Best cleansing balms for an ultra-clean, makeup free face

8 January 2021
Any products in this article have been selected editorially however if you buy something we mention, we may earn commission

1 / 17

Our honest reviews of the best cult cleansing balms

If you're a slave to the double-cleanse , chances are you'll already have a cleansing balm in your skincare regime. Cleansing balms are a seriously hard-working formula, melting away makeup, banishing impurities and nourishing the skin, all one relaxing step. They're a versatile player in the skincare game and can be used both morning and night, either as your first or second cleanse. The best cleansing balms tend to include nourishing ingredients such as vitamin E and feel pampering to use as you massage into your skin and gently wipe away with a muslin cloth. Here are the best cleansing balms we've tried so far for every budget.

2 / 17

Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser, £29

Buy online

Review: “I really like the way this balm comes with a spatula that magnetically attaches to the lid of the product (I'm probably never, ever going to use it, but I appreciate it on behalf of all germaphobes out there.) It's not the best smelling product, but no added fragrance means it's great for sensitive or irritated skin. It melts makeup off effortlessly without a sticky residue and left my skin feeling hydrated and clean - exactly what you want from your cleanser and perhaps why the Drunk Elephant brand has become so cult .”

3 / 17

Ishga Marine Cleansing Balm, £38

Buy online

Review: "Much runnier than some of the more solid cleansing balms I've tried, this concoction of anti-oxidant seaweed (harvested in the Scottish Hebrides), moisturising shea butter and anti-inflammatory almond oil transports you straight from your bathroom to the Scottish highlands thanks to it's fresh, calming scent and ultra-nourishing feel. Massaged into my face at the end of a long day, using this feels more like a decadent spa ritual than a laborious cleansing step. It didn't remove every scrap of makeup I was wearing but if you're more of a fresh-faced kind of person looking for a satisfying cleanse, I can't think of a more joyful way to end the day."

4 / 17

Willowberry Nutrient Boost Cleansing Balm, £29.99

Buy now

Review: "Loved by facialists and makeup artists alike this little pot houses a 100 per cent natural cleaning balm with a spa-like scent of coriander seed and geranium. The ingredients list included jojoba oil, cocoa butter, grapeseed oil and vitamin E to dissolve makeup and the day's dirt for a fresh face every evening."

5 / 17

Pestle and Mortar Erase Cleansing Balm, £40

Buy now

Review: "For a cleansing balm that looks ultra-chic on your bathroom shelf, we'd like to point you in the direction of this offering from Pestle and Mortar, a brand which prioritises high-performing ingredients above fancy marketing and branding, resulting in effective formulas in minimalist, monochrome packaging. Ingredients include pumpkin enzymes for exfoliating, whilst cold-pressed meadowfoam, prickly pear seed and grape seed oils nourish and protect the skin. Stubborn eye makeup dissolves on contact with this lightweight balm and it left my skin looking brighter and clearer."

6 / 17

Crabtree and Evelyn Luminous Cleansing Balm, £27

Buy now 

Review: "Just a tiny 10 pence sized amount of this balm is enough to remove every scrap of makeup, leaving behind a delicate rose scent and an ultra-soft face. A little bit really does go a long way; my whole face felt drenched in moisture after using this with the balm quickly transforming to milk. While it feels quite heavy when I first applied it, not a hint of grease remained after I used water to remove it. The matte tub is particularly lovely too and doesn't slip about even when your hands are wet."

7 / 17

Dermalogica Precleanse, £39

Buy online

Review: “More of an oil than a balm, but bear with. I don't enjoy the process of double cleansing in the evening, just because I'm lazy and it takes so much time. But with this precleanse from Dermalogica my whole routine speeds up; it completely destroys my makeup (in the best, most satisfying way) in record time and you only need one pump to do a full face. I find that with a typical cleansing balm my fingers can get a little over zealous and the product doesn't last that long as I scoop it out, yet this one seems to go on forever and used sparingly, it still does exactly what it says on the tin. The only possible negative is that it's a liquid oil which is difficult to travel with... can you imagine the clean up operation if it leaked?”

