Top 5 Pre-Cleansing Balms

Different pre-cleansing balms placed on the bathroom countertop with a grey towel and a green branch

This week we are talking about pre-cleansing balms. Yes, those magical products that breakdown your makeup and dirt, amongst other things, at the end of the day. (End of every day, I hope.)

But first, mini announcement time.

After giving this a lot, and I mean a lot, of thought, I have finally decided to go cruelty-free.

Phew, feels good to say it out loud. Now, what does that actually mean?

It means that I have decided that no setting powder, hair mask, or eye cream is worth the pain and suffering of an animal. That statement aside, I will not preach nor judge, instead I will seek and share information, this post included, regarding cruelty-free items and brands only.

Consequently, I will be finishing off or donating already-purchased products that do not fall under that category, as to reduce waste.  So, bear with me while I transition and ask you to promise to hold me accountable and raise important questions where required. I would definitely appreciate that.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dig into my obsession with pre-cleansing balms.

Five smears of different pre-cleansing balms on the bathroom countertop


Why Pre-Cleanse?

At the start of the day you complete your elaborate A.M. skincare routine, lather on that sunscreen, and put a full face of makeup on. Throughout the day your face produces excess oils and is exposed to environmental pollutants (e.g. dust, exhaust). Now, at the end of the day, if you think that a simple cleanser, regardless of its advertised effectiveness, will actually send you off to bed with a clean face? Yeah, no. Hence, the need for a full meltdown of said impurities and residual products, as to prep your skin for the actual cleanse. Aka the pre-cleanse step or “Step: Zero” in your P.M. skincare routine.


Why Balms?


  1. Gentle & Soothing: We are constantly reminded to gently ‘tap’ and ‘press’ products into our skin, yet removing makeup with wipes or pads involves rubbing, tugging, and pulling, sensitive eye area included. With pre-cleansing balms, however, you use your fingers to warm up the balm into an oil and apply it to your face with the said fingers. Thus, you can’t pull or tug at your skin if everything is ‘slippery’ with oil, am I right? (Or am I right?) Bonus points if Lavender, Camomile, and Rose oils are involved, as they are undercover soothing agents for the skin, sensitive or not.
  2. Nourishing: Unlike other makeup-removing products, balms are often formulated to leave your skin’s natural moisture barrier alone. Better yet, nourished, with oils such as Apricot Kernel, Ginger Root, and Almond. Lastly, some even include antibacterial oils such as Tea Tree and Eucalyptus for that “truly clean” skin at the end of the day.
  3. Suitable For All Skin Types: Oily skin? Do not be afraid of balm-to-oil pre-cleansers, as they remove that extra sebum, alongside the makeup. Dry skin, like your girl here? Reach for a balm to help soothe and nourish that thirsty skin, without stripping or tugging at it. Also, it feels so damn good to massage rich balms onto parched and tired skin at the end of a long day. Combo skin? Same, same. You get the point.
  4. Less Waste: Forget non-reusable and non-recyclable cotton pads and wipes. Pre-cleansing balms are water-activated and are recommended in pea-sized amounts. Similarly, some are packaged in tin containers that can be reused for the same purpose or as a travel jewelry container, for example. (Yeah, I do that.)
  5. Travel-friendly: Unlike moist wipes or oily makeup removers, most balms fall under solid or semi-solid formulas. Such compositions tend to solidify and harden even more so in colder temperatures. Think planes, smart packaging (i.e. no plastic pump), and minimized risk of leaking and damaging other packed items. Lastly, since only pea-sized amounts are required for daily use, you can transfer small amounts into an empty Tylenol bottle, for example. Extra points for re-using, saving luggage space, and the seal cap for spill protection. Aka winning at every step.


Now, onto the best part…


Favourite Pre-Cleansing Balms


1. Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm $44

What does a 4.6/5 rating, a Clean seal, and an Allure Best of Beauty award add up to? A holy grail candidate, that’s what.

This sorbet-like balm prides itself in gently melting away makeup, sunscreen, and pollution, while naturally exfoliating your pores. Ingredients such as Ginger root oil, Turmeric and Moringa extracts, and Papaya enzymes confidently back those claims.

