Battle of the Cleansing Balms: The Final


Welcome to the third and final (for now!) instalment of The Battle of the Cleansing Balms. If you haven’t read the first and second instalment click on the links. 

If you have, now is the time for me to become evangelical about cleansing balms, again. 

It is a somewhat depressing – even distressing! – fact that Simple face wipes are Britain’s biggest selling beauty product. As Caroline Hirons says, wipes are for “the three Fs” – festivals, flights and… (I’ll let you guess, I’m far too demure to write it, ha!). Obviously, using a wipe is better for your skin than nothing at all, so do continue if it’s the only option you’ll consider. But please, try something else (cream, lotion or balm – not foaming washes) and see how gratifying an experience it can be to cleanse your face really gently and well. It is so deeply satisfying to see how the texture and look of your complexion is enhanced by using a lovely cleanser. 

Cleansing with a balm is by far the most luxurious and beneficial method for my woefully dry skin. I am so deeply impressed by how my skin reacts that I have a whole host of much loved, often used and regularly repurchased beautiful cleansing balms that I am thrilled to share with you. 

In this post, I share six more balms with you.


Although the balm method is still relatively new in the skincare world, I can no longer imagine not being able to care for my skin this way. To lose the method would be an unthinkable tragedy (I jest of course) to the great many woman who have dispensed with all other methods now they’re tried and fallen in love with this one. 

If you’re in the market for a new method, or a new cleansing product, do have a read (and then a try) of one of these, and let me know what you think! 

Aromatherapy Associates Inner Strength Soothing Cleansing Balm, £40


I have inherited a deep and enduring love for Aromatherapy Associates and their perfectly curated collections from my mum, a woman of fabulous taste and extensive faux snobbery, who deemed my various essential oil based products “synthetic and not worth having” and her own little bottles from Aromatherapy Associates, “the best”. These put downs of my wares would be infinitely more annoying, were she not so keen to share hers with me.

I was introduced to this particular product many years after my first foray into the Aromatherapy Associates world, but it’s probably my favourite. 

Some time ago, my wonderful friend L, delivered this to me while I was very ill in hospital, suffering from the beginnings of an autoimmune disease. But before this turns into a woe-is-me-misery-memoir, let me tell you how I thoroughly enjoyed spending pleasurable moments in mornings, evenings and at 3am massaging this into my face, hands and arms and breathing in the heavenly and addictive aroma. Far from reminding of bad times, I look back on this tube of loveliness with huge affection; for the scent, for the beautiful friend, for the skin saving goodness of this product and the story behind this sensational cleansing balm. 

Handing over my care package, my friend told me the story of Aromatherapy Associates late founder, Geraldine, and how she, in 2011, used her considerable talents and extensive skill set to create this beautiful product in response to her diagnosis of a rare cancer of the eye, and as a method of dealing with the life challenges associated with such a traumatic, painful, exhausting, worrying bombshell. 

She said in an interview that “It’s a blend to help us all find the mental and physical strength to get through tough times—illness, job loss, divorce, bereavement, stress—it’s my ‘black hole’ blend.” 

As is appropriate with such a personal passion project, it contains all of Geraldine’s favourites: calming frankincense and vetiver; comforting rose; and geranium, for an emotional boost. It is so much more than a cleanser, and puts the treat in treatment.

It smells sublime! It is very similar to my favourite perfume, CB I hate Perfume’s, ‘7 billion hearts’.

It’s initially a tad cloying for my mum, but she understands it is sacrilege to abuse it in my presence. And besides, after she actually used it, she said she likes the scent when it’s on the face, and she can detect more rose and less frankincense. If either of these scents offend you, this is one to skip.

So far, so much talk of scent (and there will be more of that later) but I mustn’t ignore its amazing and gentle makeup removing skills, should you want to use it for that, rather than as a skin-treating second cleanse or morning cleanse.

Although, I have a deep and unwavering love for this cleansing balm and truly adore it out of all proportion, I am prevented from being as wildly cavalier about its dispense as I desire, due to the annoying tube packaging. In cold weather it becomes a thick, stiff, unyielding balm and it’s a battle to eject from the bottle.

However, once you have managed to squeeze it out, it seems to have a personality transplant and instead of being tough and thick, it slides across skin like butter on piping hot toast. Where some balms chug along like wellies on a wet slide, this glides across the face delicately and elegantly – in stark contrast to the strong man contest getting it out into the world is, it massages to an oil with barely any effort.

