I'm sure by now you've heard quite a bit of conflicting information about using face oils and cleansing balms on acne-prone skin. While some experts say it can be beneficial, others report that it's a big no-no. With all the inconsistencies floating around, it's easy to spiral into a fit of confusion.
Let me help eliminate some of the inner turmoil by first stressing that everyone's skin is unique. If you're prone to breakouts, it's possible that certain products or environmental stressors trigger flare-ups for you. That's why double cleansing with a balm before using a regularly scheduled facial cleanser may work well for some but not others with particular sensitivities. It really depends on your skin's unique makeup and how it reacts to certain ingredients. Set yourself up for success and do a bit of a self-evaluation first before fully diving into double cleansing every night.
To get a clearer picture, I asked board-certified dermatologist Azadeh Shirazi if cleansing balms are truly a blessing or a curse for acne-prone skin. Overall, her take may surprise you.
"Daily double cleansing once at the end of the day is beneficial because it's a more thorough way of removing a buildup of residue that can clog pores and lead to worse acne," she shares. "Cleansing balms are typically oil-based and effective at removing dirt, makeup, and debris at the end of the day. This can be beneficial for acne-prone skin when using a balm that aids in skin hydration. Look for noncomedogenic products formulated to remove impurities."
The word noncomedogenic is key here. This means that the product is formulated without pore-clogging ingredients that tend to trap dirt and sebum. A few highly comedogenic ingredients that Shirazi recommends avoiding are coconut oil, isopropyl myristate, lanolin, and algae extract. "Lanolin is a waxy, oily substance that helps retain moisture but can worsen acne and clog pores," she says. "Look for cleansing balms with almond, argan, grape-seed, and castor oil [instead]. You'll also want to avoid ones with alcohol and salt, which can dry and irritate the skin."
To sum up, cleansing balms are a great alternative to makeup wipes and provide extra hydration for the skin, as long as you choose the right one for you. Those with acne-prone skin and ingredient sensitivities will want to read the label carefully before selecting one to add to their routine. To give you a head start on your search, I've rounded up the best cleansing balms for acne-prone skin below.
Shop the Best Cleansing Balms for Acne-Prone Skin
Shirazi loves this balm from Farmacy because it's formulated without fragrances or essential oils, which means it's great for sensitive skin. She even uses it herself, so you know it's good.
Pond's cleansing balm melts away even the heaviest of makeup and provides extra hydration for smoother, radiant skin.
If you couldn't tell by the name, this cleansing balm is an absolute dream for its potent blend of berry antioxidants and hyaluronic acid. Goji, maqui, and açaí berries neutralize oxidative stressors that may cause damage to the skin. It also utilizes non-pore-clogging oils like jojoba.
Another recommendation from Shirazi is this oat cleansing balm. It's formulated specifically for sensitive and irritated skin with oat-kernel oil and other natural ceramides.
The Jeju volcanic clusters in this gentle balm help reduce excess sebum and draw out other impurities in the pores.
This luxe restorative cleansing balm from 111Skin contains niacinamide, colloidal silver, and hyaluronic acid, which are all great for acne-prone skin and a boost of hydration.
This is not a drill—cult-loved brand Glow Recipe also has a cleansing balm, people. The formula contains papaya enzymes and blueberry extract to thoroughly protect skin against environmental aggressors.
Belif's Aqua Bomb is fragrance-free and contains inflammation-soothing ingredients such as calendula extract and oat-kernel oil.
This butter-like cleansing balm removes even water-resistant makeup. It also contains bamboo and charcoal powder to help exfoliate and unclog pores.
This velvety, omega-infused balm contains a skin barrier–repairing complex and jojoba-seed oil to soften skin and prevent moisture loss during your second cleanse.
This is another great budget option formulated without comedogenic oils. It's also pH balanced and contains polysaccharides known for their anti-pollution properties.
Clinique's silky balm works overtime so you don't have to. It quickly removes makeup and leftover oil on the surface of skin and is formulated to work well for all skin types.
Formulated with acne-prone skin in mind, this balm contains salicylic acid and a blend of nourishing (non-pore-clogging) oils to purify pores on a deeper level.
In addition to its anti-inflammatory ingredients such as turmeric, this balm also contains gentle exfoliants like lactic acid and azelaic acid to clear away surface congestion that can cause acne.
Green tea extract, cherry-blossom extract, and malachite stone revive a dull complexion and pull out impurities from the skin.
This balm has only 10 ingredients and even removes waterproof mascara. It contains Japanese barley, which is a great source of vitamins and antioxidants that help regulate melanin production.
The vitamin E, jojoba oil, and avocado oil in this cleansing balm soften into a milky texture to help you dissolve your day's junk in a snap.
The Farmacy Green Clean balm is another great option for acne-prone skin and a personal favorite of mine. It contains ingredients such as moringa extract, turmeric, and ginger-root oil, which always leave my skin feeling baby soft.