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9 best cleansing balms to remove make-up and nourish skin

Wash the day away without stripping or drying skin out

Lucy Partington
Wednesday 09 March 2022 14:00
<p>We incorporated each of these balms into our bedtime routine to see which stood out the most</p>

We incorporated each of these balms into our bedtime routine to see which stood out the most

There really is nothing more satisfying than coming home at the end of a long day, locking the bathroom door and indulging in some relaxing skincare rituals. And, for anybody who wears makeup, you’ll know just how important it is to have a cleansing balm lined up and ready to use as the first step of your routine.

Best applied directly from the tub straight onto dry skin, not only do cleansing balms work to effortlessly melt away every last trace of the day – from hardy waterproof mascara, long-wear foundation and sunscreen – but they’re also great for indulging in a little bit of facial massage.

Most tend to be solid formulas that, when warmed up on the skin, turn into a super satisfying, silky soft oil texture. Then, once you’re done, simply wipe it off with a flannel or muslin cloth soaked in warm water, and follow up with a second cleanser before continuing with the rest of your usual serums, oils and moisturisers.

However, as with everything, there are so many different types of products to choose from that span various price points. So, we’ve tried a number of cult classics and new favourites to help make your decision easier.

How we tested

Each of the following cleansing balms was incorporated into our tester’s daily night-time routine, where she used it to remove the makeup she wears as the first step in her cleansing routine. The products were rated on ease of use, how they made skin feel both during and after application, the general sensorial experience that was had as a result and scent. Here are our favourites.

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The best cleansing balms for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Drunk Elephant slaai makeup melting cleansing butter: £29, Boots.com
  • Best for mature skin – Slow Ageing essential face wash: £26, Slowageing.co.uk
  • Best for speed – Alpha-H melting moments cleansing balm: £34.95, Cultbeauty.co.uk
  • Best for vegan-friendly formula – Youth to the People superberry dream cleansing balm: £31, Cultbeauty.co.uk
  • Best for heavy make-up wearers – Farmacy Beauty green clean makeup meltaway cleansing balm: £25.50, Feelunique.com
  • Best for affordability – ELF holy hydration! makeup melting cleansing balm: £10, Boots.com
  • Best for sensitive skin – Paula’s Choice omega+ complex cleansing balm: £25, Cultbeauty.co.uk
  • Best for gentle exfoliation – Glow Recipe papaya sorbet cleansing balm: £29, Cultbeauty.co.uk
  • Best for glowing skin – Aurelia London miracle cleanser: £22, Aurelialondon.com

Drunk Elephant slaai makeup melting cleansing butter, 110g

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Truly the greatest cleansing balm our tester has tried, this antioxidant-rich formula effortlessly melts away even the hardiest of makeup – including waterproof mascara and otherwise-impossible-to-remove longwear foundation. Best applied onto dry skin with dry hands, it’s formulated with a blend of nourishing African oils, including marula, baoba and kalahari melon so it’ll do its job without ever stripping skin or drying it out. We also love that it comes with a tiny vial of Drunk Elephant’s bamboo booster, this cleanser can be turned into a gentle physical exfoliator to help slough away dead skin as and when it’s needed.

Slow Ageing essential face wash, 50ml

Best: For mature skin

Rating: 8/10

Intensely hydrating and packed with a blend of essential oils and coconut fatty acids, this cleanser feels like a real treat to use every single time. The texture is super creamy and super satisfying, and it melts away the day quickly, easily and efficiently, leaving skin feeling soft, glowy and ready for the next step. The only downside to it is that the tub it comes in isn’t very big and from what our tester could see, it isn’t available in any bigger sizes, unfortunately. However, we did like that the formula itself had enough slip to be able to indulge in a little bit of facial massage.

Alpha-H melting moments cleansing balm, 90g

Best: For speed

Rating: 8.5/10

In terms of texture, most cleansing balms tend to be relatively solid and then they melt down in the warmth of your hands – but this one is softer than most from the off. That’s not a bad thing though, as it melts into the skin quickly and activates almost immediately. The brand actually created this product with the intention of it being applied and washed off in seconds without compromising on efficacy, making it the ideal product for people who don’t have much time to spare, or who are feeling a bit lazy.

It’s packed with Australian wild orange extract to help maintain skin hydration levels, and it also promises to support the skin’s barrier function and regulate sebum protection – all without disrupting the skin’s natural pH. It seems like others were as excited about this balm as we were as it’s now out of stock, but you can sign up for an email notification to snap it up as soon as it’s back.

