This article contains affiliate links* It’s about time that the COSRX Propolis Synergy Toner finally gets a review on this blog! Find out if this toner is another winner from everyone’s favourite Korean derma brand!
Ah COSRX, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways! This “og” derma brand from Korea truly managed to ride that first, intense K-beauty hype wave and shot up to global skincare stardom early on. Their One Step Original Clear Pad* and Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Essence* are cult favourites in the skincare community, and the brand is readily available worldwide. In fact, many of the original COSRX products are more popular in the West than in Korea, especially their chemical peeling solutions such as the BHA Blackhead Power Liquid*, which are mostly sold outside of the country.
I’ve loved COSRX products for years and am still a big fan. The past year or two though, I’ve not been massively excited about the many new product launches from the brand, which to me often seemed somewhat confusing in terms of branding. COSRX mostly attracts people who have skin issues such as acne and usually sensitive skin that doesn’t react well to fragrance or alcohol, and their minimalist formulations were always their main selling point for that clientele. But then all of a sudden we got fragrance in sunscreens and a somewhat odd toner to cream formula,* as well as confusingly irregular packaging versions and an overhaul of some, but not all of the product design. Not going to lie – it all looks like a bit of a mess to me right now, branding wise.
As part of their renewal process, COSRX re-launched their Propolis Full Fit Ampoule* and their Propolis Cream*, plus brought out a new toner: the COSRX Propolis Synergy Toner. Now, that particular launch did draw me back to the brand, since it seemed so pleasantly “old school” and much more in line with what made COSRX such a wonderful and accessible K-beauty brand.
I’ve been using the new COSRX toner since roughly November 2019, so for a while now, though not consistently every day (so many toners to try out!). With summer approaching and the warmer weather making us seek lighter textures for our skincare, I feel now is a perfect moment to review this delectably simplistic, new K-beauty jewel in the COSRX product crown. Let’s first have a look at the COSRX Propolis Synergy Toner ingredients list, and then I’ll tell you more about my own experiences with the product.
COSRX Propolis Synergy Toner – the Basics
The COSRX Propolis Synergy Toner is meant to be a companion product to the reformulated and relaunched COSRX Propolis Full Fit Ampoule. They are meant to work “in synergy”, with the toner basically serving as a preparation step to boost the properties of the ampoule.
This concept of “boosting” products is kind of a new thing in K-beauty right now, Wishtrend is trying something similar with their newly released By Wishtrend Quad Boosting Essence.* I’m testing the By Wishtrend essence at the moment, and I’m not sure how to feel about this trend yet. It mostly appears to be a way to persuade customers to use all the products from one skincare range, something I’ve always been “meh” about. Truthfully, I don’t believe that using products from only one skincare range somehow “boosts” the effectiveness of the single products.
But anyway – that is the general idea behind the COSRX Propolis Toner: it is meant to be used in combination with the ampoule. Since I do not own the Full Fit Propolis Ampoule, I cannot say if something magically different happens if you do combine them, sorry. Happy to write an updated review post if I ever do get my hands on the ampoule!
Alright, back to the COSRX Propolis Synergy Toner, now that the “synergy” part of the name has been cleared up. As the other part of the name suggests, the star ingredient here is an old favourite of mine – propolis. I feel I’ve been singing the praises of propolis for literally years now, so whenever I write about this multi-purpose miracle, I am nervous about repeating myself too often.
But, since not everyone who stumbles upon my reviews has been reading here for a while, let’s just sum up once more why propolis is such an amazing skincare ingredient. Propolis is a kind of “glue” made from tree resin, saliva and wax by the coolest insects on the planet – the bees. They use propolis to protect their hives from outside intruders in a multitude of ways: it is used to “glue together” the hive when tears appear, as a way to seal in intruders that have died in the hive to prevent contamination, and to inhibit fungal or bacterial infections. From its various functions alone you can already guess why propolis is such a popular skincare ingredient: it is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and said to help speed up wound healing. Especially people with acne-prone skin have seen improvement with propolis-containing products, though as with everything, of course, your mileage may vary.
