the-16-best-acne-serums-dermatologists-actually-recommend

The 16 Best Acne Serums Dermatologists Actually Recommend

Dermatologist’s Favorite

Glow Recipe Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Acid Serum

Dermatologist’s Favorite

Glow Recipe Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Acid Serum

Credit: Glow Recipe
Pros
  • Reduces oil
  • Evens out skin texture
  • Provides exfoliation
Cons

    Garshick’s pick is one that contains known acne-fighting heavy hitters such as salicylic acid, mandelic acid, and azelaic acid to gently exfoliate skin and keep pores clear. She adds that the strawberry helps reduce oil and even tone to help brighten the skin and reduce the appearance of visible pores.

    Dermatologist’s Favorite

    La Roche Posay Effaclar Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment

    Dermatologist’s Favorite

    La Roche Posay Effaclar Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment

    Credit: La Roche Posay
    Pros
    • Treats hyperpigmentation
    • Clarifies skin
    • Boost skin’s natural radiance
    Cons

      Engelman loves this acne serum because it clarifies skin, addresses fine lines and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and prevents future breakouts. It contains salicylic acid mixed with glycolic acid and micro-exfoliating lipids, plus niacinamide and La Roche-Posay’s signature thermal water to soothe any irritation.

      Best for Blackheads

      Neutrogena Stubborn Blackheads Daily Acne Facial Serum

      Best for Blackheads

      Neutrogena Stubborn Blackheads Daily Acne Facial Serum

      Now 31% Off

      Credit: Neutrogena
      Pros
      • Under $20
      • Lightweight
      • Keeps pores clear
      Cons

        The key to treating those pesky blackheads starts with this acne serum. It contains salicylic acid to clear clogged pores while the glycolic and mandelic acid provide the exfoliation needed to remove debris and dead skin cells. As an added bonus, it’s oil-free and super lightweight.

        Pro-tip: Garshick recommends using it one to two times daily to keep those blackheads at bay.

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        Dermatologist’s Favorite

        Glo Skin Beta-Clarity BHA Drops

        Dermatologist’s Favorite

        Glo Skin Beta-Clarity BHA Drops

        Pros
        • Also brightens and smooth skin texture
        • Contains retinol
        Cons

          Engelman says this is an excellent serum to add to your routine regardless of skin type, but it especially helps those with oil and acne-prone skin keep their complexion clear. It blends salicylic acid, retinol, niacinamide, glycolic acid and witch hazel to clarify, smooth, firm, and brighten.

          Best for Face and Body

          DRMTLGY 24 Hour Acne Serum

          Best for Face and Body

          DRMTLGY 24 Hour Acne Serum

          Credit: DRMTLGY
          Pros
          • Can be used for both face and body
          • Exfoliates
          • Reduces inflammation
          Cons

            Garshick loves this serum because it can be used for both the face and the body (yes, bacne be damned). It contains benzoyl peroxide and glycolic acid reduce inflammation and provide any needed exfoliation.

            Dermatologist’s Favorite

            iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance+

            Dermatologist’s Favorite

            iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance+

            Credit: iS Clinical
            Pros
            • Antioxidant properties to protect skin from environmental agressors
            • Clarifies skin

            Another powerhouse serum that does it all, Engelman recommends using this to keep skin looking smooth and clear. It is made with vitamin A, C, and E to protect skin from environmental aggressors, and olive leaf to reduce inflammation.

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            Best for Sensitive Skin

            Tower 28 Beauty SOS Intensive Redness Relief Serum

            Best for Sensitive Skin

            Tower 28 Beauty SOS Intensive Redness Relief Serum

            Credit: Tower 28
            Pros
            • Gentle enough to use for the most sensitve skin
            • Soothes irritation and inflammation
            • Reduces redness
            Cons

              If you have both sensitive and oily skin, then Garshick says this is your new go-to acne serum. It contains hypochlorous acid to soothe any redness, inflammation, or irritation caused by acne (or just in general too).

              Dermatologist’s Favorite

              SkinCeuticals SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense

              Dermatologist’s Favorite

              SkinCeuticals SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense

              Credit: SkinCeuticals
              Pros
              • Controls excess oil production
              • Clears pores
              • Minimizes appearance of fine lines
              Cons
              • Over $90
              • Can be too strong for senstive skin

              This is a splurge that Garshick says is worth every penny. It mixes salicylic acid to control excess oil production and keep pores clear. It also has dioic acid and LHA to reduce excess sebum and decongest pores. Plus, you get the added bonus of glycolic and citric acid that smooth and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

              Drugstore Deal

              CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

              Drugstore Deal

              CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

              Now 31% Off

              Credit: CeraVe
              Pros
              • Unclogs pores
              • Strengthens skin barrier
              Cons

                For your post-acne needs, Garshick loves this drugstore acne serum. It contains retinol to declog pores and smooth out your skin texture, but it also contains licorice root and niacinamide to brighten any post-acne marks, and ceramides to calm the skin and strengthen its barrier.

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                Nearly Persciption Strength

                Skinbetter AlphaRet Clearing Serum

                Nearly Persciption Strength

                Skinbetter AlphaRet Clearing Serum

                Credit: Skinbetter
                Pros
                • Clears acne and evens out skin texture
                • Reduces inflammation and calms skin
                Cons

                  According to Garshick, this serum helps treat blemishes and treats any post-acne skin concerns. It contains a patented retinoid technology (AlphaRet) with salicylic acid to clear blackheads and pores while also smoothing uneven texture. And thanks to the blend of antioxidants and peptides, it helps reduce inflammation and support the skin’s natural healing process so that those pesky acne marks won’t be as visible.

