COSRX, one of my favorite Korean skincare companies (and a mainstay in my skincare routine), has been making some serious growth plays in the last few months. The company is establishing itself as a standout not only for simple, effective formulations, but also for incredible responsiveness to its customers. A few months back, COSRX’s Lee Hye-Young told me that because of some overseas customers’ interest in low pH cleansers, the company was working on one of their own. The cleanser will be released in early October…and thanks to Hye-Young (who I really hope is being paid extremely well, because she is awesome), I have a little pre-launch bottle of it in my possession! Want a look?
A quick word on the importance of low pH cleansers
There’s some debate (and probably always will be, since the concept isn’t new) around the practical value of low pH cleansers. I fall squarely in the low pH, high value camp. Research-intensive posts on the subject at Skin and Tonics and Snow White and the Asian Pear have had me convinced for quite some time–that, and the fact that my skin’s texture and glow have never been better than they are these days, when I’m committed to the low pH life. My opinion is that when it comes to avoiding acid mantle damage and all the complexion woes that can result, cleanser pH is critical, more so than the presence or absence of surfactants such as sulfates. In my experience, even SLS isn’t the devil when it comes in a low pH formulation. Research cited by the cosmetic chemists at The Beauty Brains backs me up. pH isn’t everything, of course, but it is the first criterion I consider when deciding whether to try out a new cleanser.
With that being said, of course there are people who feel that they’re doing just fine with the much more common alkaline cleansers–or even with bar soap. And that’s okay. All skincare is YMMV, and if your skin is naturally oily (as opposed to dehydrated-oily) and/or you are very young, with skin that’s producing lipids and natural moisturizing factors (NMFs) in abundance, you may indeed be able to withstand a high pH cleanser. But doing so isn’t skincare best practices. That’s been demonstrated by the research time and time again, and I’m all about skincare best practices. Even when your skin is “fine,” using a low pH cleanser will help prevent a host of problems, from dehydration and premature lines and wrinkles to bacterial acne and excessive sensitivity.
If you’re just not about the low pH life, then feel free to scroll down to the sleeping packs. If you are intrigued, check out COSRX’s upcoming offering!
COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser first impressions
COSRX’s Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser is indeed a gel. Thick and clear, it has an interesting smell, halfway between Pine-Sol and A-Sol: strong and piney with a side of tea tree. The smell is the only thing I’m not sure I like about this product so far. On the plus side, it smells natural, not perfumey, so things could be worse.
This is my first gel cleanser; before I properly review it, I’m going to get my hands on a few decants of other gel cleansers (thanks, Tracy and Kerry!) for comparison. For now, however, I can say that I like it. I’m especially happy that it lathers up as well as it does.
Cleansing with the Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser leaves my skin feeling soft and clean but neither dry nor stripped. This is true even when I work the product and lather very thoroughly into my skin, which I like to do in the mornings so that I can start my day feeling sparkly clean.
In the evenings, I put this cleanser through a different kind of test. I often wait ten minutes or longer between the time I dry my face after my shower and the time I put on my first active. With any drying cleanser, my face would begin feeling itchy and uncomfortable after a few minutes. It feels totally fine when I use this cleanser, even when I putz around and put off my actives just to see what will happen.
Oh, and the pH? My pH testing strips are the cheapest of the cheap, and I’ll be getting a much better setup before I write my official review of this cleanser, but after a lot of sweating, squinting, and comparison to the pH ~4 COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, I determined that COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser’s name is not a lie. Its pH is somewhere between 5 and 6 both undiluted and foamed up with water. Perfectly acceptable.
It’ll be another week or two before I post a full review with ingredients, but I do hope to have it done–with comparisons to other gel cleansers and with more reliable and readable pH testing–before the product’s official launch. That way, you’ll know whether you want to buy it by the time it’s available.
COSRX Ultimate Moisturizing Honey Overnight Mask vs COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask, plus first impressions
Edited to incorporate additional observations about the rice mask.
Remember how I said that COSRX is making some serious growth plays? In my opinion, branching out into sleeping masks is one of those growth moves. It signals an expansion beyond the functional basic skincare that the company is known for, and into more fun realms. COSRX has been teasing these masks on the company Instagram (which I’m pretty sure Hye-Young runs) for a while, and both launched very recently. I was on a no-buy when the honey mask launched. I shot off a (probably kind of whiny) email to my sponsor Jolse, and Jolse obliged by sending me a jar of the honey mask, which I received last week. The rice mask, on the other hand, came in the same parcel as the low pH cleanser that Hye-Young shipped me.
(She also included a jar of the One Step Pimple Clear Pads, which have replaced Stridex in our bathroom cabinet, and an adorable pamphlet whose graphics make up this post’s header image, and a couple of sheets of COSRX STICKERS, FRIGGIN COSRX STICKERS, because, like I said, she’s awesome.)
One of the most common questions I’ve heard about these masks since their release is, “Which mask should I get for my skin type?” After having used both of them, I can answer that for you right now. Oily and dehydrated-oily complexions will love the honey (which doesn’t actually contain any honey, but is full of propolis extract and also contains beeswax). Dry and dehydrated-dry complexions will do better with the rice. Normal skin can go both ways. Combo skin would benefit from both, HAHAHA, putting the honey on oily zones and the rice on dry zones, because hey–best practices.
In all seriousness, the honey mask has been treating me wonderfully so far. The light, watery gel spreads smoothly over skin and imparts a soothing, cooling sensation upon contact. It dries down fast and it dries down fully, with absolutely no oily or sticky residue. The hydrating formulation makes my skin feel extra supple, while the beeswax and judiciously used silicones seal in nutrients and moisture throughout the night. Or even throughout the day. I’ve found that this “overnight mask” works remarkably well as a day moisturizer under any of my sunscreens. I’ve yet to test it as a wash-off mask, but I will do that before posting a full review.
Since I just received the rice mask, I haven’t yet had the chance to try it out for an extended period of time. I did use it as my final moisturizing step last night, smoothing a generous layer over my face and neck after my evening sheet mask. The smooth, rich cream reminds me somewhat of Mizon’s Returning Starfish Cream, but with more glide and less oil. A much heavier product than the honey mask, it took a much longer time to dry down and left a slight tackiness on my face. I definitely won’t be using this one as a day moisturizer. Tonight, however, I applied a much thinner layer, which dried down nicely and in a shorter time, leaving a slight occlusive film but no stickiness. As a sleeping pack, it leaves me with a very plump and velvety complexion come morning. I haven’t yet tried it as a day cream or wash-off pack.
Both of these masks claim some brightening effects and (*correction) the rice mask contain niacinamide, so I’ll be testing them for a couple of weeks each in isolation before sharing reviews.
It’s pretty rare for me to like every product I’ve ever tried from a brand, but somehow, COSRX is pulling off the feat. I’m super grateful to have the opportunity to test these products out so early. I’ll check in again with my full assessments of what they can do, what they can’t, and how they compare to similar products over the next couple of months!
Are you thinking of getting any of COSRX’s new releases? Tell me which ones and why in the comments!