Here is the full list of ingredients for the COSRX Propolis Synergy Toner:
“Propolis Extract (72.6%), Honey Extract (10%), Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Glycerin, Betaine, Cassia Obtusifolia Seed Extract, Panthenol, Polyglyceryl-10 Laurate, Polyglyceryl-10 Myristate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride.”
A rather short list, just like those first and still popular COSRX products! The Propolis Synergy Toner is alcohol-, essential oil- and fragrance-free, which will make many of you very happy to hear. Apart from the 72.6% propolis extract, it also contains 10% honey extract, which has antibacterial properties and is also a humectant (so, a “water-grabbing”/hydrating ingredient). Hyaluronic acid and glycerin, two excellent humectants, provide further hydration, and panthenol is said to soothe and calm down skin. Basically, this is a toner aimed at hydrating and soothing skin without being too heavy.
COSRX Propolis Synergy Toner – Winner or Dud?
What initially surprised me about this toner is its consistency. It is far less viscous than expected, given that propolis-containing products tend to be on the richer and thicker side. Shaking the bottle shows how watery and runny it is, though there is also a noticeable syrupy quality to the toner when you apply it to the skin. It feels a bit sticky when you run it through your fingers, so it isn’t quite as water-like as a first treatment essence or the very lightweight Round Lab DOKDO Toner. So, it is more liquid and less thick than, say, the Klairs Unscented Toner, but not as fluid as an actual water-based toner.
I tend to use this toner in the mornings due to its light feel on the skin and the fact that it so smoothly glides onto the skin, playing well with any skincare or makeup products that follow in the routine. You can tell that it was purposefully formulated to prepare skin for serums and ampoules, creating a smooth and nicely even “canvass” to slick on more watery gel textures. In many ways, this COSRX toner reminds me of the Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Toner Plus, but isn’t quite as rich. The texture and moisture levels in this toner are pretty much perfectly balanced for my combo skin, not too much and not too little, just right.
I have to say that compared to propolis ampoules I’ve tried such as my current favourite, the By Wishtrend Polyphenols in Propolis 15% Ampoule*, I am somewhat missing that “wow glow!” effect I usually receive from consistent use. Now, the By Wishtrend ampoule and COSRX toner together, however, definitely creates a wonderful healthy glow and seems to really help combat hormonal breakouts, so shoutout for that combo! What I also notice from using this toner, other than improved moisture levels and smoothness, is its soothing effect on the skin. The Propolis Synergy Toner just seems to calm my skin right down when it is having a freakout, and in combination with the just reviewed Be Plain Cicaful Ampoule offers a fantastic duo to deal with redness and sensitivities.
So, a clear winner from COSRX and, yay for that, a return to the brand’s original mission of formulating simple, effective “no frills” skincare solutions. This is a great, gentle toner for a variety of skin types, from dehydrated to acne-prone and oily, since it delivers hydration without overpowering the skin. The propolis and honey extract can support a damaged skin barrier, plus help with redness and potentially even scarring from healed breakouts. Do check if propolis is ok to use for you though, since people with hay fever may have allergic reactions to it! I would also say that dry to very dry skin may not find this rich enough, and I would advise to look towards the Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Plus Toner, which is equally gentle.
Interested in purchasing the COSRX Propolis Synergy Toner? You can find it at Yesstyle*, at Stylevana* and at Stylekorean*, or if you are in the US also on Amazon.* If you are in the UK or the EU (two different things now, how sad!), you can also get the toner at Skinsider.* I got mine directly from Korea, where it was purchased at Olive Young. The price for the Propolis Synergy Toner varies, but usually lies between 15 to 23$.
Let me know in the comments: What are your favourite COSRX products? How do you feel about the recent launches from the brand?
Take care guys – and stay healthy and safe!
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