The Best Cleansing Balms For Acne-Prone Skin

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Contrary to popular belief, oil-based skin care products — such as cleansing oils and balms — don’t have to be avoided if you have acne-prone skin. In fact, since oil-based cleansers are the most effective at removing makeup, and removing makeup thoroughly is of the upmost importance when it comes to keeping breakouts at bay, one might even say that that the use of oil-based cleansers should be encouraged if you have acne-prone skin. Still, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right product. The best cleansing balms for acne-prone skin are formulated with beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), or ingredients that are known to have antibacterial properties, like manuka honey. But just as important as the cleansing balm you choose is how you use it. More on that below.

If you’re prone to acne, a cleansing balm should be used as the first step in a double-cleansing routine. That means you’ll want to use one of these oil-based cleansers first to break down makeup and sunscreen, and follow up with a water-based cleanser (like a gel or foam) to remove all the leftover residue. This way, you’ll ensure that your skin has been properly cleansed at the end of the night and you can, quite literally, rest easy (you also won’t have to worry about your face being left feeling greasy).

Keep scrolling to discover six great cleansing balms for oily, acne-prone skin; then, check out this guide to the best face washes for acne to finish off your double-cleansing routine.

1. The Cult-Favorite

BANILO CO’s cult-classic Clean It Zero cleansing balm put cleansing balms on the map; the product is so popular that one jar is purportedly sold every 3.1 seconds. The original formula is the most popular, but since the product’s launch over seven years ago, the brand has released several additional cleansing balms from the Clean It Zero line, such as this “pore clarifying” version, to target more specific skin concerns. The pore-clarifying cleansing balm uses the brand’s Tri-Peel Acid complex, which contains an AHA, BHA, and LHA, to remove any dead skin and oil that may be clogging your pores and causing breakouts. Also included in the formula is jojoba oil, an oil that has antimicrobial properties and is popular among those with acne-prone skin. The balm itself has a delightful texture — think an icy green sherbet — and removes waterproof makeup like a charm.

2. Another Popular K-Beauty Option

Like BANILO CO., Hanskin is another popular K-beauty brand that makes some truly amazing cleansing balms. Three of their cleansing balms in particular — the BHA, PHA, and AHA cleansing balms, all pictured above — are solid options for acne-prone skin. Linked to here is the BHA balm, which deep-cleans pores using salicylic acid (the BHA in question) as a host of nourishing oils work to break down stubborn makeup.

If you have acne-prone skin that’s sensitive, the PHA Pore Cleansing Balm may be the better choice for you. And if you’re concerned about rough or unevenly textured skin, opt for the AHA Pore Cleansing Balm.

3. Best Under $15

If you’re looking to spend less than $15 on a cleansing balm, this one, from innisfree, is the best bet for acne-prone skin. The brand’s Pore Clearing Cleansing Balm uses mineral-rich volcanic clusters sourced from Jeju Island in South Korea to purify your skin and unclog congested pores. The brand even makes a matching water-based cleanser — their Pore Clearing Facial Foam — which makes the perfect companion to this cleansing balm in a double-cleansing routine.

4. Best For Glowy Skin

If your skin is looking a bit dull or uneven from past breakouts, you may want to opt for Glow Recipe’s Papaya Sorbet Enzyme Cleansing Balm. It’s rich in exfoliating papaya enzymes that work to gently shed dead skin cells so your skin looks and feels clearer and smoother. For those who prioritize a bright, glowy complexion above all else, this is the cleansing balm you want in your routine.

5. Best Splurge

This admittedly pricey cleansing balm contains real manuka honey, a precious ingredient from New Zealand that’s known for its antibacterial activity, which in turn makes it an amazing, all-natural treatment for acne. There’s also a probiotic in here to promote a strong, balanced skin microbiome — something that can help stave off breakouts, since a weakened microbiome is more susceptible to acne flareups and irritation — as well as royal jelly peptides to pamper and nourish your skin. If your budget allows, this is one decadent cleansing balm that’s worth splurging on.

6. Honorable Mention

This cleansing balm from new-ish brand Peace Out Skincare deserves a mention, as it was thoughtfully designed to cater to oily, acne-prone skin. It contains pore-clearing salicylic acid to help treat breakouts at the root, while soothing niacinamide promotes a more even-looking complexion. To strengthen and hydrate your skin, the brand included hyaluronic acid and ceramides in the formula.

Don’t sleep on the rest of the brand’s lineup of blemish-busting products, including their acne serum and pimple patches.

Studies referenced:

A review on plant importance, biotechnological aspects, and cultivation challenges of jojoba plant, by Jameel R. Al-Obaidi, Mohammed Farouq Halabi, Nasser S. AlKhalifah, Shanavaskhan Asanar, Abdulrahman A. Al-Soqeer, and M. F. Attia;

Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview, by Matthew Johnston, Michael McBride, Divakar Dahiya, Richard Owusu-Apenten, and Poonam Singh Nigam;

Potential Role of the Microbiome in Acne: A Comprehensive Review, by Young Bok Lee, Eun Jung Byun, and Hei Sung Kim;