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By the end of the day I want to get un-ready as fast as possible – slip into pajamas, tie my hair into a ponytail, and remove any trace of makeup.

I am a huge fan of cleansing oils and oil-based balms to remove stubborn makeup and daily grit. Both are equally effective but in general cleansing balms are better for travel since they won’t leak in your bag, making them an ideal buy for holiday season.

Why should you pre-cleanse with an oil?

Oil attracts oil. These long-wear makeup formulations that have been designed to outlive rain and shine won’t really break down with your average cleanser. You need to kick things off with an oil that will break apart makeup, dirt and excess sebum on your skin.

How do you use it?

With all of these cleansing balms, you’ll apply it to dry skin and massage until all your makeup has broken up. Then add a little water to emulsify, work it loose and rinse. I recommend you follow with a normal cleanser, or do a second cleanse with your balm. I use it to remove all my makeup, including mascara.

Yes, you can use coconut oil but…

Coconut oil works really well as a makeup remover but while the cleansers below will emulsify and dissolve when you add water, coconut oil won’t – you have to work it off with a cleanser. So it is a bit more work, and a bit messier.

If you want to use coconut oil, you’ll apply it to dry skin, work all your makeup loose (I use it on my eyes as well without any issues, just be sure to choose a fragrance-free variant). Then add cleanser directly to the oil, work it in again, and rinse. Take note you’ll need a slightly foamy cleanser to cut the oil, a balm or milk cleanser doesn’t work as well.

A note on contact lenses

Be sure to remove your contact lenses before using a cleansing oil or balm on your lashes. Some cleansing oils react with the lenses, creating a cloudy patch.

Keen to get going? Give these a try.

Local & Natural: Lulu & Marula Balancing Cleansing Balm

R320 for 100ml,

Lulu and Marula Balancing Cleansing Balm 9Lives

Local beauty brand Lulu & Marula got rave reviews from when they first released their cleansing balm. Now they’ve upped their game with a new and improved formulation that emulsifies when you add water, making cleansing even easier.

The oil-to-milk formula rinses off easily, leaving a moisturised feel on the skin. It contains Marula Oil and Vitamin E to protect your skin’s natural moisture barrier, while Bentonite clay absorbs excess sebum.

You can use this twice a day as a cleanser.

Dermalogica Precleanse Balm

R660 for 90ml,

Dermalogica PreCleanse Balm 9Lives 1

I was over the moon when I heard that Dermalogica extended their range to include a Precleanse Balm, a sister product to their original Precleanse Oil.

The pre-cleanse balm locks in hydration and reinforces your skin barrier while removing your makeup, sunscreen, lash glue, wax, whatever. They’ve also included a cleansing mitt that helps you get a proper clean (and it’s fun to use).

Apply it to dry skin, massage all your makeup loose, add water and rinse. Then follow with your normal cleanser to take off any residue and double cleanse your skin.

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm

R310 for 125ml,

Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm 9Lives

This is a lightweight balm that does well to remove stubborn makeup, and since there’s no friction, it is super gentle on your skin.

This formula took a little longer to take makeup off than some of the others I tried but it does work really well. It is also completely fragrance free, which is a huge plus point if you have sensitive skin and eyes. And the price is very nice too.

YSL Top Secrets Oil in Balm Makeup Remover

R550 for 125ml, Yves Saint Laurent Boutique Sandton City

YSL Top Secrets Universal Cleansing Balm 9Lives

This was the first cleansing balm I tried and I am all kinds of in love with it. It instantly melts into a silky oil and it takes makeup off like an absolute dream. Plus the fragrance is incredible, turning the whole cleansing routine into a moment of pure indulgence.

Urban Decay Meltdown Makeup Remover Cleansing Oil Stick

R550 for 45g, Urban Decay Boutiques and

Urban Decay Meltdown Makeup Remover 9Lives

This is a really clever product, especially for travel. It comes in a stick that you swipe across your skin. From here it softens into a balmy texture and once you add water it turns into a milky, microfoam.

The balm contains turmeric root extract, sunflower seed oil and vitamin E to leave your skin super soft, and it smells delicious. One note though, this one does burn your eyes so you’ll have to remove mascara using a different product.

Which of these would you love to try? Pop your thoughts in the comments section below, I’d love to hear from you.


I am a lifestyle blogger from Cape Town trying to find the best ways to spend my time, take care of my body and express myself. I am slightly obsessed with fragrances, sneakers, Jamie Oliver and Masterchef Australia. Oh, and I probably drink way too much wine.


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