Cosrx Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence Review: A Horror Story

by | Last updated Apr 18, 2020 | Reviews | 55 comments

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Fun fact: the Cosrx Galactomyces Essence was once called  “WHITE POWER Essence” until COSRX realized they effed up.

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Alrighty, now that I’ve regained my composure. Let me relay a story with you all that highlights the importance of patch testing… But before I do that, I need to give a disclaimer:

As you probably ascertained from the title of this blog post, this is a horror story. With that said, I don’t want to discourage anyone from purchasing this product just because it didn’t work for me. COSRX is a very solid brand. My skin is just stupidly sensitive and reactive. I don’t call myself the clog-prone champion for nothing. Skin problems and acne LOVE me. YOUR mileage may (and probably will) vary.

Despite my bad experience, I will still be discussing the benefits of using this product. Not doing so would be a disservice to all those that swear by this stuff. It isn’t a common holy grail for no good reason.

Without further ado.

Ingredients and Benefits.

Something that was really appealing to me about the Cosrx Galactomyces Essence was its minimal ingredient list. Check it out.

cosrx galactomyces 95 whitening power essence ingredients

Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Niacinamide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Betaine, Panthenol, Glycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Allantoin, Butylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Ethyl Hexanediol, Adenosine

Looks innocent enough, right? I thought, “hey look! This surely won’t cause me any problems.” WRONG. It’s satan in disguise! More about this in a bit. But let’s start out by focusing on the ingredients of interest.

  • Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate (GFF)

A nutrient dense yeast and byproduct of fermented sake. It increases product absorption into the skin and makes other ingredients in a solution more potent. In cosmetics it’s used as a moisturizing agent and has antioxidant effects. It causes epidermal cells to produce hyaluronic acid, and helps protect the skin from environmental stress. (12)

As the name implies, the COSRX Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence has 95% of this stuff in it!

  • Niacinamide

One of my all time favorite ingredients because of its numerous benefits. It treats hyperpigmenation and brightens skin tone. (345)  Fights acne and performs comparatively better than antibiotics in clinical trials. (67, 8) Helps hydrate and improve the skin’s barrier function. (9101112) Increases collagen production and helps winkles. (131415161718) Put simply, it does everything!

  • Sodium Hyaluronate

A brilliant humectant and natural part of skin that’s capable of holding 1000 times its water weight. (1920) It speeds up wound healing, and draws water from the environment and dermis to hydrate the skin. (21222324) The boost in moisture it provides gives the skin a “plumping effect,” that reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and atrophic scarring.

  • Panthenol

A provitamin of b5 that’s effective at moisturizing the skin. It acts as a humectant and prevents transepidermal water loss (TEWL). (2526) In other words, the water content of skin that keeps it hydrated. It promotes keratinocyte differentiation, (27) which is just the nerdy way of saying it helps improve the skin’s barrier function by keeping the stratum corneum (outer most layer of the skin) healthy.

It may help treat burn wounds. (28) And it may be an effective treatment for dermatitis. (29) I have experience with this in case you don’t know what it looks like.

dermatitis malassezia folliculitis

  • Glycerin

Like Sodium Hyaluronate, this is a humectant that hydrates the skin by drawing water from the dermis and environment.

  • Adenosine

A soothing yeast-derived ingredient with skin-restoring, anti-aging, and anti-inflammatory benefits. (3031)

  • Allantoin

A byproduct of uric acid obtained from urea. (32) It moisturizers the skin and has exfoliating properties. Take this with a grain of salt, but studies done on mice have shown it helps with wound healing. (33) It also soothes dry, rough, itchy, or irritated skin. (34)

The Horror Story.

So what went wrong? I’m sensitive to yeast ferments. That’s what. Let me explain what happened.

It all started with me getting all googly-eyed from everyone saying this product is a holy grail. I looked up the ingredients, and soon enough was doing research on Galactomyces. And BAM. I was sold. Even had the nerve to pay extra for overnight shipping cause you know me — impulsive doesn’t even begin to cut it.

Basically my life in a meme right here……

A little background information before I continue:

If you didn’t know, I have a skin condition called “malassezia folliculitis” better known as “fungal acne.” There’s not much research on it, but it’s different from traditional acne in the sense that it’s yeast  not bacteria causing the breakouts.

This thing is an absolute bear to treat because the malassezia yeasts that cause “fungal acne” feed on fatty acids with carbon chain lengths 11-24, (35) which translates to ALL oils except MCT (a.k.a. capric/caprylic triglycerides).

I will make a whole post about treating this in the future because it’s actually quite common (particularly for those suffering from adult acne). I’d suspect this is the culprit more than 90% of the time in these cases.

UPDATE 5/15/2016: Here it is in all it’s gloryIt took me 3 months to write and is approximately 50 pages long! Check dat sh*t out if you suspect you have fungal skin sensitivities / stubborn adult acne. Now back to our scheduled programming….

So the product arrived, and I instantly slathered it on my face without following the golden rule. What’s the golden rule you ask? PATCH TESTING.

