The Panel: Born slippy
If good intentions translated into good skin, we'd all have perfect complexions, but inertia is the enemy. Facialists will tell you, however, that how you use your skincare products is just as important as what you use.
You can spend a fortune on expensive cleansers and creams, but nothing, apparently, can match the benefits of taking the time to massage those products into the skin. Along with providing an effective and non-drying cleanse, the beauty of cleansing balms or creams is how they nudge you into getting hands-on with your skincare.
Four of our top five are classic cleansing balms -- pots of unguent that closely resemble petroleum jelly or lard -- which break down into a slippy texture as you work them into the skin and then rinse off or wipe off.
Three of our favourites come with muslin cloths that provide an exfoliating bonus, but the emphasis is on gentle cleansing and focused fingertip facial massage. So, the product and the cleansing process work together to give your skin a much-needed spring clean. Find a few minutes for your face: we swear it's worth it.
Voya Totally Balmy Cleansing Balm, €40, House of Fraser, Dundrum Town Centre, D16, Dublin Airport and selected spas and salons nationwide
Nicely aromatic, but not excessively so, the bland, thick texture balances nicely with scents such as rose ylang-ylang and bergamot. Slippy but not greasy, we particularly liked the facial-massage instructions enclosed in the box. "My skin was the kind of clean you don't normally get without suds or soap," said a panellist. "Perfect for this time of year, and I like the nudge to give my skin a few minutes extra care and attention."
Best Rich Rub
Darphin Aromatic Cleansing Balm with Rosewood, €68, for stockists, tel: (0044870) 034-2566, or see www.darphin.co.uk
This cleanser goes on very rich but it rinses off as a light emulsion. The herby fragrance and honey-like texture are luxurious and it feels nourishing, though it's a pity you can't use it on the eye area. "The thick, tacky consistency is borderline icky at first, and then you're surprised at how it goes thin and milky as you rinse," said one panellist. "It's like a mini-facial."
Best Mild Mannered
Ren No1 Purity Cleansing Balm, €42, Arnotts; or tel: (01) 461-0645
Though rose oil, camomile and violet in the ingredients list suggest a flowery product, this is utterly in keeping with Ren's clean, non-fussy philosophy. Inoffensive enough that you can comfortably use it on eye make-up but effective enough that will remove the slap and not just shift it around. "I love the light rose scent," said one panellist, "and it's a great all-rounder for getting off all manner of mascara and make-up."
Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, €15, Wilde and Green, Milltown, D6, or see www.lizearle.com
Unlike the other four favourites, this is a pump bottle of thick white cream, rather than a tub of lardy-looking stuff. Not a balm as such, this award-winning cleanser functions in a similar manner, demanding some massage into the skin and removal with the included muslin cloth. This had the best cloth -- two, in fact -- providing very impressive exfoliation. "I prefer the pump action over sticking your fingers repeatedly into a tub," a panellist said. "And I also favour the creamy texture."
Best Neutral Number
Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, €28, Clinique counters nationwide
Totally fragrance-free, this is the blandest option available, suitable for even the most sensitive skins and eyes. Not at all greasy, it does however massage from a balm to an oil on the skin, as opposed to turning milky. Definitely one for drier, more delicate complexions. "A small amount goes a long way with this," said one panellist. "You sort of feel the day slide off with it, as the name accurately suggests."
Pictured, from top left: Voya Totally Balmy Cleansing Balm; Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm; Darphin Aromatic Cleansing Balm with Rosewood; Ren No1 Purity Cleansing Balm; Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser
Sunday Indo Life Magazine