I am generally a huge fan of both COSRX as well as The Ordinary and own almost the entire product line of both brands. Affordable, innovative functional cosmetics – that is also understandable and easy to use and combine with other products – is going to be a huge future trend in my opinion and we will see more and more brands popping up with similar products.

Having said that, I was more than curious about how these two extremely popular acid toners compare to each other.

If you want to read more about how glycolic acid and other acids work, I wrote previously about them here: BHA vs. AHA… excuse me, what?

 

The packaging

This is the first thing that pops into your eyes is the packaging. Both toners come in a nice, sleek and minimalistic packaging. Both are see-through or semi-see-through and you can see how much you have left.

The COSRX Whitehead Liquid has a nice pump while The Ordinary’s Glycolic Solution has this squeezy tube type of top.

I find that the COSRX packaging is easier to use, the pump disperses just about enough product on my cotton pad. The Ordinary Glycolic solution is a bit flimsier to disperse but nothing major. However, it comes with an extra safety cap which you can use when you are travelling which is a nice touch.

Important to note that the COSRX Whitehead Liquid comes in a 100ml bottle while The Ordinary Glycolic Solution in a 240ml (!). Both products are good for 12 months after opening.

Formulation

Here we have quite a bit of difference between the two products, even if both brands are famous for less is more approach.

COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid

Formulation kept to the absolute minimum and seems very straight forward. Main ingredients: Apple Fruit Water 75% which contains natural AHA, Glycolic Acid 7% and Niacinamide which is a form of vitamin B3 and is set to reduce fine lines, pore size and minimizes redness. To counteract the irritation caused by the AHA the toner contains Panthenol and Sodium Hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid).

Ingredients: Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycolic Acid, Niacinamide, Sodium Hydroxide, 1,2-Hexanediol, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Ethyl Hexanediol

pH: 4.00 +/- 0.5
Texture: slightly thicker than water but absorbs very fast

 

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

The formulation seems more complex (which is not usual for The Ordinary products…). The Glycolic acid is diluted in usual distilled water. However, it also contains Rosa Damascena, Cornflower and Aloe Water to counteract the irritation of the acid. According to The Ordinary the Ginseng Root extract and the Tasmannia Lanceolata (tasmanian mountain pepper) both are the most effective to promote skin healing. Moreover, the long list of amino acids (Starting with Alanine) has also a positive effect on skin healing.

Another interesting property of this toner is the salt content which has to do the so called pKa variable. Without going into a lot of details, what The Ordinary explains on its website:

“Glycolic Acid has a pKa of 3.6 and pKa is the most important aspect to consider in formulating with acids. pKa implies acid availability. When pKa is close to pH, there is an ideal balance between salt and acidity, maximizing effectiveness of the acid and reducing irritation.”

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Rosa damascena flower water, Centaurea cyanus flower water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Propanediol, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glycine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Arginine, PCA, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Hexyl Nicotinate, Dextrin, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Gellan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

pH: ~3.6

Texture: typical liquid, absorbs in skin very fast

 

Regarding the formulation The Ordinary created a much more complex product that seems to focus a lot on healing the skin and minimizing irritation while COSRX stuck to its old philosophy of less is more.

 

Price & Availability

As you surely know, hardly anything can beat the prices of The Ordinary’s products. This is also no exception:

 

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution: 8.7 EUR (=10 CHF) on douglas.de

COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid: 19 CHF on thecurated-skin.ch

Until today The Ordinary is not available in Switzerland which is a huge bummer 🙁 The closest where you can get is Germany or the UK which makes shipping expensive & slow. COSRX is available in Switzerland in multiple online shops, amongst others in our own The Curated Skin as well.

 

Meine Erfahrung

Ich habe im Allgemeinen keine Pickel oder “Whiteheads» und meine Haut ist eher inzwischen Mischhaut und trockener Haut. Ich habe beide Toner nacheinander für einen Monat verwendet, um meine Haut aufzuklären (= brighten up).

Ich persönlich bevorzuge COSRX, weil es für meine Haut viel sanfter ist als The Ordinary. Interessant genug, denn der Toner von „The Ordinary“ sticht und trocknet (keine Ahnung warum…), während der COSRX fast eher befeuchtet als austrocknet (im Sommer verwende ich normalerweise nur den Toner und nichts anderes für die Nacht). Basierend auf der Formulierung sollte ich den gegenteiligen Effekt haben, aber ich denke, die Kombination von Säuren, Salzen und Aminosäuren ist für meine Haut einfach zu viel.

 

Aufgrund meiner Erfahrung würde ich den COSRX eher für wirklich trockene Haut und weniger Hautprobleme (weniger feine Linien und Whiteheads) vorschlagen, während The Ordinary Toner für problematischere Haut (Akne, fettige Haut).

    The Good

    COSRX: mild und feuchtigkeitsspendend

    The Ordinary: extrem gutes Preis-Leistungsverhältnis

    The Bad

    The Ordinary: kann stark auf trockene Haut wirken

    COSRX: man kriegt weniger und ist teurer

    Zsuzsa

    Founder of The SKIN Stories and the indie-beauty shop, The Curated SKIN.

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