An Opened Green Clean Pre-Cleansing Balm placed on a clear jewelry tray on top of a grey towel on the bathroom countertop
An Opened Green Clean Pre-Cleansing Balm placed on a clear jewelry tray on top of a grey towel on the bathroom countertop

Personally, I prefer it for its airy texture, amazing citrus smell, and moisturizing effects. From balm to oil, to milky lather, I find that the balm doesn’t leave my skin dry or parched.

Bonus points for the spatula provided, as it limits the amount of bacteria transfer.


2. Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter Makeup Remover $17

A Camomile pre-cleansing balm placed on the bathroom countertop and decorated with a green flower branch and a grey towel

Now, say that three times fast.

This gentle pre-cleansing balm is committed to removing the most stubborn makeup and impurities. It’s secret weapon? The Camomile extract. Its soothing and anti-irritant properties make this balm suitable for sensitive skin and eyes, contact lens-wearers included.

Consequently, do not let words like ‘gentle’ and ‘calming’ compromise the balm’s power and effectiveness. It is genuinely able to multi-task in that way. I find that it breaks down makeup with a smaller amount, leaving the skin both clean and supple, as opposed to stripped and dry.

Bonus points for affordability and container reusability. (Perfect place to hide jewelry in your luggage!)


3. Precleanse Balm by Dermalogica $63

This is my very first pre-cleanse balm purchase, so it will always have a special place in my heart. It, too, is to blame for setting some really high expectations.

This cult-favourite balm promises to breakdown excess oil, stubborn makeup, product buildup, and pollutants. Alongside accomplishing that, it uses the soothing Lavender and nourishing Apricot Kernel oil to hydrate and plump up my skin. As somebody with dry skin, I definitely appreciate that, almost as much as I do the omission of any artificial fragrance and an oily residue.

A Dermalogica Pre-cleansing balm, cleansing glove, and a sample of the balm neatly placed on the bathroom counter top with a grey towel and a green flower branch
A Dermalogica Pre-cleansing balm, cleansing glove, and a sample of the balm neatly placed on the bathroom counter top with a grey towel and a green flower branch

In addition, the complimentary cleansing mitt adds to the even product distribution and a deeper clean. Yet, the balm’s effectiveness isn’t compromised without it.

Extra points given for a formula safe enough to use on the eye area and only a pea-sized amount requirement.


4. Oganic Virgin Coconut Oil by Nutiva $9.97

A Coconut oil tub on the bathroom countertop and decorated with a green flower branch and a grey towel

Chances are you already have this in your pantry. And while you may be using it for one thing, it can also be used for 100 other things. Makeup-melting included.

This multi-purpose pre-cleansing balm(-to-oil) is cold-pressed, with a melting point of 24°C or a light rub between fingers. It is anti-viral, -fungal, and -bacterial. It is full of nourishing fatty acids, Vitamin A and E. Do you have all day? Because I could go on.

Lastly, I also use it as a scalp and hair mask, cuticle and body lotion, as well as an oil base for making crepes. The best part is that all of these uses could be happening at the same time. I am literally 10% coconut oil at any point of the day.


5. Ultrabland by LUSH $29.95

Less so a balm, but thick and rich enough to stay put when flipped upside down and emulsifies when in contact with skin. Thus, it has earned its spot on this list.

This classic and simple pre-cleanser nourishes the skin with almond oil and rose water, locks-in the moisture with glycerin, and further protects with honey beeswax. Oh, and it smells freaking amazing.

An Ultrabland pre-cleansing balm with a grey towel, green leaf branch, and jewelry tray on the bathroom countertop

The online reviews include terms like “life-saver” and “miracle,” praise from all different skin types and concerns, and even mention eyebrow hair growth as a side-effect. I, personally, have seen effective results when used as a:

  • Pre-cleanser: Washed it off with a cleanser afterwards.
  • Double-cleanser: 2-1 use, removed it with a damp face cloth and followed with the rest of my night time routine.
  • 1-step skincare routine: Applied, removed, and went to sleep.

All uses yielded fantastic outcomes: clear, soft, and supple skin. Thus, this has great potential to fit right in to any minimalist, natural, or lazy (talking about myself here) skincare routine.

Bonus points for the recyclable container and incentive to return (5 of these) to be remolded for a free face mask. Check out the brand and its ethical, environmental, and cruelty-free initiatives here.


That just about covers my obsession with pre-cleansing balms. Hope you have enjoyed this post and continue to check back for more posts like these.


Happy Hump Day!





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *