Cleanser is probably the one can’t-do-without product for any beauty arsenal. As it happens, I am a bit of a cleanser obsessive and have tried, tested and (mostly) loved virtually every type of green cleanser available. In this series of posts I will discuss the advantages and drawbacks of different cleanser types and will highlight some of my favorites. Up first, my favorite type of cleanser: the cleansing balm.
Cleansing balms are the heavy artillery of facial cleansing. A fairly recent method, the cleansing balm revolution has been started by an English aesthetician, Eve Lom, and her cult cleanser, which for years was the raved-about staple of beauty editors and bloggers alike. Unfortunately, the cult cleanser also happens to be, basically, a mess: it’s mostly mineral oil and the remainder of the ingredient list is filled out by parabens, PEGs and a couple of potentially irritating essential oils. Thankfully, the cleansing balm market is now filled with gorgeous, well-formulated products and, as is often the case, green beauty offers some of the best alternatives around.
When using a clean, high-quality product, a balm cleanser is hard to beat for getting your skin its cleanest and best. As many of us already know, foaming cleansers tends to strip the skin (there are a few exceptions and I will address them in another post), whereas balm cleansers use the “like attracts like” principle to clear away pore-clogging sebum, while their component oils dissolve even the stubbornest makeup.
Cleansing balms are also perfect for facial massage. Few things help lift the skin, increase circulation and give a healthy glow than a good facial massage and balms provide the perfect “slippery, but not too much” texture to give your face a proper workout. If you want to try a facial massage, the always wonderful English beauty blogger (and trained aesthetician) Caroline Hirons has an excellent, illustrated how-to. If you are too lazy for a self-massage, another fabulous Englishwoman (and aesthetician), Sarah Chapman, sells a fun little facial massage gadget that does quite a good job of mimicking the face-toning action of a hand massage.
If there is one thing that keeps cleansing balms from being perfect it’s that they are not exactly quick and hassle-free. A cleansing balm needs to be applied, massaged in, emulsified (sometimes) and removed with a washcloth (these fancy muslin cloths are nice, but not necessary – I have a drawer-full of the most basic washcloths from Target and they work great), which can be one step too many when all you want is to quickly get the day’s grime off your face and crawl into bed. I should also note that cleansing balms are sometimes better as a first step of a double cleanse – especially if your skin is combination, oil or prone to congestion. Still, few things can get your face as clean, your skin as soft and your evening routine as luxurious as an excellent cleansing balm. Here are three of my favorites.
One Love Organics Skin Savior Balm is the first green beauty cleansing balm I have ever used and it’s a gem. Skin Savior comes by its name honestly: it is a nourishing skin treat that happens to be the most multi-tasking of the bunch. In addition to being a cleanser, Skin Savior can be used as a facial moisturizer, to calm skin irritations and soothe ragged cuticles and even to create a cream foundation by mixing in mineral foundation powder (something I have never done because I don’t use powdered foundation, but the mad scientist in me is desperate to try). This cleanser does not emulsify and needs to be thoroughly removed with a washcloth. It’s one of my favorite eye makeup removers: a small amount lays waste to the heaviest smoky eye, yet is is wonderfully gentle. It also smells deliciously citrusy and light: it’s the sort of smell that never fails to put me in a better mood. One thing to keep in mind though: the Skin Savior has coconut oil as its first ingredient and it also contains soy seed oil and beeswax, so if you have sensitivities to these ingredients (or are vegan) you may want to tread lightly.
de Mamiel Botaniques Restorative Cleansing Balm might well be my all-time favorite balm cleanser. Created by yet another brilliant English aesthetician (is it something in the water over there? Am I biased towards the English?) and acupuncturist Annee de Mamiel, every product in the Botaniques range is beautiful, thoughtfully-formulated and a pleasure to use; and this balm is no exception. Filled with exotic ingredients like kukui nut butter, moringa, marula oil, baobab oil and murmur butter (to name, but a few), the Restorative Balm feels luxurious in texture, application and most definitely scent. Oh, how I adore this smell! Annee de Mamiel first became famous for her luxurious seasonal facial oils, which combine a staggering array of herbal and floral components and her skill with aromatic ingredients is evident in the Restorative Balm. I so love its smell and am so impressed with its ingredients, that I often apply it to my face and let it sit for a bit before I wash it off, so that the probiotics, fancy oils and the manuka honey (yup, it has that too) get a chance to work on my skin. I also like that this balm emulsifies with addition of water. Though it won’t rinse clean without the help of a washcloth, this is probably the only cleansing balm I feel comfortable using on its own, rather than as part of a double cleanse. Do note that this cleanser contains beeswax.
Oskia’s Perfect Cleanser (not sold in the US, but available through the brand’s own website and through Content Beauty) is the most clinical-seeming of the bunch. Its scent can best be described as “slightly medicinal” and the texture is not quite as creamy and lush as that of the Skin Savior or the Restorative Balm. This cleanser also contains some serious skincare heavy hitters: MSM, Zinc, prebiotics, Omegas and Vitamins A and E. It also is the only cleanser on my list that does not contain beeswax. Perfect Cleanser is the one I reach for when my skin feels a little less than fabulous: it really does help calm down minor redness and irritation. Though it emulsifies with water, I definitely prefer the Perfect Cleanser as part of a double cleanse, though I think the second cleanse is completely optional, especially if your skin is on the dry side. It’s funny, because I might seem less effusive about this cleanser than I do about the other two, but it’s likely because I think of it as such a workhorse product: quality, no-nonsense, yet elegant, filled with excellent ingredients that can help improve the skin.