Got visible pores? Then you probably know the constant struggle of trying to keep them clean so that they’ll look smaller and less noticeable, especially on the cheeks and in the T-zone. Primers and makeup can work wonders to hide them, but not everyone wants to wear makeup, and your skincare goal is probably to have skin that looks great without makeup, anyway. The occasional clay mask and oil massage treatment can deep-clean pores for a temporarily improved appearance, but on a daily basis, your most reliable weapon against obvious pores is going to be a BHA.
Unfortunately, BHAs formulated at the correct concentration and pH are few and far between. In the Western market, the two best-known are probably the cheap and easily accessible but often drying and irritating Stridex Maximum Strength or the gentler but more expensive and unpleasantly textured Paula’s Choice BHA products.
And then there’s COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid.
Purpose: COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is an oil-soluble chemical exfoliant that clears dead skin cells from deep within pores to minimize their appearance and prevent breakouts.
Do not use if: You are sensitive to betaine salicylate or anything else in the ingredients list. Check with your doctor if you are already using a prescription-strength retinoid or if you have an aspirin allergy.
When and how to use: After cleansing (and after vitamin C serum if you use one), apply to face in a thin layer using hands or a cotton pad. For best results, wait 20-30 minutes before applying any other products to allow the acid to take effect without being prematurely neutralized.
COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid ingredients: Salix alba (willow) bark water, butylene glycol, betaine salicylate (4%), niacinamide, 1,2-hexanediol, arginine, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate, xanthan gum, ethyl hexanediol. pH: 4.0 (according to Wishtrend)
Notable ingredients: Since this is a chemical exfoliant, let’s first talk about the two factors that make or break effectiveness: BHA concentration and pH.
Unlike most Western BHA products, COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is formulated with betaine salicylate rather than the more common salicylic acid. Korean regulations around salicylic acid are particularly strict. Betaine salicylate, on the other hand, is a milder, gentler, and more sensitive skin-suitable BHA–the friendly, polite “Canadian of BHAs,” as Snow White and the Asian Pear put it. The 4% concentration of betaine salicylate is enough to do the job here without going overboard. The pH, meanwhile, is 4.0. That’s on the high end of the effectiveness range for a BHA, which also contributes to the gentler nature of COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid compared to Stridex or Paula’s Choice BHAs.
COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is based on willow bark water rather than plain water. Willow bark is a natural source of BHAs, which have anti-inflammatory as well as exfoliant properties. While I’m inclined to believe that willow bark water will not exfoliate on its own, the anti-inflammatory action contributes to an overall less irritating experience.
The only ingredient CosDNA flagged was butylene glycol, which is everywhere, and which only scored a 1 as a potential acne trigger.
I’d already been using a BHA every day for over a year before I got the COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. I’d alternated between the Paula’s Choice and the Stridex, depending on how my skin felt on any given day. I’ll be comparing COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid to these two better-known BHA products throughout this review.
COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is clear and slightly thicker than water, with a slippy texture that allows it to glide smoothly over skin. It has a slight chemical odor. The smell fades much more quickly than the strong menthol scent of Stridex Maximum Strength and is far less unpleasant, in my opinion, than the weird, musty funk of the Paula’s Choice. Seriously, why does the PC have to smell like that?
One thing I really appreciate about COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is the way it feels after application. BHAs can be quite drying, as just about anyone who’s used Stridex Maximum Strength will agree: the 20-30 minute wait time after putting on Stridex was often torturous for me. It made my face feel like it was shriveling up and dying. I’m really not a fan of scorched-earth tactics when it comes to my face, so I never found Stridex ideal. And in my opinion, Paula’s Choice overcompensates for the naturally drying properties of BHAs. Their 2% BHA Liquid always left a sticky, oily-feeling film on my skin, no matter how thinly I applied the product. COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid dries down within minutes and feels just hydrating enough to prevent tightness or discomfort without leaving any discernible residue behind.
The other thing I appreciate even more about COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is the results it delivers. As I said, I’d been using BHAs daily for over a year before I captured this unicorn. I wasn’t being diligent because I was happy with my progress, though. When it came to my BHAs, I was being diligent because I’m pig stubborn. BHAs are known to keep pores clear when formulated at the right pH and concentration, and both the Paula’s Choice BHA liquid and the Stridex in the red box are known to be at the right pH and concentration, so even though I never saw any change, I kept grimly putting them on and hoping that someday I’d see some kind of improvement. My pores didn’t get any worse, that’s true. But they weren’t getting any better.
Within a couple of weeks after I started using COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, I knew I’d found The One. The stubborn visible pores on my nose and to either side of it were already looking smaller and cleaner than ever before. I’m about two months in to my use of this product, and I’m seeing continued improvement, all without any irritation or dryness, even during my month with alkaline cleansers.
In conjunction with my A-Sol, the anti-inflammatory properties of the BHA have also gotten the chronic redness around my nose and on my chin under control and help to keep my oil production in check, allowing me to use less makeup overall. Love.
Conclusions: I’m in total agreement with The Wanderlust Project that COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is a better product than the well respected Paula’s Choice BHA, and the COSRX perfectly complements my COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid. It’s rare that I can’t find a single thing to complain about in a product, but this is that unicorn that satisfies me in every way–and unlike the AHA, the smell of this one isn’t strong enough to be a minus. With all my other BHA products, I felt like I never got off the plateau. With COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, my skin always seems to be improving. It’s really great stuff, and I’m officially off the market when it comes to BHA.
Where can I buy COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid?
Unlike some other products I’ve reviewed on this blog, COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is readily available for purchase. The 100ml bottle can be purchased from several Fiddy-approved (ahem…Fiddy-frequented, really) shops. Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk(*).
What’s your BHA of choice?