I’m fairly new to Korean beauty products, but the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid has got to be one of the best ones available. It’s effective, it’s quite gentle, it’s really well formulated, and it isn’t drying or irritating. Seriously, ladies prone to acne, blackheads, or whiteheads, listen up: you need this. You really, really need this. Technically, it’s an essence, but it can be used to replace a toner. Or whenever you would use a liquid exfoliant.
A very brief overview of AHA vs BHA:
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) are excellent for people prone to acne and blackheads since salicylic acid is oil soluble. Therefore they are able to penetrate into the pore to dissolve whatever is hanging out inside. This works better for acne than Alpha Hydroxy Acids (or AHAs) since AHAs like glycolic and lactic acid are water soluble, and so can only exfoliate at the skin’s surface. AHAs are good for overall surface exfoliation, and can definitely help with acne as well, but BHAs are the gold standard for acne since they are the only acid that can actually penetrate the pore. Also, both AHAs and BHAs need to be at a low pH to be effective. Anything much higher than 4.0 won’t actually exfoliate. But you don’t want it to be less than about 3.2 either, since the product will be too irritating.
I have been searching for well formulated BHA products for years. But so many of them are the wrong pH, or they contain lots of alcohol or lots of fragrance, or both (boo!). Seriously why are BHA products all formulated so poorly? I don’t get it.
This is not the case with Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. The ingredients list is minimal, and shouldn’t cause any kind of bad reactions, unless you are allergic to one of the components. Cosrx’s philosophy on product formulation is to use more good ingredients, and fewer bad ones. Yay!
The primary ingredient is willow bark water (which naturally contains small amounts of salicylic acid). The main BHA in the product is a derivative of salicylic acid called betaine salicylate, which makes up 4% of the total solution. That may sound high for a BHA, but betaine salicylate is essentially just a gentler version of salicylic acid. So a 4% solution of betaine salicylate is equivalent to around 1.5-2% salicylic acid, which is fairly standard for a BHA product. Most Korean BHA products don’t use salicylic acid since it is a highly regulated substance there, so derivatives like betaine salicylate are used instead. The pH is also at the right level for exfoliation to occur. A formulary win!
Ingredients: Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water, Butylene Glycol, Betaine Salicylate, Niacinamide, 1,2-Hexanediol, Arginine, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Ethyl Hexanediol
This is by far the best BHA product I have ever found and I will probably want to buy it for all eternity. Unless other brands miraculously start making properly formulated BHA products that I want to try. It’s also a fantastic value, 100mL of product is only $16-17USD.
One caveat for those not accustomed to using acid exfoliants: don’t start using it everyday right away! If you aren’t used to using AHA or BHA products, please start with only a couple times a week and slowly work your way up to every day. If you don’t, your face will become a gross peeling mess and we don’t want that!