Pioneered by Eve Lom in the late 1980s, cleansing balms are now an entire sub-category of cleansing – and the sight of a muslin cloth drying on a towel rail is commonplace, across the world. (Balms are best removed with a muslin – or a flannel.) They’ve become loved for their effectiveness at melting away make-up, cellular debris and city pollution – but in many cases for the fragrance, which is often soothingly aromatherapeutic, designed to calm after what are often frazzled days.
GOLD AWARD Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm
A little of this superfacialist’s balm goes a long way: you need just a 5p piece-size dollop, massaged into the hand before smoothing evenly into skin. (The more you massage it, the better your skin will respond.) As a result, this giant pot of aromatic balm will last for aeons, notwithstanding Emma’s advice that it can also be used as a rich mask, left on skin for 10 minutes, or even as an overnight facial treatment. Based on ultra-nourishing moringa oil, it also offers wild sea fennel, rose oil and vitamin E (and the fragrance – from essential oils – was especially commented on.) What else sets this cleanser apart is that it comes with its own e-cloth style flannel which acts as a total dirt magnet. Not its first Award; definitely not its last – but the score here was stellar, at 9.10/10 averaged across 10 women.
OUR TESTERS' COMMENTS:
'This is a really lovely cleanser, and a real find as it's not something I was looking for. I was perfectly happy with my usual cleanser but having now used this one, I can see the benefits of upgrading. It feels very natural (like putting set honey on your face), moisturises as well as cleanses, and is a really lovely product to own. The cleansing cloth is more like a luxury flannel than the usual muslin-type cloth, and it washes well and stays soft’ • ‘The most luxurious cleanser I have ever used. A real treat for the face, feels as if I’ve used a moisturising mask as well as working really well as a cleanser. A lovely product that I would buy again’ • ‘10+. What can I say except I’m a convert to this perfect cleanser. It melts on impact with your skin, so you can smooth it around and massage it in as per the guidelines with it. It looked shiny when on my face but it wasn't greasy and left no shininess afterwards, and no tightness either. The fragrance is divine, perhaps from the bergamot, jasmine and sweet almond oils. Not overpowering though, just fresh. You need very little but when I finally finish it, I wont hesitate to buy another pot’ • ‘I used this a.m./p.m. for three weeks and then on to the end of the pot. As of now, I can confirm it has made a noticeable difference in reducing fine lines and wrinkles, enhancing glow, radiance and softness and plumping my very dry mature skin. For seven days, I just used it on one side of my face and could see a visible improvement in softness, suppleness and pliability. I now use it on my face, neck and décolleté. You only need a tiny amount – the size of a marrowfat pea – for all that. I would definitely buy it as it gives great results at a fair price’ • ‘I loved this product from the moment I saw the beautiful gold box, then opened the tub and felt the rich smooth balm. I knew it was going to be good for my skin and indeed it was a real treat. It left my face so clean with a lovely fresh glow. As suggested in the instructions, I also used it as a night treatment and the next morning my skin was like velvet. I will be putting this on my birthday list and it would make a lovely gift for others too.’
£47 for 100ml and cleansing cloth - click to buy
SILVER AWARD Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm
Again, this giant tub of balm – which has joined Elemis’s legendary Pro Collagen collection – will last for forever. The base oils include wheatgerm and oat, starflower and elderberry, blended with mimosa and rose waxes; it’s infused with a heavenly scent (well, we think so) of eucalyptus, lavender, chamomile, ho wood, orange, clove and menthol. Elemis’s skin guru Noella Gabriel recommends massaging thoroughly into the complexion to dissolve dirt and grime, removing with the accompanying luxury flannel – or leaving on for 10 minutes while you inhale the aroma and practice calming abdominal breathing, as a plumping mask treatment.
