10 best cleansing balms that melt make-up off with ease

Whether you favour more full coverage looks or just need to wash the day away, these are a skincare must-have

Louise Whitbread
Thursday 01 April 2021 17:10
<p>Rich in texture, with an oil-based formula, these solid balms are designed to break down all types of make-up, SPF and sweat from the day</p>

Rich in texture, with an oil-based formula, these solid balms are designed to break down all types of make-up, SPF and sweat from the day

If you’re an avid wearer of make-up, you’ll know one of the most efficient ways of removing it at the end of the day is with a cleansing balm.

Rich in texture, with an oil-based formula, these solid balms are designed to break down all types of make-up, SPF and sweat from the day. A grape-size amount is all you need to rid your face of full coverage foundations, waterproof mascara and even lip stains with ease.

They should be massaged into a dry face – which can feel like a mini facial – and melt into a luxurious oil. Then simply wipe away with a lukewarm flannel to leave your complexion feeling clean and clear.

But with an unending amount of balms to choose from, be it high-end brands for a pampering feel or the budget-friendly cheap and cheerful pots that get the job done, there’s ample amount of choice.

We’ve spent weeks testing out various balms, from cult favourites to newer formulas from independent beauty brands. Rating them on everything from scent, texture, ease of use, ability to remove the most steadfast of make-up products and how they left our skin feeling.

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We’ve narrowed it down to the top ten, taking every skin type, from oily to dry to sensitive, into account.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism acrossThe Independent.

Beauty Pie plantastic apricot butter cleansing balm, 100ml

Best for: Combination skin

This pastel yellow balm is a joy to use, rich, luxurious and quick to emulsify into a milk when massaged into skin and removed with a warm flannel. It’s so comfortable on the skin, we almost didn’t want to take it off.

It smells like fresh apricots but isn’t overpowering and packed with a fragrant blend of cold-pressed rosehip seed oil, vitamin E and apricot butter that leaves skin feeling refreshed and clean in seconds. It made quick work of our full coverage, matte foundation and a smokey eye without leaving us looking like a panda or staining lids. Plus if you’re a Beauty Pie member it costs just £16.07.

Pestle & Mortar erase cleansing balm, 100ml

Best for: Combination skin

We loved how this didn’t leave us looking greasy, leaving behind no residue but calmed spots of redness on our cheeks after only a few uses. It’s ideal if you want something to cater to an oily T-zone and dry cheeks and jawline.

Hailing from County Kildare, Ireland, it’s infused with prickly pear and grape seed oils, meadowfoam and pumpkin enzymes along with omega fatty acids to nourish skin in need of a bit of TLC. We found it did a brilliant job at removing make-up swiftly with only a small 10 pence size piece and left our dehydrated skin feeling soft and supple rather than tight afterwards.

Loum be calm cleansing balm, 100ml

Best for: Dry skin

Loum is an American brand that’s newly launched in the UK and focuses on the effect stress has on our skin. They work with leading psycho-dermatologist, Dr. Francisco Tausk, to ensure its products help reduce the inflammation and irritation that can be caused by stress.

Unlike most cleansing balms which are packed into a pot, this comes in a tube, which feels more hygienic and more compact in size, fitting easily into a tiny bathroom shelf. It’s ideal if you prefer a lighter texture to your cleansers, and it’s more like a thick cream than a balm, instantly soothing on the skin. It’s so lightweight you could even rinse this off with a splash of water if you didn’t have a flannel to hand.

The Body Shop chamomile sumptuous cleansing butter, 90ml

Best for: Dry skin

This is perfect if you’re in need of a bit of moisture throughout your skincare routine. Packed with soothing, Norfolk-grown, chamomile and rich in sustainably sourced shea butter, it’s a godsend for dry skin. Housed in a fully recyclable aluminium tin, it’s compact and lightweight, travel-friendly too.

Once applied to skin, it quickly melts down into a buttery oil to remove every scrap of make-up, with just a grape sized amount. The formula is completely vegan too and it won’t irritate sensitive skin either. Fast acting and long-lasting, it’ll last months and is also available in a smaller 20ml tin (£5, Thebodyshop.com) too if you want to try it out before committing to the bigger tin.

