How to Use Cleansing Balm.

How to Use Cleansing Balm

This may sound silly but the first time I ever used a cleansing balm I was kind of just… gobsmacked. Now it all makes sense but back then: applying something oily to my face over my makeup to… clean my face? Weird! It felt completely counterintuitive to how I’d want to wash my face. Give it ten or so years and now? Cleansing balms are all I want to use. Switching to an oil based cleanser is one of the best things I’ve done for my skin and cleansing balms are now paramount in my own skincare routine!

It goes without saying but it’s so important to properly cleanse your face after wearing makeup (or even just SPF) all day. In most cases, regular cleansers are just not enough to remove makeup and oil buildup. Using a cleansing balm is not only more effective and gentle on your skin, it also feels heavenly. Today I am sharing a quick little guide to cleansing balm so that you can maximize its benefits.

PS: Two important posts you shouldn’t miss: correct order to apply your skincare products (an important refresher on which products are applied when in a skincare routine) and how to properly wash your face!

how to use cleansing balm

There are tons of different types of cleansers. Gels, foams, creams, oils, etc.! A cleansing balm works to clean skin by utilizing oils and emollients to dissolve and sweep away makeup, dirt, sweat, SPF, oils, and any other impurities that may be on the skin after a long day. Cleansing balms are incredible for dry skin as they are so nourishing but they can also be really effective for oily skin types. Oil attracts oil, which helps to remove any excess oil without stripping the skin.

what is a cleansing balm?

A cleansing balm is a solid (or semi-solid) balm, made from oils. The solid transforms into a silky oil when applied to the skin. Rather than using soap to dissolve oil (and get skin squeaky clean), a cleansing balm’s oils attract oil, sweeping it away without drying out the skin. In my personal experience, nothing is better at getting harder to remove makeup and dirt than a cleansing balm!

My personal favorite cleansing balms:

My current roster of favorite cleansing balms is as follows (in order of preference!).

  • Elemis’s cleansing balm is probably my holy grail; it just smells SO good. Like a spa in a jar. This one is super rich and emollient, heaven for my dry skin. I LOVE THIS.
  • Rhode’s pineapple refresh really gives the Elemis a run for its money. Objectively speaking I think it is a slightly better product but I just love the sensorial experience of the Elemis. This also has pineapple extract in it which helps to gently exfoliate. I will say I also like the packaging – it’s in a tube, no messy jars!
  • Goop’s cleansing balm is really nice. The formula is super silky and it took my makeup off in one easy sweep (this probably does the best job out of the bunch removing makeup). It has no fragrance and would be great for more sensitive skin types. I have heard from a lot of you that the Elemis is bad on your eyes. Try this instead!
  • I really love Farmacy’s cleansing balm as well. And it’s super fun when they do limited editions – the strawberry shortcake one smells so good! If you have combination or oily skin types I think you’ll really like this. While it doesn’t strip the skin of its natural oil, it doesn’t leave any oil or residue behind.

Benefits of Cleansing Balms

It melts away and removes dirt and makeup.

As discussed above, cleansing balms are amazing because they melt away dirt and oil. And on top of that, oils attract oils, so they sweep oil away without much scrubbing.

Dissolves stubborn eye makeup.

Eye makeup can be so tricky to remove, especially if you have sensitive skin. I find that an oil balm is the best way to remove my eye makeup, without damaging the sensitive eye area. If there is a lot of eye makeup to remove I will spend some extra time gently massaging the eye area to ensure that all eye makeup is properly dissolved!

They are great for sensitive skin.

Of course, do your research on the ingredients and use one that is extra gentle, but when you use a cleansing balm, dirt/makeup/oil just glides off the skin. No harsh scrubbing required!

It softens the skin.

Depending on which formula you choose, cleansing balms are highly emollient. So in addition to getting the skin super clean, they also leave your skin soft, supple, and hydrated.

Leaves the skin feeling so good.

Honestly, a big part of why I love cleansing balms so much is how good they feel on your skin. Especially the Elemis one, which smells like a spa in a jar. In order for a cleansing balm to work properly, they need to be massaged into your skin. As you massage your skin, the cleansing balm will penetrate the skin and break down any impurities. But a pretty fabulous side effect is that the massage part just feels really good. It’s great for tension at the jaws and temples, as well as lymphatic drainage.

It isn’t messy.

