Cleansing Balm Vs Oil: What’s The Difference?

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cleansing oil vs cleansing balm

Is cleansing balm the same as cleansing oil?

When it comes to oil based cleansers, there are two different types: liquid oil cleansers and cleansing balms. Ever wonder what the difference is between a cleansing balm vs oil? No matter which one you use, oil based cleansers are used as the first step in any skincare routine to breakdown makeup, dirt, oil and sunscreen. There are some differences between the two, so you may be wondering if you should be using a cleansing balm or oil.

Oil based cleansers and double cleansing are common in korean skincare routines, so if you’ve dabbled in korean or asian skincare, you’ve probably heard of these terms, but may not understand everything completely.

What is the difference between a cleansing oil and cleansing balm? Let’s dive into the world of oil cleansing!

The Oil Cleansing Method

If you’ve never heard of the oil cleansing method, it simply involves using an oil based cleanser to wash your face with. Oil makes a great cleanser because it can easily remove stubborn makeup, waterproof sunscreen, oil and dirt, much more so than traditional water-based cleansers.

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, you may shudder at the thought of putting oil on your skin, but oil based cleansers are great for oily and acne-prone skin types and they can actually help with oil production and acne.

Should you wash your face after using a cleansing balm or oil? I always recommend double cleansing when using an oil based cleanser, but I know many people only use cleansing oils or balms. If you don’t wear makeup or sunscreen, I don’t think it’s necessary to use a water-based cleanser after an oil. However, if you have acne or wear makeup/sunscreen I highly suggest double cleansing.

What’s The Difference Between Cleansing Balm Vs Oil?

what's the difference between cleansing oil and cleansing balm

Is Cleansing Balm The Same As Cleansing Oil?

Cleansing balm vs oil: what’s the difference and which should you use? Both cleansing oils and cleansing balms use oil to attract and dissolve makeup, sunscreen, dirt, oil and bacteria from the skin. Once you add water, the cleanser emulsifies and rinses clean, removing all impurities from the skin.

One is not more effective than the other – they do the same thing. So how do you know which one to use? It’s really down to personal preference. Here’s the low-down on cleansing balms vs cleansing oils to help you choose which one is right for you.

Cleansing Balm Vs Cleansing Oil

should I use a cleansing oil or balm

What Is A Cleansing Oil?

Cleansing oils are specifically formulated to gently cleanse skin while removing stubborn makeup, sunscreen, oil and dirt in a breeze. Cleansing oils are liquid and have a texture similar to that of any cooking oil (think olive oil, avocado oil, etc). Because of this they can be a little messier, but are extremely effective.

Like cleansing balms, cleansing oils almost always have a blend of oils in their formula. But unlike cleansing balms, cleansing oils do not have any butters.

Pros of Cleansing Oils

  • Easier to use and more hygienic because you’re not contaminating the product with your fingers.
  • More variety of cleansing oils on the market than cleansing balms
  • Cleansing oils can be used as a makeup brush cleaner
  • Cleanses skin effortlessly (you don’t have to work as hard to massage the product in) and rinses off easily

Cons of Cleansing Oils

  • Can be messy because they are so runny
  • Depending on the formulation, cleansing oils can feel like you’re putting straight up oil on your skin and leave an oily residue behind

What Is Cleansing Balm?

Think of an oil cleansing balm as an oil cleanser that’s more solid than liquid. A cleansing balm has many of the same ingredients as a traditional oil cleanser, but the main difference is the texture. Cleansing balms come in a variety of different textures. Some are pretty solid with a wax-like consistency, some are softer like sherbert and others can be smooth and gel-like.

Once you apply the cleansing balm, the warmth from your skin will melt the balm into more of a traditional oil texture that’s smooth and silky. Depending on the formulation, it may take a little extra work to fully melt into a runnier texture.

Because of their thicker texture, many people wonder will cleansing balm clog pores? Generally, no cleansing balms will not clog pores and they are a great option for oily and acne-prone skin types. However, the balm may contain ingredients that your skin just doesn’t like. For example, my skin hates sunflower seed oil, so I stay away from products with that in it.

Pros of Cleansing Balms

  • More effective at removing stubborn and waterproof makeup/sunscreen
  • Less messy than liquid cleansing oils
  • Easier for travel
  • You only need a little product to get the job done
  • Great for all skin types

Cons of Cleansing Balms

  • You have to be more careful when using cleansing balms to avoid contaminating the product (which is why most come with a spatula to scoop out product)
  • Requires more work to massage the product into your skin
  • Doesn’t emulsify as well as liquid cleansing oils

Which Is Better Cleansing Balm or Oil?

is cleansing balm the same as cleansing oil

Many people wonder is cleansing oil better than balms? Should you be using a cleansing balm or oil? One is not better than the other, so it’s really down to personal preference on which one you use. Cleansing balms and cleansing oils have many of the same ingredients, making them very similar to each other. The main difference is the texture and packaging. If you wear a lot of heavy makeup or travel a lot, you may prefer a cleansing balm vs cleansing oil.

Let’s use the Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm Vs Oil, for example. They are virtually the same product, one is a liquid cleansing oil and the other is a cleansing balm. They both work amazingly well.

Cleansing Balm Vs Oil For Acne

Are cleansing balms or cleansing oils good for acne-prone skin? Absolutely! Using a cleansing oil or balm ensures that you’re getting rid of anything that may cause clogged pores and lead to acne. It’s best to followup with a second cleanser to ensure you’re properly cleansing skin (which is super important for acne!).

Cleansing Oil Vs Cleansing Balm For Oily Skin

which one is better cleansing balm vs cleansing oil

Should oily use cleansing balms or cleansing oils? Oily skin can use either balms or oils. Many people with oily skin types prefer liquid cleansing oils because they tend to feel lighter than balms. Plus, with more varieties of cleansing oils on the market, many on formulated specifically for oily skin types.

Cleansing Balm Vs Oil For Dry Skin

Should dry skin use cleansing oil or balms? Dry skin types may prefer cleansing balms vs oils because they feel more nourishing than their liquid counterparts. However, there are tons of great cleansing oils suitable for dry skin, so it may just take some experimenting with both to see what your skin prefers.

Micellar Water Vs Cleansing Oil Vs Cleansing Balm

Can you use micellar water as an oil cleanser? Although micellar water does contain oil, it’s not the same as an oil based cleanser. Micellar water contains tiny droplets of oil, called micelles, which makes it effective at removing makeup, but should not be used on its own. It’s a great product to help remove makeup and sunscreen before cleansing, but it’s just not as effective as oil based cleansers.

Related post: Can Micellar Water Remove Sunscreen?

Cleansing Balm Vs Oil: Differences & Similarities

Cleansing balms and oils are actually very similar, but there are two main differences between these two products.


The first one is texture and it’s the biggest difference between cleansing oils and balms. Cleansing balms are thicker because they contain more butters and waxes which gives them more of a sherbert or gel-like texture, depending on the formula.

Cleansing oils, on the other hand, are thinner just like any kind of cooking oil. Some can be extremely thin, almost like water, which can make them pretty messy. But it all depends on the formulation.


The other big difference is packaging. Because of their difference in textures, cleansing oils are almost always packed in a pump bottle. Cleansing balms are packaged in a jar and usually come with a scoop or spatula to help get the product out.

There are many similarities between cleansing oils and balms. They are both designed to easily breakdown dirt, oil makeup and other impurities with ease. For the most part, both products are also meant to be used in a double cleansing routine. Both products contain oils, emulsifiers and other cleansing agents to help cleanse the skin without leaving it feeling tight or dry.

Cleansing Oils Vs Cleansing Balms FAQ’s

Can you oil cleanse with a cleansing balm?

Yes, you can oil cleanse with a cleansing balm! Cleansing oils and balms are two types of oil cleansers that can be used alone or with the oil cleansing method.

Do cleansing balms clog pores?

While there’s always a risk of a skincare product clogging your pores, cleansing balms or cleansing oils are safe for acne-prone and oily skin types. Many people are afraid of using oil based cleansers because they think it will clog their pores or cause breakouts, but that’s actually not totally true.

There’s always a risk of a product clogging pores, but cleansing oils and balms are generally safe to use. The issue is usually an ingredient or particular oil/butter that will clog pores and not the entire product itself. For example, my skin is sensitive to coconut oil and it clogs my pores and causes breakouts. But I can use cleansing balms and oils that do not have coconut oil without any issues.

Should I oil cleanse every day?

You can oil cleanse everyday, but you don’t have to! When I don’t wear makeup, I do not oil cleanse. If you wear makeup or sunscreen I would definitely recommend oil cleansing daily.

Should I Use A Cleansing Balm Or Cleansing Oil?

When it comes to choosing between a cleansing balm vs cleansing oil, you really can’t go wrong! It all comes down to personal preference, your skin and makeup.

If you wear a lot of heavy or waterproof makeup, a cleansing balm will work better to remove all that stubborn makeup with ease.

Related post: Cleansing Balm Vs Oil Vs Micellar Water

How To Use Cleansing Balms & Oils

is cleansing oil the same as cleansing balm?

When it comes to using cleansing balms or cleansing oils in your skincare routine, many people wonder “should I use a cleansing balm or cleansing oil first?” and how to use oil based cleansers the right way.

In your skincare routine, using a cleansing balm or oil first is very important. Apply the cleanser to dry skin and gently massage for about 30 seconds. Then add some water to your hands and massage again, then rinse!

  1. Apply product to dry skin. If you’re using a cleansing balm, the heat from your hands and skin will help to melt the cleansing balm into a silky texture that’s more like a cleansing oil. Massage the cleanser around gently, making sure to concentrate on any areas with heavy makeup (like the eyes).
  2. Wet your hands and start to massage the product into the skin again. You’ll notice that the cleansing balm or cleansing oil will start to turn white and milky. This is called emulsification and will allow the product to rinse off easy.
  3. Rinse your face until all the cleansing oil or balm is removed and follow up with your second cleanser and use as normal.
  4. Pat your skin dry and follow with the rest of your skincare routine.

If you do the double cleansing method (which I highly recommend) then follow up with a separate regular cleanser. A double cleanse ensures that you are getting your skin clean. The first step (the oil cleanser) will remove makeup, dirt, etc. and the second cleanse will actually cleanse your skin.

Cleansing Oil Vs Cleansing Balm: Wrap Up

difference between cleansing balm and cleansing oil

Cleansing is one of the most important steps in any skincare routine and most traditional cleansers aren’t powerful enough to effectively remove makeup and sunscreen and cleanse the skin to remove bacteria and dirt. That’s why oil based cleansers and the double cleansing method have gained so much popularity in recent years. Whether you use a cleansing balm vs oil is down to personal preference. The main difference between the two are the texture and packaging and you may need to experiment with several different products to decide which one you like better.

So is a cleansing balm better than a cleansing oil? Well, it comes down to personal preference! One if not better than the other. The best way to find out which is best for you is to try out both and see which one you like better.

Where do you stand on the cleansing balm vs oil debate?

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