COSRX Teaser News

For most of us who follow the hybrid Western/Asian SCA and AB skincare philosophy, cleansers with a high pH are practically verboten. Snow White and the Asian Pear agrees. Skin and Tonics does, too.

The natural pH of a healthy skin barrier is slightly acidic. Cleansers that are too alkaline–that have a high pH–disrupt the skin barrier, allowing the natural (and vital) protective lipids to be stripped away, leading to excessive moisture loss and dehydrated skin. High-pH cleansers also help foster a friendly environment for the bacteria that lead to breakouts.

Avoiding alkaline cleansers has worked well for many of us. My household’s daily foaming cleanser (yes, for all three of us, large and small), Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Cleansing Foam, has a pH of 5.5.

Hada Labo Gokujyun Foaming Face Wash
Stripping is for exotic dancers, not my skin.

So what is an Asian skincare enthusiast to think when a company well known for its gentle, effective, thoughtfully formulated products with appropriate pH levels, puts out cleansers whose pH levels far overshoot the “eh, it’s a little high but it’ll do” mark and reside squarely in “holy crap, you expect me to wash my face with that?!” territory?

I know COSRX. I love COSRX. I consider the brand to be one of the most reliable on the market, with chemical exfoliants that beat the Paula’s Choice equivalents by a mile and a wide range of other solid offerings. COSRX is all about no-frills skincare that’s suitable for even sensitive and acne-prone skin.

COSRX Returning A-Sol, White Power Essence, AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid, and BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
I put my money where my face is. A huge portion of my routine consists of COSRX products.

Uh, COSRX also makes two foaming cleansers. Awesome, right? They’re totally going to be pH 5.5 winners, right?

Per Wishtrend, the COSRX Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser has a pH of 9.54. And the Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Foam Cleanser, the one that you’d expect to be more gentle and less alkaline, has a pH of 9.61.

It didn’t make any sense to me, so I wondered if there was something I was missing about the cleanser pH question. I got back in touch with Lee Hye-Young, the COSRX representative I interviewed here a while back, to get an answer.

Hye-Young is a truly awesome and helpful person, so after a few days, she got back to me with a lengthy and detailed response from a COSRX researcher.

I’ll be posting the full text of the COSRX response on this blog sometime next week, after I’ve digested it, read up on some of the concepts discussed, and formulated a more educated opinion. But for now, here’s one key takeaway that should reassure anyone disappointed with the alkalinity of COSRX cleansers:

COSRX is working on a low-pH facial cleanser!

Here’s a quote from Hye-Young’s response, which also shows what close attention the company pays to its customers’ feedback:

“On this year April, one of our global customer suggested the need of mild acidic cleanser. We began investigation, research, and development of such cleanser, and it is almost ready to meet COSRX customers.”

And another:

“Nowadays various ingredients are discovered and known to have ability to cover the disadvantage of mild acidic cleanser. COSRX is currently testing those ingredients to make the most efficient acidic mild cleanser. It will soon to be on the market after doing clinical trials with COSRX workers. (No animal testing!)”

For those of us who choose to stick to low-pH facial cleansers for our daily skincare routines, this is great news. I can’t wait for the new product to launch.

(In the meantime, I’ve got a couple other alkaline facial cleansers I’m testing. My face hasn’t fallen off yet, so that’s good, I guess. I may try out the existing COSRX facial cleansers at some point, too.)

Are you excited for a low-pH COSRX cleanser?


26 thoughts on “COSRX Teaser News

    1. I know! I would love to be able to love a COSRX cleanser. Not that there’s anything wrong with my Hada Labo, but I’ve been using it for months and months and I’m starting to get restless.


  1. Great post! I’m looking forward to seeing what Cosrx comes up with. I use their BHA power liquid and its the gentlest BHA I’ve ever tried. So, I’m definitely excited for their gentle cleanser!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh! I’m happy to read that! Looking forward to try the mild foam cleanser by Cosrx, since I love the products I’ve tried so far.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I suppose what the CosRx scientist said was similar to what my resident cell biologist told me. That there is no need to fear cleansers within the pH 9 range. That they have excellent cleansing properties , which is important for the skin, and as for stripping the protective barrier, he claims the most they will do is bring the skin pH to neutral. Which can be fixed with a balancing toner.
    He claims that it’s the balancing act where we tend to screw things up. And more than the pH of our cleansers, we should be paying closer attention to our toners.
    Yes, he’s a man. And yes, he is Japanese. And yes, he is skincare obsessed. But he’s also a cell biologist and generally looks at things from the scientific point of view.
    He is nearly certain that the CosRx scientist told you something similar. Especially considering how carefully pH balanced are CosRx’s toners.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my! Thanks for this great information! Any chance that your resident cell biologist would be willing to be quoted (not with his name if he doesn’t want to) on this? I’m taking the time to really formulate a good post around the COSRX response.


