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!
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.
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
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.
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?
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:
It also foams nicely with a cleansing brush (pictured: Memebox I’m Dual Pore Brush).
But that foaming action doesn’t hold a candle to what a foaming net (Pictured: Ishihara Awa foaming net) can do with this stuff.
Mush the foaming net around for a few seconds, squeeze it a couple of times between your hands, and this is what comes out:
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 Foam: This 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.
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?