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Remove Stubborn Makeup And Nourish Your Skin With These Vegan Cleansing Balms

by Charlotte Pointing

Oct 17, 2022

A gentler, creamier alternative to a regular cleanser, cleansing balms help to clean out your pores and moisturize your skin, all while effectively melting away makeup and SPF. But while many options are vegan, a number of products on the market include animal products. Plus, some of the most popular balms available are not cruelty-free—see our breakdown below. But fear not: we've also gathered the best vegan cleansing balms for you. And as always, they are 100 percent cruelty-free.

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What is in a cleansing balm? Ingredients to watch out for

With their butter-like consistency, many prefer cleansing balms to regular oil- or water-based cleansers. Balms help to nourish your skin and penetrate your pores, but they don't feel greasy or oily.

Using one is easy, and also quite therapeutic. Scoop a small amount onto your fingers and rub them together to warm, before giving your face a thorough massage and following it up with a little warm water. Next, soak a flannel and gently wipe your face.

But before you get to that stage, you need to find the right product for you.

While balms are generally suitable for all skin types, some may contain soothing plant extracts, like aloe vera, as well as super-hydrator squalane, making them ideal for dry skin. Others contain gentle oils like jojoba, for example, which may appeal to those with oily skin.

But if you're looking for a vegan product, there are a few more ingredients to look out for.

While squalane can come from plant sources, it can also be sourced from sharks (they have squalene oil in their livers, which helps to regulate their buoyancy). If you're not sure which type of squalane is in your product, look for a vegan certification or reach out to the brand for confirmation.

Cleansing balms can also contain collagen, which is often derived from fish or from the bones or hides of cows. Lanolin is another ingredient to keep in mind. The waxy substance is secreted by sheep; it keeps their wool dry and soft.

Not only is the farming industry associated with animal cruelty, but it's also detrimental to the environment.

It's worth keeping in mind that collagen and lanolin are byproducts of animal agriculture. The industry is a leading driver of deforestation and emits at least 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. (To put that in perspective, the aviation industry emits around two percent.)

Non-cruelty-free cleansing balms

But even if a product does omit animal ingredients, it doesn't necessarily mean it is cruelty-free. Sadly, animal testing is still a global problem, in cosmetics and beyond.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, more than 50 million animals are tested on in the US alone every year for various industries. And, according to Cruelty Free International, China, the US, and Japan are the top 10 animal testing countries (based on stats from 2015).

The cleansing balms below are popular, but they are not considered cruelty-free. This is because many of the brands allow animal testing to take place when required by law.

Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm

Clinique is not cruelty-free, and neither is its parent company, Estée Lauder. Its animal testing policy reads: "We do not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to test on our behalf, except when required by law."

Banila Co. Clean it Zero

Banila Co. is not considered cruelty-free, and this is because it offers no animal testing policy and continues to sell products in mainland China, where cosmetic animal testing is not banned.

Pond's Cold Cream Cleansing Balm

Pond's also sells products where animal testing is required by law, so it is not considered to be cruelty-free. Its parent company Unilever is also not cruelty-free.

Sephora Collection Cleansing Balm

Sephora Collection is not cruelty-free, and neither is its parent company, LVMH. Its animal testing policy reads: "Sephora Collection, does not test products on animals, and we will not ask others to do so on our behalf unless it’s required by law in specific countries where we operate."

Heimish Cleansing Balm

Heimish is a grey area brand. This means it is currently unclear whether or not it is cruelty-free, as it has not provided enough information to determine its status.

Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm

Elemis was acquired by L'occitane in 2019, and since then, it has sold its products in places where animal testing is required by law and lost its cruelty-free status.

Its animal testing policy reads: "In China, where ELEMIS is sold, all imported beauty products must be submitted for compulsory testing on a limited animal panel in government laboratories before they can be approved for sale in the country."

The best vegan, cruelty-free cleansing balms

The good news is, you don't have to buy any of the above, because there are plenty of top-quality, vegan, cruelty-free options on the market too. Here are our top picks.

Key ingredientsCeramides, peptides, hyaluronic acid
Sustainable packaging?None specified
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

Elf's Holy Hydration! cleansing balm will melt away even the heaviest of makeup (seriously, even if you've gone super heavy on the liquid eyeliner), without leaving your skin feeling dry or greasy.

Hyaluronic acid and ceramides help to maintain hydration and prevent water loss, while peptides boost collagen production. The end result is ultra-smooth, firm, glowing skin.

The formula is initially a solid balm, but after you start massaging it into your skin, the texture turns milky. If you prefer a double cleanse, the brand's Holy Hydration! range also offers a gel-based cleanser.

Runner up for best cleansing balm:

Key ingredientsSunflower oil, ginger root oil, turmeric, moringa, papaya enzyme
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable jar
100% vegan brand?No
Parent company tests on animals?Yes - Procter & Gamble

With a refreshing, delicious citrus scent, Farmacy's Green Clean cleanser will gently melt away makeup, and leave your skin glowing and revitalized.

One of the brand's best-sellers, this balm has earned itself a solid reputation in the skincare world. And it's for good reason.

With the help of natural ingredients, like antioxidant-rich sunflower oil and antibacterial ginger root, it boosts skin health, without feeling too harsh. In fact, your face will feel smooth, soft, and nourished after use.

With a sorbet-like texture that turns into a milky substance, the balm can effortlessly remove the most stubborn of makeup products, like waterproof mascara, for example.

Runner up for best budget option:

Key ingredientsJojoba oil, avocado oil, eucalyptus oil, vitamin E, clove leaf oil
Sustainable packaging?Made with 50% recycled plastic
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

At less than $18, Versed's Day Dissolve balm won't break the bank. It will, however, nourish your skin.

