First Impressions: COSRX Low pH Cleanser and Honey and Rice Overnight Masks

Note: This post features products provided by Fifty Shades of Snail sponsors Jolse and COSRX. For more information about my rules for reviewing press samples, read my sponsorship policy.

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 cleanser

Skincare Sheep is enticing you. Are you enticed?

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.

Cosrx low pH cleanser foam

I’ll have to snag a foaming net to see what this cleanser is truly capable of, but what you see here is very acceptable for a dime-sized dollop on bare hands.

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.

pH test of undiluted COSRX low pH cleanser

Yes, I know it’s hard to read the strips. It’s hard to read them in person too. That’s why I went through about 9 of them before making this.

pH test results of diluted COSRX low pH cleanser

Also, my handwriting is remarkably shitty compared to everyone else’s that I see on Snapchat.

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.)

COSRX honey and rice overnight masks

Rice on the left, honey on the right, the souls of COSRX fans in the middle.

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!

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30 responses to “First Impressions: COSRX Low pH Cleanser and Honey and Rice Overnight Masks

  1. I am looking forward to trying out the pH cleanser – waiting for it to be available to purchase! I also purchased the 2 sleep packs and will have to disrupt my current testing on another one to try these out. Thank you for your initial impressions – cosRX is one of my top 5 brands that I love 🙂 Have you tried Ciracle Anti-Blemish Tea Tree cleanser? I do not if you suffer from blemishes, but this is a great low pH level 5.5 and it does smell like tea tree, but it is a cleanser that I really enjoy (and I happen to love tea tree scents, anyway)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, that does sound like a nice cleanser, and I have a good impression of Ciracle (of course, since they’re Cosrx’s “sister”). I’ll have to put it on the list! It’s funny, cleansers were something that I thought I would not review many of, since I’m picky and will stick with a good cleanser for a long time, but recently I’ve added so many to my queue. They’re becoming pretty fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I ordered the two sleeping masks already and I’m super curious to try them. For the gel cleanser I would also try it, not mainly because of the pH but because of the cleansing abilities in general and maybe comparison to western gel cleansers (which are more popular than oil cleansers as far as I see).

    Liked by 1 person

    • The cleanser surprised me! I tested it with some waterproof eyeliner on the back of my hand, and it removed it easily with a normal amount of massaging. I’ll be posting pictures of such tests when I review it properly 😀

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  3. My face has been more dry/normal here in Switzerland, so I’ve been eyeing a new moisturizer/occlusive pretty heavily, since the Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream isn’t readily available via TesterKorea/Jolse and I’m running low on my CosRX Honey Ceramide Cream. It looks like that CosRX Rice is nice, but I have a question – why market something as an overnight mask when it can be used as a daytime moisturizer? Can you just use a heavy layer of a normal moisturizer then?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that it’s a bit more film forming (the honey one as well) than typical creams. You will feel a thin layer on top of your skin after it dries. So it seals the juices in a bit better. But the distinction is definitely a subtle one!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. If you’re looking for better pH strips, I’d go for the ones with multiple indicators–for example, the ones that come up first if you Amazon search “Whatman pH strips.” We actually use those in my lab for things that don’t have enough volume for the real pH meter.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you for this important “late breaking news” and for the initial reviews. I think the whole AB world has been anxiously awaiting the new CosRX cleanser and wondering if it would be as good as their other products.

    Well, you answered both questions in the affirmative and I can’t wait to get my hands on the new cleanser. I’ve asked Cupidrop if they will be stocking it, as I obtained quite a few of the other CosRX products from them recently, in anticipation of my autumn routine change-over.

    That honey sleep mask also sounds fabulous (even if it doesn’t really have honey), but I’m still working through my Holika Holika honey sleep packs (canola and blueberry) so I think I’ll hold off until I’ve finished with them.

    Of course, the rice sleep mask sounds really good, too and with winter just a few short months away…

    Liked by 1 person

      • Just to follow up on this…
        (as I am having yet another “Senior Moment” of confusion…)

        Is what you – and presumably V.Rex (who also has a wonderful “must read” blog) – are saying is that the honey mask could/should/might be used as a first layer in a “double sleep mask” finishing touch to a PM routine?

        Not that I would ever think of adding another step to my PM routine (LOL), but this does sound intriguing!

        What would you recommend as a second sleep pack over the CosRX honey? I would think that this would have to be rather occlusive to hold all the prior multiple layers of AB goodness – and the honey mask – in (and already sounds totally wonderful as I type this).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the first impression reviews fiddy! You’re simply the best! I can’t wait to read the full reviews for the sleeping packs and the low ph cleansing gels.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for this review, I’ve been eagerly awaiting 🙂

    How does it compare to the tosowoong enzyme powder wash in your opinion? I’m currently using and loving it and I know you loved it too so would be very interested to hear how they stack up

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m a rather passive AB fan, since was afraid of trying it again after a bad encounter with several popular products (Benton, Hada Labo, etc.). But your blog convinced me to try cosRX actives and I could not be happier! You literally opened up a whole new world for me and I’m addicted to your blog. Have you also tried their Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence? Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have indeed tried it and I actually love it and will be posting a review soon! I’ve used Benton, Mizon, Missha and some other brands’ snail products and vastly prefer the Cosrx. It’s the most purely “snaily” snail essence, it feels like it, and it makes my skin wonderfully soft and soothed. I have a backup bottle on the way to me even though I’m less than halfway through my first 😂 Thank you for reading!

