Cleansing balms like Banila Co Clean It Zero are very popular in Asia, and it’s made its way to Australia in the form of Trilogy Make-Up Be Gone Cleansing Balm. What’s in them, how do they work, and why are they different from cleanser or micellar water? Here’s the science!
What’s in a cleansing balm?
The concept of a cleansing balm is a lot like cleansing oil – the ingredients include a solid oily component, combined with a surfactant or emulsifier.
Emulsifiers or surfactants are double-ended molecules, one end of which likes oily substances (the “tail”), while the other end (or “head”) likes water. They help oily substances dissolve in water.
Interestingly, if you zoom in on the structure of a cleansing balm, it looks like inside out micellar water. The fact that it’s oil-based rather than water-based means that the surfactant tails point out into the bulk rather than in towards the centre of the spherical micelles.
How do cleansing balms work?
First, you rub the oily balm on your face to quickly dissolve your make-up into a melty mess. These balms usually go runnier as they warm up on your skin. Next, you splash water on your face – the dirty balm washes off cleanly thanks to the surfactant.
This let you do OCM with only one product – you don’t need a separate oil and a cleanser, because the cleansing balm is both in one product! And unlike cleansing oils, the solidness of the balm makes it easier to use and less messy. I like to put cleansing balms on and massage them over my face before stepping into the shower.
Review of Banila and Trilogy Cleansing Balms
Banila Co Clean It Zero Classic ($20-35 for 100 mL) and Trilogy Make-Up Be Gone Cleansing Balm ($36.90 for 80 mL) are based on the same idea, but the products actually perform quite differently!
Let’s take a look at their ingredients lists.
Banila Co Clean It Zero:
Mineral Oil, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, PEG-10 Isostearate, Polyethylene, Butylene Glycol, Water, Rubus Suavissimus (Raspberry) Leaf Extract, Bambusa Arundinacea Stem Extract, Aspalathus Linearis Leaf Extract, Viscum Album (Mistletoe) Leaf Extract, Angelica Polymorpha Sinesis Root Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Malpighia Glabra (Acerola) Fruit Extract, Epilobium Angustifolium Leaf Extract, BHT, Butylparaben, CI 16255, CI 15985, Fragrance
Trilogy Make-Up Be Gone Cleansing Balm:
Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil, Olea Europaea Fruit Oil, Cocos Nucifera Oil, Cera Alba, Polyglyceryl-3 Palmitate, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Polyglyceryl-2 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract, Parfum, Citronellol, Limonene, Linalool
Banila Co Clean It Zero is a mineral oil-based cleansing balm. It contains PEG-20 glyceryl triisostearate and PEG-10 isostearate as surfactants – they’re non-ionic detergents, so they’re low-foaming but still wash off well. Clean It Zero also has a bunch of botanical extracts further down the list (raspberry, bamboo stem, rooibos, mistletoe, dong quai, papaya, acerola, fireweed). I don’t think they do much, since it’s a wash-off product and they’re so far down the list. I’m particularly in love with the texture of this cleansing balm – it’s easy to scoop out and spread, and it washes off cleanly.
Trilogy Make-Up Be Gone Cleansing Balm is based on sunflower seed, olive and coconut oils, and beeswax, with smaller amounts of mango seed butter, rosehip and tea seed oils. It uses polyglyceryl-3 palmitate as the surfactant. I found that this works quite well with the cleansing cloth that comes with it, but not so well without (it’s hard to wash the balm off with just your fingers and water). The texture is a bit solid and hard to spread, but it might be better once the weather warms up a bit.
What’s your favourite cleansing balm? Do you like them more than cleansing oils and facial cleansers?
Trilogy Cleansing Balm was provided for editorial consideration, which did not affect my opinion. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.