Sunday Riley Blue Moon Tranquility Cleansing Balm made a splash as soon as it arrived. Its deep aqua color and ingredient-of-the-moment blue tansy made it eminently Instagrammable. At $50 for 3.4 oz./100 g, it’s a splurge to be sure.
The balm can be used as a first cleanser (to dissolve makeup and sunscreen) and as a hydrating mask. It’s targeted towards dry and dehydrated skin and claims to leave skin “thoroughly clean, comfortable, hydrated, and glowing.” Tall claims!
Along with blue tansy oil, it has vanilla, tangerine, sweet orange, and chamomile oil and moringa and cocoa butter. It’s also fairly heavy on the waxes, with various waxes at the top of the ingredients list and beeswaxes in the middle. The cocoa butter ranks a 4 out of 5 on CosDNA’s acne/comedogenicity scale. I don’t normally mention CosDNA rankings, but I mention it here because Blue Moon may have made me break out. More on that at the end of this post.
The tub is a sturdy, heavy, frosted plastic and has a wide mouth–perfect for dipping fingers in. It lacks a spatula (I stole one from another product for the photo above), but scooping up the balm with fingers works well. Unlike with some balms that liquefy almost immediately once in contact with body heat (Banila Co., su:m37), Blue Moon keeps its form until you massage it in.
The smell is unlike anything I’ve smelled before and is perhaps the blue tansy or chamomile. It’s plant-y, but I don’t want to imply that it’s pungent or stimulating or herbal. Quite the opposite; the fragrance is soothing and elegant.
The balm is quite firm and has a gritty, almost crumbly texture. But within 5 seconds of massaging it, it begins to melt into a smooth, waxy, emollient base. Some reviews say the grittiness helps exfoliate, but I’ve found that any grittiness disappears as the balm melts.
The word that keeps coming to mind is WAXY. Even after the balm dissolves, it just doesn’t offer as much slip as oilier balms do. And although it emulsifies well (and turns visibly milky once water is added), it leaves a noticeable protective layer…from the various waxes? The moringa and cocoa butters?
The layer isn’t the same as the oily residue that I experienced with the Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Melting Cleanser. Calling it residue or film would be way overstating it. Skin is left looking matte, clean, and soft but also feels buttery as if, well, maybe some butter remains on the skin. This isn’t a product flaw by any means because I’m sure that Sunday Riley intended the layer to remain to soothe and comfort dry skin–which it does. And the protected feeling disappears if you follow up with a second cleanser (my normal practice at night).
Blue Moon as a Hydrating Mask
To use as a mask, massage the balm onto skin and leave on for 20 minutes. The waxiness is a positive in this context. During the 20 minutes, my dry skin was very comfortable–protected from drying out yet not oily at all–so no worries about smearing the mask when I accidentally touch my face. And of course the relaxing scent lingers.
The final effect is nothing special though. A good sheet mask would do more for hydration than Blue Moon, so I don’t think it’s worth buying this primarily to use as a mask.
Blue Moon as a First Cleanser & Compared to Banila Co. Clean It Zero Purity
When used as a first cleanser, the waxiness is the biggest negative. The lower amount of slip–as compared to Banila Co. and su:m37’s oily cleansing balms–makes for a much less luxurious massage. It also means more friction when I massage over my eyelids, trying to remove waterproof eye makeup.
I might be able to deal with the friction if Blue Moon actually removed the makeup, but it doesn’t. I’m often left with remnants of liquid liner and still-stiff lashes from half-removed mascara. It’s disappointing that Blue Moon falls short in this area because those other cleansing balms are up to the task and have entirely eliminated the need for a dedicated eye makeup remover.
To illustrate, I compared Blue Moon to Banila Co.’s Clean It Zero Purity–the winner of my cleansing balm showdown among su:m37 and Ole Henriksen.
But once rinsed off, it’s clear that Banila Co. removed more makeup than Blue Moon–and that’s after massaging Blue Moon for one minute more than Banila Co. (Note: Normally Banila Co. removes every speck. These arm demos aren’t as accurate as demo’ing on the face.) Blue Moon tackles non-waterproof makeup well though (demonstrated by my clean toner pads).
To be fair, Blue Moon’s directions are to remove the balm with a warm cloth. You know, in the same vein as a lot of UK cleansing balms, e.g., Emma Hardie, Liz Earle. But I’ve never used a cloth with it because lazy and because it seemed to emulsify well (other than leaving a protective layer behind).
So does the difference all lie in the cloth? Eh.
Still, I liked the scent and blueness enough to use Blue Moon regularly as a first cleanser and also as my sole cleanser in the mornings. In this winter, my dry skin welcomed that tiny bit of moisture/protected feeling that Blue Moon left behind.
Did Blue Moon Make Me Break Out?
Within maybe two weeks of starting to use Blue Moon regularly, I began experiencing breakouts on my cheeks and on one of my temples. Because my skin normally doesn’t break out from products (no patch-testing for me, thanks!), it didn’t occur to me that Blue Moon might be responsible.
Fast forward two weeks later, when I admitted defeat with my OTC remedies and contacted my Curology doctor asking for a tweak in my Acne formula. Surprisingly, she suggested checking my products in CosDNA and removing anything with a 4 or 5 acne rating from my routine. There weren’t many new things in my routine. Herbivore Lapis Oil: negative. Herbivore Blue Tansy AHA+BHA Mask: negative. W.Lab bee cushion: negative.
It’s been about two weeks now since I last used Blue Moon. Lo and behold, the breakouts are resolving. I developed some new tiny pimples on my chin, but the original giant ones that sparked panic have gone away.
I theorize that Blue Moon could have been the culprit either
- because of the protective layer left behind presumably by the cocoa butter or other ingredients (waxes?), or
- because of its poor ability to fully remove waterproof makeup and sunscreen.
I’m still experiencing small breakouts on my chin, so I can’t say for sure that Blue Moon was responsible–but I’m reluctant to start using it again to find out for sure.
April 2016 Update: It’s been about 2 months since this post. The chin breakouts have cleared up and since then, my skin has seemingly returned to its previous state of no major breakouts and the occasional small zit due to falling asleep without washing my face ::cringe::. I’m guessing the cause of my breakouts was either Blue Moon or a random 1- or 2-month hormonal rewiring. (Darn hormones.)
As of now, I recommend it with deep reservations: if you don’t have waterproof makeup/sunscreen to remove, if you use a second cleanser afterward, and if your skin is non-reactive to the ingredients.
Even then, if you’re in the market for a luxurious cleansing balm, I think the su:m37 Skin Saver Melting Cleansing Balm is superior in most respects: luxurious packaging, refreshing orange color, sophisticated citrus scent, lots of slip perfect for facial massage, and able to remove makeup and sunscreen completely.
It’s just not…blue.
Pros: Blue! Smells like peace and calm. Did I mention blue? Feels good on dry skin–especially as a morning cleanser and hydrating mask. Also it’s blue.
Cons: Doesn’t remove waterproof makeup well. Too much friction for facial massage and eye makeup removal due to waxy texture.