Brand Spotlight: COSRX

COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid and BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

If you’ve been following the changes I’ve made to my skin care routine recently, then you may have noticed that I’ve swapped out my trusty Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid and 8% AHA Gel for a Korean brand you may not be as familiar with: COSRX.

COSRX Returning A-Sol, White Power Essence, AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid, and BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
My current COSRX lineup is comprised of the Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol, the AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid, the Galactomyces 95 White Power Essence, and the BHA Blackhead Power Liquid.

COSRX, whose sister brands include C20 (makers of the famous C20 and C21.5 vitamin C serums) and Ciracle, has made a big splash in the AB enthusiast community thanks to the company’s AHA and BHA products. Chemical exfoliants are rare in Korean skincare, and finding a correctly formulated Korean AHA or BHA product is almost as difficult as catching a unicorn in the Forbidden Forest. But if Professor Quirrell can do it with Voldemort growing out of the back of his head, can do it, so can we.

COSRX tells us about COSRX

I recently had the pleasure of conducting an email interview with COSRX Marketing Team Assistant Manager Lee Hye-Young, who generously took the time to tell me more about the brand and how COSRX feels about the love it’s getting from Western-based AB bloggers.

Can you tell me a little about the history of COSRX?

Lee: “COSRX is a brand built from about 13 years of experience in Korea cosmetic industry, product development backgrounds, and various bestselling products. We have collected what customers need and want regarding their skin types and concerns. Finally, all those needs came into ingredient-oriented cosmetic brand after numerous simulations. So we are committed to make high performance products with safe and natural ingredients only without any side effects. Moreover, we minimize the advertisement and design cost to produce product with best ingredients. Our vision is to make practical and high performance cosmetic products.”

COSRX Galactomyces 95 White Power Essence
The unfortunately named Galactomyces 95 White Power Essence, for example, packs the same fermenty, niacinamide-packed punch as Missha’s First Treatment Essence, at about half the price.

COSRX products have been getting a lot of attention from Western bloggers lately. It seems that it’s hard to find Korean chemical exfoliants that are properly formulated and at the correct pH. Why do you think such products are so rare in the Korean market?

Lee: “We would like to thank our customers in Western culture for such interest. It is our pleasure to see reviews from them.

Many Koreans have sensitive skin types, so people tend to avoid AHA/BHA products. AHA and BHA are popular exfoliating ingredients, but there are high regulations on their pH level and formula. So it is hard to satisfy the customers’ need.

“Still, we use glycolic acid, a kind of AHA, because it is less irritable to skin. Also we work hard to develop natural BHA product to keep our relationship with customers for the best. It seems customers do recognize our efforts and we are very thankful for that.”

COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid and BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
I’m finding both the BHA Blackhead Power Liquid and the AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid more effective than the Paula’s Choice equivalents.

Another thing many of us find exciting about COSRX products is their excellent ingredients. Your products seem simple and include only ingredients that benefit skin. Can you tell me a little more about the R&D process behind a COSRX product?

Lee: Many COSRX customers are sensitive skin types, especially due to skin problems like acne. If too much ingredients are included in the product, it is impossible to tell which ingredient causes more troubles. Therefore, our formula contains minimum amount of ingredients that are skin-friendly yet giving the best result. One of our secrets is to use natural water instead of just purified water to maximize the effect of other active ingredients. For instance, BHA product is a white-wallow water base, which contains natural BHA elements. AHA product has its ingredients dissolved in apple water, which contains natural AHA elements. Natural water like these two also is very skin-friendly and alleviates irritated skin.

COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol
The Returning A-Sol, meanwhile, contains 60% propolis extract, which is antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant.

Can you tell me what COSRX is planning in the next year?

Lee: “Our first goal is to lessen the burdens of our customers’ skin concerns. The ultimate goal is to help our customers find their own beauty with our products. We are designing the products that are inspired by customers’ desires.

“There are few plans for the next year. First, we are building global B2C [business to consumer] online shopping system to satisfy customers’ need from overseas. In the following year, we plan to make the system where customers from all over the world can communicate.

“Second, we are working on more effective exfoliator and other types of products to make our customers happy.”