It’s probably just as well that I’m not often up for the fight to get enough out of the tube to baste my face with wild abandon and layer on in abundance because it is actually prohibitively expensive. If you apply judiciously and sparingly it will last ages though.

Also, although familiarity for this could never breed contempt, to use it daily I fear would lead me to forgetting how special it truly is. 

Instead I save it for emergency deployment when I am at a low ebb, have subjected my tricky skin to weeks of terrorising and brutal service or am inexplicably sad or stressed out. In times of stress I will no longer countenance the use of any other cleanser, instead I’ll use this to lift makeup beautifully and lift my spirits dramatically.

Using this is such a sensorial experience, that I can’t help but marvel at how unfeasibly delicious it is and how, no matter how depleted I am, a few daubs of this and I feel better, brighter, calmer… 

This is such a sumptuous, softening, soothing, rich balm that furnished my serum with the perfect base. For some reason, it feels and smells brilliantly decadent and makes me feel like a woman of means and elegance… if only very temporarily.

To use this is blissfully relaxing; a whiff is like being cosseted in a soothing, warm, comfort blanket for the skin and senses. It’s so gentle yet so powerful and although I bang on about this to the point of tedium, I promise this is wholly worthy of my incessant evangelising. 

In my opinion, this is a peerless product. 

Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Cleansing Gel, £26


I love this for its effectiveness, citrus gorgeousness and relative affordability – and I really do mean relative; like 24 carat gold to ruby encrusted platinum. I’m not saying anyone needs to spend more than a tenner (or fiver) on something to remove your makeup with; far from it. I’m just saying that if you want a nice experience, there are products like this, that are above high-street prices but not eye-wateringly so, and in the case of cleansing balms at least, I do think your skin will display its gratification (within days) for the increased financial outlay and commitment to a quick daily face massage. 

Anyway, back to this little tub of jelly. This is more a gel than a balm and is much more lightweight than all the others in the battle, but it behaves exactly like a balm once on the skin so I’ve included it. It’s a little sticky and oily and can be a bit messy and greasy but I really enjoy it nonetheless and once you figure out a technique, it’s simple.

This Vitamin C rich gel-to-oil-to-milk formula works fantastically well at cleansing skin and seems to rinse off to reveal a clean, brilliantly brightened and illuminated complexion. 

It smells like lemon curd, reminds me of the cheap and cheerful jam and lemon tarts I have adored since childhood. You know the ones… you get them in packs of 6 – 3 jam and 3 lemon – for about 50p. I find it impossible to not gorge myself on every single tart when I randomly pick some up at roughly annual intervals! 

Anyway, as always (I’m a broken record on this) many people are put off by fragrance, but I feel short changed by fragrance free offerings. I like scent. If you don’t, or at least don’t like lemony, orangey smells, scroll past this one! 

On another side-note: I must say I am slightly bored by brands heavily fragrancing anything with vitamin c on the ingredients list with citrus scents to remind us of oranges and feed the notion that we are flooding the skin with vitamin c. I think most consumers are right enough to know vitamin c doesn’t smell of orange! 

Regardless of scent, that I for one, actually like, this is great. I love using it, especially in the morning, when it cleans, invigorates and refreshes in equal measure – waking up my skin and me at the same time. It removes makeup well, though I’ve heard of slight stinging in some eyes when trying to remove waterproof eye makeup. If you want a one-stop cleanser at a similar price, you’ll probably prefer something super gentle on the eyes, like Clinique Take The Day Off, reviewed here. You’ll also prefer that if you want fragrance and scent free. 

 This gel is very popular with the Mr Magpie who tested it, too. It’s distinctly unisex in packaging, scent and obviously, application. Although men can clearly use any cleanser, I think something like this generally appeals to them more. I don’t think any man would feel the need to hide it from public display in their bathroom so it’s good for gifting guys. I find most really want to look after their skin these days but aren’t marketed to very well.

For man, woman or beast… (okay, maybe not beast) this is an easy (peasy, lemon-squeezey…), exceptionally lovely beauty staple in my bathroom and I can recommend it without a moments hesitation.

Sarah Chapman ‘Skinesis’ Ultimate Cleanse, £40

Sarah Chapman Skinesis Ultimate Cleanse.JPG

The Ultimate Cleanse lives up to its name – I think it’s an ultimate cleanser for most people and the perfect option for gifting. A lot of people won’t buy this sort of thing for themselves but a treatment cleansing balm would be gratefully received by anyone in need of a treat, I think. 

