Debut Review: COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser

The product featured in this post was provided for review by COSRX. Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk(*).


Some of us have been waiting since all the way back in May for the COSRX low-pH facial cleanser. For me, dreams came true on September 14, when I got a package in the mail from COSRX containing a little pre-launch sample bottle of the Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser. I’ve been using it almost every day since then, taking breaks only to evaluate its performance against other comparable cleansers. I was able to give some initial thoughts last month. Now launch day is here, and I can take you guys on a deep dive through all this new product is capable of–and give you a way to save a little money on your first tube, if you decide you want to try it!

Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
Receiving this little bottle was one of the highlights of my blogging life so far.

Purpose: The COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser is a single-step gel cleanser designed to clean sunscreen, makeup, dirt, and oil from the face without requiring a second cleanser to remove residue. It can also be used as a conventional foaming facial wash.

Best suited for: All skin types, but sensitive, dry, dehydrated, and/or acne-prone skin types may see the most benefit.

Do not use if: You are sensitive to tea tree oil or other plant extracts, butylene glycol, or anything else in the ingredients list.

When and how to use: Spread a generous amount over dry face and massage for about a minute to remove dirt, oil, sunscreen, and makeup. You will see makeup and any visible dirt disappear from skin. Wet hands and massage again. Rinse. Alternatively, wet face and lather a small amount of cleanser using wet hands, foaming net, konjac sponge, or other cleansing tool. Massage lather gently over face and rinse.

pH: ~5.5 undiluted; ~6.5 when foamed with my apparently alkaline tap water. I pH test using the pH testing method described over at Holy Snails: with the product in exactly the state(s) in which it makes contact with my face. The receipts, as my friend Tracy over at Fanserviced would say, are below. The glare off the plastic box is throwing off the indicator colors in the guide; numbers given are my readings from squinting at them in person and giving myself probably a few more eye wrinkles as a result. The things I do for love.

Cosrx gel cleanser pH test
Test 1: Undiluted, as gel straight from the bottle, COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser tests at what I’m seeing as a pretty solid 5.5.
Tap water pH test for Cosrx gel cleanser review
A pH test of my water, which in person looked to be nearly an 8, if not even higher. For context, 7 is neutral. Yikes. I had no idea.
Cosrx low pH cleanser foam pH test
Test 2: Foamed up with aforementioned alkaline tap water, the COSRX Low pH Gel Cleanser tests a bit higher but still acidic-to-neutral, somewhere between 6 and 7. I repeated this test several times with the same results. So glad I got these nicer pH strips. The ones I’d used before were just not cutting it.

I’m more alarmed by the pH of my water than the pH of the cleanser when foamed with water. Even at a 6.5 or so, I still consider the pH of the Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser perfectly acceptable to cleanse skin without damaging the acid mantle as long as skin isn’t extremely compromised.

COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser ingredients: Water, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate, polysorbate 20, styrax japonicus branch/fruit/leaf extract, butylene glycol, saccharomyces ferment, cryptomeria japonica leaf extract, nelumbo nucifera leaf extract, pinus palustris leaf extract, ulmus davidiana root extract, oenothera biennis (evening primrose) flower extract, pueraria lobata root extract, melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) leaf oil, allantoin, caprylyl glycol, ethylhexylglycerin, betaine salicylate, citric acid, ethyl hexanediol, 1,2-hexanediol, trisodium ethylenediamine disuccinate, sodium benzoate, disodium EDTA

CosDNA analysis

Notable ingredients: As usual with wash-off products, I don’t want to spend too much time delving into ingredients that are going to wash off anyway, but I do want to point out a couple of things.

The first thing is the absence of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), two commonly used synthetic surfactants that have gotten a bad reputation in recent years. Many people consider them too harsh for either face or scalp (hence the popularity of sulfate-free shampoos and alternative, shampoo-free hair “washing” methods). Instead of SLS and/or SLES, this product uses the much milder cocamidopropyl betaine as a surfactant. Personally, I don’t have a problem with sulfates, but the fact that the Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser doesn’t have any will be a definite plus for those who do. Related is the absence of other commonly recognized irritants like alcohol and papain.

Second thing to note is the abundance of moisturizing, astringent, and anti-inflammatory plant extracts and other ingredients found in this list. On paper, they make the Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser look wonderfully balancing and calming. But will it be adequately cleansing? Because it has, you know, one job.