What else would you like to share with Fifty Shades of Snail readers?

Lee: “We would like to present deep gratitude for all the love and interest.

“Our team believes that cosmetic should look for meanings more than just beauty. So we are devoted to enable individual with each skin type to solve the problem, gain self-confidence, and find own beauty. That’s why our brand name is COSRX: COSmetics + RX = COSRX.

“We will keep move forward and always be on our customers’ side to offer beauty for all. We will always make ‘Expecting Tomorrow’ products that provide the best solutions to skin problems.

“‘Expecting Tomorrow’ is the motto of our company. Our high performance cosmetics products will make you excited to see the positive change tomorrow.”

Why I switched from Paula’s Choice to COSRX

I’ve said that properly formulated chemical exfoliation products are hard to find in the Korean market, but the truth is, they’re hard to find on Western shelves, too. It’s difficult and expensive to formulate an effective AHA or BHA product thanks to the pH limitations, and I imagine many companies don’t bother trying, since most consumers are unaware of the importance of variables like concentration and pH. (But not you lovely people.)

Paula’s Choice is one of the few Western companies producing correctly formulated chemical exfoliants, and that’s why I used their products pretty much from the minute I learned what makes a good chemical exfoliant.

Unfortunately, I strongly dislike Paula’s Choice, the brand. I’m not a person who tells others to boycott companies, or who is prone to boycotting companies myself, but really–their entire marketing strategy seems to revolve around bashing other companies’ products through blogs, videos, and their extremely conflict-of-interest-y Beautypedia product reviews. Their marketing often argues based on false premises, such as the idea that everyone wants or needs antioxidants in every single product they use (yes, antioxidants are great, but you don’t need them in everything) or that anyone who’s interested in Korean skincare is deluded and fad-chasing. This style of marketing grinds my gears.

That’s why I was happy to find a way to switch from PC to another company. COSRX chemical exfoliators are formulated just as correctly as PC’s, and I’ve found them more effective for my skin. They’re also much more affordable. Tell you the truth, I don’t think I’m ever going back. I’m just dreaming of COSRX’s R&D team coming out with a stellar retinol product or two to add to their lineup.

Have you used COSRX products? What do you think of them?

70 thoughts on “Brand Spotlight: COSRX

  1. I haven’t tried COSRX products yet but I am becoming more and more interested in it. I love that you were able to do an interview with them. They seem to be genuinely sincere about helping their customers and skin care problems. And I’m glad that they announced they were opening an online shop in the future!

    So did you replace your PC BHA 2% liquid with BHA Blackhead Power Liquid? And you would say you have gotten the same results from it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did indeed replace my PC BHA with the COSRX, and I am getting much better results. The PC for me was only effective at maintenance. My skin didn’t get worse, my pores didn’t get worse. With the COSRX BHA combined with the Returning A-Sol, my nose pores are actually looking MUCH smaller and cleaner than I ever remember them being before.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been a Paula’s Choice devotee so far, but think I need to give CosRX a go after reading this. And I read that K-beauty article they posted. You’re right they were dismissive and didn’t seem to do any deep-diving into the ingredients. Furthermore, there aren’t that many Beautypedia reviews on Korean products.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am hoping against hope that they make a Mandelic Acid AHA. I’ve read that it is more effective for Asian and African skin. It is really hard to find an OTC Mandelic Acid product that is reasonably priced.

    Great interview!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s not an AB product, but I’ve been using the MUAC Mandelic Acid Peel for the last two months. I every 2 weeks for the first month, and now I’m using it weekly. I bought the one ounce bottle and I probably have used less 1/3 of the bottle, and I’ve seen amazing results. I highly recommend it.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. This was a really interesting interview – glad to see they’re still developing new products and marketing strategies! I’ve used their 95 Galactomyces White Power Essence, and while I liked it, I didn’t think it made a miraculous difference in my skin. It’s the only kind of that product type I’ve tried, though, so I’m not sure if the “first essence” category as whole doesn’t work for me, or just this product in particular… I am planning to buy their version of an AHA exfoliator once my bottle of PC 2% AHA runs out. A) It’s cheaper, and b) I really hate being lectured, especially in a consumer relationship! It’s pretty much the fastest way to turn me “off” a brand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My thoughts exactly about the lecturing!

