage. Repeat these steps as much as desired. Give skin a final splash of cold water.
After cleansing with a balm, your skin may feel perfectly supple and moist, but if your complexion tends to be on the thirsty side, follow with a day or night cream of your choice. When I want to truly treat my skin, I will follow cleansing balm with a light mist of alcohol-free toner and then mix a bit of face oil with my usual cream. Hello, dewiness!
Best Natural & Vegan Cleansing Balms
There are many cleansing balms to choose from, but for those who want to avoid mineral oil, synthetic fragrance, and beeswax, the following are a good bet.
Shea esters, prickly pear, and algae helps remove superficial free radicals on skin while providing soothing hydration.
Vitamin C-rich kaduku plum supports collagen while the aroma of Madagascan rose geranium calms trodden spirits.
This elasticity-boosting, irritation-reducing balm is a lovely choice for those battling psoriasis and eczema.
With almond, olive, and coconut oils plus shea and cocoa seed butters, this deeply emollient cleansing balm moisturizes thirsty skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines.
Plain Ol’ Raw Shea Butter
Unfortunately, many natural cleansing balms have a prohibitive price point for those of us on tighter budgets. Thank goodness for shea butter, though. This completely non-comedogenic butter melts onto skin. It’s rich in vitamin A and potentially boosts collagen production. It may not have quite the luxuriant feel and smell as a high-end formula—but this stuff is real skin food, and it makes an excellent cleansing balm.
Do you cleanse with a cleansing balm?
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