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Cleansing Balm vs Oil: All You Need to Know
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Cleansing balms and oils, once a niche category, have taken over—but which one is best for your skin type?

Cleansing Balm vs Oil: All You Need to Know

If you’ve been part of the Kinder Beauty community long enough, you’ll know how much we relish our self-care routines. And this includes investing time in skincare, which is essential to feeling great and achieving a healthy complexion.

The first step is knowing how to clean your skin. Cleansing balms and oils, once a niche category, have taken over—and for good reason.

What Does a Cleanser Do?

No matter how much you may want to skimp on your skincare routine, we consider daily cleansing a must (ahem, we’re side-eyeing those who frequently go to bed with their makeup on). Cleansing helps remove excess oil, makeup, sweat, dirt, and dead skin cells. It also creates a fresh, clean foundation for you to apply products such as moisturizer or makeup.

You’re likely already familiar with water-based face cleansers because they’re what’s most popular for cleansing your face and likely what you’re already using. On the other hand, researchers are starting to highlight the benefits of oil-based cleansers for skin as the soothing, healing properties of certain plant oils are increasing in popularity.

Many well-known brands are now offering oil cleansers as part of their product lineups, and many people (including many of us!)  have turned to oil cleansing as a way to more easily and gently remove makeup and soothe sensitive skin.

Typically made with ingredients such as cocoa butter, citrus oils, or coconut oil, they work by dissolving makeup, dirt, and sebum (the excess oil that leads to breakouts) so they can be easily rinsed away.

Oil cleansers come in two forms: liquid cleansing oil and cleansing balms. Ever wondered if there’s a difference between the two? We’re here to explain.

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What is a Cleansing Oil?

Cleansing oil (not to be confused with face oils or serums that are applied to your skin after you cleanse) is a liquid that typically comes in a pump bottle. It is a great choice for cleansing your skin if you wear makeup because it’s effective at removing both water- and oil-based impurities, such as long-wear makeup and water-resistant sunscreen. 

Close up of a woman's hands pumping vegan cleansing oil on fingers

What Skin Types is a Cleansing Oil Best For?

Despite popular belief, cleansing oil works for all skin types (yes, even oily skin) because it is not designed to leave anything behind and won’t strip your skin of its natural oils. 

How to Use a Cleansing Oil

To use a cleansing oil, simply massage it into dry skin, making sure to cover all areas—especially if you’re wearing more stubborn makeup products such as waterproof mascara or liquid eyeliner—and then rinse it off with warm water.

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What is a Cleansing Balm?

Cleansing balm comes in a tub and (usually) with a spatula for application. It has a uniquely creamy texture that is thicker than cleansing oil, but it melts into a silky oil as you massage it into your skin. Once you splash your face with water, the oil transforms into a milky emulsion that rinses away the day’s buildup.

Woman applying vegan cleansing balm to her face

What Skin Types is a Cleansing Balm Best For?

Cleansing balms tend to be gentle on the skin and have hydrating properties, making them ideal for people with dry or sensitive skin. Plus, unlike cleansing oils, different balms can target different skin needs. If you have oily skin, look for a balm that contains non-comedogenic oils, such as jojoba or almond. If you have dry skin, look for nourishing oils such as avocado or coconut. Because of these benefits, cleansing balms can be a fabulous option if you want to give your face a deep cleanse without stripping it of moisture.

How to Use a Cleansing Balm

First, apply a scoop of the balm to your dry skin. Using your fingers, gently massage it into your skin using circular motions. As you’re doing this you’ll feel the balm melt into your skin, helping break down the makeup and impurities. Next, add water to emulsify the balm into a milky liquid as you continue massaging your face. Rinse your face and use a dry cloth to remove excess balm and gently pat your face dry.

The Verdict: Cleansing Balm Vs Oil

Ultimately, choosing between a cleansing balm and oil depends on your lifestyle and personal preference. Do you have dry, sensitive skin? Try a cleansing balm that targets your needs. Wear a lot of makeup? Go with oil. You can look for vegan and cruelty-free options in our marketplace.

Double-cleansing is another option. This method involves using a cleansing oil first to break down any makeup and excess oils from the day. Then, follow up with a cleansing balm, which further cleanses your skin while addressing skin concerns with ingredients to hydrate, smooth, or treat blemishes. 

The added bonus? Double-cleansing will ensure your face is completely clean before you apply your coveted serums or moisturizers.

Don’t know where to start when choosing vegan and cruelty-free skincare products? Sign up for a Kinder Beauty subscription.

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Nicole Axworthy is a Toronto-based writer and author of the vegan cookbook DIY Vegan

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