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Balms Away

by Celia Shatzman

Cleansing balms are strong enough to remove makeup, yet gentle on your skin

Move over foams and bars—there’s a new way to cleanse your skin that’s making waves. “Cleansing balms have been gaining popularity, and for good reason,” says Barbara Close, founder & CEO of Naturopathica. “They are oil-based and can effectively cleanse without stripping the skin of its natural oils. As the saying goes, ‘like attracts like,’ so oil-based cleansers are most effective for breaking down makeup and excess oil without over-drying the skin, which can lead to irritation.”

So what exactly makes cleansing balms special? Most cleansers break down the hydrolipid barrier of the skin, which is the delicate layer of surface lipids made of oil and water, and can leave the skin feeling dry and taut as it strips away the naturally good oils. However, a quality cleanser won’t deplete the hydrolipid layer, and that’s what makes cleansing balms so beneficial. “They protect the lipid barrier of the skin, while also removing makeup and clearing congestion,” Close says. “As a bonus, the ritual of massaging these rich balms into your face helps encourage lymph flow to stimulate detoxification.”

Another perk of cleansing balms is they’re a speedy solution. Late at night after a long day, sometimes the last thing you want to do is remove your makeup, cleanse, tone and moisturize. In a pinch, a great cleansing balm can cover your bases. “A good cleansing balm formulated with pure plant oils will work to effectively and quickly melt away makeup and the buildup of daily grime,” says Corinne Morley, Trilogy Global in-house beauty expert. “All you need to do is massage it in for 30 to 60 seconds to allow the beneficial ingredients to bind to the skin so that it can effectively dissolve makeup and grime without disrupting the skin’s natural pH level. Cleansing with a balm really can take just one minute of your time! And once you see the improvement in your skin’s health and radiance, it will soon be as routine as cleaning your teeth.”

Cleansing balms aren’t just good for your skin—they’re also good for the planet. “In general, pure plant oil-based beauty products like cleansing balms are becoming even more popular now due to water becoming an increasingly precious resource in some parts of the world,” Morley says. “Waterless beauty products use only pure and powerful botanical extracts or oils as a base, ensuring hero ingredients aren’t diluted, which is widely regarded as better for the environment and your skin.”

There are a couple of ways to apply a cleansing balm, but no matter which you choose, make sure you always begin with dry skin. They can be applied with your fingers, so starting with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cleansing balm, gently warm it in your hands and massage into skin in light circular motions. The second option is to use a brush for application. “Dip a facial brush in warm water and start to brush, repeating each step three times on each side,” Close says. “Brush up from the center of your collarbone using light, short strokes toward the base of one ear, the chin and then the other ear. Brush from the center of the jaw along the jawline to the base of your right, then left ear. Sweep from the tip of the nose out across the right and then left cheek. Using a circular stroke, brush up the bridge of the nose, and across the forehead to the right and then left temple. Use quick, short strokes when brushing, as you would when dry brushing.”

Splash your face with warm water to emulsify the balm. Wring out an organic cotton cloth in warm water and gently wipe away makeup and balm. Repeat as necessary to remove any excess balm.

Double cleansing is gaining steam, since it ensures your skin is really clean. A cleansing balm is a great first step, since it is very effective at breaking down stubborn makeup. “If you choose to follow with a second cleanser, look for sulfate-free cleansers, which will not lather as much but will clean the skin more carefully,” Close says. “Avoid cleansers preserved with microcidal ingredients, like parabens, PEGS, 1,4-Dioxane, and polysorbate, which eliminate good bacteria, and use products with plant-based preservative systems such as Leuconostoc from fermented radish root filtrate.”

Unless you have very oily skin, restrict your double cleanse to once a day in the evening. “The general rule with a cleansing balm is to use it at night, even if you’re not wearing makeup,” Morley says. “Otherwise all the grime from the day just stays there, clogging your pores, dulling the complexion and encouraging unwanted breakouts.”

When shopping for a cleansing balm, a few qualities should be on your checklist. “Look for a cleansing balm that is formulated with a blend of pure plant oils and calming natural actives. The right balance and blend of natural oils in your skincare is not only beneficial, it’s essential for a healthy, balanced complexion! And look out for products that are mineral-oil free, as those made with mineral oils can have a greasy feel on the skin, which can block pores and aggravate sensitive skin.”

After you see the purifying and hydrating perks that cleansing balms deliver, washing your face will be a whole lot more fun.​

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