Cleansing oils can be thin and runny and make more of a mess. Since cleansing balms are more solid, they are a lot less messy!

how to use a cleansing balm

Step 1: Apply to dry skin.

Scoop out a small amount of balm and warm it between your fingers. You don’t need much! I use a small amount: just a couple finger fulls of the Elemis or Farmacy, or a nickel sized amount of the Rhode pineapple refresh. I always apply it to dry skin!

Step 2: Massage!

This part feels nice but is also very important. You are going to want to massage your skin for a minimum of 30 seconds.. ideally up to two minutes! The most important thing you can do here is really take your time and massage the balm into your skin. This way, the oils can really penetrate the skin, do their best work, dissolve, and sweep away any impurities. Facial massage is also just very good for you!

Step 3: Prep your wash cloth.

I like to get my wash cloth really steamy and warm. This again just feels so good on the skin. I’ll let my wash cloth run under warm water for a bit while I am massaging my skin to get it really saturated. The warmer and steamier you can get it, the better. It really adds to the experience!

Step 4: Remove balm.

Once your towel is good and hot, gently remove the cleansing balm. I like to start with my eye area to get that (messiest) part first and then use long, upward strokes with the wash cloth to remove the product.

Step 5: the (optional!) Double Cleanse

If you feel like it, double cleansing is another thing that feels really nice. I like to do this if my skin feels really dirty and/or if I wore a lot of makeup that day as it gets skin super clean! You will want to follow up with a lightweight gel cleanser. If I am doing a double cleanse, this is my favorite gentle gel cleanser to pair with a cleansing balm. It feels very soothing and has the most wonderful honey scent to it.

How to Use Cleansing Balm

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Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment


  1. Lynn Caplen:

    I have not tried this but I have utterly dry and sensitive Rosacea skin that burns with everything! I’ve tried Dr’s skin samples of a lot of soaps and face washes and moisturizers and nothing but more red . I’d like to try it but it doesn’t mention helping Rosacea at all.

    3.26.24 Reply
  2. Cait:

    I looove Clinique Take The Day Off !

    3.26.24 Reply
    • Ann:

      The best!

      3.27.24 Reply
    • Thanks for the rec!

      3.27.24 Reply
    • Jess:

      Another +1 for the take the day off balm! It is fragrance free so it is great if you have any issues using products with fragrance like me.

      3.27.24 Reply
  3. Linda Cummings:

    Hi. Read your it’s Totally agree been using the Elemis cleanse balm for 3 years now. I’m not a youngster. Im75. Yet I get so many compliments on my skin I love it. And I recommend Elemis to anyone any age!! It’s wonderful I use their other products and they are great as well. Socials if any age. You really need to try the balm. I guarantee you will love it. Ps I wear a heavy foundation & eye makeup and it cleans like a miracle. Love it.

    3.26.24 Reply
  4. I didn’t realize the new Rhode cleanser was a balm. That is good information to have. Now I have second thoughts about trying it. I have a bunch of cleansing balms in my backstock and don’t need another.

    3.26.24 Reply
    • Yeah I think it’s a bit confusing as it comes in a tube (which I personally love) but I would classify it as a balm for sure!

      3.27.24 Reply
  5. Madelyn:

    I want to love the Elemis so much (and other balms as well) but it gets in my eyes EVERY TIME, no matter how careful I am, and that is so uncomfortable to me! The smell of the Elemis is intoxicating, though.

    3.26.24 Reply
    • I could see how that could happen – I feel like that is the trade off with the heavenly scent. FWIW the Farmacy one is unscented and would probably be a better fit for yu!

      3.27.24 Reply
  6. Ali:

    I’ve fallen in love with cleansing balms – so gentle and effective! The Naturium ginseng balm is a favorite if you’re ever testing anything new 🙂

    3.27.24 Reply
  7. Nikki:

    Hi Grace, lately I’ve been using the Clinique – take the day off – Cleansing Balm and it’s just lovely! My skin feels beautifully soft after using it.

    3.28.24 Reply
  8. I ordered my first-ever cleansing balm just a few days ago and as I wait for it to arrive, I find this blog post is definitely so useful in preparing me for what’s to come. Now I’m even more excited to use it!

    3.29.24 Reply
  9. Lauren:

    This one is in a tube too and I find myself grabbing it more than the elemis jar (I have the orange elemis and it is a little rough on my eyes). Ultimately Farmacy is the most gentle to remove eye makeup of the ones I have tried.

    3.29.24 Reply