Serums are a great choice for individuals with acne-prone skin as they provide a concentrated dose of active ingredients. This targeted approach helps address specific skin concerns and allows for quicker visible improvements.
We know that there's a multitude of options for serums for acne-prone skin, and choosing the best one can be overwhelming. Let's put an end to that today, as we have a buying guide with insights from Dr. Katrina Habaluyas Luz and our top 10 product recommendations. Now, let's get started!
Dr. Katrina Habaluyas Luz is the face behind Ask Your Derma. She is a board-certified dermatologist in Metro Manila. She is also an educator and digital creator on all things skin, hair, and nails. She is a Diplomate of the Philippine Dermatological Society and offers online video consultations. You can also catch her on her Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube channel.
Our recommendation articles are carefully researched and crafted by the mybest Philippines team of writers and editors. To stay true to our company’s mission and vision to help users’ selection process easier, we also collaborate with experts from various fields to ensure that our content stays factual and useful.
The expert oversees the Buying Guide only, and does not determine the products and services featured.
Table of Contents
When choosing serums for acne-prone skin, look for active ingredients that can address your skin concern, check the concentration to make sure your skin doesn't get irritated, and opt for oil-free based serums to prevent breakouts. Check out more pointers below.
The active ingredients in your serum are the stars of the show since they are what makes your serums work well for you. Remember to check what the bottle contains to see if the serum will truly be able to address acne-prone skin.
Acne usually occurs because of oil and dirt blocking the pores. This makes retinol an excellent ingredient because it unclogs pores and enables your skin to heal itself. It also reduces sebum production, which means that it controls the oil on your skin so that you will get fewer breakouts.
Retinol also reduces swelling and smoothens the skin, helping improve the appearance of acne marks and scars. Aside from treating acne, other benefits that you can get from retinol include reducing pigmentation and improving skin elasticity.
Something to keep in mind, though, is that it’s a strong ingredient, so be careful when using it. For a gentler ingredient that can help calm acne, you can look for tea tree oil, witch hazel, and Centella Asiatica.
AHAs and BHAs are chemical exfoliators that remove dead skin cells for improved skin texture and decreased inflammation. AHAs slough off the top layer to reveal smoother skin and stimulate collagen production. A good AHA for acne is glycolic acid since it unclogs pores without drying out your skin.
Meanwhile, BHAs go deep into the surface of your skin to decrease oil production. It’s great for acne-prone skin because it addresses both excess sebum and clogged pores. It calms down skin redness and inflammation, too. Salicylic acid is a common BHA found in many products and is widely known to treat mild to moderate acne.
AHAs such as glycolic acid work as great exfoliants. Did you know it reduces unwanted discoloration, stimulates collagen production, and hydrates the skin, too? BHA, like salicylic acid, is another mainstay in acne treatment, given its ability to reach deeper into those pores.
The new kid on the block is PHAs which act similarly to AHAs and BHAs but are particularly useful for those with sensitive skin. It has a larger molecular size, thus, penetrating the skin at a slower rate for less irritation.
Known as a star ingredient, niacinamide has a lot of good benefits for your skin, including treating acne. This is because it’s an anti-inflammatory agent and can inhibit oil production. Aside from that, it’s non-drying and less irritating compared to other anti-acne ingredients, so it’s safer for those with sensitive skin.
It can also reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation, so niacinamide can address multiple skin concerns. If you’re not ready to try stronger ingredients or you just have mild acne, this is a good and gentle one to start with.
Niacinamide is dubbed the "jack-of-all-trades" in skincare, given its multiple benefits. However, remember niacinamide is not for everyone. Make sure to check the concentration of niacinamide. Studies have shown that for niacinamide, higher is not always better. Use tests have shown no irritation in concentrations up to 5% only.
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which means that it brings moisture to the surface of your skin to make sure that it stays hydrated. Thus, it improves skin elasticity and helps the skin appear dewy and youthful. It works well with other ingredients, too, like other anti-acne acids or products.
Since keeping your skin moisturized is still a must no matter what your skin type is, hyaluronic acid is good to have in your arsenal of skincare products. This is especially important if you’re using topical treatments for your acne since those tend to be pretty powerful and can really dry out your skin.
The tip for hyaluronic acid is to read the label! Hyaluronic acid comes in different sizes —higher molecular weight HA and lower molecular weight HA. In general, high molecular weight HA does not penetrate the skin as deeply compared to low molecular weight hyaluronic acid (e.g., sodium hyaluronate). If your skin is extra dry after applying a hyaluronic acid serum, you can even seal in the moisture by applying a moisturizing cream after!
Vitamin C has many benefits for your body, including your skin. First, it treats acne scars by increasing collagen production, which is vital for healing wounds and rebuilding new skin cells. It’s also a brightening agent that can address hyperpigmentation, so it can lighten dark marks brought about by acne.
It’s an anti-inflammatory agent as well and can help reduce redness and swelling. Overall, vitamin C is an all-around active ingredient that can address acne in multiple ways. Glutathione is another ingredient that can help lighten the skin, on top of other benefits.