      Honestly, I’m not 100% sold on the galactomyces thing. I’ve had great results with the FTE as far as gradual brightening and an instant glow, but the glow is probably from the extra hydration and the brightening from the niacinamide and the licorice root extract. I am enjoying the White Power Essence and don’t miss the FTE though.


      1. I suspect you’re correct that the licorice and niacinamide are the real star ingredients, but I’m still planning to use the Missha FTE as a comparison once I finish my bottle of the WPE – but that probably won’t happen until the winter, as I’ve been using it for nearly 4 months and still have nearly half a bottle left!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel the same way about PC, They just grind my gears!
    And since I have written my larger piece about acids (in which I tried to explain and show people that there is plenty alternatives to pc that are just as good or better) I hadnt used any asian acids yet, but now that I used a few I am quite impressed actually. PC is over rated and over priced and there is no reason why one should not at least try different options.
    Either way I love Cosrx! I have tried 6 products already and one I will start testing soon and so far all of them have been rating from really good to miraculous! No other brand has managed to pull that off before, and I have no brand loyalty or interest what so ever.
    I am impressed!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m already curious about CosRX products and now you’ve made me reeeeally want to try them! ^^ It’s funny that I never heard about them while in Korea, but since leaving they’re all over the blogs. It sounds like they actually care about the consumer too, so I might just have to give them a go 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Do you happen to know if Cosrx products contain any preservatives? I’d like to try it, but the ingredients lists seem off.


  8. I ordered the Blackhead Power Liquid and the Returning A-Sol and will be replacing the corresponding PC products once I use them up. Aside from the fact that I find that many of the PC products I’ve used take a significant amount of time to absorb, I’m not really comfortable with the way the company markets their products and their involvement in the whole /r/skincareaddiction fiasco. It was awesome that the marketing manager from CosRx took the time to answer your questions. I’m really looking forward to all of the great things they have planned!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. this was very interesting. and I appreciated the words on PCs marketing strategy, that was something that bothered me as well. I think a company that offers good products should not need such strategies at all.
    I only used samples of PCs stuff (worked great) and selfmade lactic-acid serum, but I wanted a product that had experts formulated, and felt not very secure in using my own mixed serum. so I just ordered the cosrx whitehead power liquid (although I read all the coments on it’s horrible smell 😉 ).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes! Thank you for this! I have been using PC and loving many of their products but I also really dislike the way they feel the need to bash other brands under the guise of giving unbiased reviews. I had to laugh when they reviewed Laniege and have all products one star. Like, really??

    Anyway, I’m so glad I came across your blog via Even though I have combo/oily skin I think I can find a lot of info that will benefit me here. Will be trying this brand asap. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “since most consumers are unaware of the importance of variables like concentration and pH. (But not you lovely people.)”

    Skincare noob here, please explain 🙂 or redirect me somewhere I can read up on this. I use PA’s BHA lotion and it keeps my skin at bay, but doesn’t actually fully improve it… may look into COSRX

    Glad I stumbled onto your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi, I have oily skin and large pores and I want to start using chemical exfoliants. I’m wondering which of these I should order, or a combination of which products to use? I only have pimples/whiteheads on my cheeks. But very mild. And I have acne scars as well. What’s a good routine to stick to with these cosrx products?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To start with, I think the BHA Blackhead Power Liquid for an overall treatment. It will help with your pore issues and oiliness. Also the Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol to use as a spot treatment when you get a pimple, or all over as a preventative step.

      The way to use them would be to cleanse, then apply the BHA, wait fit about half an hour if you can, then apply the A-Sol and continue with your routine. Since you’ve not used chemical exfoliants before, start slow. Once a night every other night for at least a week, then move up to once daily if your skin is tolerating it well. I only do acids once a day, but some people do use them twice daily. It’s up to you 🙂

      What kind of acne scarring do you have? If it’s dark spots, then vitamin C, an AHA, niacinamide and sunscreen will help fade them.


