"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."
There's no telling when a breakout will strike or how severe it will be. For some besties, all it takes is a spot treatment or a pimple patch to zap a zit before it breaks through the skin and leaves behind pesky dark marks. Others need stronger pore-clearing cleansers and masks to remove the buildup, like blackheads and whiteheads that lead to breakouts. Acne serums are a skincare essential that help combat active blemishes and prevent future breakouts. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shari Sperling, they also help reduce leftover marks from hyperpigmentation and scarring. The best serums for acne-prone skin work so well because they "generally have higher concentrations of active ingredients," she explains to Seventeen.
When it comes to acne-prone skin, Dr. Sperling recommends serums that are formulated to target the different concerns you're experiencing. Acne scarring and hyperpigmentation often appear after breakouts. The New Jersey-based derm suggests retinol-enriched acne serums to remove the buildup that leads to acne and stimulate collagen and elastin production to keep skin firm and reduce the appearance of pesky marks. If you're experiencing dryness and peeling, serums with hydrating niacinamide decrease oil production and reduce inflammation and redness, she says. For active breakouts, Dr. Sperling recommends serums laced with exfoliating benzoyl peroxide to clear oil and dead skin cells out of pores to prevent future breakouts and increase skin cell turnover, which helps with hyperpigmentation and scarring.
Since acne serums are packed with a higher concentration of breakout-fighting ingredients, Dr. Sperling warns of possible irritation depending on how sensitive your skin is. Instead of applying a new serum to your breakout as soon as it appears, start by spot testing with a small amount of product to the inner upper arm to see if you have a reaction. "Always review the ingredients" and "make sure the product is non-comedogenic" to prevent clogged pores, she warns.
No matter if you're experiencing active breakouts or want to get rid of leftover marks from acne scars, there are serums to help improve your skin's condition. Read ahead for the best serums for acne-prone skin, according to experts.
Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Blemish + Blackhead Serum
Blackheads can pop up anywhere from your face to your nose and ears. Dr. Sperling recommends this BHA serum because it's enriched with salicylic acid and zinc to decongest clogged pores and control oil production.
Key ingredients: Salicylic acid, zinc compound 1%, hyaluronic acid
Skin type: Combination, oily, normal
Customer review: "This serum did clear my blackheads and it is great because it doesn't peel off your face like other serums I wish it came in a bigger size."
Super Collagen + Detox Glacial Algae Serum
There's nothing like the pain from a pimple that's trying to break through the skin. This lightweight serum removes toxins from the skin and helps reduce inflammation.
Key ingredients: Glacial algae, collagen
Skin type: Dry, sensitive
Customer review: "Never had my skin so glowy and amazing.. always loved algae but never knew I needed it for my face. Can't go without now."
T.L.C. Framboos™ Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum is an exfoliating skincare essential that's laced with gunk-clearing glycolic, lactic, tartaric, citric, and salicylic acids to gently exfoliate and reveal smoother, more radiant skin, Dr. Sperling says.
Key ingredients: Glycolic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, citric acid, salicylic acid
Skin type: Normal, dry, oily, combination
Customer review: "This product has a great feel to it and last for a very long time I had the mini version and used two pumps daily and it lasted me 3 months this version has definitely lasted me a lot longer its really also hydrating."
Effaclar Duo Acne Spot Treatment
This spot treatment reduces blemishes and clears blackheads and whiteheads. It's packed with a non-drying, oil-free formula that absorbs quickly into the skin. Benzoyl peroxide is the key ingredient that helps this treatment reduce acne-causing bacteria, Dr. Sperling says.
Key ingredients: Benzoyl peroxide
Skin type: Combination, oily
Customer review: "I get really bad hormonal acne and this product helped a lot with it. For me personally it takes about a couple days for my acne to heal using this product."
Retinol 0.5% in Squalane
Get ready to tackle your acne and skin's texture with The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane serum. Dr. Sperling raves over this serum because it "suppresses oil production to treat acne, and squalene, which increases hydration." Since there's active retinol in this serum, be sure not to use it with vitamin C or Copper Peptides to prevent irritation.
Key ingredients: Retinol, squalane
Skin type: Normal, combination
Customer review: "I have been using this for about a month. I apply at night after cleansing, and I simply use toner and a thick PM moisturizer that doesn't have any clashing ingredients. It feels slightly oily when you are applying it. I have definitely seen improvements with my skin, and I luckily have not had any adverse reactions. Just make sure you educate yourself and read the label, and I would totally recommend it!"
Acne Treatment Nighttime
Pimples always strike at an inconvenient time. If you're in a rush and have an active breakout, this salicylic acid and active sulfur-enriched treatment dries out inflammation and reduces redness overnight.
Key ingredients: Salicylic acid, 10% active sulfur
Skin type: Normal, oily, combination, dry
Customer review: "It works wonders! Better than anything else I’ve ever tried. However it does smell really strong."
Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Acid Serum
If you're looking for a good serum to wear with your makeup, grab this lightweight option from Glow Recipe. Hyaluronic acid nourishes skin while clarity acid complex 10% exfoliates dead skin cells and reduces the appearance of bumps.
Key ingredients: Clarity acid complex 10%, strawberry extract, hyaluronic acid
Skin type: Normal, dry, combination, oily
Customer review: "I have suffered from cystic acne for years. I have used over the counter and prescription medications...and nothing worked. Strawberry Smooth by Glow Recipe did the job!!! I no longer have cystic acne. When I do get a rare small pimple I spot treat it and it's gone in 2 day. I wish I this product years ago."
Just Breathe Clarifying Serum
Apply two to three drops into clean, moist-but-almost-dry skin to remove gunk and combat excess oil production. Willow bark extract, niacinamide, and a zinc blend soothe inflammation, clear pores, and reduce redness.
Key ingredients: Niacinamide, willow bark extract, zinc
Skin type: Oily, normal, combination
Customer review: "Very good product it helps a lot with oiliness and clogged pores."
Clear Complexion Acne Serum + Spot Treatment
For some besties, hormonal breakouts surface like clockwork signaling that their cycle is otw. This fast-drying gel reduces inflammation and soothes the pain from large breakouts.
Key ingredients: 5% Benzoyl peroxide, 5% glycolic acid
Skin type: Oily, combination
Customer review:"Brings pimples to a head quickly. Shrinks large painful ones overnight. This stuff has really helped within a day of using it. I'm purchasing it from using a sample. I haven't tried to use as a preventative only a spot treatment."
There's no telling when you'll get a zip, so this lightweight pen is perfect for when you're on the go. Throw one in your backpack to zap breakouts that pop up when you're headed across campus or in your makeup bag for when you're traveling with your besties during your next break from school.
Key ingredients: Glycolic acid, niacinamide, vitamin c, tranexamic acid
Skin type: Normal, oily, combination
Customer review: "I stumbled on this while searching for ways to reduce appearances of acne(after it's been popped) and dark spots. It works super well, I had a bad patch of acne and I applied it twice a day and by the weekend, the spots had almost gone! I'd suggest this for anyone who is looking to lighten their acne after being picked."
U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying BHA Salicylic Acid and Tea Tree Acne Treatment Face Oil
Besties, have you heard about tea tree oil? It's laced with antibacterial properties to help reduce inflammation. This Sunday Riley serum combines tea tree oil with exfoliating salicylic acid to buff away dead skin cells and decongest clogged pores.
Key ingredients: Salicylic acid, tea tree oil
Skin type: Normal, oily, combination
Customer review: "Seems a little expensive but a little goes a long way and your skin will thank you !!"
Post-Breakout Fading Gel
No matter if your cystic acne leaves behind red marks or dark scars, this fast-acting gel helps brighten and reduces inflammation from leftover breakouts.
Key ingredients: Green tea extract, lactic acid, glycolic acid, sea whip extract
Skin type: Normal, oily, dry, combination
Customer review: "I love this product! It is really helping to fade some off my old scars, especially when used together with the other RR product range for my skin type."
Azelaic Topical Acid 10%, Brightening Face & Skin Care Treatment
You may know Naturium for its viral body washes, but this serum is in a league of its own. Along with gently slough away dead skin cells, this hydrating serum reduces discoloration and hydrates skin.
Key ingredients: Niacinamide, azelaic acid, vitamin C
Skin type: Normal, oily, combination, dry
Customer review:"Fave skincare product bc its the only one ive actually seen make a difference, i know it works for my skin. its a staple in my skincare routine. i dont love the smell but ive tried other products with the same ingredients and they did not work.i have rosacea and this product really helps the appearance and health of my skin!"
Mineral 89 Niacinamide Serum
This easily absorbed serum hydrates, brightens, and minimizes the appearance of pores.
Key ingredients: Niacinamide
Skin type: Sensitive
Customer review: "I’ve used both vitamin c and niacinamide for my dark spots and this has been the best I’ve used yet. Noticeable difference in my sun spots and my aesthetician even commented on how nice my skin texture was after using for awhile."
Retinol Serum for Post-Acne Marks and Skin Texture
This one's for the besties that have said farewell to active breakouts but are now experiencing discoloration and uneven skin texture courtesy of old blemishes. Grab this super-affordable drugstore find to help smooth and even your complexion.
Key ingredients: Encapsulated retinol, licorice root extract, niacinamide
Skin type: Normal, dry, oily, sensitive, combination
Customer review: "I use this a few times a week and it really does help with the scars, without over moisturizing your skin. Perfect product and I have been buying it for about a year now!"
You Might Also Like