Vitamin C is a crowd favorite amongst the topical vitamins of the skin and for a good reason! The great thing about vitamin C is it possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, at the same time, it can help reduce pigmentation. However, it is best to do a patch test first! Not everyone can tolerate Vitamin C, so you might want to start low by trying out 5% first.
It’s important to check the concentration of your serum, more so if you’re new to using it. You need to start small and slow in introducing new products to your skin to avoid aggravating it. Use serums with lower concentrations of active ingredients before using ones with higher concentrations.
Make sure to do your research on the minimum concentration of the active ingredients that your serum has. For example, retinol will already be effective in concentrations as low as 0.01% to 0.03%. Meanwhile, hyaluronic acid is best used in concentrations lower than 2%.
Definitely checking the concentration of certain ingredients in skincare products is important. Remember, higher is not always better! Ingredients incorporated into skincare products typically undergo use tests that show at what percentage certain ingredients are effective without causing adverse effects such as irritation.
If you have acne-prone, oily, or even sensitive skin, it’s best to stay away from oil-based serums and make sure that the product you choose is non-comedogenic. This is to ensure that it won’t clog your pores and give you more breakouts. Instead, it’s best to go for water-based or oil-free serums.
Furthermore, it would be good if your serum only has a few ingredients or additives because the active ingredients are the most important components. To find out what type of serum a product is, read its description or packaging in full.
In general, people with acne-prone and oily skin types would not only be able to benefit more but also generally tolerate water-based serums better. At the end of the day, it all boils down to listening to your skin!
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Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Clears Out Pimples and Acne Marks for Blemish-Free Skin
Niacinamide, Zinc PCA
10% Niacinamide, 1% Zinc
Get That Glow With A Weightless Serum that Melts Into Your Skin
Resurfacing Retinol Serum
A Mild Yet Effective Retinol Serum for Sensitive Skin
Niacinamide, Retinol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ceramides
Acne Defense Prebio Serum
Fade Post-Acne Marks Faster With a Gentle Serum
Botanical Extract Complex B, Dragon's Blood Extract, Encapsulated Prebiotics, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tea Tree Oil
Effaclar Ultra Concentre Face Serum
Combines Powerful Exfoliants to Reveal a Flawless Glow
Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Niacinamide
4.5% Tartaric Acid, 1.5% Salicylic Acid, 0.45% Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, 2% Niacinamide
Bright Complete Anti-Acne Serum
Packed With Countless Benefits for Acne-Prone, Sensitive Skin
Niacinamide, Salicylic Acid, Vitamin C, Lactic Acid, Phytic Acid
4% Vitamin C
AC Collection Blemish Spot Clearing Serum
Infused With Propolis to Help You Achieve Glass Skin
Propolis Extract, Niacinamide, Panthenol, Asiaticoside, Asiatic Acid, Madecassic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tea Tree Leaf Oil
85.6% Propolis Extract, 4% Niacinamide
Some By Mi
AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Serum Light
Exfoliate With AHA, BHA, and PHA to Clear Your Skin
Tea Tree Leaf Water, Cica Extract, Niacinamide, Madecassoside, Willow Bark Extract, Salicylic Acid, Lactobionic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Peppermint Oil
10,000ppm Tea Tree Leaf Water, 14.5% Centella asiatica
Calming Blemish Madecassoside Serum
Say Goodbye to Troubled Skin With This Natural Solution
Tea Tree Leaf Extract, Tea Tree Leaf Oil, Madecassoside, Sodium Hyaluronate, Cica Extract
1,000ppm Madecassoside, 5,000ppm Tea Tree Leaf Extract
Acne Solutions Pore Minimizing Serum
Infused With Japanese Rose Fruit to Improve Skin Texture
Japanese Rose Fruit Extract, Witch Hazel Leaf Extract, Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid
This serum is perfect for everyone, regardless of their skin type, because it's not greasy at all and gets absorbed quickly into the skin—thanks to its water-based formula. Plus, it contains two important ingredients, namely niacinamide which reduces inflammation and improves hyperpigmentation, as well as zinc PCA, which regulates oil production and fights off acne-causing bacteria. Best of all, it's free from irritating ingredients like alcohol, oil, and fragrance!
Reviews confirmed that this product delivers on all its promises to diminish acne scars, dark spots, and pores. However, this serum contains a high concentration of active ingredients, so it's important to start using it slowly and gradually. Apply a small amount to your face once a day and see how your skin reacts. If you experience any irritation, stop using the serum or dilute it with a moisturizer.
|Active Ingredients||Niacinamide, Zinc PCA|
|Concentration||10% Niacinamide, 1% Zinc|
|Active Ingredients||Niacinamide, Tocopherol|
If you're interested in trying retinol but have sensitive skin, this serum may be perfect for you. It contains gentle retinol that's less likely to cause irritation, as well as licorice root extract, which brightens the skin, and three essential ceramides, which help restore the skin's natural barrier. Plus, its lightweight and non-greasy texture makes it ideal for acne-prone and oily skin as well.