                  Under $13

                  The INKEY List Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Blemish + Blackhead Serum

                  Under $13

                  The INKEY List Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Blemish + Blackhead Serum

                  Credit: The Inkey List
                  Pros
                  • Wallet-friendly
                  • Effectively keeps pores clear
                  • Contains zinc
                  Cons

                    If you’re dealing with major congestion on your chin, nose, or wherever, this will help clear it all. It contains salicylic acid to gently exfoliate the skin and unclog pores while zinc helps control excess oil. To combat any dryness, it also hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump skin. And at less than $13, it’s a steal.

                    Editors’ Favorite

                    Renee Rouleau Post-Breakout Fading Gel

                    Editors’ Favorite

                    Renee Rouleau Post-Breakout Fading Gel

                    Credit: Renee Rouleau
                    Pros
                    • Gets rid of dark spots fast
                    Cons

                      For when your deepest breakouts leave behind a mark, turn to this fading gel beloved by Bazaar‘s editors. It contains lactic and glycolic acid to exfoliate and brighten dark spots and has antioxidants to soothe skin.

                      One satisfied customer writes: “I’m a fan of this product. Breakouts are so frustrating because it can take the skin so long to heal once the blemish is gone. This product accelerates that healing / fading process. Be sure to wait until the pimple has popped and there’s no more scab before you start using. You just need a little bit of the product.” — Kristin

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                      Amazon’s Choice

                      Paula’s Choice CLINICAL 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment

                      Amazon’s Choice

                      Paula’s Choice CLINICAL 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment

                      Pros
                      • Contains retinol
                      • Also firms skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines
                      Cons

                        This is an all-time retinol fave. The powerhouse ingredient gets a boost from bakuchiol to exfoliate away dead skin cells, keeping pores clear and to help control excess oil. It also has peptides to firm skin, so you’re just adding anti-aging benefits which is always a welcome bonus.

                        Under $10

                        The Ordinary The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

                        Under $10

                        The Ordinary The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

                        Credit: The Ordinary
                        Pros
                        • Clears up the most stubborn acne
                        Cons
                        • Can be drying
                        • Not for sensitive skin

                        Can a product be both effective and wallet-friendly? With this acne serum, absolutely. Its star ingredient is non other than salicylic acid, which works to clear congestion, exfoliate skin, and smooth texture. Reviews rave how instant you’ll see results and all for less than $7. Sign us up ASAP.

                        One satisfied customer writes: “Cleared up my acne and blackheads almost immediately!!! Absolute must-have in my skincare routine now. My skin feels completely different now, way brighter and smoother than before. Salicylic acid always does wonders.” — rgoertz

                        Great for Melanated Skin

                        Hyper Hyper Even Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum

                        Great for Melanated Skin

                        Hyper Hyper Even Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum

                        Credit: Hyper!
                        Pros
                        • Treats acne and prevents future breakouts
                        • Helps brighten complexion
                        Cons

                          If the goal is to get the most radiant complexion when dealing with post-acne spots, this has to be part of your regimen. It is made with vitamin C and E and kojic acid to brighten acne scars and any forms of sun damage. Plus, it is made with salicylic acid and tumeric to treat breakouts and prevent future ones from forming.

                          One satisfied customer writes: “My skin is very sensitive to many products. During the pandemic, I wore face masks 7 days a week. The masks irritated my skin which led to acne and acne “scarring,” in addition to hyperpigmentation. I read online about about Hyper being a black owned business and wanted to support it. I have been using the serum for thirteen months now and it has Read more about review stating Love Hyper!!cleared up my dark spots/scarring. I am from the West Indies so I needed a product that would cater to my skin, and my hyperpigmentation. I follow the suggested regime, using a face scrub once a week, moisturizer and Hyper. I am thoroughly pleased with it!” — Francesca B.

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                          How do you use an acne serum?

                          Engelman says that if you are not experiencing an active breakout but have oily, acne-prone skin, you may benefit from using certain acne serums regularly during your skincare routine; just make sure that they are not too drying or irritating. But she encourages you to talk to your dermatologist about which ingredients and products are best for your specific skin.

                          What ingredients should one look for in an acne serum?

                          Harper’s BAZAAR

                          Garshick lists salicylic acid as one of the main ingredients to look for in a good acne serum. “Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that is able to penetrate deep into the skin to unclog pores, regulate sebum (oil) production, and exfoliate the skin, all of which help treat acne and aid in maintaining a clearer complexion,” she explains.

                          Other ingredients to look for, she says, include retinol and niacinamide to exfoliate skin and reduce inflammation.

                          Can you use both an acne serum and a spot treatment at the same time?

                          Engelman says yes, you can use both an acne serum and an acne spot treatment together. “I recommend [doing] this if you are experiencing an active breakout,” she says. She recommends first applying the acne serum to clean, dry skin, and then tapping a spot treatment onto any active pimples.

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                          What else should someone consider in an acne serum?

                          “Choose an acne serum with high-quality ingredients, no added fragrances or harsh chemicals, and a balanced formula that will not overly dry or irritate the skin,” says Engelman. “Treating acne can be a tricky balancing act, as some of the best acne-fighting ingredients tend to be harsh on skin; the goal is to find a happy medium of reducing acne without drying out or irritating the skin barrier.”

                          Audrey Noble

                          Beauty Contributor

                          Audrey Noble is a freelance writer and reporter. She writes celebrity profiles and does deep-dive features about the ways race, gender, sexuality, and other forms of identity impact society via the beauty industry. Her previous work experience includes editorial positions at Vanity Fair, Refinery29, and Allure. Her writing can also be seen in Vogue, Harper’s BAZAAR, Bustle, HelloGiggles, and more. You can keep up with her on Twitter.

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