The gentle, effective formula contains vitamin E, a protective antioxidant, as well as eucalyptus oil and clove leaf oil. The former has antibacterial properties, while the latter helps to calm and reduce any puffiness or redness you may be experiencing.

This balm is so gentle, it can be safely used around the eye area. (That said, you should always exercise caution with any product if you have sensitive skin, trialing a small amount first.)

Best budget option:

Key ingredientsOat kernel oil, colloidal oatmeal
Sustainable packaging?None specified
100% vegan brand?No
Parent company tests on animals?No

Oats are a nutritious breakfast ingredient to start the day. But did you know they can also benefit your skin too? That's why they are the star of this cleansing balm from The Inkey List, which is priced at just over $10.

Oat kernel oil, specifically, can help your skin to retain moisture, and because it's non-comedogenic (it doesn't block your pores), it's a great option for people who suffer from acne.

Colloidal oatmeal, which is essentially ground-up oat grains, can also help to soothe your skin and reduce any redness or inflammation.

If your skin is in need of some extra TLC, leave this balm on for 10 minutes before you start removing it with some cool water.

Best cleansing balm:

Key ingredientsSea buckthorn oil, olive oil, grape seed oil, persimmon extract, vitamin E
Sustainable packaging?Reusable
100% vegan brand?No
Parent company tests on animals?No

There's a reason Then I Met You's Living Cleansing Balm has won so many awards.

Designed to be used as the first step in a double cleanse, the creamy formula, which has a mild and pleasant aroma, will gently and efficiently melt away your makeup, leaving your skin soft, balanced, and nourished.

Ingredients include sea buckthorn and olive oil, which, research suggests, form the perfect combination for a restored and renewed skin barrier. Plus, there's skin-brightening persimmon extract, antioxidant-packed grape seed oil, and vitamin E.

For the second step in your cleanse, Then I Met You also offers a Soothing Tea Cleansing Gel.

Key ingredientsSea buckthorn oil, camellia oil, shea butter
Sustainable packaging?None specified
100% vegan brand?No
Parent company tests on animals?No

Good Molecule's Instant Cleansing Balm also utilizes the skin-healing powers of sea buckthorn oil, which comes from sea buckthorn plants. The oil is associated with rejuvenated, firmer, smoother skin, thanks to its omega content.

The formula also contains antioxidant-rich camellia oil and moisturizing shea butter.

The balm, which becomes milky when it comes into contact with water, will wash away cleanly, taking even the most stubborn waterproof makeup with it.

Key ingredientsMarula oil, baobab seed oil, kalahari melon seed oil, mongongo oil, ximenia oil
Sustainable packaging?None specified
100% vegan brand?No
Parent company tests on animals?Yes - Shiseido

Another award-winning option, Drunk Elephant's butter cleanser, which transforms into milk when mixed with water, is gentle, nourishing, and effective.

The formula contains a mix of fruit and plant extracts, including skin-plumping Kalahari melon seed, softening mongongo, and anti-inflammatory baobab.

This nourishing balm, which will effectively remove all traces of the day's makeup and SPF, is also a multi-tasker. According to Drunk Elephant, mixing it together with the brand's Bamboo Booster creates a creamy exfoliator.

Key ingredientsPapaya enzymes, papaya extract, papaya seed oil, blueberry extract
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable
100% vegan brand?No
Parent company tests on animals?No

Papaya is a skincare hero. It contains an enzyme called papain, which is associated with healing the skin, soothing irritation, and reducing inflammation.

That's why Glow Recipe has made the fruit the star ingredient of this cleansing balm, which will help to melt away makeup, while simultaneously cleansing and rejuvenating the skin underneath.

The formula also contains blueberry extract. Again, this fruit (which is packed with antioxidants) is associated with reducing inflammation.

With this balm, Glow Recipe has also prioritized sustainable packaging. The glass jar and carton can be put out with the rest of your home recycling, while the plastic cap and spatula can be sent to Terracycle.

Key ingredientsMoringa, jojoba, sunflower seed, maqui, acai, goji berry, hyaluronic acid
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable
100% vegan brand?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?Yes - L'Oréal

If you've tried Banila Co. Clean it Zero, but are now looking for a cruelty-free dupe, try Youth To The People's Superberry Dream Cleansing Balm.

The formula, which contains a nourishing blend of moringa, jojoba, and sunflower seed oil, will leave your skin looking and feeling clean, but also soft and smooth.

Hyaluronic acid hydrates, while the mix of berry extracts offers an infusion of skin-protecting antioxidants.

It's gentle, so it can be used on the delicate eye area, and if your skin is damaged from the sun, it won't sting.

The Verdict

Cleansing balms are a gentle, effective way to remove your makeup. But while some contain animal ingredients, and many of the most popular options are not cruelty-free, you can still find top-quality vegan options from brands that don't test on animals.

To summarize, our tops picks are:

Runner up for best cleansing balm: Farmacy Beauty Green Clean Cleansing Balm
Runner up for best budget option: Versed Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm
Best budget: The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm
Best cleansing balm: Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm

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+ Show Comments (1) - Hide Comments (1)
  • Susan Stein says:

    I need product that are both fragrance and essential oil free but so many of the brands I would like to use are not cruelty free. ELF has some good options and the Inky List and Good Molecules. There’s also Ceremedx which is cruelty free and vegan but it’s harder to find and they only have a limited products compared to Cera Ve.

    Fragrance is fragrance is fragrance. It doesn’t matter if it’s organic and free-trade, it still makes my skin itch.

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