Review: COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid (BHA)

This was my first product from COSRX and my first experience into chemical exfoliation.

I use it right after cleansing and using a pH balancing toner (I currently use a simple DIY combo of apple cider vinegar and water) and before AHA, hydrating toners and serums. COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid is oil permeable which means it can get right down into the pores and work it’s gentle exfoliating magic deep in the skin.

I have quite large pores and this is gentle enough to use twice a day for me.

I really like this product a lot – it’s good value for money, and I really admire COSRX as a company for their integrity and dedication.

A while back on the AsianBeauty subreddit there was a discussion on the pH of this product as people with batches made from 2016 onwards were getting higher readings than the expected pH of 3.5-4.5 – most were getting readings of around 5-6.5 – however studies show that Salicylic Acid (and Betaine Salicylate – a neutralised form used in this product) are also effective at higher pHs (6.5). COSRX has responded that the pH had been raised as the previous versions were unstable, and in order to bring the pH back down they would have to add alcohol to the formula.

I find the product still works fine for me – it’s very gentle but I can really see amazing results when I use Fifty Shades of Snail‘s pore shrinking method with my Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask – so I will continue to buy and use this product even with the higher pH.

I would definitely recommend this product to anyone who has enlarged pores, blackheads, or is interested in chemical exfoliation or a K-Beauty style skin care routine.

Love, Selkie.


Beauty talk!

Also known as, what the heck is she talking about?! As my beauty routine expands I’m finding new and interesting things all the damn time, so I’ll be adding some of them below as to a sort of “cheat sheet” to ingredients and terms I may use that might not make any sense to you… yet.

I’ll be periodically updating this post as I find new and interesting things that might need explaining!

If anything below needs more explaining, if you know of something interesting I should add or *gasp* if I’ve made an error, please comment and let me know!

Image source

Acids or actives – Scary sounding but (for me) life changing chemical exfoliants. Acids may reference alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), vitamin C and more! They are used for anti- acne, anti-aging, and brightening skin tone.

AHAs – Alpha hydroxy acids. In skincare these are usually formulated from fruit extracts (citric acid), sugar cane (glycolic acid) and milk (lactic acid) and are water permeable. They are used to “unglue” the top dead layer of skin, and are used for anti-acne and anti-aging

Arbutin – A chemical compound found in wheat, pear skins and bearberry plants. It inhibits the production of melanin and is used as a skin lightening ingredient.

Bee Venom – Pretty much what it sounds like – the stuff that moves through a bee’s stinger when it stings. I’ve read that in some cases it is extracted without killing the bees by having them walk on a very lightly electrified “mesh” that the venom passes through without damaging the bee or their stinger. Bee Venom is used in skincare for plumping, anti-aging and anti-acne, and is said to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

BHAs – Beta hydroxy acids. In skincare this is most commonly salicylic acid, found in willow bark, and is oil soluble. These can penetrate deep into the pores the exfoliate, making them great for anti-acne and also for anti-aging.

Ceramides – The molecules in your skin that hold moisture and hold the cells together. Ceramides are used to replenish any that have been lost from dehydration or aging. They are used as anti-aging, and moisturising.

Double cleansing or oil cleansing – Using an oil based cleanser to first remove sunscreen, makeup and general gunk before using a second cleanser (these are your more “normal” foam cleansers).

Hanbang – Korean traditional herbal medicine. Relating to skincare this usually includes herbs and botanical extracts (and the occasionally potent earthy smells!). Ingredients that are considered Hanbang include the ever popular ginseng, mushrooms, lotus, camellia, bamboo, green tea as well as traditional processes such as fermentation.

Hyaluronic Acid – A molecule that retains moisture, naturally occurring in skin and cartilage. Improves wrinkles and skin elasticity and also helps skin retain hydration and moisture.

Hydration – Adding water – as opposed to moisturising which adds oils.

Fermentation – You know, like beer! But really, fermented ingredients in skin care are closer to the “good bacteria” you hear about in sauerkraut. Fermented ingredients can have anti-aging and skin brightening properties.

Grits – The small pieces of gunk that come out of your face when oil cleansing (I’ve had this happen ONCE. It was AWESOME.) These may be sebaceous filaments (SF) or even bits of fluff from towels or in those air that may look like they’ve come out of your face when they didn’t.

Lightening or Whitening: First and foremost, this is NOT about skin bleaching. While I’m naturally as pale as a ghost I do get hyperpigmentation spots after pimples, as well as the annoying red scarring. This is where the “lightening” products come into play for me – think of them more as “evening out” or “brightening” your skin tone rather than changing the shade. Generally while blogging I prefer the term bright over light or white.

Niacinamide – A form of vitamin B3 – it’s been very well studied and is efficient at evening out skin tone, adding “brightness” to skin and even reducing the appearance of wrinkles.

Occlusive – A moisturiser that is used a final seal in your skincare routine. Anything from your bare-bones Vaseline to high end luxury creams that lock in moisture and hydration to keep all that goodness from escaping out of your skin all day or night long.

Peptides – Moisture binding agents (amino acids) that make up proteins – these may be used in skincare to reinforce naturally occurring proteins in the skin such as collagen, keratin and elastin. They can increase firmness, elasticity, smoothness and hydration.

PIE and/or PIH – Post Inflammatory Erythema or Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation. When you scar after a spot if it goes red or pink it’s usually PIE, and if it goes darker it’s usually PIH. Also, hyperpigmentation won’t react to pressure the way PIE will so if you want to test which you have, press a clear flat-bottomed shot glass (the bottom part against your skin) and see if it fades. If it does, it’s PIE, if not, it’s PIH. Unfortunately no actual pies involved.

Propolis – Bee glue! It’s a resin-like substance that bees use to seal off sections in honeycombs. It is said to be antibacterial and anti inflammatory and may also reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

Snail mucin or snail secretion filtrate – Yep, this is exactly what it sounds like. It’s snail slime. Snail slime is amazing for healing  (think about if the bottom of your feet were softer than your tongue!) and plenty of other benefits.