If you're new to using retinol, CeraVe recommends using this every third evening to avoid side effects such as redness and drying. Once you've built up tolerance, you can then increase use. Many satisfied users noticed smoother skin and improved appearance of fine lines and wrinkles with continued use.
|Active Ingredients||Niacinamide, Retinol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ceramides|
If you're looking for a fragrance-free serum for your combination to oily, acne-prone skin, this prebiotic serum is for you. Formulated with Botanical Extract Complex B, Dragon's Blood, Encapsulated Prebiotics, Aloe vera extract, and Hyaluronic Acids, it reduces acne, fades dark spots, hydrates the skin, and improves skin health.
Users claimed that their post-acne marks are fading faster than they used to while using their product. They also said that it's natural to feel skeptical about trying a new product on sensitive skin, but you have nothing to worry about with this gentle serum that doesn't cause skin irritation. However, it's important to note that results may vary, so make sure to perform a patch test before use.
|Active Ingredients||Botanical Extract Complex B, Dragon's Blood Extract, Encapsulated Prebiotics, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tea Tree Oil|
This non-comedogenic, concentrated serum is specifically designed to be your ultimate ally in the battle against acne, giving your skin a beautiful glow. Packed with three powerful exfoliating acids (salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and lipohydroxy acidーa salicylic acid derivative), as well as niacinamide, it's a real game-changer for acne-prone skin. These ingredients team up to gently dissolve those pesky dead skin cells and excess oil, effectively exfoliating the surface of your skin.
|Active Ingredients||Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Niacinamide|
|Concentration||4.5% Tartaric Acid, 1.5% Salicylic Acid, 0.45% Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, 2% Niacinamide|
|Active Ingredients||Niacinamide, Salicylic Acid, Vitamin C, Lactic Acid, Phytic Acid|
|Concentration||4% Vitamin C|
|Active Ingredients||Propolis Extract, Niacinamide, Panthenol, Asiaticoside, Asiatic Acid, Madecassic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tea Tree Leaf Oil|
|Concentration||85.6% Propolis Extract, 4% Niacinamide|
|Active Ingredients||Tea Tree Leaf Water, Cica Extract, Niacinamide, Madecassoside, Willow Bark Extract, Salicylic Acid, Lactobionic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Peppermint Oil|
|Concentration||10,000ppm Tea Tree Leaf Water, 14.5% Centella asiatica|
|Active Ingredients||Tea Tree Leaf Extract, Tea Tree Leaf Oil, Madecassoside, Sodium Hyaluronate, Cica Extract|
|Concentration||1,000ppm Madecassoside, 5,000ppm Tea Tree Leaf Extract|
Combining the exfoliating power of salicylic acid and glycolic acid, this serum reduces acne and wrinkles at the same time. With the added benefits of Japanese rose fruit extract and witch hazel leaf extract, it tightens your pores and controls oil production. It shields your skin from free radicals, plus, it's suitable even for sensitive skin. Simply apply it after cleansing and toning, follow it up with moisturizer, and use it twice daily.
Reviews have raved about this holy grail product, particularly for those who have received recommendations from their dermatologists to opt for gentle solutions for acne. They noticed a significant improvement in their skin texture after using the serum. Another thing they loved was the absence of added fragrance in the formula.
|Active Ingredients||Japanese Rose Fruit Extract, Witch Hazel Leaf Extract, Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid|
Applying skincare products in a particular order helps you reap the most benefits from the products. I highly recommend applying a moisturizer after your serum to ensure the actives in your serum are absorbed well into your skin, not to mention to lock in that extra moisture.
Looking for more answers to your skin woes? We've got you covered! Read below for expert advice on how to stay on top of your skincare game.
It's always a good idea to consult your board-certified dermatologist of choice before incorporating new products into your skincare regimen. So many factors come into play in selecting products that would suit each individual's skin and skin concerns—and they would be in the best position to give you advice.
You can definitely maximize the benefits you get from certain ingredients incorporated into serums by applying them at a particular time of the day. For instance, applying Vitamin C in the morning enables you to maximize its antioxidant properties which help reduce UV-related sun damage.
Don't overdo it! Most of the time, people want a quick fix or immediate results. The best results come with patience and consistency.
If you want to get soft, smooth, and blemish-free skin, an anti-acne serum isn't enough. You need to build a solid skincare routine to address acne and maintain clear skin, so check out our other articles below for the best products that can help you.
Author: Bianca Angela Dela Cruz
Editor: R. Umlas
Our buying guide was carefully researched and crafted by the mybest team of writers and editors, in collaboration with the expert featured in this article. We used the buying guide as a basis for choosing and ranking the product recommendations, and we looked at reviews and ratings from different E-commerce sites like Lazada, Shopee, and more.
No. 1: The Ordinary｜Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
No. 2: Good Molecules｜Niacinamide Serum
No. 3: CeraVe｜Resurfacing Retinol Serum
No. 4: Oxecure｜Acne Defense Prebio Serum
No. 5: La Roche-Posay｜Effaclar Ultra Concentre Face Serum
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