This is the first “gel cleanser” that I’ve ever used. Since I didn’t want to formally review it without having some basis for comparison, I reached out to blogger friends. Tracy pulled through with a hefty decant of the very respectable Acwell 5.5 Bubble-Free pH Balancing Cleanser for me to use. I suppose lack of experience with the product category doesn’t matter that much, but I do want to put it out there for context.

The COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser is a thick, clear gel with a strong initial whiff of tea tree and maybe some other…stuff. And things. The smell (simultaneously piney and antiseptic) was a little much for me the first few times I used this cleanser but, just like the smells of COSRX’s Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol and AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid, it does fade pretty quickly and will go away completely once you rinse. The smell is natural rather than artificial and perfumey. In any case, I went nose-blind to it after a few days. Isn’t the human body marvelous?

When using the product as a single-step gel cleanser, I use about a quarter-sized amount to cover my whole face. At that generous amount, the product spreads easily and lubricates well enough to prevent any rubbing, tugging, or irritation while massaging. I’m not super sure what makes gel cleansers so effective at removing makeup and sunscreen, but it seems to have something to do with using them on a dry face. My guess is that the massaging produces some kind of micro-friction that basically pulls impurities off of the skin. Like an eraser in liquid form. That’s how erasers work, right? Here, let’s have a look at how well the Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser erases sunscreen and makeup.

For the first test, I spread a generous amount of Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence sunscreen onto the back of my hand and let it dry down.
Cosrx low pH cleanser test for review
I then added a layer of IOPE Air Cushion XP, let it dry, and finished it off with Nature Republic By Flower eyebrow pencil (not recommended, by the way), Innisfree gel eyeliner, and 3CE Creamy Cheek Stick blush. I let everything set for about 10 minutes.
Testing Cosrx low pH cleanser
I added a dollop of the Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser. I hate the word “dollop,” but whatever. I’ll do what I want.
Cosrx low pH cleanser makeup removal
After about 40 seconds of gentle massaging, all the makeup on my hand appeared to be dissolved.
Cosrx low pH cleanser makeup removal test
Everything rinsed cleanly from my hand, and the lack of water beading shows that the sunscreen is gone, too.

So far, it seems to be a winner! But wait. The sunscreen I used for the test above is one that’s considered “everyday,” meaning that it isn’t water-resistant. What about more heavy-duty, water-resistant sunscreens, the kind that generally need an oil-based first cleanser to remove?

Testing Cosrx low pH cleanser
For the next test, I applied an inadvertently hefty amount of my most long-wearing sunscreen, the Biore UV Perfect Milk.
Makeup removal with Cosrx gel cleanser
After letting the sunscreen dry, I applied the same makeup products I used before, but I went heavier on the eyeliner this time. I seem to have misplaced the dollop image. Whoops.
Cosrx gel cleanser review
As you might imagine, it took a little longer to dissolve all of that eyeliner, but still only around a minute or so.
Cosrx gel cleanser removing heavy makeup
And, once again, a bead-free rinse!
Mr. Rx
Image courtesy of COSRX.

Both tests left the back of my hand feeling clean and soft. My skin definitely didn’t feel moisturized, but neither did it feel at all stripped, irritated, or dry, even though I’d just subjected it to two pretty thorough cleansings in a row and neglected to moisturize (because hands, I don’t know, I just can’t seem to remember to do it).

That’s just half of the story, though.

Thing is, long years of consumer brainwashing have hard-coded a connection between bubbles and cleansing in my head. Even seeing the results I got on my own hand in my own testing isn’t quite enough to make me feel comfortable with relying completely on a non-foamy cleanser to cleanse my face. Most nights, especially when I’ve worn that Biore Perfect Milk sunscreen, I still feel better (psychologically) if I do a traditional double cleanse with an oil-based first cleanser and then a foaming second cleanser.

Luckily for my fellow weirdos who can’t roll with the times, the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser isn’t just a non-foamy gel cleanser. Unlike the Acwell, which is a great gel cleanser (with a less face-slapping fragrance) but which I was unable to get to foam, the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser also doubles as a foaming cleanser. Actually, it can be incredibly foamy, depending on how you foam it! You’ve seen it foamed up in wet hands before:

Bit thin but enough to cleanse my face and make me feel good.
Bit thin but enough to cleanse my face and make me feel good.

It also foams nicely with a cleansing brush (pictured: Memebox I’m Dual Pore Brush).

