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What makes cleansing oils and balms different?

7 Nov 2020
by S. Hachimi

Hi Little Wonderlanders,

Double cleansing is probably one of the most defining and important steps of any Korean skincare routine. It involves cleansing your skin in two steps: first with an oil-based cleaner, followed by a water-based cleanser. Oil cleansers ensure that you remove oil-based impurities including sunscreen, makeup and excess sebum to help prevent clogged pores and acne. Water cleansers can’t do this, because water and oil don’t mix. What they can do is take care of water-based impurities like sweat and dirt, which is essential in keeping skin clear. 

This blog will be about the difference between the two forms of oil cleansers: liquid cleansing oils and cleansing balms, and which one is better for your skin.

What are cleansing oils and cleansing balms?

Simply put, cleansing oils and balms are oil-based cleansers that attract dirt and makeup like a magnet. The main difference between the two is the texture and the packaging. Oils are liquids and tend to be a little heavier while balms are solids with a butter-like consistency and are generally more lightweight. Cleansing balms come in tubs, while cleansing oils are generally sold in pump-style bottles.

Both cleansing oils and balms should be applied directly to dry skin (even with makeup on), massaged for a few minutes, and then rinsed away with warm water. It washes off very easily because the products are formulated so that they turn into a thin and milky texture. It’s possible to use them interchangeably, but if your skin is on the oily side you may prefer a balm formulation more. 

You may need to try both balms and oils to decide what works best for you skin and lifestyle, as everyone is different. I’ll summarize a couple pros and cons of both to help you decide what might work better for you.

Cleansing balm

If you wear a lot of makeup, especially eye makeup, you might prefer a cleansing balm, as it tends to be better at removing makeup. 

You also might prefer a cleansing balm if you travel a lot as tubs are way easier to pack up and take place without risking it spilling in your bag (or being confiscated at the airport). Liquid oily textures and pump bottles tend to be messier. 

A lot of people really like how relaxing and therapeutic it feels to massage the cleansing balm into their skin. Oils feel more slippery and with a thin consistency you feel like you have to try to rub it into your skin quicker before it runs down your face or hands. 

Balms appear more expensive, but balms tend to be a little more affordable than oils. Balms last much longer than oils as you don’t need to use as much. 

Some people like cleansing oils better because they don’t make your vision blurry. Cleansing balms tend to cause the vision to be blurry for a few minutes, which can be inconvenient when you’re trying to rush your skincare routine. Cleansing oils are also perfect for cleaning makeup brushes too. As mentioned above, cleansing oils are typically packaged in pump bottles. It is more hygienic to use cleansing oils, because you don’t have to stick your fingers in the formula (the chances of that tiny spatula going missing are high, let’s be real). 

Just to be clear... An oil cleanser definitely won’t make your skin oilier, unless you’re over cleansing. The reason is that the oils in your oil cleanser help to pull oil-based impurities from your pores. 

Little Wonderland Favorites

Banila Co. Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm RevitalizingiUNIK Calendula Complete Cleansing Oil
Innisfree Hydrating Cleansing OilPyunkang Yul Deep Clear Cleansing Balm

Which oil cleanser would you prefer or like to try? Leave a comment and share your experiences!


6 May 2021
You missed a major info :D
When using cleaning balm or oil, you need to apply little amount of water first, after turning the product into milky texture, massage further then really rinse the whole product away. If you want to ditch that process, I highly recommend Laneige Cream skin milk oil cleanser :D I emptied the whole bottle and it removes makeup really easy and no need to feel guilty for not emulsifying your cleansing balm or oil!

- a passing by korean girl
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