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It’s the last thing in the world that I would have grabbed to help my breakout-prone skin. Yet it didn’t take long to realize that something I was using this summer was totally transforming my skin. Because of my constant battle with the blemish, I had discontinued using several oils and creams that seemed to anger my skin. In their stead, I started swinging exclusively with buttery balms. Clearly, there must have been some mistake. My skin couldn’t have been responding to the balms—or could it?

Balms always seemed so heavy, oily, greasy—everything screamed: “Keep off oily, blemished skin!” But, boy, did the right balms prove me wrong! Let’s just say, my skin took an unexpected turn for the better, as soon as I learned how to use balms the right way.

After discovering the advantages to balms over creams and sharing it in yesterday’s post, I figured a post about maximizing their use seemed necessary. I think there are three main reasons why more people aren’t using balms. For one, it has been ingrained in us to think of creams as skincare miracles. Two, most people don’t know how to use balms properly. The third reason has to do with textural preference, which is highly personal.

Let’s talk about HOW TO USE balms because that’s super critical in maximizing their efficacy

The first step to using a balm may seem the most obvious but actually it’s not, according to Jessica Lafleur, founder of Stark Skincare.

Follow the label, she says.

“The best way to use a balm is for whatever purpose it was created, which sounds obvious but really isn’t. Yes, most balms are multi-purpose by nature, but you will always get the most of any product when you use it as the formulator intended. For example, even though my ‘GF’ balm is quite soothing to inflamed skin, it’s not as healing a balm as I would have created for that purpose. It’s a cleansing balm, and although it’s also great for rough elbows and flyaway hair or as a lip balm or on cracked skin, it’s true strength lies in its ability to cleanse skin and remove makeup without stripping the skin’s acid mantle.”

Indeed it’s true. I find that my pores look minimized and my skin imparts a healthy, non-greasy glow after a good balm cleanse, but only when I adhere to the directions. If you want step-by-step instructions on using a serum or a balm, One Love Organics wrote a fabulous post here, as well as the four easy steps below.

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When using a balm for cleansing, following this routine ensures optimum results. For other usage like moisturizing skin, these are my no fail tips.

Use less than you think you need

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Highly concentrated ingredients means LESS product. When the label says scoop out a small amount, follow the directions! Usually a pea-sized amount will do the trick—that’s less than 1/8 teaspoon of product. (Yes. I actually took closeup photos of defrosting peas to demonstrate what a pea-sized amount looks like!)

Warm between your palms

Before applying, warm the balm between your fingers or in your palm. This thins the product, helps it distribute better, and heats it up slightly, thereby allowing the nutrients to penetrate more easily into the skin.

Use on damp skin

Spray on a toner or dampen face before applying the balm. Laurel Shaffer, founder of Laurel Whole Plant Organics, says this enables the balm to absorb even faster and preps the skin for cosmetics or for nighttime use. It does! I’m amazed every time I heat a bit of balm in my hand and press it into damp skin. It creates the right consistency to leave a smooth finish that isn’t tacky at all. This step is not necessary for use on the body or on exceedingly dry spots.

Take in a massage

Balms offer a nice slip over skin, so it’s a great time to give yourself a little massage whether on your face or body. I always move in “face lift” direction as in an upward and outward direction (bottom of chin to lips, eyebrows to top of forehead, and mouth to cheeks to ears). Remember to use the press release technique to drive those nourishing ingredients into the skin.

Don’t skip the warm cloth

As said above, if you’re using your balm to cleanse your skin, follow up with a warm cloth. I’m mentioning it again because I’ve tried skipping it but then get stuck with a little too much product or residual makeup left on my skin. The cloth adds gentle exfoliation to the mix too, so you get the benefit of the heat, as well as the removal of dead skin cells. This step really does make a big difference.

Mix with mineral foundation

This is so cool that I have to share it…in the next post! I know that’s cruel of me but this post is already long enough.

Now that we’ve cleaned up the messy business of using balms correctly, we can get to the fun part—all the awesome balms you’re gonna have to try!

Balms that deliver

So let’s just start off with this disclaimer that many of these balms can be used in multiple ways, but these are the ways that I like to use them most.

 

For eyes

Laurel Whole Plant Organics Eye Balm, $60, delivers gentle, yet nourishing protection to the delicate eye area without disrupting makeup. With all those dense active ingredients, you might expect a heavier product—but that’s not the case. For example, in Laurel Whole Plant Organics balms, Laurel selected exceptionally light oils that would still protect the skin without weighing it down with heavy emollients. In fact, she says, a well-crafted balm makes a wonderful primer before applying makeup too—especially when skin is prepped with a toner to aid absorption first. Oils and butters like shea butter, grape seed, jojoba, borage seed, almond, rosehip, and beeswax offer a highly absorbent base for healing and nutrient-rich herbs and essential oils known for their skin-enhancing properties—without the need to resort to emulsifiers or preservatives. Day or night, I love using this bag-reducing, line-diminishing balm. It also gives a nice glow to the skin right around cheekbone level so I can skip the highlighter product.

