When Korean beauty burst onto the U.S. market, Cosrx was one of the brands that helped the movement go mainstream. Skin-care enthusiasts fell hard for simple yet effective formulas centered on natural ingredients and clean packaging. Best of all, it could be had at an affordable price point: only slightly higher than drugstore brands, and without the sticker shock of a Sephora haul. As a long-time user of Cosrx with three years experience as a makeup artist and skin-care consultant, I've hyper-enthusiastically rounded up the
best Cosrx products to address a variety of concerns.
If you aren't familiar with Korean skin care, some of its key ingredients might surprise you. Snail is one of the most well-known mixers thanks to its easily tolerated clog-free hydration and healing benefits — but K-beauty also relies on other natural powerhouses like
fermented ingredents including yeast (strengthens skin, boosts absorption, but not for fungal acne) and centella asiatica extract (calms irritation, zaps redness).
Although Korean skin care is famous for
10-step routines, Cosrx formulas are easy to incorporate into any regimen no matter the size because the brand limits the active ingredients. Here are the top 10 Cosrx products for whatever your skin goals might be.
A Lightweight Essence With Snail Mucin For Moisture & Soothing Irritation
This is the product that started it all: a
lightweight essence with 96% snail secretion filtrate. An essence is a lot like a toner; it's watery and you apply it after cleansing for a heady dose of active ingredients before following up with the rest of your routine. This one features 96% purified snail mucin to hydrate skin, soothe irritation, and increase cell turnover. This bottle includes hyaluronic acid (a water-binding molecule that occurs naturally in skin), soothing allantoin, and a form of vitamin B. This is especially good for oily or acne-prone skin seeking super lightweight hydration, but it's a fabulous pick that is easily tolerated by just about every skin type.
A Sulfate-Free Cleanser That's Gentle Yet Effective
You might associate pH balance with multicolored tester strips from science class, but it's also a critical component of skin care. Your
skin is slightly acidic with a pH around 5.5, but most cleansers get their power from alkaline (or basic) solutions. This can compromise the acid mantle, which is a thin protective barrier on your skin that serves as armor against things like pollution and bacteria. The Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser delivers an effective cleanse that's also exceptionally gentle. Styrax japonicus (Japanese snowbell) extract helps gently cleanse without stripping, and a low dose of beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) provide light exfoliation.
A Patch To Heal Breakouts — Fast
If acne is a concern for you, the
Cosrx hydrocolloid patches might be a game-changer. These tiny translucent patches come in three different sizes for a custom fit, offering breakouts a layer of protection while they simultaneously work to draw out any fluid or sebum clogged inside. When the patch turns white, simply replace it with a new one until the spot is gone. Most reviews reported that even larger breakouts vanished in a matter of days.
An Exfoliating Toner In A Convenient Spray Bottle
Korean toners aim to prime your skin for the rest of the routine to follow. Sometimes that means extra hydration, other times, like with the
Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner, it's clarifying and exfoliating. This toner uses two types of acids (glycolic acid and betaine salicylate) to clarify and improve skin texture. The base is made of a blend of willow bark water, apple fruit water, and mineral water for their trace nutrients that provide additional skin support. You can even use it as a gentle exfoliating mask: Simply saturate a few cotton pads and place them on your face for a few minutes. As with any chemical exfoliant, make sure to use sun protection during the day since you'll be more susceptible to burns.
A Brightening Overnight Mask To Seal In Moisture
Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask was specifically made to be worn as the final step in your evening skin care to seal in all of those good-for-you ingredients and prevent moisture loss while you sleep. Rice extract and niacinamide are powerful yet gentle brighteners, while sunflower seed oil provides deeply moisturizing fatty acids. You can also use it as a wash-off mask or even a daytime moisturizer, and it's a great carry-on product for air travel (TSA compliant!) to prevent the extreme dryness at higher altitudes from sucking your skin dry. However, it's worth noting that it also includes palm oil, which some people prefer to avoid for reasons ranging from cosmetic to environmental.
A Fermented Essence With Hyaluronic Acid & Niacinamide
Galactomyces is a fermented byproduct of sake and another iconic K-beauty ingredient. It is believed to make any product you apply after it more effective as well as brighten and hydrate. This essence is packed with active ingredients starting with 95% galactomyces and 2% niacinamide to strengthen and tone the skin, followed by a healthy dose of hyaluronic acid, which can hold more than 1,000 times its weight in water. It's rare to see a product composed primarily of actives (not even water to dilute it down), making this a skin-care superstar. However, fermented ingredients do not play nicely with fungal acne so it's best to avoid if that's a concern.
A Gentle Yet Effective Acne Spot Treatment
acne spot treatment cocktails nature's most gentle and effective ingredients for treating acne in an airtight tube to prevent oxidizing and spoilage. Aloe water is soothing while zinc and calamine dry out active breakouts and centella asiatica calms inflamed redness. Tea tree oil is naturally antiseptic and sunflower seed oil works to stave off the flakes that are commonly associated with stronger treatments.
A Soothing Snail Gel-Cream For Lightweight Hydration
This one is my personal favorites: a
mid-weight moisturizer with the body of a cream and the lightweight properties of a gel. 92% snail secretion is soothing and healing, while triglycerides offer easily tolerated moisture to clog-prone skin that still craves deep nourishment. For dryer skin that needs a bit more firepower, it's easy to layer over and under other products (like the Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask above) thanks to an ingredients list that will play nicely with anything — including retinol — that you throw at it.
A Nongreasy Lotion That's Still Hydrating
Another Holy Grail product from Cosrx. It's impossible to apply too much of this
fantastically lightweight moisturizer. Cosrx opted to replace water with birch sap to capitalize on the beneficial trace nutrients it contains, along with the tiniest bit of glycerin and dimethicone for slip. A couple drops of tea tree oil have astringent properties, but this isn't intended to be about the acne-treating properties, so you don't need to worry about sensitization. It feels super-fresh going on and sinks in quickly, making this ideal for oily skin or humid climates. However, anyone with dry patches will want something that has a bit more heft.
A Cleanser Designed For Removing Sunscreen & Makeup
gentle cleanser was designed for sensitive skin that can't tolerate heavy, oily makeup removers. It has a slightly acidic, low pH for a gentle clean that doesn't strip the skin's natural oils, with additional papaya enzymes to help dissolve sunscreen and face makeup. Trace amounts of witch hazel are lightly astringent while allantoin soothes. Cosrx suggests using this as part of a double-cleansing routine with a lightweight oil cleanser or micellar water, but extremely sensitive types who don't wear a lot of makeup may find this enough for their daily needs. Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently of Bustle's editorial and sales departments.