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BEST + WORST: Balm Cleansers

15:58Alice Grace

best worst balm cleansers skincare reviews oskia renaissance cleansing gel perfect cleanser sarah chapman ultimate cleanse eve lom cleanser clinique take the day off balm nude perfect cleanse omega cleansing jelly

Balm cleansers have been a staple in my skincare routine for years now. In my teens, I'd always used foaming washes which promised to rid my complexion of spots, yet aggravated the issue and gave my face the texture of sandpaper. Looking for something to nourish, smooth and balance my skin, I turned to using cleansing oils and balms and I haven't looked back since! On my search to find the best, I've worked my way through a lot of tubes, bottles and jars, so I thought I'd do an edit of some of the best and worst balm cleansers of those currently residing in my skincare stocks.

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I adore Sarah Chapman skincare and many of her products line the shelves of my bathroom cabinet. Her booster serums work wonders, her famous facials leave skin gloriously glowing, and her Rapid Radiance Cleanse make my complexion as smooth as porcelain. Her Ultimate Cleanse is nice, but it hasn't bowled me over quite as much as the rest of her range. The yellow balm has a silky soufflé consistency that feels almost whipped and melts like butter as soon as you start to massage it in. It contains a lovely list of active ingredients, including antioxidant vitamins A and E, anti-aging peptides and soothing omegas to really treat the skin. Despite being packed full of nourishing oils, it doesn't feel too greasy. It effectively breaks down makeup and thoroughly cleanses to leave skin feeling smooth and hydrated, without being overloaded. The (empty) bottle that I've held onto for this post is actually the old design, but the new one also comes with a hygienic pump to limit mess and waste.

Unfortunately, though, I can't stand the strong herbal scent it has. I know it's a minor issue, but it really makes my skincare routine a lot less enjoyable. Another bug-bear I have with this cleanser, is that it's so expensive. I'm all for investing in skincare, but I do feel guilty for spending over £40 much on a product that essentially has little time to treat the skin, between applying it and then rinsing it off. I wouldn't mind so much if the 100ml bottle lasted a long time, but I seemed to speed through mine. Don't get me wrong, the Ultimate Cleanse is a gorgeous cleanser, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations, hence why I haven't repurchased it.

BEST FOR: Normal/Dry Skin
POSITIVES: Silky soufflé consistency, nourishing without being heavy, lovely ingredients.
NEGATIVES: Strong herbal scent, very expensive.
PRICE: £44 for 100ml
RATING: 7/10

Nude Perfect Cleanse Omega Cleansing Jelly

 Although Nude's cleanser is described as a jelly by the brand, it's more of a lush balm that doesn't foam. It's not solid or wobbly and it doesn't lather like lots of gel formulas. It starts off quite thick and difficult to massage in, but melts into a lightweight oil after a couple of minutes. As soon as you add a little drop of water to your face, it transforms into a light milk that rinses away effortlessly. It's super quick to remove compared to many other cleansers, which makes it a great choice for rushed mornings and evenings when you're ready to face-plant your bed. All natural, it feels super gentle, soothes irritated skin and never stings the eyes. I find it so plumping and my skin always feels noticably bouncy after using it. It's hydrating enough for my skin even in the middle of winter, but also light enough that it doesn't feel too heavy during the summer. Rich in omegas, it really nourishes the skin and leaves it feeling really happy. It also contains Great Burdock Root which works to balance combination skin and Iris Root to soften. If you're of the opinion that all-natural brands are nice, but maybe not that effective, this cleanser will totally change your mind! The slim tube packaging is great for travelling, but I do have to cut it in half to use up every last drop of the cleanser, before I throw it away.

The only negative I can think of in terms of the formula, if I'm being especially picky, is that I find I need to use quite a large amount of it per use, especially if I use it to remove makeup. As a result, I get through a tube quite quickly and need to repurchase more often than I'd ideally like (maybe once every couple of months, if I use it every morning and evening). The Nude Skincare range is exclusively sold in Space NK in the UK, which isn't a deal-breaker, but does make it a little more difficult to get hold of than other brands.