Emma Hardie moringa cleansing balm, 100g

Best for: Dry skin

This is a luxury beauty buy worth every single penny, and it’s widely considered to be one of the OG cleansing balms on the market. Buttery soft, it feels luxuriously smooth on the skin, melting down instantly to dislodge the most stubborn of make-up in every crevice on the face. Fragrant but not overpowering, it contains moringa seeds, wild sea fennel, vitamin E, orange neroli, jasmine, rose and mandarin to thoroughly cleanse skin.

Our reviewer has been using it for nearly two months and there’s still more than half left. A 100g tub comes with a high-quality muslin cloth too, which is a brilliant tool for removing the product and all your make-up in one quick sweep.

Clinique take the day off cleansing balm, 125ml

Best for: Sensitive skin

Few cleansers have the stellar reputation as this one from Clinique and it’s one our reviewer has revisited consistently throughout the past six years – it’s that good. It’s a clear balm that’s fragrance free and perfect if your skin is easily irritated, and made with safflower seed oil.

It’s fast-acting to break down make-up, dirt and SPF in a generously sized tub that will give you months of use. Best of all, it doesn’t leave a greasy residue on the skin but still manages to have a luxurious feel. Skin feels baby soft, smooth and soothed after use, it’s no wonder it’s consistently the most popular product in Clinique’s take the day off range.

E.l.f. holy hydration makeup melting cleansing balm, 13g

Best for: Sensitive skin

This tub may be the smallest on our list but it certainly packs a punch. It swiftly melts into an oil slick on the skin to dissolve a full face of make-up without feeling too rich or heavy. It’s entirely vegan with minimal scent – nothing that will irritate those more on the sensitive side however. Any dry or rougher textured areas on our skin, especially our cheeks felt much smoother after weeks of use too. It’s a brilliant basic cleanser that does exactly what it promises, won’t break the bank and is the perfect everyday essential if you regularly wear make-up.

Sunday Riley blue moon cleansing balm, 100ml

Best for: Sensitive skin

This huge pot contains a cleansing balm rich in essential oil designed to tackle skin ageing and reduce inflammation. It’s thicker than any other we tried, with a slight grainy texture that requires a bit of a longer massage before it begins to break down make-up.

Enriched with chamomile – which is great for soothing irritation – along with beeswax and cocoa and moringa butters, it does a great job at melting away make-up. Removing it with a warm flannel is a quick, easy process, though we did need to spend a little longer gently wiping away waterproof mascara. It’s a lovely luxury purchase if you have the budget to splash out a bit more.

The Inkey List oat cleansing balm, 150ml

Best for: Oily skin

This is an effective, affordable balm that does a stellar job at balancing oil production without leaving skin feeling tight. A dollop of this massaged into skin and removed with a warm flannel makes for speedy make-up removal thanks to hardworking ingredients such as oat kernel oil and oat powder.

While it suits all skin types, if you’re on the oilier side and are concerned an oil-based cleanser may exacerbate a shiny T-zone, you needn’t be. We found this actually helped reduce oil production and redness with regular use. It emulsifies nicely and is ideal for skin prone to breakouts.

Wishful clean genie cleansing butter, 100ml

Best for: Oily skin

Wishful is the skincare brand created by make-up artist and blogger, Huda, who has a popular make-up brand called Huda Beauty. Known for its richly pigmented matte lipsticks and foundations, Wishful’s first cleanser tackles both with ease.

As the name suggests, this feels just like butter – soft but not sticky and feels smooth when massaged into skin. Once removed, taking make-up, pollution, dirt and grime with it, it doesn’t leave any greasy residue on the skin which can clog pores and lead to breakouts. Instead, skin feels fresh and super soft, perfectly prepared for the rest of your skincare routine.

The verdict: Cleansing balms

If you’ve got a bigger budget, we couldn’t recommend the Beauty Pie plantastic apricot butter cleansing balm enough. It’s luxurious but effective and we genuinely looked forward to taking our makeup-up off with it every time we wore make-up. It swiftly breaks down long-lasting foundations and waterproof mascaras with ease.

Should you want something more affordable, the e.l.f. holy hydration makeup melting cleansing balm is a close competitor. It’s simple and efficient, compact and lightweight.

We also tried CeraVe’s £12 cleanser and it cleared up our acne in two weeks – the perfect addition to your skincare regime

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