What’s Better For My Skin: A Cream Or Balm Cleanser? (Plus My Three Current Faves From Each)

Cleansing is serious business. Removing your makeup properly is the most effective way of looking after your skin; by cleansing away the daily build-up of dirt, makeup and general grime you can ensure your complexion remains radiant, while reducing the possibility of inflammation and irritation. Ineffective cleansing is often the root cause of many skin issues, as the dead skin and dirt left on the surface can block pores that lead to breakouts and congestion, so it’s a vital step to get right in your regime – no matter your age, skin type or concern. But what type of cleanser should you be using? Is it better to plump for a hardworking balm, or are cream cleansers the way to go? Shopping for your perfect match isn’t always an easy process, so I’m here to break it down…

What's Better For My Skin: A Cream Or Balm Cleanser?

In a nutshell, a cleanser is a cleanser – the texture is just the way the individual ingredients are delivered to your skin. Cleansing balms have become hugely popular in recent years, and with good reason; they deliver powerful ingredients in a beautiful texture that effortlessly melts away makeup and grime at the end of the day. However, cream cleansers are also a great way to nourish and care for your skin while you remove build up – the difference is just how you use them and what you want to gain from your twice daily cleanse.

My personal preference is to use a balm at the end of the day as a first cleanse, removing my makeup (yep, even the majority of mascara!) and any visible dirt from the surface; this leaves my skin feeling supple and soft, while adding a hit of hydration. I’m also a huge fan of the sensory experience a balm cleanser offers, encouraging a few moments of gentle massage while breathing in the uplifting scents of essential oils. I then follow up with a cleansing cream as a second step in my regime, helping to really lift away any invisible traces or residue from my first cleanse and leaving my skin feeling squeaky clean (without any dryness.) In the morning, a simple non-foaming or cream cleanser is all I need.

It’s worth noting that if you’ve really oily skin then a cleansing balm may not be for you, and equally a cream cleanser is often not compatible with a really dry complexion. Face wipes and micellar water is also a big no-no if you’re using it as your entire regime, as your face really needs a more powerful cleansing solution that does more than lift away visible grime. As long as you do your research and try a few you like the sound of, it’s easy to find what works for your skin type and individual needs; experiment and find your perfect match.

Need some inspiration?

Here are three of my fave balm and cream cleansers I think are worth checking out…

What's Better For My Skin: A Cream Or Balm Cleanser?What's Better For My Skin: A Cream Or Balm Cleanser?What's Better For My Skin: A Cream Or Balm Cleanser?


Darphin Aromatic Cleansing Balm* (£35.00)
A very rich, slightly waxy, formula that’s packed with Jojoba Seed, Rosewood, Sage, Marula, and Ylang-Ylang essential oils, it massages into the skin well to lift away makeup before transforming to a light milky texture when mixed with water. This is very much an experience for the senses, the essential oils helping to relax the mind while you gently massage the product into skin. Although it doesn’t cleanse quite as effectively as De Mamiel (below,) requiring a second cleanse to remove all traces of dirt and residue, it is a delightful balm that’s worthy of a try if you’re already a Darphin fan.

Clinique Take The Day Off Balm* (£24.00)
A classic for good reason, I’ve gone through so many of these tubs I’ve lost count. The lightweight balmy texture is rich without being too heavy, effortlessly lifting dirt from the face with a gentle massage to leave the surface of skin feeling smooth and soft. If you like your skincare stripped back (no strong scents, essential oils or heavy textures here!) then this could definitely be for you; it’s one I always have on the backburner no matter what I’m trying, and it’s always my default when I’m too tired to concentrate – I can trust it to do its job and leave my skin feeling its best.

De Mamiel Restorative Cleansing Balm* (£39.00)
With a mood-lifting blend of Fragonia, Chamomile and Rose Geranium oils, this smells amazing from the moment you unscrew the lid. The rich and smooth formula is rather uniquely packed with blemish-fighting probiotics and antibacterial Manuka to help with breakouts or irritation, making this a real skincare treat that goes beyond a simple cleanse. It also contains Kukui, Calendula and Moringa oils to nourish and leave skin feeling hydrated, turning from a balm into more of a cream cleanser when mixed with water. This melts away makeup and dirt effortlessly, leaving my skin feeling amazing; if you’re wearing heavy makeup it is worth following with a second cleanse, and you’ll definitely need an additional makeup remover for the eye area, but it’s an utter pleasure to use. A little really does go a long way too, so don’t let the small pot distract you!

What's Better For My Skin: A Cream Or Balm Cleanser?What's Better For My Skin: A Cream Or Balm Cleanser?What's Better For My Skin: A Cream Or Balm Cleanser?


Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser* (£32.00)
A cult brand for all the right reasons, this Kate Somerville cleanser features a duo of Alpha Hydroxy Acids (glycolic and lactic) combined with Pineapple, Pumpkin and Papaya enzymes to gently exfoliate skin as you cleanse. It takes your morning or nighttime routine that one step further by offering a really comfortable cleanse with added AHA benefits, leaving the surface feeling soft and glowing. I’ve been using this a lot as my second cleanse and I love everything about it; you need only a small amount massaged into skin for around thirty seconds (the perfect excuse to perfect your massage techniques) and within a couple of weeks I definitely noticed how my skin improved in texture.

Pixi Rose Cream Cleanser* (£18.00)
I’m a big fan of the Pixi skincare in general, but a lot of their products do seem to add a lot of stages into my routine which I don’t always have time for. This cream cleanser, however, is a great addition to my bathroom cabinet and works beautifully to remove any residue in the morning or as a second cleanse; I don’t find it typically works well on makeup, but it’s a great one on days when you’re wearing very little on your skin. The clay-like texture is a pleasure to apply, while the mineral rich mud combines with Rose, Avocado, Chamomile and Aloe Vera to soothe, soften and condition skin.

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser* (£5.50)
Can you believe this is The Ordinary’s first ever cleanser? Deciem do have other cleansers within their brand portfolio, but this Squaline based formula has been a long time coming. Super affordable and with a cream-to-milk texture, the Squaline is a hydrator found naturally in skin; it helps to prevent moisture loss and boost the suppleness of skin without it feeling tight – something that a lot of cleansers do. If you like your skincare simple, then this fragrance and soap free formula is a great way to remove the day’s build-up without the faff. A budget buy I know will sell in droves.


*products gifted with no obligation to feature


1 Comment

  1. April 14, 2019 / 8:08 pm

    What a lovely post. I use a mixture of a cream cleanser or a balm depending on what’s on offer and what my skin needs. My favourite is a hot cloth cleanser as I find it gets deep in the pores!!


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