Happy Friday! Today, I want to talk about a product that, if you’re in-the-know about the Korean beauty world, is not going to be unfamiliar to you. To me, this is a product I coveted for a long time and when I finally bit the bullet and ordered it, I was extremely excited to finally try it for myself.
This is the COSRX AHABHA Clarifying Treatment Toner, which has been very popular on the internet for a while now. I’ve been using this in my night time skincare routine for roughly 6-8 months now, so I’m near the end of my bottle, as well as being flabbergasted that I haven’t used it up already. I’ve been meaning to review this for a few months, but for varying reasons, just never got around to it, so I’m doing it today.
First off, I want to talk about COSRX as a brand. To quote their About page from there site:
We suggest new standard of good cosmetics with the spirit of cosmetics artisan.
“It’s not tempting and good-looking cosmetics. However, only thinking of your skin health, we maximized good components and minimized harm ingredients in reasonable price with our honesty.”
I’m going to be honest, while they claim their products aren’t ‘tempting’ or ‘good-looking’, it is clear that their design ethos is about being simple but appealing. While some Korean brands have gorgeous and cute packaging, COSRX’s packaging is simple and efficient. I want to use the term ‘sleek’ but I think ‘stream-lined’ is more appropriate, and for someone like me who prefers ergonomics over pretty packaging, I gel with COSRX’s ethos.
The emphasis on skin health over gimmick or low quality is something that really stands out as part of their image. From my experience watching YouTube influencers talk about their experience of the brand, the focus is on the quality of their products, and less about the iconography of the brand itself. While I don’t think it’s a bad thing for brands to make the effort to make beautiful packaging, if it comes as a compromise to the quality of the product, then that’s going to be disappointing for me, and based on the opinions of others online, this is an opinion I share with many others. COSRX making a point of not doing this, and therefore, you can hold them accountable for this because of this claim, I have a certain respect for the brand for being so open and transparent with their intentions, or in the very least for very openly holding themselves up to a high set of standards.
Back to the product itself though, this is the AHA/BHA Clarifying Toner, which based on the side of product’s box aims to prevent whiteheads and blackheads by treating the build up of flaky and congested skin, using AHA and BHA as a combined treatment for the skin. AHA and BHA products are not new to me, but they’re not readily available so products that combine these together are usually from the Korean market, which are harder to get my hands on. We are starting to see these sorts of products appear in the UK, but they’re very far and few between, and I admit, I have a love-from-afar relationship with Korean cosmetics.
AHA and BHA, from my understanding, exfoliate the skin very subtly and gently, without the manual exfoliation that has the risk of tearing the skin or as much of a risk of irritation compared to physical exfoliators or scrubs. If you have sensitive skin like myself, this appeals as a more frequent exfoliating treatment since it doesn’t have the limitations of using up to 2-3 times a week like most physical exfoliators have.
Moving on to the ingredients list though, the list is short and simple, albeit too science-y for my mind, so I’m not going to attempt to break it down, as I’m simply not qualified to do so. However, as someone with oily skin, I’m familiar with willow bark as an ingredient in skincare that combats oily and acne-prone skin. So aside from the earlier claims about tackling dead skin cells, the ingredients list seems to back this up. For the keen eye, or if you’re sensitive to it, you’ll notice the lack of “parfum” on the ingredients list. So if you’re sensitive to perfumes, you can rest assured that this product will not irritate your skin. The toner itself doesn’t have a scent either, so if you’re like me and are prone to some smells being nauseating or discomforting, then you don’t need to worry about that either.
The box also features instructions for how to approach using the toner, so I want to include a photo of that too, since it’s a more unusual example of a brand giving you guidance rather than just simple instructions that would fit most people, as opposed to helping you make this product work best for your individual skin needs.
So the first section is more concise, which basically describes using the product after your cleansing phase, and using a cotton pad to apply the product.
The second section is titled as “Caution” which is what left me pleasantly surprised by COSRX’s level of detail for the product. I won’t list them all, but the one that I appreciated the most is the 5th which is as follows:
“5. AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner is prescribed for daily use, and you can use it with other dead skin cell removal or AHA and BHA products, but in case of sensitive skin, avoiding using together or control the areas or number of times.”
For me, this is a brilliant example of COSRX tailoring their guidance and acknowledging that their customer’s needs will be different. Having used mostly Western brands, I’m used to seeing ‘one size fits all’ instructions that in many situations don’t work for my skin. So I feel like COSRX deserve a lot of respect for this level of detail and simply acknowledging their customers as individuals. This isn’t to say that Western brands don’t do this, but it isn’t really shown as much.
So I’ve talked about the product as a whole for a while, but now I want to talk about my individual experience. I mentioned this at the beginning of the post, but I use this in my night time routine, and I break the guidelines that COSRX gives on the box, as it’s my cleanser and toner in one step. If I remember, I usually splash or wipe my face with water before I start my night time skincare routine, so it’s not a ‘dedicated’ cleansing step, but more for just preparing my skin for my serum and emulsion so there’s no excess oil and clean base.
The product itself is contained in a spray bottle, which I find let’s me control the amount of product really well. I follow the instructions and use cotton pads to wipe the product over my skin, which I find works really well for me. I feel that the spray bottle effect is what makes it last as long as it has, which for me is a great factor. I dread the day I use this up, but I feel like it will still take another month or so since my ‘little goes a long way’ policy holds true for this product.
On my skin, I find this to be really light weight, particularly helpful when using a cotton pad, so I find I build up the product multiple times on the cotton pad to apply to separate areas of the face. It doesn’t feel like there’s liquid on my face, which I find to be a refreshing change as many toners leave a layer of wetness on the skin for a minute or so after applying it to the skin. That’s a weird description, I know, but I’m hoping you understand what I mean.
As far as the exfoliating nature of AHA and BHA products, I don’t find there to be any stark or obvious changes to my skin when I use this. But I find my skin stays smoother more consistently which is a small victory that is quite significant for me. I still use a physical exfoliator 2-3 times a week, but I find myself moving away from grainy formulations to more hydrating ones instead, which I think is a positive shift that this product has helped facilitate.
I haven’t noticed any irritation caused by this product either, so the claims for being suitable for sensitive skin types is valid, at least with my oily-sensitive skin type. I use this as a daily cleansing-toning step, so over prolonged use, it still hasn’t irritated my skin. I simply make sure to use light layers of product to avoid over-saturating my skin with product, and I find this works for me.
Overall, I’m really happy with this product and I wish and hope that someday COSRX, among other Korean brands make their way to the UK so I’m not forced to buy online-exclusively. I think this product deserves even more recognition than it already has, and I suggest this product to anyone with skin types that range between normal-oily, with most sensitive skin types being able to use this without high risk. Part of me feels like I need to have some major critique, but really this is just a good product for me. The hindrance on accessibility and import costs means that I’ll be trying other products that attempt the same sort of thing as this product, but this product since on my list of products I know I can go back to.
If I had an affiliate link for this product, I would wholeheartedly leave one here, but I don’t have one. But if you’re reading this review with the mindset that you’re on the fence but considering sinking the money, I can say it’s worthwhile. I plan to try more of COSRX’s product down the line, but for the time being, I have other products to try out and review before then.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post, it turned out really long but I think this is a product entirely worthy of the effort. I hope you are happy and healthy, and I’ll speak to you again soon.