Welcome to one of my skincare guilty pleasures: the Aromatic Cleansing Balm with Rosewood from Darphin. This little glass jar contains the silkiest, most delectable of balmy cleansers – I’ve been trying for months to think of something comparable, in terms of texture, but to no avail. It feels a bit like set honey but without the stickiness. It’s slightly more robust than your standard balm consistency and holds up well on damp skin, giving you a good chance to massage it in rather than immediately skipping to the “milky rinse-off” stage.
But it’s not the texture of this balm that keeps me coming back for more: it’s the smell. Do you have a collection of beauty products that make you feel disproportionately happy? I do. I have my skincare products that are purely functional – my exfoliants and my non-nonsense serums and my SPFs – and then I have my little beauty treasures, the ones that I really look forward to using at the end of a long, hard day. Of course, these products are also functional and effective – I don’t often waste my time with fragrant frippery that’s all scent and no substance! – but they have a special place in my heart due to their ability to instantly change my mood.
Off the top of my head, some mood-changers from my little collection: Aurelia’s Dry Body Oil, Aromatherapy Associates bath oils, Omorovicza Queen of Hungary Mist and (again from Darphin) the 8-Flower Nectar Oil Cream. All of these, without fail, can perk me up at the start of a hectic day or help me to wind down at the end of a stressful one. They calm my mind with their therapeutic oil blends, they lift my spirits, they turn a quick and perfunctory skincare routine into something more lavish and indulgent.
Which makes it sound as though I use these things infrequently: I don’t. I’m past that whole “saving things for best” thing, now; use it or lose it. Gone are the days of dusting off boxes to find a pair of unworn shoes nestled inside – lingerie from 2004 with the tags still on, saved for a special occasion, the teeny bottle of truffle oil bought in Milan six years ago, waiting for that sophisticated dinner party that is probably never going to happen…
These beauty treasures are used on a surprisingly regular basis. At least a couple of times a week – more for the Queen of Hungary Mist, which gets spritzed over my face at strategic points throughout the day, serving as a sort of luxurious wake-up call when my energy levels are flagging and my face is beginning to wilt.
I would use the Darphin Aromatic Cleansing Balm daily, if I could get away with it, but it is – as I mentioned before – a guilty pleasure. It’s £32, which doesn’t sound too guilty so far, but when you consider the size of the jar and the volume of the contents – 40ml – it seems prudent to use the balm as a treatment rather than as part of a daily routine.
And it really does feel – and smell – like a treatment. This isn’t a massage-in-and-take-straight-off cleanser, this (at the risk of sounding like an M&S advert) is a massage-in, lie-back, breathe-in-the-aroma-and-bask-for-a-while cleanser. I just can’t convey to you how much I love using it. The ylang ylang oil is instantly uplifting, the rosewood is sweet and woody and calming. (I’m aware that on paper the two should really cancel each other out, but I find the blend very balancing.)
So yes, I use the cleanser as more of a facial treatment than a makeup remover – if I’ve had a heavy day on the cosmetics front then I’ll usually use a balm that I don’t mind digging into with both hands! With the Darphin one I massage in, leave on for a few minutes and then press off using a warm flannel. And if I’m feeling as though I need a total assault on the senses then I’ll follow with the Darphin 8 Flower Nectar Oil Cream, equally as mood-lifting and a gorgeous overnight moisturiser if you’re looking for something buttery.
Usually I race through my cleansers – I really enjoy testing them and am always impatient to start on something new and exciting – but Darphin’s Aromatic Balm is one that I don’t want to finish. I’ve been rationing my portions, so to speak, and I’ll most definitely be buying a new jar once I’ve finished every precious last bit of this one.
You can find Darphin’s Aromatic Cleansing Balm here* – it’s £32.
If non-scented, powerful makeup-removing is more your bag then I will point you in the direction of Caroline Hirons’ Double Cleanse for Pixi (here*), which has a balm and a cream cleanser in one handy pot. Pictured above. If budget is an issue then you can’t go far wrong with the Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter from The Body Shop, £10 here*. If you like the idea of a cleanser as more of a treatment than a rinse-off product then take a look at the MV Organic Skincare Cleansing Tonic, here*.