3 Dec 2016

Comparison Review: Kiehl's Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution || Cosrx Mela14 White Ampule

I have been getting a lot of requests asking me to write a comparison review on these two products - Kiehl's Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution and Cosrx Mela14 White Ampule. So her it is.

Technically, they are both very different types of product: one uses exfoliation and the other fades hyperpigmentation and inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase that causes dark spots. In other words, one works from the outside and the other one inside out.

I started using Kiehl's much earlier than Cosrx, like 5-6 months ahead. I used Kiehl's for 3 months and followed that up with Laneige White Plus Original Essence and Clear C Advanced Effector. And the great thing was that I see results from all of them with consecutive uses. I don't use them alternatively to make sure that I know which ones work and which one doesn't.

After 6 months, my skin looks like this:

Kiehl's fades my freckles whereas Laneige brightens up my complexion

And I got to know Cosrx after I'm done with Laneige and wanted to pick up on Kiehl's again. I was faced with a dilemma at that time, because I really wanted to try Cosrx but I missed Kiehl's, which is why I decided to write this comparison review.

Are you interested to find out how they compare with each other? Let's go through the reviews in details!

Kiehl's Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution (RM 230/30ml)

Honestly, Kiehl's is one of my trusty skincare brand. I may not love most of their products but its packaging, concept and professional attitude really appeal to me. Many may think that this Dark Spot Solution has the most boring design but it somehow manages to catch my heart. Maybe it reminds me of my Canadian professors who always have some of these measuring-instruments-looking glasses on their desk. Maybe it is just the western style design that got me hooked? Who knows?

But one thing I don't like about the packaging is that there is a 0.5cm gap between the dropper and the bottom, which makes it really hard to reach the remaining product. I need to pour it out on my palm and sometimes it causes unnecessary wastage (using too much at a time). I think they might have to improve on that in the future.

The box looks really plain and simple. Actually there is a reason why they design it all-white. They want to stress that this is a brightening serum to reduce dark spots and brighten up your complexion. Besides, vitamin C serum is normally packaged inside a dark bottle to block sunlight and prevent oxidation. The fact that Kiehl's packs this in a transparent bottle also shows their confidence about the stability of vitamin C used here.

a closer look at some important information on the box

You can clearly see that this product claims to be a brightening serum "clinically-demonstrated to rapidly correct dark spots and discoloration for visible correction and clarity". Main ingredients are activated vitamin C, white birch extract and peony extract. This product also has a really nice lavender scent that I thoroughly enjoy.

I was told that it would work to fade dark spots on my face including genetic freckles within 4 months. And they told me that I need at least 2-3 bottles to see best results.

For those of you who are curious about the texture but don't have any access to a tester, here is how the serum looks. It is a clear, slightly-viscous serum that is light-weighted and easily absorbed by the skin. It leaves a little bit of tacky finish but you can easily dismiss that with a lotion or cream. It is not hydrating or refreshing, but not drying though.

[INGREDIENTS ANALYSIS] Aqua, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., PEG/PPG/Polybutylene Glycol-8/5/3 Glycerin, Hydroxypropyl Tetrahydropyrantriol, 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, PPG-6-Decyltetradeceth-30, Phenoxyethanol, Salicylic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Potassium Hydroxide, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Lavandula Angustifolia Oil/Lavender Oil, Disodium EDTA, Linalool, Citrus Tachibana/Citrus Aurantium Tachibana Peel Extract, Paeonia Suffruticosa Extract/Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract

Actually, Kiehl's has a rather straight-forwarded ingredients list. Not simple because there is still some texture ingredients like solvent, emollients, humectants, surfactants etc but straight-forwarded enough with just 3 main ingredients.

Main ingredient activated vitamin C, or 3-o-ethyl ascorbic acid is claimed to be a stabler form of vitamin C which can inhibit the activity of tyrosinase that prevents the synthesis of melanin. Its other function includes accelerating collagen synthesis, improving the luster of skin, anti-oxidizing, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacteria. Sounds really good for age spots and sun spots, but how about freckles? Well, if this product can only stop melanin synthesis, it means it will not get rid of my existing freckles unless it works against hyperpigmentation as well through faster cellular renewal, the breakdown of melanin or exfoliation. I must rely on the cellular renewal mechanism of my own body to do the job. So far, I don't find a lot of convincing studies supporting its immediate effects on hyperpigmentation so I cannot make a final judgement.

And then we have white birch extract which is written as salicylic acid in the ingredients list. It is a skin tonic, disinfectant, stimulant, astringent, and antiseptic. Kiehl's claims that this ingredient is able to restore hydration and nutrients to the skin, increase elastic level and stimulate collagen production. This is a multitasker that is great for oily, acne-prone and aging skin as it can soothe, shrink pores, anti-inflammatory and reverse signs of aging.

Lastly, there is peony extract that compliments the effect of 3-o-ethyl ascorbic acid. It is also a great antioxidant with the ability to restore youthful complexion, anti-inflammatory and improve dullness.


Based on the ingredients and my experience using this product, it does sound like a pretty decent brightening serum but may not really justify its price (RM 230/30ml). Since I am not the scientist behind this serum, I cannot judge if the combination of the ascorbic acid, white birch extract and peony extract work well to lighten hyperpigmentation, but I do see results with continuous use despite very slowly. However, if my metabolism is disrupted or cellular renewal isn't as optimal, then this serum won't function as well. After I picked up on Kiehl's again, I see pretty minimal results in the next 4-5 months as I wasn't getting enough sleep and is constantly in stress. I think treatment essences like Secret Key and Nature Republic with niacinamide works equally well at reducing those freckles hence this serum may not be as great as I expected.