Cosrx gel cleanser foamed with pore brush
The bristles are super dense and soft. It’s like washing your face with a kitten’s tail. I enjoy that once in a while. The brush, not using a kitten’s tail to wash my face.

But that foaming action doesn’t hold a candle to what a foaming net (Pictured: Ishihara Awa foaming net) can do with this stuff.

Cosrx gel cleanser on foaming net
In person, this is the teeniest, tiniest, pea-sized glob of cleanser on a wet bubble net.

Mush the foaming net around for a few seconds, squeeze it a couple of times between your hands, and this is what comes out:

Cosrx low pH cleanser foamed
A GLORIOUS FROTHY MOUND OF BUBBLY BUBBLES (that don’t smell as much like tea tree as the gel).

Keep squeezing if you want. The bubbles will keep coming.

If you like lots of bubbles and you like making your tube of cleanser last a really, really long time, do yourself a favor and snag a foaming net.

The light, frothy foam works just as nicely as a second cleanser as the undiluted gel does as a first cleanser, gently cleaning away all traces of oil or cream cleanser and leaving my skin feeling soft and purified but neither stripped nor sensitive. I’ve really appreciated this effect since I started my second and stronger round of Curology prescription tretinoin. My skin tends towards normal/balanced, but tretinoin is notoriously drying, and every other night, I wait a half an hour in between my evening cleanse and my Curology, without applying anything else to my skin in between. I therefore need a cleanser that can get my face clean without making that wait time a dry, tight, itchy hell. The COSRX Low pH Good Morning (why?) Gel Cleanser delivers and has been the cleanser I reach for most often, even long after my cleanser testing period ended.

I have a few other low-pH cleansers in my arsenal, naturally. Here’s how they compared with the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser. I used them on wait-before-Curology nights, to test how my skin felt for that prolonged bare period after rinsing.

Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Cleansing FoamThis mild, foufy, self-foaming classic is the low-pH cleanser I’ve used the longest. I never had a problem with it before (besides boredom). I appreciate the thick, marshmallowy fouf, but my skin didn’t feel quite as clean after using this as it does after using the COSRX.

Hada Labo es Facial Foaming Wash: Oddly enough, this sensitive-skin sister to the Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Cleansing Foam actually seemed to strip my skin a bit. My face felt a little tight and dry while I waited to apply my Curology after using this. I’ve heard from others that they found this more drying than the Hada Labo Gokujyun, too. It’s definitely more drying than the COSRX.

Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash: Still one of my favorite facial cleansers (and now available Stateside at Cupidrop!), the Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash remains the only cleanser to give me that ultra-silky, buttery feeling right after cleansing. I’m guessing that it’s due to the very mild enzyme exfoliation the cleanser delivers. However, many people find the papain and other ingredients in this cleanser unsuitable for their skin.

The only noticeable unpleasant effect I’ve had with the Low pH Good Morning Cleanser has been some stinging if it gets in my eyes, both in gel and bubbly forms. For this reason, despite its surprising makeup-removing powers, I don’t advise anyone to use this to remove eye makeup. I wouldn’t be completely comfortable with the necessary massaging on the eye area, either. If you wear eye makeup, you’ll still want to have a dedicated eye makeup remover on hand.

Conclusion: The, uh, bracing tea tree fragrance may not be for everyone and might take some getting used to if it isn’t your thing, and in my opinion it isn’t a great idea to use this as an eye makeup remover, but by every other metric I care about, the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser excels. On my skin, it’s thorough but mild, and I love the versatility of it. I may be a dedicated double cleanser, but I’m sure the gel cleanser function will come in handy on some lazy night. The bubbling action blows the otherwise comparable but totally bubble-free Acwell cleanser straight out of the water and all the way across to the opposite coast. And for skincare-conscious men who wear sunscreen but don’t want to add an oil cleanser to their evening skincare routine (I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard this exact complaint), this cleanser’s ability to do double duty may be just what Mr. Rx ordered.

Rating: 4.5/5

Rating scale:

1 – This should be taken off the market.
2 – Caused me some problems; would not buy again.
3 – Meh. Neither great nor bad.
4 – Pretty good. Would buy again unless I find something better.
5 – I’ll never be in the market for a replacement unless this one is discontinued.
Image courtesy of COSRX.
Image courtesy of COSRX.

Where can I buy COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser?