8 / 17

Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm, £59

Buy online

Review: “This brand is now my go-to for a bit of luxurious pampering at home. Their thermal cleansing balm is a thick, rich black balm that melts into a smooth oil-like consistency as it is rubbed into the skin – a little really does go a long way. This smooth and gentle balm removes everything from heavy makeup, dirt and impurities while feeling very moisturising on the skin, and really helps to clean up the pores without leaving the skin tight and dry. Instead, my skin felt super soft, smooth and deeply nourished. It’s perfect for dry skin as it really gives it a radiant boost without leaving the skin greasy or oily, which I’d expected due to the thickness of the balm. A definite must-have for a nourishing cleanse.”

9 / 17

Pixi Double Cleanse x Caroline Hirons,  £24

Buy online

Review: “The product that brought double cleansing to the masses - and for this, we thank you Caroline Hirons . Before this product, you'd struggle to find a balm and cream cleanser that allows a two-step routine packed into just one pleasing pot. Since it launched, it's ranked highly and for good reason - it's free of the so-called nasties (think parabens, fragrance etc.), contains skin-enriching vitamins E and C and removes every single trace of makeup. It became my go-to cleanser for a long time, which is a rarity. The one drawback? I can't get enough, literally. I love it so much that I run out of it too quickly. Caroline, if you're listening... please make a huge one, preferably bucket sized?”

10 / 17

Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm, £47

Buy online

Review: “Emma Hardie’s Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm seems to be her hero product that leaves her clients longing for more so I had high expectations, but initially I was a little sceptical; I’ve never really got my head around a balm that is able to take off your makeup. It doesn’t really look appealing to put on your face, but with a fragrance containing mandarin extracts and jasmine it smells rather delightful.

"I can only describe the feeling of the balm as if you were to scoop out some Vaseline. I must admit, this did scare me slightly. I began to apply the balm to my skin and to my surprise it was gentle, and it felt silky and hydrating rather than heavy. The balm contains moringa seeds, fennel and vitamin E which help to purify the skin and the appearance of pores. To remove the balm I used the Emma Hardie cleansing cloth, which has two sides, a muslin side to exfoliate and a smoother fibre side to polish. These cloths really helped to remove the excess of the balm from my face and neck area. It left my skin feeling soft and smooth, and although I don’t think a balm is necessarily for me, I think this is a great product if you want to treat yourself to a mini facial in the evening.”

11 / 17

Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25

Buy online

Review: "This purple jar of balm has quickly become one of my favourite Clinique products. On first look, I was worried this was going to be quite a messy affair; inside it looks like a very thick tub of firm, waxy lip balm and I imagined scooping it out would not be pleasant. However, it's far softer than it looks; I found once I put my fingertips in it slid under very little pressure so I could get just enough product without much fuss. Free of essential oils, mineral oil and fragrance, it really is a sensitive skin's dream; a rich balm that massages on effortlessly and feels so good that it encourages you to really work it into the skin, which is no doubt good for circulation and a dewy glow. I hardly needed any product to cover my entire face and with minimal rubbing I managed to cleanse away my tough daytime eye makeup - my only mistake being to open my eyes to check, resulting in rather uncomfortable and cloudy vision for a good ten minutes after. Rinsing away with a thick warm flannel, my skin looked brighter and thoroughly cleansed and felt amazingly soft - I almost skipped my moisturiser but of course I know better than to do that…"

12 / 17

Eve Lom Cleanser, £55

Buy online

Review: “The most expensive balm of the bunch. Between a celebrity following including Kate Hudson, Eva Mendes and Jessica Alba, its 'best cleanser in the world' reviews from Vogue and countless five-star ratings online, this cleanser has a lot to live up to. Honestly? It's worth every hyped-up review I've read. I feel apologetic when admitting this, as it is definitely expensive - but if you have the funds, why not? While I didn't see a huge change in my skin after using this, it felt clean, hydrated and pampered. It's a real pleasure to use thanks to its beautiful scent, if heartbreaking to see it wash down the plughole.

