Not your mamma’s scrub: COSRX, Alpha-H and NeoStrata acid treatments review



*Part two. Read all about exfoliating acids in part one

Ever since I started using acid toners over a year ago, they have become an indispensable step in my skincare routine. Not only do they help serums and treatments absorb better and offer enhanced effects, but they also brighten and speed up cell turnover, making those annoying breakouts actually heal faster. Here are the ones I have tried (and loved the most) so far:


COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

Ingredients: Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water, Butylene Glycol, Betaine Salicylate, Niacinamide 1, 2-Hexanediol, Arginine, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Ethyl Hexanediol

With 4% natural BHA and willow bark water combined with niacinamide, known for its anti-acne action, COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is a concentrated, yet relatively mild formula that gently, yet effectively exfoliates the skin to remove clogging impurities inside the pores. A big plus of this product is that it also hydrates the skin with sodium hyaluronate, preventing the dryness often associated with exfoliating acids, while the watery, light and slightly slippery texture makes it absorb into the skin quickly without an oily or sticky feel. It is generally made with very few and absolutely necessary ingredients, eliminating those additives that offer no benefits to the skin. I personally prefer to use it in the evening and leave it on for up to 30 minutes before applying a serum, as the formula works gradually and needs some time to penetrate the upper layer of the skin. Also, I like using this straight after double cleansing instead of toning and prefer to apply it directly on the skin with the fingertips (cotton pads tend to absorb too much product). Find it at Cult Beauty for £22/100ml (and cheaper on ebay if you find a trusted seller).


COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner

Ingredients: Mineral Water, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Water, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Lactate, Glycolic Acid, Water, Betaine Salicylate, Allantoin, Panthenol, Ethyl Hexanediol

The acid-based AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner combines willow bark and apple fruit waters with glycolic acid and betaine salicylate (a form of salicylic acid) for a mild exfoliating effect. It also offers a gentle moisturising and cleansing effect without dryness, making it ideal for daily use especially in the morning. A great bonus is the spray applicator that turns this into a pleasant and light, water-like mist that gets easily absorbed to prepare the skin for serums/moisturiser before make-up. Instead of using a cotton pad, I like spraying it straight on the face – and it doesn’t even irritate sensitive areas like the eyes. And as with the COSRX Blackhead Liquid above, the formula contains minimal ingredients, avoiding damaging substances like preservatives, parabens or additives. Find it at Cult Beauty for £17/150ml (or, again, ebay).


Alpha-H Liquid Gold

Ingredients: Aqua, Alcohol Denat., Glycerin, Hydrolysed Silk, Glycolic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Glycyrrhiza Glabra Extract

The number one acid to try! A cult product from the Australian brand Alpha-H, Liquid Gold is a highly concentrated acid treatment with 5% glycolic acid that works as a no-fuss, one-step overnight facia, toner, exfoliator and serum. And they don’t call it Gold for nothing! More than a simple exfoliator, this is the ideal formula for both acneic and ageing skin, working to reduce wrinkles and signs of pigmentation with licorice extract and silk proteins, while hydrating, firming and brightening. Ideally used no more than 3-4 times/week, Liquid Gold works best when applied alone without following with a moisturiser. It does tingle quite intensely and turns skin a bit red, but it never irritates, and I do avoid the eye area and only lightly apply on sensitive zones around the face. Bare in mind that your skin might take some time to adjust to this intense treatment, so start with an application every 4-5 days, slowly increasing up to around three times a week. Price: £33.50/100ml at Cult Beauty, Look Fantastic or Beauty Bay.

F30076-DailySmoothSurfacePeel.jpgNeoStrata Smooth Surface Daily Peel Pads

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Alcohol Denat., Ammonium Hydroxide, Arginine, Acetyl Tyrosinamide, Caprylyl Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NeoStrata call themselves “the creators of the original Glycolic Acid Peel” and have a long tradition in creating effective exfoliating treatments. Smooth Surface Daily Peel Pads are no exception, with a high concentration of glycolic acid and the brand’s revolutionary Aminofil, to not only peel, but also improve skin tone and texture and reduce wrinkles. It comes in a two part pack, with a 60ml solution and a jar with 36 dry pads, to be mixed together and ensure a perfect dose for each use, while keeping the product sterile before the first use. I like applying this 3-4 times/week, alternating with Alph-H Liquid Gold or COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. It tingles quite a bit (similarly to Liquid Gold), but the redness wears out quickly and it gets absorbed into the skin in just a few seconds. The only downsize to this product is the relatively high price, with a regular price of £52 for essentially 36 uses (I bought mine discounted for £33 at Skin Oracle), but it is a very effective formula and it lasts quite a long time if you use it with other acids.

How I use them

COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner is my favourite morning acid toner, which I  spray on straight after cleansing and follow with a serum as soon as absorbed.

COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, Alpha-H Liquid Gold and NeoStrata Smooth Surface Daily Peel Pads are my current evening acids, which I apply after cleansing and before treatment, letting them to act for at least 30 minutes alone and following with a serum.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Noha ♡ says:

    Ooh so excited to read this, I just picked up the COSRX toner yesterday so I’m excited to try it out! Love this x
    my latest post ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  2. soobeautis says:

    I have the COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner and it definitely improved my skin ❤ Great post btw 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Irina says:

    Thank you, I agree COSRX AHA/BHA is a great everyday product!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Irina says:

    Let me know how your skin reacts to it, hope it works for you!


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