Finally, I can’t not mention that COSRX’s cleanser isn’t the only exciting cleanser news coming out of the K-beauty space. If you want to learn more about innovations in acid mantle-friendly cleansing, check out Tracy’s post on The Coming of the Kbeauty Cleanser Revolution over on Fanserviced-B!

What’s your favorite cleanser?



51 thoughts on “Debut Review: COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser

  1. Oh. My. Gerd. This moment *squees and falls down*

    Fiddyyy — bless your heart for all that cleansing <333 Thankfully tea tree's never been an offensive smell to me, and I thank the heavens for all the new acidic AND one-step cleansing coming out, although like you, I'll probably still do oil/sherbet on my make-up/waterproof days lol. I'm so tempted to get this for my sister…and me, too xD

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll admit that I’m still very sceptical about the one-step cleanse, but it looks like an interesting product! I’m off to read Tracy’s post now though. 🙂 Oh, the smell of the COSRX Whitehead thingie? It’s condoms. You’re welcome.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I always thought of it as a tire fire in a chemical factory, but somehow I find that I’ve gotten so used to it, I actually prefer it to the fake-lemon smell of the Mizon AHA! We shall not speak of the Paula’s Choice equivalent.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yay I’ve been waiting for this! Thank you for another great review Fiddy 🙂
    Do you think using the COSRX cleanser and then the Tosowoong one can qualify as a weird version of ‘double cleansing’ with light sunscreen (biore) and makeup (powder foundation and concealer)?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This review was SO thorough, I love it. And, you’ve convinced me to get this cleanser. But then again, all your reviews of COSRX have convinced me of their awesomeness. I am now a COSRX junkie.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ENABLER! Kidding – thanks to you, I’m crazy about Cosrx. The AHA, BHA, Galactomyces, Snail, HA and the overnight masks are all HGs to me.

    Quick question: I’m about to incorporate the OST C20 into my routine. I alternate BHA (AM) and AHA (PM) 3x a week, but never on the same day. I’m thinking of doing Vit C on the 3 days per week when I use AHA, so the Vit C will be in the AM and the AHA in the PM. Does this sound ok? I previously used Mad Hippie’s Vit C, so I am familiar with how my skin reacts.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for the review! Really tempted to get this cleanser after using up my Hada Labo one! I also have a quick question: How do you recommend cleaning the Memebox I’m Dual Pore Brush?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jessica! I usually run it under very hot water for a while and shake it dry, then put it in the second bathroom (where it never is humid). I don’t have any issues with it getting contaminated so far 🙂


  7. Hi Fiddy! My skin is normal-oily (but not breakout prone). Do you think Hada Labo or this cleanser would be a better fit for me? Thanks for your help ^^

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have to keep reminding myself that my skin doesn’t like foaming agents because this cleanser otherwise sounds awesome. Maybe I’ll give it a try when springtime or the next heatwave rolls around? How does it compare with the Hada Labo Gyokujyun Gyokujyun foaming cleanser in terms of skin dryness post-washing?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find that my skin isn’t particularly dry post-washing with either of them, but my skin feels cleaner with the Cosrx. But tonight I’m trying out the Re:cipe Slowganic marshmallow cleanser, OMG!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I was so excited to see this review! Can’t remember if posted before (because all my comments were going to the spam folder in other wordpress blogs too) but I’ll pick one to try. And, have to buy a stash of those ph strips, I have the cheap ones and it’s very frustrating trying to get more accurate results.
    Thank you so much for the detailed review ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you like the review! And yes, having decent pH strips makes a huge huge difference. I do wish that the glare off of the box didn’t throw off photos of the readings but it’s such a tiny complaint. I love being able to feel confident in my readings now.


  10. So I’m curious what you would say is a good toner to follow up with this low ph cleanser I’ve been using the Innisfree Jeju Volcanic pore toner but I’m almost out and looking to try this cleanser along with a new toner

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With a low pH cleanser, you won’t really need a pH adjusting toner! If you use actives after you cleanse, then you can just do the actives, no toner, and when you don’t use actives, your choice of hydrating toner or no toner at all 🙂


  11. Awaiting the delivery of my Jolse haul containing this cleanser, (and trying to be patient), I figured, ‘hey, what the hell, might as well see what the pH of my current cleanser is!’
    Picked it up at a Japanese drugstore without really knowing much about it (I know… I repent!) :

    Kose Cosmeport Softymo Hyaluronic acid foaming cleanser.

