The hype leading up to the release of the Cosrx PHA cream–including the rumors swirling about the creation of the cream–was pretty intense, at least in the AB (Asian Beauty) communities online. Cosrx has a pretty big fanbase here in the US, in which I include myself.
PHAs, or polyhydroxy acids, are a newish type of chemical exfoliant (see my post on chemical exfoliation here). PHAs do the same type of work as AHAs, but have much larger molecules, which means they can’t penetrate as deeply into the cells and are therefore less irritating. They are also more hydrating that most AHAs. PHAs are definitely marketed towards people with more sensitive skin, who may not be able to handle stronger AHAs.
Therefore, I was positively thrilled when I was chosen to receive a jar of the Cosrx PHA Moisture Renewal Power Cream from one of my favorite Korean online retailers, Jolse, in exchange for a review on Instagram. I posted a first impressions review on Instagram a few weeks ago, but now that I’ve been using the cream for 5 weeks and the cream is now available for sale, I wanted to write up a more in-depth review.
Cosrx PHA Moisture Renewal Power Cream
The jar is a slightly larger size than the Cosrx Centella cream–about the size of the jar of their overnight masks–and is made of the same plastic for the jar and lid. It’s sturdy, although I always prefer tubes to jars for sanitary reasons. Sadly, for creams, jars seem to be the go-to packaging.
“If you’re new to acids or have very sensitive skin, BHAs or AHAs can leave your skin red and irritated. That’s when you need PHAs (polyhydroxy acids), a gentler acid that’s also effective in eliminating dead skin cells and smoothing skin texture. This cream is formulated with 3% PHA to give your skin the exfoliation it needs while hydrating your skin with 50% coconut fruit extract and 2% niacinamide. If your skin feels dry or dehydrated, this cream will give you the intense moisture your skin needs without that greasy feeling. Your skin will feel soft and hydrated in one go!” (Soko Glam)
The claims are pretty much the same as what I outlined above: this cream is meant to lightly exfoliate the surface of the skin, smoothing out the skin’s texture while also acting as a moisturizer.
Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Gluconolactone, Niacinamide, Betaine, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, 1,2-Hexanediol, BeesWax, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) oil, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Kernel Oil, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin
- Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract: Otherwise known as coconut oil, this is what makes the cream moisturizing. However, it could be a potential acne trigger.
- Gluconolactone: This is the PHA exfoliant. It is only at 3%, which is quite low. Interestingly, this type of PHA is also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
- Niacinamide: See my previous post about the wonders of niacinamide. Unfortunately, there is only 2% in here, which means it is not as effective as it could be.
- Sodium Hyaluronate: Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which draws in moisture to the skin. It’s fairly low on the list, but it’s always nice to see it there.
When I first received the cream to try, it was a blind test. I didn’t know how strong of an exfoliant it was, just that it was made with sensitive skin types in mind. Now that I know the ingredients, my experience with the cream makes a lot of sense.
The (Personal) Evidence
The texture is between a gel and cream. It feels very light going on, spreads easily on the skin, and initially absorbs quickly, although it does leave an occlusive film on the skin. As such, I would only use this at night.
I have had no problems with stickiness, and there isn’t really a discernible scent. I tend to be heavy-handed with my creams, but since this is an exfoliant, however mild, I watch how much I use of this. You only need a little bit.
Because I didn’t know how strong the formula was when I received the cream, I just used it every other night for a few nights. Then, I decided that since my skin had reacted fine to it, I used it every night for 4 days in a row. My skin was fine each morning, with no signs of over-exfoliation.
Then, I decided to up the ante by using the Cosrx PHA cream and my Stratia AHA. I did that for you, my fellow sensitive-skinned friends! I had a few itchy red comedones the next morning, a sure sign that my weak, baby skin is telling me not to use this with my AHA or retinoid. (I have started using The Ordinary’s Advanced Retinoid. Eeeeek!) Those red bumps faded quickly thanks to Stratia’s Liquid Gold, and now I know not to double up on my exfoliants.
I have tried this both as my only cream and with a sleeping pack. The cream is rich and moisturizing; I definitely did not need a sleeping pack with it! This has probably surprised me the most, since I associate acids with drying qualities, probably because of my bad experience with BHAs. My skin is bouncy and full of moisture when I wake up.
I have been using this pretty much every other night, depending on my AHA and retinoid use, to good results. The mornings after I use this, I usually wake up to perfectly even-toned skin. No redness, no blemishes. (The redness in my t-zone does come back later in the day. It’s like a clingy friend I can’t get rid of.) I had a few bumpy spots around my chin early in my testing, and they slowly reduced over the course of using the cream. They definitely took awhile to reduce, though.
This was a pretty decent cream to me the first few weeks of testing, although I wasn’t entirely sold on it as a good exfoliant for my skin….until last week. There’s a reason I don’t like to post reviews until I’ve used the product for *at least* a month: in addition to running them through a bunch of scenarios to see how my skin reacts to them, products can surprise you the longer you use them.
Last week, I had a breakout on my forehead, a small, annoying cluster of whiteheads. I used the PHA and the next morning, they were significantly reduced in size and number. Surprised and curious, foregoing other exfoliants, I used the PHA again the next night, and by the next morning, they were practically gone!
That impressed me.
Truly, I think this is a great chemical exfoliant option for people with sensitive or dry skin. I like that I can pretty much use it without worry about over-exfoliation and/or dryness. Of course, because it is so mild, the effects take longer to produce. I’m ok with that, though, since my skin doesn’t do so well when I try to speed up the exfoliation process with using stronger products frequently.
So, will I buy this product again?
- Did you not read the review? Yes, of course. I will spend all of my money on this product!
- Yes. I enjoy this product enough to purchase again in the future, especially if it’s on sale.
- Meh. Maybe. I mean, I bet there are other, better things out there. I’d use it if someone gave it to me.
- No. I won’t use this again and will probably bad-mouth it to others.
- Hahahahaha. Nope. Noooooooope. Not even if you paid me.
The Verdict: Yes. I enjoy this product enough to purchase again in the future, especially if it’s on sale.
Where to buy: ($25)
Are you interested in giving the Cosrx PHA Moisture Renewal Cream a try?