Keep It Clean: The Balms

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

One Love Organics Skin Savior Balm

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

de Mamiel Botaniques Restorative Cleansing Balm

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 Perfect Cleanser

Oskia Perfect Cleanser

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.

21 responses to Keep It Clean: The Balms

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      They can definitely be a bit of a hassle, but if you get one that emulsifies, that makes things quite a bit easier. I’d say the de Mamiel is easiest to remove. X

  1. caprinic

    Love the sound of OLO and the de Mamiel balms, been especially lusting for anything de Mamiel! But afraid that will have to wait until I’m done with my course and gainfully employed! Great review Lola and I look forward to reading more of your posts! Xx

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Thank you, darling! The de Mamiel line is definitely a splurge, but it’s oh-so-gorgeous! At least it’s a tiny bit cheaper in Europe 🙂 xx

  2. The Detox Diva

    Love all these and add in Suti UK and my newest love Aurelia to the list (the latter being more of a cream that acts like a balm!) Yes, there is something in the water over there and Annee is divine, isn’t she??? Her seasonal oils are NOT to miss!!

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      I was going to list some additional balms and they were ALL by British brands! It’s clearly a thing in Britain much more than it is in the US, but I’m glad some American brands are jumping on the bandwagon (still want to try Stark’s balm). And yes, I’ve heard great things about Aurelia and plan in testing and writing about it, but it’s definitely a cream cleanser, I think, which will be a separate post 🙂 I still have to cover the creams, the oils, the foamers and the scrubs, so I’ve my work cut out for me 😉

  3. Kristine

    You mentioned OLO’s balm is good at removing eye makeup, but what about de Mamiel? I thought OLO was a bit waxy in texture for my liking, but the de Mamiel one has piqued my interest. I think I’ll switch back to a balm for my first evening cleanse after my jar of coconut oil is finished 🙂

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Oh for sure! De Mamiel would be great for that. Frankly, anything made with oils would be good for makeup removal. Mostly, I prefer OLO because I’m less precious about using it, so I sort of smear it on and then wipe off with some cotton wool, but you can do the same with the de Mamiel or use a washcloth. And yeah, coconut oil is fantastic (I’ll cover it when I write about oil cleansers), but balms are just a bit more luxurious and have all those other fabulous ingredients 🙂

  4. Asya

    Hi, I have been using De Mamiel for some months now and absolutely loving it, but I have combination/oily skin and something is definitely clogging my pores… Can it be the beewax? Or the fact that cannot me thouroughly removed and some of its oils still stay on my face? Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      So glad you’re enjoying the De Mamiel! As for the clogging, it could be the beeswax, but I’m pretty sure that improper (or, rather, insufficient) removal is probably the culprit. Are you using a washcloth to remove the balm? Because it’s most definitely not a wash-off kind of a cleanser. And you should make a few passes with the washcloth: hold the hot washcloth to your face for a few seconds to steam, wipe, rinse cloth, wipe again). Also, and especially if you’re experience clogging, you should definitely double-cleanse. Use a cream cleanser or a gentle foamer (like One Love Organics Easy Does It, for example) after removing the De Mamiel to make sure you don’t have any of the oils/waxes left on your skin. Hope this helps 🙂 x

      • Asya

        Thanks so much! I am very much hoping to be able to keep on using De Mamiel’s balm. I am using a washing cloth but maybe I am not insisting too much, that’s true. My skin feels so hydrated afterwards that I don’t want to strip it by scrubbing too much. Would you by any chance recommend a good cleanser for oily/blemish prone skin? I am having Laurel’s but not too impressed with it…

      • TheHermesHippie – Author

        Well, a lot of people with very oily skin tend to love the Alkaitis cleanser, though it’s far too stripping for my skin. I’ve been really enjoying the new Pacific Exfoliating cleanser from True Nature Botanicals. It has scrubby beads, but is still quite gentle. Also, again, not one I have used, but what about the Tata Harper cleanser?

      • Asya

        I like quite a lot Dr Alkaitis’ cleanser. It is true though that it gives you a little bit the squeaky clean feeling, which might encourage sebacious glands to produce more sebum to compensate. I am actually having the new duo from Tata Harper – the Nourishing Oil Cleanser and the Purifying Cleanser. The oil cleanser doesn’t emulsify enough and you are always left with an oil film on your skin… So you have to follow with the Purifying Cleanser. Which, on its own, does not cleanse well! Although it is branded as “deep pores cleansing”. So, all in all, you are left with quite an investment for two cleansers, double the time, for an average result. I honestly think De Mamiel’s balm is doing a better job for half the price and time.

      • TheHermesHippie – Author

        Yeah, I wasn’t in love with the Tata cleanser when tried samples, but lots of people love it. Have you tried the Stark grapefruit cleanser?

  5. Asya

    No… I live in Europe and it is quite difficult to get all the niche American and Canadian brands 🙂 if you have a British suggestion though, I am all for it 🙂

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Ah! Right. I quite like Oskia balm, but it does require careful removal/second cleanse, much like the de Mamiel. Have you tried Aurelia’s Miracle Cleanser? I think it’s quite fabulous.

      • Asya

        I saw you have good things to say about Aurelia’s cleanser. I will make sure to try it. And, it is out of the balms topic, but De Mamiel’s Cleanse and Exfoliate powder cleanser is absolutely fabulous. Three types of clay, vit C, buttermilk powder, mother of pearl powder, sodium bicarbonate and more… It is purely amazing, the results it gets on tired, stressed skin.

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