  13. Hi Auntie Snail, i just found your amazing site today and i can’t stop read your amazing writing!

    I have a question for you, i have a dehydrated-dry skin yet i have some hormonal acne problem (1-2 acnes every month), quiet obvious pores around my nose area, and some tiny whitehead around my eyes area, do you think this aha and bha products will do the justice to my skin conditions? I’ve read about PC chemical exfoliant but i’m still doubt the function in my face until i read about wanderlust and your reviews about COSRX. As an asian myself, i’m more into korean skincare since i feel their products do the justice in my face. Thank you 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Julie, thanks for your nice words! I think the CosRX products could definitely help. They seem well tolerated by many people, even with sensitive or dry skin. The whiteheads around your eyes could be milia, though, and for that I believe a doctor would be more helpful 🙂 Good luck!


      1. Thank you so much for your fast response. I just searched milia at google and i think that’s exactly my problem, thank you so much for giving me a good information. I will try this chemical exfoliants, and will wait nicely for your new review 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately I’m afraid I’m not qualified to advise whether it’s suitable for use during pregnancy. The active ingredient in it is 0.5% betaine salicylate, however, and based on that and the high pH, I would say that it is not going to be an effective exfoliator. It sounds more like an astringent serum.

      Congratulations on the coming baby!


    1. I usually put it all over my face unless my skin is feeling particularly overexfoliated (sometimes I hit the scrubs a bit too hard, whoops). When that happens, I just put BHA on my nose and AHA everywhere else.


  14. Have you ever tried the CosRX Acne Pimple Master Patch? I’ve heard great things! Plus, it being sold out on both Cupidrop and Memebox must be a good sign… Looking into trying it out!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Being a newbie to skincare, I’m really happy to see honest reviews re Paula’s Choice/Beautypedia like this. 🙂

    Of course I get that they’re a business, and they’re going to hype themselves up (like any other company out there would), but that PC article you linked to (re AB products)… what in the fresh passive aggressive hell was that article even? If they’d included a small list of Korean products that do look promising, maybe the article would’ve been more palatable? But damn… judging by that, imo, pretty unprofessional article/lack of reviews (re decent Korean products) it seems PC feels pretty threatened by a bit of Korean competition no?

    I know that not every product will work for everyone, but after checking up on some of COSRX’s products (reading different reviews + putting them through COSDNA) it seems like the hype surrounding COSRX is pretty damn legit. It’ll be interesting to see if PC does review COSRX’s products in the future–if they give COSRX products like the BHA power liquid + Snail essence a 0… it’ll be kinda obvious PC is unjustly slandering the competition!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahahaha–I can’t wait for the PC review of Cosrx, tbh.

      I was reading their renew of some random Laneige serum and getting so confused, because they kept calling it a cream–so I don’t know if they even had the right product but were dragging it anyway. Sigh.

      I always say that Cosrx could be the next PC, except with a better attitude 🙂


      1. Yikes @ that Laniege serum/cream review… see this is why I’m pretty wary of trusting PC now. :/

        I also actually ended up googling ‘Korea Paula’s Choice’ to see if PC had done any more articles on K-beauty, and stumbled across a livechat on youtube featuring 2 PC staffers discussing K-beauty. The way they talked about some AB ingredients was pretty dismissive imo, and the manner in which they subtly kept pushing this ‘us vs. them’ mentality (West > East beauty products) was rather odd. Like… surely there are great products within the AB realm too (as there is in the West)? It didn’t surprise me that they didn’t bother mentioning all that many decent AB products/brands, and that the same smiley/jokey (yet catty/dismissive) attitude present in the PC article was present in the livechat too.

        Idk… I just felt like the agenda they were pushing (re AB products) was off, and presenting AB as very ‘other’ felt very scare tactic-y/dogmatic imo.

        Anyway LOL I can’t wait for PC to review COSRX too. My guess is they’d stick to reviewing one random item (like the Blackhead finger ball) and just leave it at that. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmmm I think AHA has the most impact for my skin concerns, as I’m more concerned with overall texture and tone than with pores or acne issues–though I suppose that could be different if I weren’t using both!


