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The Ultimate Guide to Korean Cleansing Balms

The Ultimate Guide to Korean Cleansing Balms

In today’s world, the number of skincare product choices can be overwhelming. Even the first step in a skincare routine of facial cleansing, you are met with too many products to choose from. With that being said, Korean cleansing balms are becoming an increasingly popular choice. 

It’s not just hype too, there are several reasons why you should consider using a cleansing balm in your routine. In this article, we dig deeper to find out what makes cleansing balms so unique.

What Exactly is a Cleansing Balm?

When considering the term “balm,” the first thing to come to mind might be a lip balm. There’s also moisturizing balms, hand balms, and all different other types of balms. The key defining feature of all balms is their wax-like consistency. It’s a solid at room temperature, but the moment you warm it up in your hands a bit, it becomes a liquid. 

Waxes have been used since the beginning of history for all sorts of things, like writing, sealing, and waterproofing. Since wax is semi-solid, it is easy to store. Fast forward thousands of years and plastics are invented, completely re-shaping the way we store things and consume products. This allowed for liquid-at-room temperature products to proliferate, which many considered to be a greater convenience. Now in the present-day people are rediscovering some hidden benefits of these wax-like products. 

A cleansing balm is a facial cleanser with a wax-like consistency: not too hard, not too soft. It’s easy to dissolve in your hands. Typically it’s more concentrated than a liquid facial cleanser, which can mean less packaging waste. It lasts a long time and stays preserved well (if using proper hygienic methods).

How Does a Cleansing Balm Work?

A cleansing balm works similarly to an oil-based facial cleanser. That’s because balms behave very similarly to oils. Consider when you are cooking, the oil on your pan is a liquid, but once it cools, you notice it turn solid. Oils and balms are both hydrophobic and lipophilic substances which means they dissolve fats, oils, and other lips, while they avoid being mixed with water.

You may be wondering: why put oil on your face? Doesn’t oil clog your pores? The reason why an oil-based cleanser or cleansing balm is used as a first step is because the lipophilic oil helps to dissolve other lipids. Your skin naturally produces an oily substance called sebum. Just like leftover cooking oil, this sebum can harden and become trapped. A cleansing balm helps to loosen everything up so it can get rinsed away.

Why Use a Cleansing Balm vs. an Oil-Based Cleanser?

Banila & Co Clean it Zero
Cleansing Balm

Hada Labo Gokujyun Cleansing Oil

The choice between the two ultimately comes down to preference. One is not necessarily better at dissolving sebum than the other, and both take on liquid form when used anyways. When it comes to actually using them, let’s look at the pros and cons.

Cleansing Balm vs. Liquid Oil-Based Cleanser - HYGIENE

A cleansing oils are a bit more straightforward to use with proper hygiene as they typically come in a pump or dropper. Balms can be just as hygienic too but require a bit more care to ensure that you don't contaminate it with your finger. 

Cleansing balms maystay fresh longer than oil-based cleansers whose deterioration picks up the moment the manufacturer’s seal is broken. Of course this will depend on the ingredients of the cleansing balm as well but the key is using extra precautions when using a cleansing balm. You should always use the included mini spatula and avoid dipping your fingers in the balm directly, as this can introduce bacteria. After you’re done, you should also clean the spatula. 

Tip: You may want to keep the outer box of the cleansing balm so you can store the spatula if there isn’t already a dedicated place for it. 

Cleansing Balm vs. Liquid Oil-Based Cleanser - CONVENIENCE

The liquid oil-based cleanser wins here for ease-of-use and convenience. The cleanser is already in a liquid state which saves a bit of time. It’s also easier to spread a liquid oil-based cleanser on your face. 

However, some people find that a cleansing balm offers more control. When dispensing liquid cleanser into your palm, some of the oil seeps in through the cracks of your hand. A cleansing balm stays put and you can precisely control how much you scoop using the spatula. Sometimes you may just need a little, whereas other times you need more to remove makeup.

How Do You Use a Cleansing Balm?

Cleansing balms (or oils) are the first step in any double cleanse routine to melt away makeup, sebum, and oil. 

Always make sure to wash your hands first and to start with dry hands and a dry face. Then, take a scoop of the cleansing balm and massage it all over the face. If you are wearing makeup that day, make sure to spend some extra time massaging off eye makeup, especially stubborn eyeliners and mascara. The warmth from your fingers and the action of massaging turns the balm into an oil to get all that unwanted debris off your face.

The next step is to add a bit more water to rinse off. You may have heard this process being called “emulsification”. It’s the process of combining two liquids that normally don’t combine easily. In this case, you emulsify oil and water until it becomes homogeneous. This helps to evenly loosen everything up and evenly distribute the mixture. 

Lastly, you rinse everything away with water. If you follow the steps above, you will find that it can be easy and fun to use a cleansing balm!

The Best Korean Cleansing Balm

We chose to carry two of our favorite cleansing balms on Glowie Co because we feel that these balms work well for most people. They are effective and unlikely to irritate the skin. 

Banila & Co Clean It Zero - $19

Clean It Zero is definitely a classic Korean cleansing balm. This is a great choice if you’re prone to having dry skin because it’s designed for deep cleansing plus some lasting moisture. If you want a simpler skincare routine with less steps, but still want to use a cleansing balm, then Banila & Co Clean It Zero is for you. 

Banila & Co Clean it Zero Cleansing Balm Original

This cleansing balm foams up quite easily when you add a bit of water. It’s slightly more fragranced than the other balm on our list, but the smell is pleasant and very subtle. 

Heimish All Clean Balm - $19

This cleansing balm is ideal for removing makeup. The balm itself has a beautiful colorless, slightly translucent appearance. The texture is perfect with just the right amount of softness so it melts easily. At the same time, the texture is highly uniform with no clumping. 

Heimish All Clean Balm

For these reasons, the Heimish All Clean Balm is closer in function to an oil-based cleanser while still having all the great properties that make balms so fun to use. This also means that the balm doesn’t emulsify as easily when you add water, which some people may prefer.