When I was a teenager I distinctly remember feeling troubled by my oily T-Zone. So much so that I layered on what I thought was a revolutionary Clean & Clear oil control powder with such vigour that I blitzed one problem and ended up with a whole other Halloween-esque conundrum (and not in a cute SJP in Hocus Pocus way either). Fast-forward to my early twenties and my skin dried up like that dam we’re trying to fill to solve Auckland’s water crisis – go figure.
This was still the time of foam, gel and cream cleansers, classic Nivea moisturiser and I’m pretty sure there was only one hand cream in the world and that definitely came from The Body Shop. Nowadays, those of us cursed with a thirsty epidermis are spoilt for choice when it comes to options for adding moisture back into the skin, particularly by way of balms and oils. So when Ensemble asked if I’d like to give a few balms a try and share my thoughts, of course, I made myself available immediately.
Whatever your skin type, balm cleansers are the business. Massaging a balm into your skin is like giving yourself a little treat at the end of the day by way of a mini at-home facial. If you’re new to the balm cleanser game and used to foams or gels that make your skin feel super clean afterwards, consider this your gateway cleansing balm.
I say this because if you’re a fan of that squeaky-clean skin feeling, you won’t like the idea of residue being left behind on the skin, which many balm and oil cleansers can do. Once you’ve massaged this into dry skin to help dissolve makeup, sunscreen and other products from the day, add a little water to emulsify the cleanser. This creates a very light, barely detectable creaminess which fans of traditional cleansers will really vibe with. Then rinse it all off with more water, et voila! Cleansed skin that feels hydrated but without any oily residue left over from the balm itself.
It may be $65 but a little really does go a long way, especially if you massage the product into your hands first to heat it up. So if you’re curious about balm cleansers, start with this guy.
I personally happen to love a little oily residue left behind on my skin after cleansing – I feel like it helps to lock all that hydration in – so this cleanser was a huge hit with me. As with the Clinique balm, adding water creates the lightest milky texture to help remove the balm and your makeup, but you’ll be left feeling super hydrated and dewy thanks to the hint of oil which remains on the skin.
Made with grapeseed, sunflower and coconut oils for hydration, and papaya enzymes to ever-so-gently exfoliate the skin, this is one of the most luxurious balm cleansers I’ve ever used. In fact, I’ve become quite addicted to it and wish the jar was three times the size. The use of beeswax in the formula could also be the reason for the residue left on the skin afterwards – but don’t quote me on that.
The best part, though? Maryse is a small New Zealand business that celebrates native ingredients and is all natural. Yet another reason to give this product a huge tick of approval. And the branding is clean, monochromatic and minimal, which is just plain chic in any bathroom.
I love a multitasking product, and while this one doesn’t claim to be anything other than an exfoliator, it really does double-time when it comes to hydration. If there’s one thing I have to force myself to do, it’s moisturise my entire body after a shower, so I love that this leaves a lovely light layer of oil behind (thanks to rosehip oil, sweet almond oil and beeswax) which means I can forget about that next tedious step. This also makes it ideal for summer when it gets far too hot to use a body oil during the day.
If a really intense exfoliation is your thing, this is not the product for you. The finely ground rosehip seeds make it super gentle, which I think is fantastic for sensitive skin. In fact, it almost feels like you’re not really sloughing much off at all but your skin feels incredibly silky afterwards so it’s definitely getting rid of those dead cells. Use before you shave your legs to create a smoother surface for your razor and to avoid any potential irritation which can come from a post-shave scrub.
Fans of a faux glow beware: you’ll want to avoid using an exfoliating balm immediately before you apply fake tan as the residue left behind can lead to patches and streaks. Stick with an exfoliating mitt instead, or use it the day before you plan on tanning. If your post-winter skin could do with a little TLC, I can highly recommend adding this balm to your in-shower routine a few times a week.
Kawakawa leaves are a bit of a native superhero here in Aotearoa. The plant has long been used in traditional Māori remedies to help with skin irritations, infections and pain, and now there are a few local companies harnessing its power in their skincare products too. Aotea is based out of Great Barrier Island, where its founder Tama Toki grew up using native plants as medicine – so he really knows his stuff.
One whiff of this balm and I already know it’s going to be a staple in our household during mosquito season. You know when something just smells like it knows what it’s doing? That’s the only way I can describe this scent. A few days after receiving my haul of balms to trial, a very odd, bite-like red lump popped up under my left eye, which I thought was a blind pimple. When my usual zit-zapper did nothing to calm it down, I thought I’d give the Kawakawa Balm a whirl. I applied it before bed and the next morning, the lump was completely gone! For that fact alone, I’m a convert.
This balm is also formulated with mānuka honey, which really ups the anti-bacterial and skin-soothing benefits, and Aotea recommends using it on irritations such as eczema, nappy rash, sores and even dry lips. An absolute first aid all-rounder.
The majority of product in our beauty reviews is gifted to our reviewers with the requirement it be trialled over a period of time. Editorial opinions are the writer's own. Is there a product you’d like to see reviewed? Let us know.