COSRX Exfoliating Acids
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COSRX Exfoliating Acids

By Kate Limond
19/12/2022 | Read time: 5m

Cosrx uses gentle acids in low amounts in most of their products so they’re suitable even for sensitive skin! The daily products are a great introduction to exfoliation and will also help hydrate your skin but there are also stronger options for more experienced users.

What Can Acids Do For Your Skin?

Well, firstly, it depends on the acid because there’s quite a few available and they target different concerns! All acids from Cosrx increase the rate of cell turnover, which helps stop skin becoming dull and clogged.

AHAs are alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid, which works wonders for drier skin and has anti-aging effects on wrinkles and, potentially, on uneven skin tones.

BHAs are beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid, are great for oilier skin, as it helps with acne and clogged pores. Cosrx uses betaine salicylate, which is a more gentle derivative of salicylic acid and so it is easy to tolerate, even for sensitive skin.

In classic Cosrx style, they keep their formulas simple and have lots of options for different concerns. I’m covering the toner-type products here but Cosrx also has a cleanser, a peeling gel, a serum, a cream and a lip product that contain acids!

Cosrx Daily Product Range

Although these products are aimed at beginners and for daily usage, patch test carefully, introduce them slowly and always wear sunscreen, as acids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, not just when you apply them but potentially for a week after.

An ideal daily toner for beginners to exfoliation is the AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner. This has lovely soothing ingredients and very low percentages of glycolic acid and betaine salicylate. It also contains some very nice natural ingredients (willow bark water and apple fruit water) alongside allantoin and panthenol to hydrate and soothe your skin.

The 2 in 1 Poreless Power Liquid has a high percentage of willow bark water to help with oily skin specifically but it’s still a gentle formulation that can be used daily and will give you hydration, including hyaluronic acid.

The Refresh AHA BHA Vitamin C Daily toner has the same natural and soothing ingredients for hydration and skin conditioning. However, the star ingredients here are the addition of kiwi extract and niacinamide to brighten dull skin.

Cosrx Acids for Experienced Users

I love that Cosrx takes a tiered approach to exfoliation and includes daily options as well as stronger products. I’ve used a western acid that was meant to be gentle but I often found it stung, and even the stronger products from Cosrx feel more gentle and hydrating to me, because of the inclusion of the apple water, willow bark water and soothing ingredients.

Cosrx know how to formulate a very decent exfoliating product that is genuinely gentle! It’s still best to patch test, start slow and build up your usage, and always wear sunscreen.

This is where Korean skincare really shines, not only are these products relatively gentle but also there are so many great hydrating products and options to help avoid dehydration.

Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

This was my first Cosrx acid product and it is very easy to use. I have used Benton Aloe BHA Skin toner before, which has 0.5% salicylic acid and I treated that as an introductory, daily exfoliating toner – it’s very hydrating and nice to use! The Cosrx has 4% betaine salicylate, which is equivalent to 2% salicylic acid (the right percentage for unclogging pores in a regular usage product). It also has niacinamide, which at 2% can help to even out skin tone and improve your skin barrier.

I started with once a week and built up – I was surprised at how well my skin tolerated it! Although I’ve got a great track record with Cosrx (everything I’ve tried has been awesome), I thought that the acids would be trickier to use so I was very pleased! I don’t find it drying and it feels to me like it even adds some hydration to my skin.

I noticed that it got rid of the sebaceous filaments on my nose right away. A sebaceous filament is when your pores look like there’s a blackhead on them but it’s just a build up of skin oil. My nose has always been oily, thanks to having combination skin, and I find this Cosrx product helps keep it under control and my makeup applies better.

Another great effect of this product is how it flattens all the closed comedones on my forehead. Closed comedones are skin-coloured bumps, like acne but under the skin surface. Any improvement to my closed comedones is amazing but because they have been on my face for a long time, they need some extra power: enter Cosrx AHA Whitehead Power Liquid!

Cosrx AHA Whitehead Power Liquid

In addition to the anti-aging benefits of AHAs, I’ve read that some people have successfully treated their closed comedones with an AHA too. The Cosrx AHA Whitehead Power Liquid is a product with a big cult following so I had to try it!

I was initially concerned, as it contains 7% glycolic acid, rather than a gentle derivative like the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. However, my sensitive skin has been fine with it! Again, I started very slowly with my usage of it, once a week for a couple of weeks, and then twice a week. I didn’t notice any stinging or irritation so I’m very happy. I wouldn’t say it adds any hydration but that was a bonus effect from the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, I didn’t expect either to hydrate in all honesty.

My skin hasn’t had an issues with it at all (no dryness or irritation) and I can already see benefits – some of my closed comedones have gone and my skin generally looks more healthy! I ensure I don’t use any other actives (no acids or retinol) at the same time and it also has 2% niacinamide, making it a great all-round product!

Final Word

I’ve had such a great experience with the Cosrx acids and I think they’re excellent options for even sensitive skin. It’s worth considering increasing your hydration, in case they do dry you out, and of course, start slow!