We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission Here’s our process.
Medical News Today only shows you brands and products that we stand behind.Our team thoroughly researches and evaluates the recommendations we make on our site. To establish that the product manufacturers addressed safety and efficacy standards, we:
- Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
- Fact-check all health claims: Do they align with the current body of scientific evidence?
- Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?
Acne is a common skin condition. Self-care with over-the-counter products can improve some cases of mild-to-moderate acne. Face serums for acne are an increasingly popular option for people seeking treatments to incorporate into their skin care routine.
Facial serums are skin care products made with high concentrations of active ingredients. They are formulated to tackle specific issues, such as acne or wrinkles.
They are usually available in liquid form, though some may come in the form of lotions or creams. Facial serums are not moisturizers and should not replace these products in a skin care routine.
Learn more about facial serums.
The best facial serums for acne contain ingredients that research has proven to be effective in treating the condition. These include:
- salicylic acid
- vitamin C
- hyaluronic acid
- benzoyl peroxide
- vitamin E
- hyaluronic acid
- azelaic acid
Learn more about active ingredients for acne treatment.
Although facial serums for acne may offer some benefits, they are not a replacement for medical treatments. People with severe acne should speak with a doctor about the treatment options.
Typically, a person will need to apply a few drops of facial serum to the face. Manufacturers generally recommend applying facial serums after cleansing and toning but before moisturizing.
Facial serums contain high concentrations of active ingredients. Due to this, there is a chance of side effects, especially for people with sensitive skin. Side effects may include:
- dry skin
- increased sensitivity to sunlight and UV radiation
- redness or other discoloration
- stinging skin
People should carry out a patch test by applying a small amount of the serum to the inner arm and waiting 24 hours to see whether there are adverse reactions.
If there are any signs of a reaction, the person should not continue using the serum. If their skin does not react, they can begin applying a small amount to the face gradually to allow the skin to adjust to the serum.
Individuals should pay attention to the ingredients of any skin care products. Some ingredients, such as retinoids, also feature in cleansers and moisturizers. As a result, it can be easy to apply two or three products that contain these ingredients, increasing the risk of side effects.
Some skin care products will have warnings on them. For example, retinol is not safe for use during pregnancy or when breastfeeding. It is important to read labels and manufacturer instructions carefully before using a serum.
Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:
- Price: The products are available for a wide range of budgets.
- Ingredients: The products list all ingredients clearly.
- Skin concerns: The products target a specific skin concern, such as dryness, oiliness, or aging.
- Safety: The products contain ingredients that are safe for topical use.
- Reputable: Businesses that adhere to industry best practices have made the products.
The price of facial serums varies significantly, but the best facial serums for acne or any other condition are not necessarily the most expensive ones.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
The Ordinary’s face serum for acne features two different kinds of retinoids, which are a form of vitamin A that may help treat acne and prevent visible signs of aging.
This lightweight, alcohol-free emulsion may make users more sensitive to UV light. Some people may also experience a temporary increase in acne when they first start using it. As with other products that contain retinoids, this serum is not recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Learn more about retinoid safety here.
The product is available at $9.80 for a 30-milliliter (ml) dropper bottle.
SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF Gel
The manufacturer claims that this serum addresses signs of aging and acne.
It is formulated to reduce discoloration, improve skin tone, and enhance skin texture.
The serum contains 10% pure vitamin C, 2% phloretin, and 0.5% ferulic acid. It is fragrance-free and safe to use after shaving.
It is available at $166 for a 30-ml bottle.
Rose Ingleton MD Blemish Control Booster
This serum contains niacinamide, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), and turmeric powder to help prevent breakouts. It also contains a proprietary Jamaican SuperFruit Blend, glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, and hyaluronic acid.
The ingredients include no fragrance, sulfates, or synthetic dyes.
The manufacturer recommends applying 3–4 drops to clean skin at night.
It is available at $70 for a 30-ml bottle.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
This serum contains niacinamide and zinc, and it is alcohol-free. The Ordinary claims that it can help minimize the appearance of blemishes and brighten skin tone.
A person should not use it at the same time as products containing vitamin C.
The manufacturer encourages people to carry out a patch test on their forearms prior to use.
It is available at $5.90 for a 30-ml dropper bottle.
Eminence Organics Acne Advanced Clarifying Hydrator
This serum contains zinc hyaluronate, arbutin, salicylic acid, and lotus extracts.
Eminence claims that it can reduce redness and promote the healing of acne scars while reducing the risk of breakouts.
The manufacturer recommends applying this serum one to three times a day after cleansing.
It is available at $62 for a 35-ml bottle.
The Inkey List Niacinamide Oil Serum
This lightweight serum is suitable for people with oily skin. The manufacturer claims that it can help reduce excess oil, minimize blemishes, and lessen redness while keeping the skin hydrated and firm.
Learn about the best moisturizers for oily skin.
This serum contains 10% niacinamide and 1% hyaluronic acid. The manufacturer recommends applying a pea-sized amount to the face and neck in the morning and evening.
It is available at $6.99 for 30 ml.
Facial serums are formulated to address specific skin care concerns, such as acne. A person can apply a facial serum after cleansing and toning the skin, before moisturizing it.
Facial serums for acne usually include concentrated active ingredients known to treat acne. People new to these products can try looking for serums that contain retinol, niacinamide, vitamin C, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide.
People should introduce facial serums into their skin care routine gradually, as these products are potent and can cause side effects, such as skin dryness and irritation.
Facial serums for acne may help treat mild or moderate cases, but people experiencing ongoing or severe acne should speak with a doctor about prescription-strength treatments.