BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is an interesting product that can help skin’s appearance, though it doesn’t work in quite the way the brand claims.
Packaged in a frosted plastic bottle with a pump dispenser, this lightweight, fragrance-free liquid has a silky texture that works well over and under other skin care products. It’s lightly hydrating and ideal for combination to oily skin.
As for the BHA this contains, it’s actually in the form of two alternatives to BHA, not salicylic acid itself.
The first is willow bark water. While salicylic acid can be derived from willow bark, the extract and its water don’t work like BHA because an enzymatic process is required to synthesize the components in willow bark extract into salicylic acid, a process that can happen if you eat willow bark, but not if you apply it to skin. It is a good anti-inflammatory, though.
Betaine salicylate, meanwhile, is a salicylic acid (BHA) derivative can be derived from beets, but the synthetic form is usually used in skin care products. There is some research showing that it can have exfoliation benefits as well, especially at the 4% concentration that’s present here.
One issue is that this is at a pH of 4.7, which is slightly above the optimal 3.8 to 4.2 range for betaine salicylate to act as an exfoliant. There is one study showing that the pH can go up to 6.5, but that study wasn’t peer reviewed and its results haven’t been replicated in subsequent research, meaning that counting on this to exfoliate as salicylic acid is somewhat dicey. But just like willow bark extract, betaine salicylate does have skin-soothing properties.
That aside, there is a good amount of niacinamide present here, which helps brighten skin and reduces the appearance of pores. There’s also skin-replenishing arginine, skin-conditioning panthenol, and skin-plumping sodium hyaluronate.
So - while this essence won’t exactly have the powerful exfoliating benefits of pure salicylic acid, there are still enough positive attributes to make it worth considering!
*Note: Because this package is frosted and not opaque, it’s best to store it out of direct light to ensure its ingredients remain stable.
- Willow bark water and betaine salicylate have skin-soothing properties.
- Contains skin-brightening niacinamide.
- Includes beneficial arginine, panthenol, and sodium hyaluronate.
- Fragrance free.
- Willow bark water is not equivalent to salicylic acid.
- pH is slightly above what’s considered optimal for this concentration of betaine salicylate to most effectively exfoliate.
- Packaged in a frosted bottle, so it must be stored out of direct light.
4% natural BHA component gently eliminates blackheads and dead skin cells. It effectively penetrates into the skin and cleans up clogged pores. Also it helps skin to rebuild its moisture shield.
COSRX is one of a growing number of Korean beauty brands – a category known by many simply as K Beauty – that’s gaining a foothold in the Western cosmetics world. COSRX got its start in 2014, though it’s essentially an offspring of older “sister” brands, including C20 and Gatzmen, which have longer-standing histories in the Korean market. As the story goes, COSRX came about after the parent company compiled a decade’s worth of research based on customer data and beauty consumer research.
The brand name, as you might have guessed, is a mash-up of “cosmetics” and “RX” (for prescription), and illustrates COSRX’s overall philosophy. Whereas some other K-beauty brands are known for whimsical packaging and brightly-colored products, CosRX’s focus is minimalistic packaging and products designed to target specific skin care concerns, each highlighted by active ingredients.
To that end, the brand is largely successful. Most of the packaging is designed to protect light- and air-sensitive ingredients, though there are some jars in the mix. The formulas focus on active ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids, hyaluronic acid, and beta hydroxy acid (though it should be noted, COSRX uses BHA derivatives, since salicylic acid’s use is restricted in Korea).
Most of the exfoliants are formulated at the optimal pH for exfoliation, which is between 3 and 4, and are fragrance free. Unfortunately there are some formulas that include natural ingredients that can potentially sensitize skin, including pine and cedar extracts, and anise fruit extract – proof once again that natural isn’t always better! Some products also contain drying alcohol, which is interesting since other products are specifically advertised as being “alcohol-free.”
Overall, this line is worth considering, especially if you prefer a more targeted approach to skin care that focuses on science rather than trends. For more information, visit cosrx.kr, the brand’s official Korean site. COSRX is available for purchase at several U.S. and online retailers, including Ulta, Amazon, and SokoGlam.
About the Experts
The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.
Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.