A rich, unctuous balm like this is so perfect for the winter when everyone’s skin needs extra care and this just makes your skin feel hydrated and plumped up. 

I love that it comes in a hygienic and easy-to-expel pump bottle. The pump dispenses the perfect amount for a full face and it has such a soft, smooth, soufflé balmy texture and smells divine spa-like. It melts and liquefies any dirt, grime, SPF and even long-wear make-up with ease and is a joy to use. 

My skin looks bright, clear and plumped up (not just with the mince pies!) and I can also massage it in with the assurance and pleasure of knowing that it contains many of my favourite anti-ageing skincare helpers such as vitamins A and E, Dermaxyl peptide and antioxidants. The ingredients list also includes a long list of oils such as baobab, borage, melon, rosehip, jojoba and meadowfoam seed. If you’re sensitive to essential oils this is probably not a great option but it is free from mineral oil, parabens, etc. Although bear in mind the ingredients list isn’t 100% natural so it’s not for the organic-living consumer, despite some claims otherwise. I personally think the best skincare in a meeting in the middle of nature and chemicals so I have no issue whatsoever with this ingredients list. 

After all, I aim for results and this product performs so beautifully. It helps set you up perfectly for the day ahead or to pamper yourself and relax before going to sleep and makes cleansing something more akin to a treat than a chore.

This is a good’un. I think you’ll love it. Almost all of you! 

Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, £40

Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm.JPG

This line is aimed at mature or drier skin types and as a dry (as a stick) skinned person I can confirm its good on (unfortunates) like myself. 

It smells very spa-like and lovely. It is a good makeup remover but it’s not brilliant if you’re caked in the stuff or wearing lots of eye makeup. It’s no real problem because it’s an opportunity to double cleanse and that’s always great in my book – especially with something as nice as this.

On opening the lid of this plastic tub container you are greeted with an aromatic freshly floral aroma, distinctly spa-like, as I said previously. It’s a strong fragrance combination of ingredients like mimosa, lavender and mint. It might be an acquired taste… But aren’t all the best things in life; dark chocolate, coffee, blue cheese, red wine and whisky. (The latter two I’ve not acquired personally but I’m a lover of all the others).

I used a dollop about the size of a 2p piece and applied to my dry face in circular massaging movements, as usual. I like to apply it after removing my makeup (sometimes with this, sometimes with another, cheaper, cleanser) and prior to getting in the bath, allowing it to sink in and treat my skin like a luxury mask, before removing it at the end of my bath with the washcloth they’ve provided.

I love that it comes with a good quality washcloth because I much prefer them to the ever-popular muslin cloth removers.

It leaves my skin feeling well cared-for and moisturised and definitely improves the texture of the skin.

I think this is actually pretty good value for money, considering the quantity in the tub and how long it lasts.

Elemis Pro Collagen Cleansing Balm is the balm I would recommend to more mature ladies (sadly that’s thirties upwards, in skin-terms) or dry skins of all ages.

I think this is one of the most written about balms on the market and is exceptionally popular with consumers across the board. Elemis Pro Collagen Cleansing Balm’s vast legion of fans will testify to its wondrousness and I won’t argue with them. It’s just a great all-rounder and a wonderful product to end The Battle of the Balms with!

Darphin Aromatic Cleansing Balm with Rosewood, £33


Darphin is a really beautiful, luxury French Skincare brand. One of those high end Parisienne chic skincare brands synonymous with know-how, understated glamour and pristine style. I always Team it up beside Decleor in my mind… because of their joint focus on aromatic skincare and luxurious spa feel. Although it might just be because they’re both French, come in similar glass packaging and begin with ‘D’…

Regardless, I like both brands a lot. I think Darphin are more under-cover operators than Decleor but if you like Decleor, I think you might like Darphin even more so do give them a try!

Anyway instead of turning this into a comparison review between Decleor and Darphin I’ll get on with the job at hand and review this beautiful bestselling Aromatic Cleansing Balm with Rosewood. 

I was first introduced to Darphin through my French friend Clem. I quote her constantly when chatting about skincare as when I first met her she told me in her wonderful, inimitable Parisienne accented English that “You British women are crazy, you talk about cleanser and moisturiser like it’s an indulgence… a treat… it’s your face! Do you think deodorant is a treat?! Do you think soap is?! Clarins Cleanser is just soap. For your face!”.

