What’s Cleansing Balm? (And Do You Need One?)

If you want great skin, washing your face every night before bed—no matter how tired you are—is a requirement. For most of us, cleansing is right up there with brushing our teeth as a daily task that we just do so we can check it off our to-do list. But in the U.K., cleansing isn’t so much a chore as it is an indulgent experience.“

At Elemis, we teach our therapists that the minute hands touch a woman’s face, it begins to relax,” says Emer Gillen, International Trainer at luxury British spa and skincare brand Elemis. “That simple gesture of touch is deeply soothing, and when the face begins to relax, it actually looks younger, immediately. That’s what we want to bring to the U.S.” One key product that has potential to do just that is cleansing balm.

Cleansing balms are creamy, rich cleansers that do double duty by removing dirt and impurities on the skin while also protecting the skin’s moisture balance. These balms are super effective because of the natural oils in their formulas, which latch onto dirt and grime and break down makeup particles, making it easy to lift all of the impurities off your face. In addition, the oils in the balm grab excess sebum on the skin (remember from chemistry class, “like attracts like”), whisking away extra oil that can lead to clogged pores and breakouts, the same way facial cleansing oils work.In the U.S., where face cleansing is generally rushed and based around getting squeaky clean with foaming washes and grainy scrubs, English roses prefer to take their time to pamper their complexions with cleansing rituals based around these luxurious, oil-based balms.

They’re applied to dry skin and massaged deeply with the fingers, which allows the product to work its magic and also stimulates circulation. Then, you gently wipe it away with a muslin cloth soaked in warm water.The removal process is a key step, says Amandine Isnard, Head of Product Development for Eve Lom, a U.K. brand that has been selling the well-known Eve Lom Cleanser cleansing balm for 26 years. “[The muslin cloth] delivers just the right balance of exfoliation and is gentle enough to use every day,” she notes. “This is especially beneficial for congested skin because if you over cleanse congested skin, it will panic and produce more sebum. For dry skin, with the muslin cloth, you get a deep clean without stripping the skin.”

If your skin normally feels dry after washing, a cleansing balm will help restore moisture and keep you hydrated, smooth and glowy. Ingredients like cocoa butter, which is in both the Eve Lom Cleanser and the Aurelia Miracle Cleanser (from yet another U.K. brand), soften and condition skin while other ingredients cleanse.

“This is a product that you’ll actively look forward to using, incorporating it not just into a nighttime ritual but also a morning cleansing—for the sheer bliss of it,” says Gillen. The Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm also contains anti-aging ingredients, such as padina pavonica, to promote cell vitality and elasticity, and the blend of aromatic oils—in all of these balms—really brings that relaxing, sensual spa feeling into your bathroom.Using a good quality cleanser is an essential first step in a good skincare regime, Gillen notes. So finding one that’s both effective and gets you excited to take time to focus on your skin can put you on the fast track to getting the complexion you’ve always wanted.