    After browsing the interwebs trying to find info, I discovered this:

    A pH of 9.5-10?!?!? Can it be true? while it sure gets me squeaky clean (I thought that was a good thing!) and I’ve never had any obvious problems with it (though it does burn my eyes like the dickens) that just sounds too extreme to be safe! I had no clue!

    thank goodness I’ve begun to educate myself about all this stuff!

    Thank you for starting my journey, Fiddy.


  12. I have been feverishly researching cleansers and what to do as a newbie to Korean skincare (I have watched tons of reviews for a long time but was never really ready to try the products until recently). I have read a few reviews on this product and compared to everything else out there I would totally be buying this right now (esp since I have a new surplus of cash, thank you new job) EXCEPT that I can’t make myself buy a product if I think one ingredient is counteractive to the whole goal of health skin. The butylene glycol in this product makes me shudder a bit and since I just watched a video on epigenetics I think I am a bit too scared to try this. If they ever came out w a product that did not contain this I would be really happy. I want to take care of my skin but I don’t know where to start even after all this research, especially when it comes to cleansers. I really wanted to try some, I guess, more natural (for lack of a better word) products but maintaining your health is expensive! When someone comes out with a cheap and easy to use, healthful product for newbies and veterans alike is probably when I will start…lol sorry that was long and rambly and made no sense but maybe you have some tips? I was thinking about just starting out with some basic five steps but have added and removed products in my cart practically all day haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hiya,

      Can I ask what your concerns are wrt butylene glycol and what source caused you to feel this way? To be honest, you’ll find it in nearly everything as it’s a very well tolerated humectant, slip agent, penetration enhancer, and solvent.


  13. Hello. I love your blog 🙂
    I’ve just started to convert my routing to follow the Korean routine. And struggling to find suitable 2nd cleanser. Tried several like RE:CIPE slowganic. Use it only 3 days. And it breaks me out, stripping and itchy skin. Then I used Hada Labo Gokuyjun foaming wash, after the 2nd week, from combo oily t-zone, normal u-zone too dry skin plus flake..I’m guessing possibly due to butylene glycol…. and I do get break outs from Missha FTE and the night ampoule. Now I do not have any idea what cleanser to use. Maybe my skin is super thin or sensitive. Do you think like SU:M37 MRCS or powder wash would be more gentle? Or this COSRX cleanser can work well…?


  14. Hi. Do you think if I get dry skin from Hada Labo Gokuyjun, can it be due to butylene glycol? I’m in a quest to find a suitable 2nd cleanser. My skin did not favor RE:CIPE slowganic as well. 😦 I thought to give MRCS a go but the it contains a lot triggers that scares me. Or considering this COSRX cleanser.


  15. I just spent $58 on (much-needed) skin care and this is one of the items I bought. I’m really excited about it, both of the cleansers I was using before have a very high pH, I’ve found, and it makes my skin so tight and dry after washing. I also bought the very last su:m sample packets that fucked up your skin – I’m nervous, but I’ll heed your warnings and give it a try with them in mind.


  16. Does anyone know how much salicylic acid is in this cleanser? 1%?

    Anyways, been using for a few days but holy smokes! My skin got really oily. I guess it’s slowly adjusting (hopefully).


    1. I like a lot this product but I’ve the same prolem. My skin got rapidly oily. Do you still use this cleanser ?


  17. I think this isn’t going to work for me. I am very new to Kbeauty and started with CeraVe hydrating cleanser before I headed down the kbeauty road. This cleanser not only makes my face feel tight, but it looks “craggy”. It’s slight but I’ve been relishing my “taken care of” Kbeauty face and I think this face wash is making me a step backwards. I think I will tuck it away until summertime and see if that helps.


  18. May I ask? Since it’s a low pH morning cleanser, can it be used for night time as well? I tried to look for if there’s a night cleanser, but it doesn’t. Or what product do you used to wash your face at night?


    1. Yup, you can use it day or night! I don’t really understand why they stuck “morning” in the name, except maybe they were running out of words and the market seems to enjoy products with super wordy names!


  19. Would using only this cleanser be sufficient for removing water-resistant sunscreen AND cleansing the face? Should I use it twice? Once on a dry face to remove sunscreen and then again on a wet face? Or would that be too drying? It’s just that I don’t really prefer to use an oil-based cleanser but if it’s necessary I’ll just have to continue using them.


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