  16. Hello and thank you for sharing this post! I actually just bought all four of these products after doing some research!! I struggle with hormonal acne, scarring, black/white heads, some dark spots, and discoloration. So I thought, what the hell! But I’m not sure what steps I should use… Should I do the A-Sol, and then the white essence follow by the white or black head liquid, and then a moisturizer?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In your routine, the most effective order will be this: Cleanse -> BHA -> AHA -> A-Sol -> Whitening Power Essence. But please do introduce the products one at a time, maybe one each week as long as you aren’t experiencing irritation 🙂


      1. Cleanse -> BHA -> AHA -> A-Sol -> Whitening Power Essence

        In this order, where can i insert the AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner? I’m having a hard time trying to figure out the order of these product since every blog suggest different ways, I’m getting confused. 😦


  17. Hello! Thank you for your posts! I love this site- or blog.. . It’s a great site for everyone who wants to try out some products but is skeptical of its performance.
    There are a lot of things you have reviewed and oh god i really wanted to try them. But I don’t know which product to start on or what should I include on my skin routine.
    I just recently suffered from acne scarring- i swear to god i won’t use any etude cleanser ever again. :”(
    My skin has recovered slightly.. . there are lesser acne than before, but I don’t know how to cure the acne marks or scars… and some occasional acne. I would really appreciate it if you could recommend me products to try on.


    1. Hi Riah! It’s very hard to recommend specific products to somebody without knowing them, as everybody’s skin is different and there are issues like budget and time to consider as well. If you look up at the top of this blog, there’s an option under “Why Asian Skincare?” called “How to Build a Skincare Routine.” I think that would be a helpful place to start! Good luck 🙂


  18. Thank you, thank you for writing this post. I’ve also been using PC products and they do a good job keeping my skin from acting up, but didn’t see any improvement. I also got really turned off by their bash-everyone-else marketing tactics. It’s hard to read beautypedia because some of their comments are just downright mean and unprofessional. So I’m so happy to find another alternative! Can’t wait to try COSRX out 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Hi! I used to be a big fan of PC products until one of their staff pissed me off. When I first started using their products, my face looked the best I could ever asked for. So I fell in love. Then after a while, my skin didn’t stayed the same way. In fact, it became more prone to breakout and sensitive to other skincare. I fee like my skin has become so immune to their products. One day, I was really angry with their customer service and decided it was time for me to move on. That was why I found your blog. I am also trying to find AHA and BHA products to replace PC. I am going to order this Cosrx brand when I finish my current ones.


  20. Hello! I have read some of your articles but I still don’t quite get the hang of it. I’m planning to buy cosrx 95 white power essence and its BHA blackhead power liquid. I would like to know:
    1) In which sequence should I apply these products?
    2) Is it necessary to wait 20mins before the application of each product (i.e. After cleansing face/after applying first product)?
    3) Also, do I apply my toner before or after these products and similarly, do I have to wait 20mins after/before applying BHA and white lower essence.
    Thank you so much in advance ! 🙂


  21. Hello and thank you for such an informative post.
    I read somewhere that Age doesnt matter for Cosrx products(im 19 anways lel) but I haven’t tried chemical exfoliation so im kinda scared D:
    My main problem is those annoying tiny flesh colored bumps which I suspect to be white heads 😡 I’m curious as to which of the cosrx products woul help and at what order(the product names confuse me tbh ahaha) not sure if bha or aha liquid would be better or both…? Thank you ❤


  22. I would first like to say thank you for your thorough and well appointed posts, it is a great and easy read! Secondly, I absolutely LOVE CosRX and recently purchased their Whitehead Power Liquid and Whitening Essence because I have had such great results from the other items I have purchased. I also agree that the items are more effective than PC. I am looking forward to seeing some more of your posts!

    xoxo Caitlyn


  23. I just bought CosRX A-Sol and BHA Summer Pore Minish Serum. How do I use it in order? Kindly advise since I want to know about skincare routine. Thanks 🙂


  24. Hi, i want yo buy these products. Can you give me a list of authorized retailers? Now a days a lot of products have fakes copys all over the internet, so I want to be sure I’m buying an original product with legit ingredients. Thanks a lot.


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