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How to use cleansing balm

How to use cleansing balm in your skincare routine.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
Cleansing balms
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Are you looking for a better cleanser for your skin type? Tired of the current face wash you’re using? Perhaps you’d like to try a cleansing balm: a type of cleanser that may be especially suitable for dry skin (depending on the ingredients).¹

Here we’ll tell you how to use cleansing balms, why they can be a great option for all skin types, and their potential advantages over facial washes and makeup wipes for your skincare routine.

What are cleansing balms?

Cleansing balms are a type of facial cleanser that contains plant oils suspended in thick emulsion creams and are semi-solid at room temperature. To use a cleansing balm, you apply it to your dry skin, gently massaging it in to help remove dirt, sebum, shed skin cells, and microorganisms.² 

Unlike some other cleansers, these balms are generally less likely to strip your skin of its natural oils, helping your skin to stay moisturized. The plant oils in cleansing balms may act as a protective barrier, allowing the skin to retain moisture.³

Why cleansing balm is a great option for makeup remover

Cleansers such as cleansing balms decrease the surface tension on the skin to remove excess oil (sebum), dirt, and oil from cosmetic products (such as makeup).⁴ 

Even better, cleansing balms are typically gentle on your skin, leaving your natural skin oils to provide a protective barrier on your skin against environmental stressors such as drying weather conditions. Most cleansing balms contain plant oils that naturally hydrate skin. Not only that, but many plant oils (jojoba, olive, sesame, shea, sunflower) are naturally anti-inflammatory due to their high phospholipid content.⁵ These anti-inflammatory effects may also encourage wound healing and skin barrier repair.⁶

Additionally, cleansing balms are generally less irritating than some makeup wipes.

Woman applying cleansing balm

How to use cleansing balm

Cleansing balms tend to lather nicely, which can help you to fight excess sebum and slough off dead skin cells.

Here are the steps you should follow to apply a cleansing balm:

  • Wash hands thoroughly before applying the product

  •  Scoop up approximately a teaspoon (or per label instructions) of cleansing balm and warm briefly between your palms, allowing it to melt on your fingertips

  • Gently apply the balm to your dry facial skin, moving your fingers up and outwards in circular motions

  • Allow the balm to sit on your face for approximately 15-30 seconds

  • Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry with a soft towel

  • Moisturize your skin

  • If your skin is particularly oily or you’re wearing sunscreen (which you should be!), you may want to follow up by double-cleansing with a light facial wash, such as Curology’s Gentle Cleanser.

Are cleansing balms suitable for all skin types?

Cleansing balms are versatile because they can generally be used on most skin types. They provide moisture to the skin, and due to their oil content, they can be used to remove makeup while being gentle on the skin’s natural barrier.

Balms may be especially beneficial for those with sensitive, dehydrated, or dry skin. And although many people think dry and dehydrated skin are the same thing, they are different (“dry skin” is a skin type, whereas dehydrated skin is a condition). Cleansers should strike a balance between removing skin oils and minimizing damage to the skin barrier⁷—some cleansing balms may do just that.

That said, those with dry skin aren’t the only ones who can benefit from using cleansing balms. If you have oily skin, your skin may also benefit because the plant oils in cleansing balms gently emulsify and remove excess skin oils without over-drying.

Are cleansing balms right for you?

Cleansing balms are the bomb! Their non-messy consistency, cleansing properties of their plant oils, and their gentle, non-drying formulas are a win-win for your skin. That said, ingredients can vary in cleansing balms and it is important to find one that is right for you. 

No matter what your skin type is, you may benefit by adding cleansing balms to your daily skincare routine. That said, it’s a good idea to talk with a licensed dermatology provider about any new product, especially if you have acne, eczema, rosacea, or other skin conditions.

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How does cleansing balm differ from makeup wipes?

Makeup wipes may contain ingredients that can irritate the skin. Cleansing balms can be a less irritating alternative.

Is cleansing balm the same as facial wash?

No. Facial wash tends to have a lighter composition and doesn’t contain cleansing oils.

What is the difference between cleansing balm and cleansing oil?

Although similar in the types of plant oils they contain, cleansing oils are liquids. You may find that you prefer the semi-solid formulation of a balm—it’s all a matter of personal preference.

Should you double-cleanse after using a cleansing balm?

If you’re removing sunscreen or you have oily or acne-prone skin, you may want to follow up with a gentle face wash.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework, so you don’t have to:

  1. Lin, T.K., et al. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. (2017, December 27).

  2. Kuehl, B.L., et al. Cutaneous cleansers. Skin Therapy Letter. (March 2003).

  3. Lin, T.K., et al. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Ibid.

  4. Mukhopadhyay P. Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders. Indian J Dermatol. (January 2011).

  5. Lin, T.K., et al. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Ibid.

  6. Lin, T.K., et al. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Ibid.

  7. Draelos, Z.D. Cosmeceuticals: What's Real, What's Not. Dermatol Clin. (January 2019).

Elise Griffin is a certified physician assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in physician assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in Jacksonville, FL.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Elise Griffin, Physician Assistant Curology

Elise Griffin, PA-C

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