Before you use this, just open the glass jar and inhale deeply a few times. It works! Enjoying the peace-inducing aroma of this cleanser is part of the experience. 

It smells incredible. Like rosewood and smokey, woody, vanilla and happiness and the best spa in the land. 

The combination of antioxidant rich marula oil, hydrating jojoba oil and a purifying complex of sage, Ylang Ylang and rosewood essential oils make this perfect for aging and drier skintypes. Although this mineral oil and paraben free can be used on any skin type. Oilier skins will want to make sure they’ve removed every last trace and dryer sorts can leave that teeny tiny residue as a sort of moisturiser. 

The instructions say to wet your face and then apply the oil, massage it in and clean off with lukewarm water – avoiding the eye area. Not for the first time, I am ignoring the advice and encouraging you do do the same… (typical trouble maker!) 

I first massage it into my DRY face with dry hands and face for about 3 minutes minimum. Then I dip my finger tips into warm water and rub my face, the combination of the balm with the water creates a milky cleanser before I go in with a hot muslin cloth (Darphin don’t provide one) and remove it all before rinsing with splashes of water as a final touch. You don’t need to use the cloth as it will rinse residue free with just splashes. I just like to be extra cautious and enjoy the little bit of manual exfoliation the cloth gives. 

I always think that for the best skin you’ll need elbow grease and cleansing grease so go on with the massage for as long as you can. This is truly heavenly to use so I don’t think the extended cleansing time it requires for best results is any sort of hardship. For me, it’s such a delight! 

I also do apply this to my eyes and it doesn’t sting as long as I keep my eyes closed, but do your eyes last because otherwise you’ll be massaging mascara all around your face which isn’t exactly appealing. 

This is such a favourite of mine. It leaves skin looking smooth, supple and luminous and is of course spa brand of pure indulgence. 

The only negative is that it seems to run out very quickly. With solid daily use, it wouldn’t last very long at all and at around £33 it’s not cheap. 

Rodial Bee Venom Cleansing Balm, £50


This balm comes packaged in typical eye-catching Rodial Bee Venom range regalia – bright yellow and silver. 

It comes with typical – and to me, deeply irritating – elaborate celebrity-obsessed copywriting and outlandish claims that’ve become synonymous with Rodial, as well as an out-there and intriguing name to join the likes of the hugely popular brand offerings Dragons Blood and Snake Serum. 

It’s not just an attention seeking name though – it does actually contain real bee-venom. 

So far, so Gwenyth Paltrow sounding… 

To the majority of women, I’m sure the the idea of applying bee venom to your face in the name of skin care sounds bonkers and possibly dangerous. Who in their right might would let a bee sting them? Nobody, right? 

But it turns out the venom can positively impact your complexion, and importantly, minus any pain, stinging or irritation. (Unless of course you have an allergy to bee stings!!!) 

The natural ingredient is considered to some as the “Botox of nature” (minus the nasty needles or expense) because of its ability to deeply penetrate the skin and instantly make it appear lifted, plumper, and firmer.

According to Rodial Founder Maria Hatzistefanis,  “The bee venom itself increases blood circulation, gently plumping out and firming the skin, filling and smoothing fine lines and wrinkles. It also adds a rush of blood to the area and stimulates the production of natural collagen and elastin.”

This is the most incredibly lightweight cleanser. It’s sort of a balm for people who don’t want a balm but do want the plumped up, luminous skin a balm helps produce. 

On contact with water this balm turns to a lovely, light milk. It’s so light, that to a balm aficionado like me, it’s almost disappointing…

The scent isn’t very special, it’s very bland and waxy. 

Aside from the star ingredient of bee venom, salicylic acid and vitamin c  are welcome additions – being anti-aging and gently exfoliating. Salicylic acid is fabulous for tackling blemishes too. This makes it a great cleanser for oily or spot prone skin. I really do think it’s the best of the best for a spot-prone skin. 

Although, for an evangelical balm lover, it just doesn’t have enough oomph to justify a £50 price tag, it is an amazing light morning cleanser if you’re in the market for an expensive morning cleanser. 


……And the winners are…… 

Aromatherapy Associates Inner Strength Soothing Cleansing Balm 

Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm

Sunday Riley Blue Moon Cleansing Balm 

Peter Thomas Roth 24k Gold Cleansing Balm 

Elemis Pro Collagen Cleansing Balm

Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel