If your daily face cleanser is a Duncan Hines yellow cake — basic and reliable — then a cleansing balm is a meringue glacée from Ladurée: savor-worthy, luxurious, and a step above anything else. Cleansing balms are buttery solid to semi-solid face-cleaning emulsions that sweep makeup, oil, and grime from your face while leaving your skin feeling like cashmere. They’re compatible with almost all skin types because they deep clean without stripping skin. Just rub a dime-size amount of the balm on your face until it transforms into an oil that you splash off.
Cleansing balms aren’t exactly new, but they garnered a fresh following when Eve Lom, the Rolls-Royce of balm cleansers, emerged in stores several years ago. Now there are dozens of balm cleansers available, so the Cut sought to find the best of the bunch. Here are the 12 I tested to weed out the commendable from the crappy, judging them on fragrance, texture, overall value, and their ability to make your skin feel as soft as delicious fresh dough.