13 / 17

Balance Me Cleanse and Smooth Face Balm, £20

Buy online

Review: "Natural and free of nasties, I’ve been really impressed with the ethos and efficiency of all the Balance Me range, and this cleansing balm elicited the same reaction. It’s full of lots of lovely oils, polishing oatmeal and anti-oxidant Artic Cloudberry, which sounds to me like something the Care Bears might enjoy eating. In essence, this product is delightfully pure and no nonsense. The balm is quite thick in consistency and the oatmeal grains provide the perfect level of exfoliation - skin is glowing and smooth post-use, not irritated or overly dry. I removed with a warm flannel as I found the enclosed muslin cloth too rough, but I’m happy to report that there was no oily left film on the skin and that the balm dissolved my makeup more effectively than similar products I’ve tried (I’d still include a speedy splash of micellar water though). The only downside for me was the smell - unfortunately I found it a bit too strong and a little on the sickly side. A great price though; a little goes a long way."

14 / 17

Oskia Perfect Cleanser Nutri-Active Cleansing & Nourishing balm, £35

Buy online

Review: “Homegrown, holistic and high-performance, Oskia is a UK brand with impeccable natural and nutritional credentials. It’s so creamy and silky it’s tempting to eat it (you probably could…) but hold off and treat your face instead. And that’s just what this balm feels like on the skin - an indulgent treat. The cleanser is formulated with MSM, one the most bio-available (the body can use it) forms of sulphur which serves to support collagen production, speed up cell renewal and keep inflammation at bay. It’s also packed with essential fatty acids, prebiotics, vitamins A & E and omegas 3 & 6. It’s probably as health-giving as skincare gets, but I didn’t find it quite as purifying as promised in that it didn’t remove makeup as effectively as I’d hoped.

“Otherwise, unless you have oily, extremely acne prone skin, I’d say that this protective, nourishing balm deserves a spot in your cold weather beauty armoury. The product’s thick, velvety texture encourages you to massage your face thoroughly, which in itself stimulates blood flow and keeps skin looking peachy, and my skin felt baby soft post removal (you might want to use a flannel to remove all residue). As is the case with many cleansing balms, I think you’d reap the most rewards by using this product as a ‘second cleanse’, after removing makeup with a micellar water for instance. Definitely worth making time for.”

15 / 17

Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, £40

Buy online

Review: “I was a bit sceptical about using this as I suffer from very oily skin and this product contains starflower and elderberry oils, which I worried might make matters worse - but  I was really pleasantly surprised. My skin felt really healthy and moisturised after use and most importantly, thoroughly cleansed. It is really simple to apply and great for the end of a long day in a city like London. It dissolves away makeup and dirt, but nourishes the skin and seems to soothe it at the same time - a perfect addition to my nighttime cleansing routine.”

16 / 17

The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Butter, £11

Buy online

Review: “Cheap and cheerful as my mum would say. This one is perfect for those looking for a more affordable option while still packing a punch at removing all traces of makeup even waterproof. Sure, you don't get that luxurious spa-like feeling when using this balm but otherwise it could be a winner for you. The 100% vegan ingredients leave skin clean and soft without stickiness, it's packaged in a metal tin too so bonus points for eco-friendliness. Just be wary if you're senstive - the subtle fragrance can irritate especially around the eyes.”

17 / 17

Espa Nourishing Cleansing Balm, £40

Buy online

Review: “I have tried many a cleansing balm in my time and I have recently reverted to wash-off foaming cleansers as I like my skin to feel squeaky clean and don’t like feeling there is any residue left at all. However this product might just have converted me back to a cleansing balm for good. What looks like a hard wax dissolves quickly between fingers into a heavenly rose scented oil (it contains Rose Damascena and Rose Geranium) which you massage into skin to remove the remains of the day. I put it through a rigorous test by removing my eye makeup with it too, which it did, but you risk getting oil in your eyes (it didn’t hurt, my eyes were just misty for a while). Once thoroughly massaged in I took one of the muslin cloths (brilliantly it came with two for when one needs washing) and put it under the hot tap before wiping away the residue. The result is polished, glowing, baby soft skin. Gentle yet effective, and a sensorial delight at the end of a long day, this is my new favourite product (I now remove my eye makeup first) and I have used it every morning and night since.”