BEST FOR: All Skin Types
POSITIVES: Lightweight, easy to remove, gentle, all natural ingredients.
NEGATIVES: Need quite a lot per use.
PRICE: £32 for 100ml
RATING: 9.5/10

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Oskia is a brand that every blogger seems to fall in love with and the Renaissance Cleansing Gel is by far the most famed product from their whole skincare line. This bright orange gel feels almost watery for a balm cleanser, as it turns into a weightless oil once it's warmed up. What's so special about this cleansing gel, is that it's so darn good at exfoliating the skin, as well as softening and hydrating. Packed with pumpkin enzymes and a dose of vitamin C, you can feel it sloughing away any dead skin cells as it's worked into the skin. Honestly, the more I rub, the more I can feel it eating up any dry patches, making them disappear once I remove it with my face cloth. There's no harsh, scrubby particles in there, so it's a gentle yet effective exfoliating experience, which doesn't leave skin at all red or irritated.  Post cleanse, skin is well polished and left with a radiant glow. Any skincare products I apply after using the Renaissance Cleansing Gel absorb so much quicker and makeup always sits better on the skin after I've included it in my morning routine. Of course, as with any exfoliating product, you do have to make sure you wear SPF after use, as skin is more susceptible to skin damage from the sun.

Whilst I love using this cleanser in the morning, as it's so refreshing and really wakes me up, it isn't quite rich enough for my dry skin in the evening. I prefer to use something with a bit more oomph, to really envelop my skin in lots of moisture. What frustrates me about the packaging and any other opaque bottles for that matter, is that you have no idea when you're running low on it and need to buy a back-up. Suddenly, without warning, it runs out. Whilst it's great that it includes a pump, the bottle is quite bulky for travelling with.

BEST FOR: All skin types, but avoid if very sensitive/irritated.
POSITIVES: Gently exfoliates, radiance-boosting, lightweight.
NEGATIVES: Opaque packaging, not hydrating enough for evening use (personally).
PRICE: £29.50 for 100ml
RATING: 8.5/10

Here we have another Oskia cleanser, but one that sits at the opposite end of the spectrum to the Renaissance Cleansing Gel. Oskia's Perfect Cleanser is exactly as the name suggests, for me. My dry skin needs a bucket-load of nourishment to keep it looking great and this cleanser gives me that. It's super thick and rich and won't be a great match for anyone who likes their face to feel squeaky clean after washing. It starts off feeling slightly gritty, but soon transforms into a smooth, creamy balm. It feels like such a luxurious treat for the skin. As it's so dense and nourishing, it takes a little bit of work to really rub it in thoroughly, so it's not the quickest cleanser to use, but that forces me to give my face a nice little massage every time I use it. Despite being rich, it doesn't feel greasy, but there is a slight residue left on skin after use. Personally, I love that, but I know that's not something everyone likes. Basically, this is my holy grail cleanser. Containing a whole host of nutrient-rich ingredients that help to boost the lipid content of the skin, including probiotics, omegas and vitamins/minerals, the formula is very comforting, reduces redness and helps to repair the skin's barrier function to protect from free-radical damage and bacteria. It never clogs my pores or breaks me out, but I imagine it may be too intense for acne-prone, oily skin. Being so concentrated, a little really goes a long way with this one, so a tube lasts for months, and months, and months. Compared to some other balm cleansers, it works out as quite affordable in the long-term.

Whilst it's my favourite product for a second cleanse, it's not the best at removing makeup, as it stings my eyes if I rub it into my lashes to dissolve mascara. It works well for face makeup, though. Saying that, I don't like to use more premium cleansers to remove my makeup anyway, as I feel they're too good to waste on a first cleanse. So, I tend to use coconut oil or micellaire water to take off my makeup first, before following up with a 'proper' cleanser for a double cleanse.

BEST FOR: Normal to dry skin.
POSITIVES: Very nourishing and hydrating, tube lasts for months, great ingredients.
NEGATIVES: Leaves a residue, stings the eyes slightly.
PRICE: £32.50 for 125ml
RATING: 9.5/10

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Arguably the most iconic cleanser of all time, is Eve Lom's simply-titled Cleanser. This is the original balm cleanser that first hit the market years before every other skincare brand jumped on the bandwagon. Famed as the number one cleanser in the world by many well-respected and renowned beauty industry experts, it's one of those products that consistently sells. At first, Eve Lom's formula has a very grainy texture, until it melts into a smooth oil. It does the job of cleansing well and leaves the skin feeling clean, but not stripped.

