I’ve been working on something really special for the past three years, and today, I’m so excited to finally unveil it to the world! Meet Better Than Balm—our first-ever, oil-based cleanser.
I knew that if I created a cleansing balm, it needed to be different. What makes Better Than Balm unique is its dual-phase technology, which allows it to transform from an oil into a milky gel. This cleanser’s power truly lies in its transformation, and it’s that same transformation that gives you a proper double cleanse with just one product (yes, you read that right!).
I worked hard to make a product that I felt was effective and also a joy to use, and since creating this balm, it’s quickly become my favorite way to remove makeup at night. Since it took so long to get here, I thought I’d share the journey behind this special product and break down what makes it different—and why it’s truly better than balm.
The Inspiration—Why “Better Than Balm?”
Cleansing balms have definitely become a mainstay in the skincare world. You know the type—it’s thick, maybe a little waxy, and when you flip the jar upside down, it doesn’t budge. And listen, I fully understand why people like using these! They feel rich and moisturizing, and they do a great job of removing makeup. But, this can come at a cost. Ultimately, my inspiration for Better Than Balm came from consistently watching people use traditional cleansing balms incorrectly, to the detriment of their skin.
The Problem With Traditional Cleansing Balms
Many people like using cleansing balms because it makes their skin feel moisturized. But have you ever stopped to think about why your skin feels so moisturized after? It’s because these balms are made of heavy oils or waxes that are really difficult to rinse off. The result is that many cleansing balms end up leaving an oily film behind on your skin. This might leave you feeling soft and moisturized, but it also means the rest of your skincare products aren’t going to work as effectively. Oils are made up of large molecules, and products like serums are made with tiny molecules that are designed to go deep into the skin. If you put a small molecule on top of a large one, it won’t be able to penetrate through. (This is why I was never a fan of double cleansing with a balm in the past.)
While it’s important to choose a cleanser without harsh ingredients that will strip your skin, the main function of a cleanser is to, well, cleanse. You shouldn’t be relying on it for moisture—that’s where the rest of your skincare comes in. In fact, if your cleanser is leaving an oily film behind, it can actually dehydrate your skin over time. You see, all skin types need a combination of oil and water to be healthy. Water-based products tend to be made up of—you guessed it—smaller molecules. So, a layer of oil would actually prevent hydration from getting into your skin.
When I was creating this product, I was determined to make something with all the benefits of a traditional cleansing balm, and none of the drawbacks.
From a formula standpoint, there are two things that make Better Than Balm stand out. First, the oil we use is a lot more lightweight than most oils. Second, this cleanser contains a higher amount of surfactants than traditional cleansing balms. Getting the correct ratio of oil to surfactants was definitely the trickiest part of the formulation process, and it sent me back to the drawing board more than once. We ended up with a winning combination that allowed Better Than Balm to work in two phases.
Phase 1: Oil Phase
Phase one of Better Than Balm is a luxurious yet lightweight oil. Oil works so well to dissolve makeup because it’s lipophilic, meaning it’s attracted to other oils. Or, put more simply, “like dissolves like.”
The oil component of Better Than Balm is caprylic/capric triglyceride. It’s made by purifying small, fatty molecules from coconut oil into a liquid, emollient form. The defining property of caprylic/capric triglyceride is that it has a low molecular weight. Most oils have a very high molecular weight, meaning the particles are large and end up just sitting on your skin. Since caprylic/capric triglyceride is so lightweight, it’s also more suitable for oily or acne-prone skin types, like Skin Types 1-4.
Another drawback of heavy oils is that they have a high melting point, meaning it’s really easy for them to re-solidify or harden on your skin. Caprylic/capric triglyceride has a lower melting point, which allows it to provide continuous slip instead of hardening. It glides seamlessly, making this cleanser the perfect companion for gua sha or lymphatic drainage massage.
You can watch this fun little experiment I did to demonstrate how lightweight the oil molecules in Better Than Balm are compared to traditional balms. No greasy mess here!
Phase 2: Gel Phase
Once you add water to Better Than Balm, you activate phase two. What you’re really activating here is sucrose laurate, the ingredient responsible for this cleanser’s transformation. Sucrose laurate is a gentle surfactant made from a combination of sugar and lauric acid. It can emulsify the caprylic/capric triglyceride so that it can be easily rinsed away with water and doesn’t leave a film.
Below, you can see the cleanser immediately begins to transform when water is added, versus a traditional balm that doesn’t budge.
Having these two phases within one cleanser mimics the double cleanse process, but with just a single product.
Who Is It For?
Better Than Balm is for anyone who wants to remove stubborn makeup while maintaining healthy, balanced skin. It’s gentle and can be used nightly (or as needed) by all skin types. This cleanser was created for makeup wearers who:
Think traditional cleansing balms are too heavy or waxy and prefer a more lightweight textureWant to save time by effectively double-cleansing with just one product Are prone to breakouts and clogged pores, which heavy oils and solid waxes aren’t recommended for Want an oil-based cleanser that doesn’t leave a barrier on their skin (remember, this can impede the penetration of serums applied after)
Finally, this cleanser is for anyone who loves a little aromatherapy with their nighttime self-care routine (after all, isn’t that what skincare is?). I worked closely with the lab to come up with a beautiful scent for Better Than Balm; it’s warm, inviting, and relaxing with subtle hints of soft rose. I’m fully obsessed and it’s one of the many reasons this product has become the best part of my nighttime routine!
Worried about fragrance in skincare products? Learn why it’s not as bad as you’ve heard.
How to Use It
One thing Better Than Balm does have in common with traditional balms is that you must use it correctly in order to get all the benefits.
Step 1: Apply the cleanser to DRY skin and gently massage over the face for a full 30 seconds. This will start to dissolve makeup, sunscreen, and sebum. For heavier makeup, such as long-wear or full-coverage foundation, massage for 60 seconds.
Step 2: Using your fingertips, add water to transform the cleanser into a milky gel. Massage for another 30 seconds or, for heavier makeup, another 60 seconds.
Step 3: Rinse your face with lukewarm water to remove the bulk of the cleanser and makeup.
Step 4: Use a slightly damp Reusable Cleansing Cloth and gently wipe across your face to remove every last trace of loosened makeup and debris. Repeat as needed for heavier makeup.
Step four is so important because while the cleanser dissolves your makeup, the physical wiping action of the cloth is what actually lifts that makeup off the skin. Otherwise, you’re just smearing it around.
How Better Than Balm Fits Into My Brand Philosophy
In the 26 years I’ve had my skincare line, I’ve always been adamant about not creating new products based purely on trends. I have to truly believe in a product’s ability to improve people’s skin. I also never want to create a product just for the sake of it. I want to make something because I see a need for it and because I think I can offer people something special.
Throughout my career, I’ve always preached using a cleansing gel to remove sebum in the morning, and a cleansing lotion to remove makeup at night. What pushed me to finally come out with a balm cleanser was the evolution of foundation makeup. Formulas have evolved from BB and CC creams into makeup that’s designed to stay on the skin for hours and hours. Cleansing lotions can take off a lot, but for this type of complexion makeup, you just need more oil to get it all off.
Better Than Balm embodies my skincare philosophy and I’m very proud to be putting it out into the world. I love it, and I know you will, too!
Up next, learn why you should always wash your face in the morning.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare ExpertAs an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Her hands-on experience as an esthetician and trusted skin care expert has created a real-world solution — products that are formulated for nine different types of skin so your face will get exactly what it needs to look and feel its best. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”