Youth to the People superberry dream cleansing balm, 95g

Best: Vegan-friendly formula

Rating: 8.5/10

The texture of this cleanser alone makes it a must-try for just about everybody. It quickly and easily melts away stubborn makeup and sunscreen while providing skin with nutrients, omegas and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and moisturise. And all without ever compromising the skins barrier or stripping it of its natural oils. It emulsifies on the skin when water is added, turning it into a slightly milky texture that’s easy to massage into skin to remove all traces of the day. Plus, it’s cruelty free and the formula is 100 per cent vegan.

Farmacy Beauty green clean makeup meltaway cleansing balm, 100ml

Best: For heavy makeup wearers

Rating: 9/10

This cleanser starts life as a solid balm, and then transforms into a silky soft oil before turning into a milky lather. It works almost instantly to break down makeup and any impurities that have collected on your face during the day, and it didn’t sting our tester’s eyes when she used it to melt away eyeshadow and mascara. Skin felt hydrated and nourished after using it – and we liked the addition of papaya extract, which works to gently retexture skin and leave it with a healthy-looking glow. We loved the smell too – although lime, bergamot and orange essential oils are usually saved for products used in the morning, we kind of loved it in the evenings, too.

Elf holy hydration! makeup melting cleansing balm, 56g

Best: For affordability

Rating: 9/10

It’s not often an affordable cleanser comes along to rival some of its (much) more expensive counterparts, but that’s exactly what this Elf one does. It initially feels oily on the skin, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing as it helps create slip, making it easier to thoroughly dissolve makeup. Formulated with a triple threat of nourishing ingredients – hyaluronic acid, ceramides and peptides – it won’t dry skin out, and instead will leave it feeling properly cleansed and supple. It really does act like a cleanser that should cost double, even triple, its £10 price tag.

Paula’s Choice omega+ complex cleansing balm, 104ml

Best: For sensitive skin

Rating: 9/10

Unlike the rest of these cleansing balms, this one comes in a tube – making it ideal for travelling. That also means it’s less of a solid texture from the off, and instead is softer and more pliable as soon as it’s squeezed out. It works in much the same way though, and the lightweight balmy formula is easy to massage into skin. The triple-action blend of omegas 3, 6 and 9 work in tandem to cleanse and soothe skin without causing additional irritation, plus it’s formulated without fragrance to really dial up the comfort factor and to ensure skin is left feeling calm, hydrated and cocooned.

Glow Recipe papaya sorbet cleansing balm, 100ml

Best: For gentle exfoliation

Rating: 8.5/10

This deep-cleansing formula transforms from its initial balm texture into a foam, which the brand says works to help grip onto stubborn oil, dirt and debris to ensure every last trace of the day is washed away in one fell swoop. It’s packed with different forms of papaya – from papaya seed oil to calm and cleanse skin, to papaya enzymes which work as a gentle exfoliator to sweep away dead skin cells to leave skin looking and feeling fresh and glowy. Plus, it didn’t sting our tester’s eyes, either.

Aurelia London miracle cleanser, 50ml

Best: For glowing skin

Rating: 8.5/10

A truly impressive probiotic brand, Aurelia London is worth trying as a whole if you haven’t already, and this cleanser is a true star. A real cult classic, not only does it support the skin’s moisture barrier but the blend of concentrated botanical ingredients – from revitalising baobab to nurturing mongongo oil and antioxidant-rich hibiscus – it soothes skin as it cleanses, while also ensuring it’s as hydrating as it is nourishing. Our tester also adored the delicate scent of chamomile, eucalyptus and rosemary, mostly because it was reminiscent of a spa but also because it’s the ideal combination to help wind down after a long day.

The verdict: Cleansing balms

It’s obvious that there are so many incredible cleansing balms on the market now – whatever your skin needs or personal preferences, there’s definitely something to suit everybody. But we also loved Drunk Elephant’s customisable offering the most.

ELF’s affordable option is also definitely worth a try, and Alpha-H’s clever, speedy approach to cleansing feels innovative and exciting; we especially loved that it means we don’t have to compromise on efficacy when we’re short on time.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on make-up and other beauty offers, try the below links:

If you’re in the market for some low-budget skincare, these are the best Aldi beauty dupes that actually work

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