I've said it a million times, but cleansing is, in my opinion, the most important and transformative part of your skincare routine.
Those who cleanse thoroughly, in general, have brighter, smoother, healthier-looking skin than those who use wipes (let's not go there again: they instantly raise my blood pressure) or, worse still, sleep in their makeup. What is more flexible is the type of cleanser you use. In recent years, balms (as opposed to traditional milks and creams) have become increasingly popular; it's a trend started by Eve Lom's much-celebrated cleanser.
Cleansing balms are solid or firm in the tub or tube, then liquefy when rubbed between palms and massaged on to a dry face. They're then removed, as any cleanser should be, by a hot cloth (I favour an old-fashioned terry cotton flannel). Balms are, as a rule, very thorough, shifting all traces of makeup including waterproof mascara. They're economical, last ages and cause no spillage (I know there's a lot of love for cleansing oils, but half seems to trickle through my fingers and stain my pyjamas). Balms also leave any skin but oily very comfortable.
I've tried heaps; these are my favourite six.
Aromatherapy Associates Soothing Cleansing Balm, £25.50, beautybay.com
Takes away every bit of crap and leaves skin wonderfully soft. My favourite.
Sophyto Purifying Silken Cleanser, £13, naturisimo.com
Silken is the word. Leaves all skin types clean, calm and soft. Good value.
Clarins Pure Melt Cleansing Gel, £19.50, johnlewis.com
Removes all makeup quickly without much massage, leaving skin neither tight nor coated in oil. Smells lovely.
Eve Lom Cleanser, £40, evelom.com
The original cleansing balm Some hate the medicinal smell and the mineral oil, but I've seen it work wonders.
Nutriganics Softening Cleansing Gel, £9, bodyshop.co.uk
Light enough for combination and spotty skins; comforting and soothing on sensitive types.
Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, £39.50, timetospa.co.uk
Expensive but long-lasting. Wonderful on drier, older skins.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Erich Ferdinand