OUR TESTERS' COMMENTS:
'I love, love, love this cleanser, which leaves my skin clean and fresh but not dry or tight. Instructions say to keep away from eyes but I have used it all over my face as I like an all-in-one cleanser and I have had no irritation or soreness in my eye area. This cleanser is so pleasurable to use that it makes me want to cleanse rather than it being a chore. You can also use this as a deep treatment and leave it on for 10 minutes before removing. The fact it comes with a cloth is great although if it came with two it would make life easier and encourage more frequent laundering. This has now become my favourite cleanser and I just use my micellar one if I need to be quick’ • ‘Wow! This product has such a gorgeous spa-like aroma, and seems full of natural oils. It melts into the skin when applying. It comes with a thick cloth to remove the product, much nicer than the muslin cloth that comes with my usual product. After removing it my skin tone appeared more even and pores were noticeable smaller. I used it on my waterproof mascara and it removed it with ease’ • ‘I'm going to keep trying this product and see if I notice any further improvement’ • ‘This feels like an aromatic, nurturing balm on the skin and liquefies to a milky consistency when water is added; make-up came off cleanly and effectively with this balm, especially when used with the cloth. My skin felt dewy and smooth, and smelling amazing. I tested it a.m./p.m. daily but I felt that for me it is a luxury treatment for those days when skin is stressed and tired and in need of some TLC’ • ‘As well as a fab cleanser, I love to leave the balm on for about 10/15 minutes as a real treat so that I can luxuriate in the gorgeous aroma and feel it working its magic on my skin. Another treat is to place the warm cloth on my cleansed skin and just breathe in the lovely essential oils. Ideal before bed for a restful sleep. Because I only use about a teaspoonful, this product lasts for ages. So tempting to double cleanse, as it smells so good! A real treat to use, like being in a spa’ • ‘I loved this balm and believe me I have tried lots in my time! It removed all make up easily but didn’t strip my skin; it left it softened as if I had put moisturiser on it. With the scoop I could use as little as I needed and I didn't need to use very much so the tub has lasted ages. I really felt after using the balm that it wasn't just a daily cleansing to get rid of make up but a spa experience that left my skin truly feeling and looking better.’
£43 for 105g - click to buy
BRONZE AWARD REN Rosa Centifolia No.1 Purity Cleansing Balm
Formulated to suit all skintypes (oilier-skinned women can sometimes find balms too rich), this emulsifies into a luscious milk when you add water, after first massaging the chamomile and rose extract-infused, make-up-melting balm into skin. (Testers did comment particularly on the scent.) Although REN promise that this can be used on eye make-up, even waterproof mascara, they also advise avoiding contact with the eyes – and since that might be hard to manage, we’d recommend using a separate eye make-up remover.
OUR TESTERS' COMMENTS:
'This rich slightly oily balm massages into skin really nicely, melting as you do so, then it removed make up easily, even waterproof mascara and the tubing one I use currently. No traces of make up left at all and my skin felt moisturised. I really like it and would buy it’ • ‘The natural rose scent is very soothing and relaxing to breathe in as you massage on the face. It took everything off very well. It says massage for one to two minutes before adding a bit of water. Even if I didn’t do the full two minutes my face was clean (I tested it with my toner to check and the cotton pad was totally clean!). My skin felt lovely after. Soft / silky and well moisturised - although I used a moisturiser after I could have left it a few minutes before applying it without my skin feeling taut. It is less drying than my usual Liz Earle cleanser. A great product’ • ‘A lovely product that felt luxurious to use and left my skin feeling great. Perfect for cold windy winter in the north! The lovely light rose scent was relaxing as I took time to massage it into my face. I probably spent longer doing that than I would with my normal face wash which I'm sure is a good thing to make sure that all the make up and dirt is dissolved ready to wash off. I liked the fact that you washed your face after as personally my face isn't clean without using water!’ • ‘I like the styling and colour ways of the packaging, which looks clean and sleek without being fussy. As someone who often has an oily face or breaks out immediately if something is too overpowering, I was very nervous to try such a thick balm and did have a mild reaction to it initially but it quickly passed and once I was able to enjoy the product, I really did. It left my face very clean and definitely moisturised’ • ‘It really did remove all make up, including waterproof. My skin felt nicely moisturised with no tightness at all. It was very smooth and felt thoroughly clean. My daughter (aged six) said I looked shiny, which I take as a good thing as my winter skin can get very dull’ • ‘I loved this and am impressed at how good it is at removing even the last traces of make up without having to scrub at my eyes. But I would say do take your contact lenses out before using as they might get coated. It doesn't sting but you might get blurry vision’
£25 for 100ml - click to buy