But if you ask is there any results, then there is definitely some! I will use it with the Clearly Corrective Clarifying Toner to see if it optimizes the performance of this Dark Spot Solution.

Cosrx Mela14 White Ampule (20ml/RM 95)!

Unlike Kiehl's that uses vitamin C, Cosrx takes a step further to incorporate AHA (surface exfoliators), BHA (something like salicylic acid we discussed above), and niacinamide (another ingredient that works well to reduce hyperpigmentation) into a 20ml ampoule.

AHA used here are in the forms of apple fruit water and glycolic acid. AHA is a skin exfoliant to remove dead skin cells, treat acne, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and moisturize the skin. I'm not so sure about the moisturizing part, at least I find it kinda drying on my normal skin. But AHA is a well-known skin exfoliator to remove dead skin cells or any rubbish on your outer layer, which includes the pigmented areas. As it exfoliates, newer and flawless skin will surface and the "intensity" of the dark spots will be reduced.

Unlike Kiehl's, this Ampoule comes in a gel-serum consistency. It is more runny but equally light-weighted and fast absorbing as Kiehl's.

One thing I really dislike about this Ampoule is the scent. It smells like burning rubber, or tea tree oil or some funcky chemical that I absolutely loathe, especially if I were to compare it to the enticing lavender scent of Kiehl's.

[INGREDIENTS ANALYSIS] Pyrus Malus(Apple) Fruit Water, Butylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Alcohol, Betaine, 1,2-Hexanediol, Glycolic Acid, Betaine Salicylate, Phenylethyl Resorcinol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Panthenol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sodium Hydroxide

As we discussed above, this product uses AHA, niacinamide and BHA as the main ingredients here. The combination is supposed to gently exfoliate the surface area and at the same time target hyperpigmentation inside out with niacinamide. However, after finishing the entire bottle, I'm disappointed to say that I don't see a lot of results with it. Maybe it is due to the fact that I have high stress level and don't get enough sleep during the time I'm testing this product. I just don't see major differences. But if I were to compare it to Kiehl's that I used on my left face at the same period, I think this did a slightly better job at evening out my complexion. Also, I notice clearer face (no breakout) for my right face when I am using this Ampule.


Kiehl's vs. Cosrx

PRICE: Kiehl's (RM 230/30ml) is 61% more expensive than Cosrx (RM 95/20ml), but you can get Kiehl's at cheaper prices with bigger volume (RM 320/50ml) and Cosrx at cheaper prices if you buy from Korea.

TEXTURE: Both products are equally light-weighted, fast absorbing with a little bit of tacky finish on the skin. Both are not hydrating or refreshing, Cosrx is drier and slightly harsher than Kiehl's.

SCENT: Kiehl's smells awesome with its lavender oil whereas Cosrx smells awful without any fragrance added (AHA and BHA smell awful).

PERFORMANCE: Both products need healthier skin metabolism to function optimally. Kiehl's works better at fading dark spots whereas Cosrx evens out overall complexion. 

LIMITATION: Kiehl's works better at preventing the formation of more freckles instead of breaking them down whereas Cosrx works better on lighter and swallower scars and spots instead of deeper ones.

SKIN TYPES: Kiehl's targets most skin types especially older skin types with age spots and sun spots whereas Cosrx works well for younger and less sensitive skin with its stronger chemical exfoliants.

If I were to choose, I prefer Kiehl's because it smells really nice and it works on my freckles. I might not just get the 50ml one to save extra bucks and use it consistently over time as a "maintenance" treatment. Cosrx is great too, but I really dislike the smell and I did not see amazing results after finishing up 20ml of it. I think my treatment essence and peeling pads might work as well as this although those might be pricier if I buy them separately. 

Interestingly, I notice that both products require proper rest and healthy lifestyle to work optimally. Well... it makes sense because your skin looks dull and you get freckles (or liver spots in my case) due to poor sleeping habit, high stress level (cortisol) and slower metabolism. You cannot ask external products to change your bad health as they get reflected on your skin. So, my advise is, definitely both products work but if you are on a budget and think that these stuffs are way too pricey than you can go the more natural ways by getting more sleep and eating healthier. I know those in skincare industry will want to strangle me for saying those things but these are my truthful thoughts after using these products under different circumstances.

Stay beautiful peeps!

Kiehl's Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution
packaging: ★★★★☆
scent: ★★★★★
texture: ★★★★
ingredients: ★★★★
efficacy: ★★★★
overall impression: ★★★★ (very good and I really enjoy it)

Cosrx Mela14 White Ampule
packaging: ★★★
scent: ★
texture: ★★★★
ingredients: ★★★★
efficacy: ★★★★
overall impression: ★★★☆ (quite good and I somehow enjoy, will repurchase if necessary)

You can get Kiehl's from: Kiehl's Malaysia
You can get Cosrx from: Hermo | Qoo10 | Jolse
[Disclaimer] This is NOT a sponsored review. Products are purchased with my own money. All copy right of contents and images in this article is strictly mine.
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