Woke up the next morning with a closed comedone on the side of face and thought, “hmmmm. That’s odd. But uh…. let me just put some more of this non-patch tested product on my face anyway.”

By the end of night 2 I had a couple more closed comedones. Here’s a text message I sent my sister documenting this journey.

sister text

And it gets worse…

I used it for an entire week! You’d think that the warning signs would have been enough for me to come to my senses. Nope. I was like…

By the 7th day, logic finally slapped me upside the head, and I decided to investigate what the hell was going on. Started researching and came across this:

“Malassezia yeasts are commensal microorganisms, which under insufficiently understood conditions can become pathogenic. We have previously shown that specific strains isolated from diseased human skin can preferentially produce agonists of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), whose activation has been linked to certain skin diseases. Investigation of skin scale extracts from patients with Malassezia-associated diseases demonstrated 10- to 1,000-fold higher AhR-activating capacity than control skin extracts…. In loco synthesis of these highly potent AhR inducers by Malassezia yeasts could have a significant impact on skin homeostatic mechanisms and disease development.” (36)

English translation: the malassezia yeast that cause my fungal acne increase AhR activity. AhR activation has been implicated in fungal skin problems for those susceptible to them. (37) The takeaway being…

AhR activaton = bad

How does this relate to Galactomyces? A.k.a. the stuff that makes up 95% of the COSRX Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence. Well…


As you can clearly see, I absolutely freaked out when I made this discovery illustrated by this text here.

sister text 2

A week later….

sister text 3

Yes, I call my sister “bro.”

Anyway, sucks when I think about it because I ended up with some pretty nasty breakouts across my face that realistically set me back about a month or two. Classic story about taking one step forward, and two steps back. But that’s skincare for you. We’re in it for the long haul.

Learn from my mistake, and just patch test the damn thing. This has been a lesson that has come back to kick my ass time and time again. Let it be known that this is my official public declaration: I, f.c., do solemnly swear to never ever again incorporate a product into my routine without patch testing the gosh dang thing first!

If there’s anything you should take away from this story it’s to:

  1. Patch test.
  2. Avoid the COSRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence like a plague if you suspect you have fungal acne, or a malassezia-induced skin condition (e.g. pityrosporum folliculitis, rityriasis rosea, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema etc.)

If you’re upset about this whole discovery like I was, and still looking for an essence, you might want to give pure snail mucin a shot.This is great for the skin conditions mentioned above and won’t aggravate malassezia. My favorites are the COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence and Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence (cannot recommend these two enough).

Application and Feel.

Alright. Now let me do a 360 and pretend I don’t despise this product.

The application of this thing is wonderful! It goes on like a watery slime and has a ton of slip to it, making it easy to spread across the face using minimal product. It sinks in after a couple minutes and dries completely matte. I’d say you can feel just a tad of its residue on skin, if any at all.


It really doesn’t have a scent unless you pay very close attention to it. When you do catch a whiff of this stuff it smells like sour elmer’s glue. Like I said though, unnoticeable unless you really zone in on it.

How to Use.

cosrx galactomyces 95 whitening power essence

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The COSRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence can be used twice daily after chemical exfoliates and before moisturizer. Here’s a sample skincare routine showing where to place it with all things being considered. Depending on what you’re using some of these steps won’t apply so adjust it accordingly.

Disclaimer: Asian skincare routines have additional steps not included here.

  1. Oil cleanser.
  2. Gentle pH-balanced cleanser (5.5 or below)
  3. Low pH serums or toners. Wait 20-30 minutes.
  4. Salicylic Acid (BHA). Wait 20-30 minutes.
  5. AHAs (e.g. mandelic, lactic, glycolic etc.). Wait 20-30 minutes.
  6. COSRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence goes here.
  7. Retinoids like retinol or tretinoin.
  8. Benzoyl PeroxideAzelaic Acid or other similar active ingredients.
  9. Moisturizer.
  10. Occlusive (for example, Aquaphor or Vaseline)

The Take Away.

  • Ingredients: 4/5

Minimal but great stuff in here including 95% galactomyces (*cough* satan *cough*), niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate, panthenol, glycerin, and adenosine.

  • Benefits: 3/5

Subtlety brightens, moisturizes, and protects skin.

  • Application: 5/5

Has a lot of slip, spreads easily, dries matte, leaves no tacky feeling, and has no smell.

  • Packaging: 5/5

No complaints here. The bottle and pump dispenser are nice.

  • Value: 5/5

Very well priced for the amount of product you get, and how long it will last.

Overall: 4.4/5

cosrx galactomyces 95 whitening power essence

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A minimal but solid product. I recommend it for anyone looking into buying an essence for the first time. Just make sure to absolutely avoid it if you have malassezia-induced skin conditions like pityrosporum folliculitis, rityriasis rosea, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis etc.

Alternatively, snail mucin is great for these conditions, so if you’re still looking for an essence you might want to give it a shot. My favorites are the COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence and Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence (current holy grail).

Welp, that does it for the COSRX Galactomyces 95 Essence review. Hope you’ve enjoyed it!



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