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K-Beauty Dupes: COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid vs Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

by Lanita Tamal 15 Feb 2023 0 Comments

PAULA's CHOICE 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant (118ml) vs COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, K-Beauty Dupes for Western Skincare

K-Beauty Dupes: COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid vs Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Physical exfoliants, like bitty face scrubs, are great, if you know the exact amount and pressure you should be applying to the skin, that is. Too little and you won’t do enough, too much and you’ll do, well, too much and seriously upset your skin. But if you’d rather not have to be, or just simply don’t have the time to be so precise, chemical exfoliants for the face are the better option for you. They’re also much kinder to sensitive skin types as they don’t involve any physical scrubbing. 

If you’re still reading this, welcome to the chemical exfoliant club. Now you’ve decided to join, it’s time to get you the best chemical exfoliant there is out there. It’s club rules. When it comes to the finest chemical exfoliant, there are two that are always fighting for the top spot: COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid and Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. So, let’s settle it once and for all and discover which one you should invest in by comparing their differences. May the best chemical exfoliant win…

P.s.: Exfoliants can be used 2-3 times a week after cleansing!

Strength of BHAs

A quick breakdown (no pun intended) on BHAs: BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) exfoliate the skin by breaking the bonds between dead skin cells, but unlike AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), they can get deep into the pores to get rid of anything oil-based such as excess sebum, makeup, and sunscreen. A godsend for mega pores. 

Both of the chemical exfoliators contain BHAs, but they differ in strength. You’ll really want to tune in here if you have particularly sensitive skin… COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid contains 4% betaine salicylate as its choice of BHA, a fatty acid derived from the sugar beet plant that’s gentler on the skin. Whereas Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant uses 2% salicylic acid from the bark of willow trees, which is no stranger to causing burns, irritation, and inflammation to the skin. 

At double the concentration, 4% betaine salicylate has the same effect as 2% salicylic acid on the skin without the potentially harsh side effects, so the real question is: why would you risk it? 

Additional Ingredients 

COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is one of our favourite formulas for exfoliating the face as it also features niacinamide, willow bark water, and sodium hyaluronate. Niacinamide works with the betaine salicylate exfoliant to boost collagen production and brighten the skin (think radiance X2), softening hyperpigmentation and evening out skin tone, as well as strengthening the skin’s barrier. Willow bark water is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, reducing and preventing breakouts, while sodium hyaluronate is a smaller, more permeable form of hyaluronic acid to reach into the deeper layers of skin to replenish moisture loss. 

Alongside salicylic acid, Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is formulated with green tea extract for its antioxidant, anti-ageing, and skin-soothing properties (which you’ll probs need after 2% salicylic acid!). To increase absorption, you’ll find methylpropanediol and glycol. 

While they both go beyond the standard chemical exfoliator with added ingredients, COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is still soooo clearly in the lead. 


If you thought all chemical exfoliants for the face had the same consistency, think again. COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid has more of a serum-like feel to it and feels more luxurious on the skin as it glides across with ease – a total upgrade from your old exfoliator that required some serious elbow grease. 

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a lot richer in texture and slightly oily, which doesn’t bode well with oily skin types. The brand openly suggests on its website that the greasiness of the salicylic acid exfoliant is down to the high levels of glycol in its formula which helps it to be absorbed. But in our humble opinion, if it already includes methylpropanediol to do the exact same thing, it probably doesn’t need glycol too. Just sayin’.


COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid comes in at £25, whereas Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant comes in higher at £34. Although, this is for a 118ml instead of a 100ml bottle. But we’ve found this doesn’t really matter as the consistency of the betaine salicylate exfoliator by COSRX allows it to stretch a really long way, especially if you apply it straight to the skin instead of a cotton pad first. 

Shop here for the winning k-beauty dupe, COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. *Claps hands*.

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