For lips

Think of CV Skinlabs Restorative Skin Balm, $26, as your replacement for the cult-classic Elizabeth Arden 8-Hour Cream or any petroleum-based product that doesn’t allow skin to breathe. It’s fantastic for lips and any other area that needs concentrated repair work. Absolutely amazing!

For portable hydration

Earth Tu Face Skin Stick is the product you’d want to take with you wherever you go! Aside from the total coolness factor of the 100% compostable tube (zero plastic and waste!), it contains a stellar list of ingredients, like geranium to prevent and fade scars, vetiver to promote cellular healing, and pure beeswax to heal and protect skin. (I must add that CV Skinlabs Skin Balm comes in a small tube that’s ideal for travel too.)

For hands

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Mettā Skincare Hand Balm. This product will accompany me this winter—hands down. Olive oil, shea butter, beeswax, calendula, and lavender heal, soothe, and protect those dainty extremities. When I use it on my hands at night, dry spots are resolved and my hands defy their 44 years of use. Did I mention that Mettā is an ancient style of meditation that encourages loving-kindness with yourself and the world around you? Hello, I love this brand!

For feet

Indie Lee Hydrating Body Balm covers my tootsies before I go out for walks to keep calluses and blisters at bay. It smells absolutely delightful with lemon balm, chamomile, bergamot, and lavender, while jojoba and avocado oils tend to the rough spots. Layer a decent amount of balm on the bottoms of your feet. Put on two layers of socks and go running. You’ll never get a blister again.

To cleanse

Stark Skincare “GF” balm contains camellia seed oil, derived from super anti-oxidant green tea, which is naturally antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and 100 times more powerful in combating free radicals than vitamin C. Seriously. The scent is absolutely my favorite and gives me a lively punch of citrus every time I use it. (And yes, this is the one that saved my skin this summer paired with the unbeatable White Willow Bark Perfecting Tonic!) I use it to hydrate my skin after cleansing too and wake up to a very happy face in the morning.

50 shades of use

Clearly this category is marked for OLO’s Skin Savior, an all-in-one treatment balm that does it all! Coconut oil, mango seed butter, chia seed extract, jojoba, vanilla, and orange peel wax will make you think of a creamsicle that’s ripe for licking. But that did not make it to the list of 50 ways to use it. So don’t do that. Just don’t. It’s a cult favorite for a reason. You’ll see why.

THE balm to schlepp to that proverbial desert isle

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Of course, everyone wants to know what you’d include in your survivor pack if you were stranded on a desert island. Food? Water? Meh! Who needs ’em when you’ve got CAMP Skincare’s Desert Island Wonder Balm next to your coconut. It’s chock full of impressive certified organic oils like sunflower oil, infused with chamomile, comfrey, and yarrow, sweet almond oil infused with calendula, local beeswax, and a bevy of top-tier beautifying essential oils to round out the formula.

Creamiest product posing as a balm

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Lyonsleaf Beauty Balm looks like a cream but acts like a barrier balm with 95 percent organic, wild-crafted, and cold-pressed ingredients including shea butter, babassu oil, macademia nut, jojoba oils, and essential oils with their home grown calendula—so healing for the skin. It’s no surprise that the founder, Vicky Lyons, refers to it as a “waterless cream.” Check out the product description to discover why Lyonsleaf calls it a “complete facial care system.” If the texture of balms is an issue for you, you’ll want to head straight for this one. Its texture is somewhat souffle-like and feels dreamy like a cloud.

Super luxe formula

Latest to land on my balm trial is deMamiel Botaniques Restorative Cleansing Balm. It is at once a cleansing balm and a mood-enhancing ritual that incorporates healing flower essences with the scent of honey myrtle, fragonia, chamomile, and rose geranium essential oils. Probiotics, anti-bacterial manuka, and kukui, calendula, and moringa oils throw this luxury treatment over the top. It’s primed to deliver healing and nourishing benefits to the skin, and I’m finding it seriously addictive—and effective. I used it last night to remove makeup and not a drop of color remained behind.

Best overnight treatment mask

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NYR Wild Rose Beauty Balm’s first ingredient is rosehip fruit oil, rich in skin-loving vitamin A, vitamin C, and the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. Think of it as a light-weight, moisture-drenching, dark-spot-fading powerhouse. I’m telling you, when I apply this to my skin and leave on overnight, I wake up to a shockingly clear complexion. Even I can’t get over it. The scent is kind of herbal/pungent. It’s not my favorite but at the same time, no one has been repelled by it either. It goes on clear, so it doesn’t make you a scary beast either.

I hope that you’ve been enjoying these posts about balms. I’d love to hear about your experience with them too. I must say that I’m a convert to waterless products given the results that I’ve seen on my skin. While my indulgent sugar habits keep my skin from fully clearing up, finding a topical solution brings a great deal of relief.

Next post will show you how to convert your mineral powder into a liquid foundation minus the problem ingredients. Ooooh, it’s so good. Can’t wait to share it!