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  9. Hi Fiddy! I got the honey mask a few days ago and I have to say, it is really nice – it does remind me a lot of holika holika honey sleeping packs – not the scent or cool looking texture, but how it applies on my skin and absorbs quickly. In fact, just like Holika Holika, I have to apply another “coat” on my face as it absorbs so fast into my skin. It seems to have the same effect too ~ my skin is soft and moisturized in the am, with no new blemishes. I think the big plus for me with the CosRX is that they have few ingredients than Holika Holika, but Holika Holika actually contains honey – lol

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hello (this is a bit off-topic so it’s alright if you don’t reply), I’m new to AB and being more ingredient/pH conscious with skincare. I’ve been trying to help out my boyfriend with his skin problems for the whole time we’ve been dating; he is of the opinion that he’s oily, but I’m pretty sure he has dry, dehydrated skin. He’s very acne-prone and has dry, flaky patches almost constantly around his forehead and cheeks. He also has large pores and SFs on his nose that he’s rather self-conscious about (I ordered the CosRX BHA Blackhead Long Name Thing for us to share).

    I feel rather lost about how to address his acne and dry patches. He’s used Western cleansers with salicylic acid before, but he said they always made his skin worse because they were too harsh. He’s currently using a Cetaphil cleanser, but I’ve just learned about the importance of pH in cleansers and it’s too alkaline (so I’m concerned that it’s been contributing to his acne rather than helping). I was going to pick up the Hadalabo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Cleansing Foam for him (he’s used my oil cleansers in the past and liked them, so I don’t know if that would be better or if he should stick to the foam or double cleanse). I have no clue what moisturizer to get for him though (he’s alright with the texture of Cerave in the pump bottle; anything thicker or more emollient and he refuses to use it). Do you have any recommendations? I apologize for the long post. Thank you very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jenny! Congratulations on having a partner who’s pretty open to letting you build him a routine 😁 I think you’re probably correct that the cleanser is the priority right now, so I would suggest first just focusing on finding him one that his skin likes. I hope it’s your first choice, but unfortunately it still might not be. The CeraVe moisturizer is actually a decent beginner lotion to heal a damaged barrier! Is it the one with niacinamide (CeraVe PM)?

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  11. Haha, yeah. He had pretty bad dandruff from scalp psoriasis when we started dating, so he’s accustomed to me handing him products to use (we landed on a Lush shampoo bar as the current solution since it causes no itching and gets rid of a lot of his flakies but I’m still hoping to find something better). It’s the CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion, so no niacinamide. Should I pick up the PM facial moisturizer then? Thank you very much for your help, by the way 🙂

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  12. Hi there! Have been repeatedly coming across links to your blog in r/AsianBeauty and now I often check to see if you’ve reviewed a product first before buying, haha. I just got a pretty big CosRX haul with the A-Sol, Whitehead & Blackhead Power Liquids, and the Snail 92 All-in-One Cream. I’ve been having issues with milia and am hoping this stuff can help clear a lot of it up. I’ve been thinking of starting off with the A-sol and incorporating one of the two Power Liquids to see how my skin handles it. Which one do you recommend starting off with?

    I’m really eager to check out this cleanser when it comes out too, as I’ve currently been using AquaGlycolic for the last two years and think it’s just “meh”. Did they give you a timeline for its release date at all? I’m from the USA but I actually live in Korea, so I’m hoping I can take advantage of that when it comes out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not super familiar with milia, but from what I’ve heard, AHA will be more effective for that. And the cleanser will be launching in early October. I’ll have a review of it and a Jolse coupon code to use on it soon!

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      • I actually live in Korea and order from CosRX directly, so I wouldn’t be able to use the coupon ㅠㅠ But considering today is October 4th, I’ll keep my eyes peeled!

        So far I’ve started using the A-sol daily and have been doing the AHA every three days. I’ve already seen a very noticeable difference in my skin’s texture, which is amazing and really exciting! It seems to like it so far, which is a relief. The only down side is my skin is a liiiiiiittle dry. It’s not flakey or anything, but I feel like it could really use more moisture if I’m going to fully incorporate active acids into my routine–especially with winter coming. So far I’ve been using the Snail 92 All-in-One Cream which is nice, but I might need something else to help bolster it. Any suggestions?

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Man, am I waiting for that low pH cleanser! I am in the market for a really good second cleanser, and of course everything that looks interesting to me will probably result in that dreaded “squeaky clean” feeling. >_< Do you happen to have any more information about when the Low pH Good Morning cleanser is going to launch, Fiddy?

    Liked by 1 person

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