Cleansing oils or cleansing balms – which one is right for me?

So, we’re all fully subscribed to the double cleansing mantra, right? This nightly ritual has rightfully taken the world by storm – you know the drill, somewhere somebody does something right, then America and Europe get involved and there’s no looking back. I mean, sure, Caroline Hirons might have immortalised the phrase ‘double cleanse’, but cleansing with an oil-based cleanser and a water-based cleanser has been a staple in the world of Asian Beauty for a long time now.

You might be completely behind the two-step cleanse, and ready and raring to go, but then comes the next hurdle. As with anything in skincare, there’s just too much damn choice (well, we like it that way, but sometimes it’s just pushing the feeling of ‘whelmed’ into ‘overwhelmed’). Foams, gels, milks, balms, clay cleansers, creams…when does it stop? How do I know? Well, sadly, I’m not here to wade through that, but today I’m here to talk about two of the most popular choices for the oil-based cleansing step – cleansing balms and cleansing oils.

These are by far some of the most popular types of cleanser for your make-up, sebum build-up, and dirt removal. I’d long been an advocate of just going straight in with the cleansing oil, finding balms difficult to deal with as they almost always caused near-permanent blindness whenever I tried to use them in my early days. How little I knew then.

Of course, personal preference is key, and I would recommend using both to compare, and test what works best for you and your skin. What’s ‘right’ for one person is another person’s ‘wrong’. It’s more looking, in my opinion, what each option offers you, and if that’s what you want from a cleanser. Let’s get to the nitty-gritty.

Why should I choose a cleansing oil?

  • Variety in consistency. Cleansing oils come in lots of different thicknesses, with some feeling more liquid-y, and providing more ‘slip’, and some being denser and richer. This is great as you can experiment and tailor your cleansing oil to your personal tastes in texture and feel. For example, I really don’t like the feel of oil in my hands, and I favour a more watery style – but there are many who are happy to go straight in with pure olive oil or coconut oil. The world’s your oyster.
  • Convenient packaging. Many cleansing oils come in a pump bottle, which is sanitary, easy to dispense, and keeps the oil sealed, so it’s less likely to spill and get everywhere.
  • I often find that cleansing oils are slightly cheaper in price, or have more price variety.
  • Cleansing oils often emulsify quicker, and with less product – while some balms do emulsify quickly on contact with water, there are many that don’t. The first balm I ever tried didn’t, and it was one of the things that put me off, until now.
  • Cleansing oils may be the best choice for those who are environmentally conscious. Cleansing balms often contain microbeads, which are tiny plastic particles that enter the stream of water, and then cannot be filtered out. These plastic particles go on to pollute, getting into lakes, oceans, rivers, and many of the things around us in our daily lives. I find I am less and less attracted to cleansing balms the more I read about this.
  • Cleansing oils are pretty easy to use as a body wash (I like to use them especially after the gym), and can also be added to a bath to leave your skin feeling silky smooth.

Why should I choose a cleansing balm?

  • For a different kind of convenient packaging. Most balms come in tubs. I love tubs, as they’re stackable, and they’re nice and easy to take a photo of, although that might not be high on your priority if you don’t own a skincare blog or Instagram.
  • Tubs are also easy to take places, and it means I’m more likely to reach for a cleansing balm to slip into an overnight bag – cleansing oil has more of a ‘leaking’ habit.
  • A thicker massage. Because of the balm texture, rubbing a more ‘solid’-feeling product into the skin can feel a lot more like a therapeutic massage, with the balm gracefully sliding over skin and feeling less ‘slippery’.
  • Balms are less likely to spill and get all over your sink. I can’t count how many times I’ve accidentally pumped cleansing oil over my shirt, or have the bottle leak all over my other products for no particular reason.
  • I find that as balms are of course, not runny in nature, they’re less likely to get in your eyes and cause irritation – meaning they work much better when taking off eye makeup.

Some of my favourite cleansing oils (I favour more scent-free, runny types) include:

I normally go for Japanese cleansing oils – and the ones listed here I find to be gentle and effective. However, there’s a whole world out there to experiment with.

Some of my favourite cleansing balms include:

Both of these cleansing balms are AMAZING in how they simply melt away your makeup and how gentle they are on the skin. The E Nature smells slightly citrus-y, which also adds to the experience, making me feel like I’m cleansing with a beautiful vibrant essential oil.

The A By Bom is fantastic purely because of its size. The tub is a whopping 100ml and the balm itself is a buttery dream which melts into an oil on contact with the skin. Massage a little and be amazed at how quickly and simply it removes makeup and dirt.

I have to try more balms to see how they compare, but so far these are two which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed – compared to my early experiences with the Banila Co cult classic Clean It Zero, which I found left a horrible film and irritated my eyes. Everyone’s different – but the more you experiment, the more you’ll find what’s right for you.

Which side do you lean on? Balm or oil?

*I received this from Bemused Korea for review purposes only. Post does not contain affiliate links.

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