Fifty Shades of SnailFifty Shades of Snail

Have you ever accidentally bought the wrong product, but then the product came all the way from Korea and returning it would be way too much hassle so you tried it out anyway, and the product ended up taking you on a journey of discovery?

No? Really? Just me?

Affiliate links in this post are marked with an asterisk(*).

Whatever. COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol is that product that took me on my journey of discovery. It’s not the BHA chemical exfoliant that I mistook it for, but it’s filled a slot in my routine that I didn’t even know existed.

COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol
The wipes are to clean the smell off my hands after application.

Purpose: COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol is a hydrating and very mildly exfoliating toner designed to prevent breakouts and heal existing acne. It can also be used as a spot treatment.

Do not use if: You are sensitive to alcohol, chemical exfoliation, bee products, or anything else in the ingredients list.

When and how to use: Apply all over face or on trouble spots either immediately after cleansing or following your pH-sensitive actives. If applied before your actives, this product can assist in lowering skin pH to acid-appropriate levels, but the nourishing ingredients may (may) slightly reduce penetration of your acids. This can be helpful if you are new to using chemical exfoliants.

COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol ingredients: Propolis extract, alcohol, butylene glycol, sodium lactate, lactic acid, water, glycolic acid, betaine salicylate, sodium hyaluronate, panthenol, allantoin, cassia obtusifolia seed extract, 1,2-hexanediol, ethyl hexanediol, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) leaf oil

CosDNA analysis

Notable ingredients: Propolis extract! As regular readers of this blog might know, I have a serious skincare boner for the resinous substance that bees use to seal up their hives and honeycombs. While research on propolis as a cosmetic ingredient isn’t quite where I’d like it to be, propolis is known to have antimicrobial properties that make it especially good for acne-prone skin.

Propolis has been demonstrated as effective for wound healing-also a plus when it comes to breakouts-and shows significant promise for its antioxidant capabilities. While I don’t break out much, I do suffer the occasional product testing-related blemish (darn you, Tarte Cheek Stain!), and since anti-aging is my top skin concern, more antioxidants are always a plus. COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol is 60% propolis extract.

Alcohol is high up on the list, which is going to be a turn-off for people with dry/dehydrated skin, compromised skin barriers, or alcohol sensitivities. For those of us who do not have a problem with the ingredient in an otherwise well formulated product, however, here the alcohol is beneficial. It aids ingredient penetration and speeds up product drying so that you can move on to your next skincare step a little faster.

The potentially drying effects of the alcohol are balanced by humectants like sodium hyaluronate and glycolic acid and the anti-irritant allantoin. COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol also contains a tiny bit of betaine salicylate, a BHA which here may contribute anti-inflammatory effects.

CosDNA analysis of the A-Sol pops up only one caution, with butylene glycol scoring a 1 as a potential acne trigger. As I’ve said before, butylene glycol is just about everywhere in Asian skin care products, so if you haven’t had a problem with it before, you’re unlikely to have a problem with it here. If you’re concerned, however, patch test, and always remember that YMMV!


For a product that I didn’t even understand when I first purchased it (I really thought I was getting COSRX’s equivalent to the Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid that I desperately wanted to replace), the COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol quickly proved itself useful.

COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning What Is It With Korean Skincare Brands and Super Long Product Names A-Sol is a very thin, watery, clear-to-ever-so-slightly-yellowish liquid in a 100ml pump bottle. Unlike the pumps used for the brand’s AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid, BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, and Galactomyces 95 Whitening Essence, however, the A-Sol’s pump doesn’t smoothly dispense a nice dollop of product. Instead, for whatever reason, this bottle’s pump squirts it out at high velocity. I don’t usually dwell on packaging issues much with skincare products because I just don’t consider them all that critical, but I am now because I definitely lost a few doses of product to the strange pump before I got used to it. You have to push the nozzle down slowly and carefully if you don’t want the liquid to squirt and splash wildly out of your palm.

The alcohol in the product allows it to dry very quickly as you spread and pat it over your face. One to one and a half pumps is all you should need, and it will sink in quickly.

You’ll be thankful for this, because like the AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid, the Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol is a little stinky. Its odor has been a topic of discussion several times on /r/AsianBeauty. I and many others find it to smell strongly of tea tree oil with an underlying funk. A smaller number of users smell something different. Don’t worry-the odor, whatever it smells like to you, fades very quickly after application. I clean my palms with a cleansing wipe after this and the rest of my COSRX acid products and am perfectly happy with that.

It is definitely a testament to the effectiveness of the Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol that people like me continue to enthusiastically recommend it despite the weird odor. In the six weeks that I’ve been using this product, I’ve noticed some really fantastic effects.

As I mentioned in my first impressions of the product, the A-Sol seems to boost the effectiveness of my (COSRX) BHA product. The chronic patch of redness on my chin is nearly gone, and my pores are looking significantly smaller and cleaner than they used to. I don’t even use a clay mask anymore, because I never feel the need. When I get a product breakout, I dab a bit of this on the pimple twice a day, and in each case, the pimples have calmed down and flattened out within just a couple of days and have healed very quickly, without leaving dark marks behind.

It has done the same for Lord Fiddy, who recently had me dab a bit of it on to a deep and painful blind pimple he was developing. According to my other half, the pimple almost immediately became less tender. It was visibly less inflamed and went away peacefully within a couple of days without ever developing into the big flare-up that it looked set to be.

And about that journey of discovery. When I received the A-Sol and started actually researching it, I grew extremely interested in propolis. That interest quickly turned into an infatuation, and that infatuation quickly spread to honey and royal jelly as well. Basically, everything bees make. My entire skincare routine has undergone a transformation as a result. I have this A-Sol to thank for that!

Conclusion: I often try out a new product and, if it’s any good, think I’m in love with it right away. My skin is very responsive to the ingredients it likes. Over time, however, my enthusiasm may fade; that’s why I stick to a strict testing schedule for skin care products.

In the case of the A-Sol, time has not reduced my liking for the product. I do, however, see it not as a primary active, but rather as a secondary or supplemental routine step. It is neither hydrating enough nor exfoliating enough to stand on its own. What it is, is an outstanding booster and spot treatment that can transform a good routine into a great routine. I will definitely be repurchasing this.

Rating: 4/5

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Where can I buy COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol?

  • Amazon Prime*

Do you use COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol? What do you think of it?

By Hà Phương

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