      1. He says that we misunderstand this pH issue.
        He saw me testing a bunch of cleansers and offered to do it fo rme, and then he asked why I wanted to know.
        I explained about the pH of the skin and so on, and he just rolled his eyes.
        This is what he said to me again, when I asked if it’s ok to quote him:
        Yes, our skin’s pH falls arond the 5 ~ 5.5 mark. Though it might be naturally a bit lower or higher, depending on many many factors.
        Effective cleansers are all above the pH 7 mark. That’s just simple chemistry.
        Effective cleanser is essential, especially, if you wear makeup, and double cleanse. You need an effective cleanser to remove the gunk for your face.
        Will the above pH7 cleanser destory your skin’s natural protective barrier? in 99% of cases the answer is no. The chemical reaction during the cleansing process will at most raise the pH of the skin’s surface to neutral (when using a pH9 cleanser), and the contact time is so brief that the negative consequences are negligible.
        What is VERY important, accoridng to him, is balancing the pH with the toner to bring it back where it needs to be. He says that is why good toners are so carefully pH balanced. Because unlike cleansers, which we wash off, and rinse off, and remove, the toners stay on our skin.
        It’s the toners we should be focusing on.
        I asked what if someone has sensitive skin, delicate skin, breakout prone skin.
        He said, even then, instead of looking for a low pH cleanser, the first step should be to look for an effective cleanser without unneccessary irritants and additives, we call them mutenka in Japanese. Mutenka cleansers are gentle on the skin despite their pH higher than 7. Why is that? Because they contain other protective substances without compromising their cleaning power.
        He also said, it’s not a coincidence that good low pH cleansers are very expensive. The reason for it is that it is not easy to formulate an effective low pH cleanser without loading it up with a bunch of added chemicals to boost its cleaning power. That’s just simple chemistry, he said. In many cases such low pH cleansers can actually cause more long term damage to the skin due to the fact that they may not remove all dirt (especially when double cleansing), or contain other irritants that were added to the mix to make it a “cleanser”, or the user, in the mistaken belief that a low pH cleanser is oh-so-good, does not follow up with proper balancing afterwards.
        Most toners are meant to be used for balancing after cleansing with above pH7 cleansers, that’s how they are designed.
        So is there anyone who should avoid high pH cleansers? Yes, people with dermatitis, chronic skin conditions, etc, etc, but before switching to an all low pH routine, check with your dermatologist.
        And when you buy a low pH cleanser, look for ones that are considered “quasi-drugs” and regulated accordingly. Unfortunately, such cleansers tend to be more expensive.
        But first and foremost, he says, invest in a good toner (and here he points to the small bottle of ridiculously expensive toner he gave me).
        If I frogot about anything, I’ll add later.
        PS. The guy used to work for Kose as a researcher, if that matters.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I bought the Salicylic Acid cleanser before finding out the PH was so high (damnit, it’s like the only thing I didn’t research ultra thoroughly, I put too much trust in COSRX!). I didn’t want to waste it but also didn’t want to dry my skin out 😦 I end up using it every 4-5 days just around my chin area that gets more prone to acne and it’s not too bad 😀 It’s great to hear that they’re coming out with a more gentle cleanser though because I really loved the idea of both the Salicylic and Hyaluronic cleansers! Sticking to Hada Labo mostly at the moment 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a lot of thoughts about high pH cleansers, and those thoughts can be boiled down to: I no longer think they’re all bad. As long as the cleanser doesn’t seem to be stripping your skin or drying you out, it may just be okay. I’ll be posting my thoughts soon 🙂

      Personally, I’m on Day 5 of testing Mizon Snail Cushion Foaming Cleanser (pH 9+) and so far I’m liking it perfectly fine!


      1. Ah that’s good to hear! I was very worried that frequent use would just destroy my moisture barrier and AB had confirmed my thoughts but I gently tried it out and it’s been pretty good so far! I read that AHA products are supposed to be more for tackling closed comedones but I’m finding this salicylic cleanser to be helping too! I’ve also really ramped up my sheet mask usage lately too so perhaps my skin just doesn’t have the chance to dry out lately 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Firstly, Crazy Snail Lady, I love your blog and have learned so much from it–to the tune of several hundred dollars’ worth of products, in fact. 😉 This conversation about the pH of cleansers is one that I will be watching closely. When I entered the AB world back in December, I used the Skinfood Egg White Pore Foam cleanser and had amazing results. I was so sad once I learned about the importance of a low pH and the product’s high pH. I switched to the holy grail that everyone loves of the su:m37 rose stick, but I don’t like it as well as my previous cleanser, and honestly this conversation makes me want to dig my old cleanser out of the closet and give it another try.

    On a side note: just received my package from Wishtrend last night and already of loving the awkwardly named A-Sol! I woke up with such clear skin (right now I’m having a hormonal breakout). I can’t wait to try the Cosrx BHA liquid tonight, as Paula’s Choice has irritated my skin from time to time. Through you, I also discovered Glow Recipe, and not only the fabulous Whamisa masks, but also LJH products. The tea tree oil essence has worked wonders on my skin, and the propolis cream and probiotics sleeping mask are luxurious. If only my skin had cheaper needs! Thanks for all your informative, humorous posts! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad that you like your A-Sol (and my blog!). I don’t know much about that Skinfood cleanser, but I know it’s quite popular; if your skin did feel good when you used it and not uncomfortable or dry in any way, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving it another shot. It’ll be cheaper than the MRCS for sure!

      I’m trying to get my work out of the way quickly today so that I can write up that pH post!


  6. Eagerly awaiting the full post on cleanser pH and what the CosRX people had to say about it.
    All my online research has pointed to acidic cleansers being a positive thing, even when they’re only on your face for a minute, twice a day. But I am far from having a scientific understanding of how pH fits into the cleansing process, and also have a big bottle of pH 9 cleanser to use up, so er, I have an open mind, ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am not sure about their overall policy, but I know when we were discussing the new mild cleanser that is under development there, my contact at the company said that CosRX employees are testing the new cleanser out to avoid animal testing.


  7. I was always no taking so much care about cleansers, as hard it was as more effective cleanser it will be. Fortunately I only use toners without alcohol but that have sebum control.

    Now that I have read all this information about toners and cleansers ph I would change my habits really fast.

    Liked by 1 person

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