There is one big issue with this classic product, though. Controversially, this cleanser contains mineral oil. Hated and avoided by many, it's a filler oil that makes a product a lot cheaper to produce and doesn't actually provide any skincare benefits with use. Whilst I haven't experienced any obvious adverse reactions to it, such as break-outs, irritation or dry patches, I still feel a little uncomfortable with using a product that includes it so high up on the ingredients list. It's not a cheap cleanser, either. When you're paying top dollar for a product, you want to see the ingredients list packed full of things that are proven to do wonders for your skin. I've used it on and off throughout the years and it always leaves my skin soft and smooth, just like many cleansers that contain no mineral oil do. But, there's no 'wow' effect; I never get excited to use it. Even much cheaper formulas have left my skin feeling and looking better, which is a huge shame considering how pricey it is. Just like the Sarah Chapman balm, this also has a strong herbal smell to it, which - no surprises here - isn't to my taste. Unfortunately, with Eve Lom's Cleanser, the negatives far outweigh the positives. I have previously written a full post on this cleanser, so you can read that for more of an in-depth review.

BEST FOR: All Skin Types, except those that react to mineral oil.
POSITIVES: Comes with muslin clothes.
NEGATIVES: Contains mineral oil, strongly fragranced, expensive.
PRICE: £40-85 for 50/100/200ml
RATING: 5/10

Lastly, we move to a more affordable cleansing balm that gives you real bang for your buck. It's not be the most glamorous or luxurious balm to use, as it's completely void of fragrance and it has a plain solid texture. But, it's a practical and economical choice that's great when you want a very fuss-free cleanse that does the job with no faff. Starting off as a solid white balm, it's very thick but melts as soon as you dip your finger into it. It's so soft that it's easy to get carried away and pick up too much. As I've already mentioned, it's a very simple, stripped-back product that suits even sensitive skin. Sometimes, I find that I don't always get on well with essential oils and fragrances, so this is a much-loved cleanser in my stash for when my skin needs a break from fancy formulas. If I've been mistreating my skin a bit, wearing heavy makeup for a week straight, or I'm having some sort of allergic reaction, then this is the perfect product to gently cleanse and care for my skin. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't sting the eyes, even when rubbed into the lashes to remove stubborn mascara. It makes light work of even the most long-wearing liquid lipsticks, too. It's definitely a cheap and cheerful cleanser that works.

Just as Clinique state, this balm removes makeup in seconds. It also works nicely as a second cleanse, but I don't really think the formula is advanced enough for me to double cleanse with on a regular basis. Purely because it isn't quite hydrating enough for my dry skin. But, I have taken it away with me on holiday to do both jobs and I do use it as a double cleanse when I can't be bothered to mix things up. It certainly doesn't replace my other favourites, though, and I wouldn't want it to be the only cleanser in my stash. The plastic jar can get a bit messy with regular use and it's not the most hygienic packaging out there. But, it's plastic, so it isn't too heavy to add to your travel bag.

BEST FOR: All Skin Types, especially sensitive.
POSITIVES: Fragrance-free, very gentle, affordable.
NEGATIVES: Messy application, not luxurious.
PRICE: £23 for 125ml
RATING: 7/10

Do you use balm cleansers? Which is your favourite?


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  1. I'm quite curious about trying balm cleansers. I'm already in love with cleansing oils so I have a feeling balm cleansers will be a hit with me!

    1. I love both actually, but balm formulas are a lot less messy than oils :) x

  2. I love the oskia renaissance cleansing gel but I find it to work the opposite for me, I find it too rich to use in the morning on my skin so I only use it at night! I do like the sound of that clinique cleansing balm as well though, sometimes I'm a bit weird about trying products in pot packaging though because I feel like it'll dry out?

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

    1. That just goes to show how naturally dry my skin is and that varied skin-types react to products so differently! I haven't found any of the balm cleansers that I've used in pots to dry out at all, especially the Clinique one as it's just like a solid form of their cleansing oil :) x


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