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12 Best Salicylic Acid Serums to Banish Acne and Excess Oil

Brand courtesy / SkinCeuticals
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If you’re looking for the best salicylic acid serums, you’re like me: struggling with excess sebum, pores clogging just a few days after a facial, and pimples wanting to pop up all the time. Yup, shock, and awe. So, a serum infused with salicylic acid is the greatest ally to keep all these foes in control and achieve what is yours: radiant, smooth, pimple-free skin.

What does a salicylic acid serum do

Sebum balancer. Pore unclogger. Pimples healer. Salicylic acid does it all thanks to its tiny molecules that allow it to go deep beneath the epidermis, where it dissolves junk that blocks pores, preventing pimples apparition. Also, salicylic acid sheds away dead cells from the top skin layer, speeding up pimples’ healing and eliminating dead cells buildup that usually leads to breakouts. And not to mention, it has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, decreasing redness and inflamed bumps. 

What to look for in the best salicylic acid serum?

Salicylic acid is the most-wanted for tackling blackheads and pimples; there’s no denying it. Just that, by drying out excess sebum, salicylic acid can remove too much oil, leaving skin parched. And thirsty skin can make the sebaceous glands go into overdrive and produce some more oil. Balance is key. So, the best salicylic acid serum should contain, you guessed it, hydrating and moisture trapping ingredients to counteract the possible drying effects of salicylic. Yep, I mean hyaluronic acidsqualane, vitamin B5, niacinamideceramides, and peptides. They’re equally essential sidekicks you need to use in tandem to balance sebum and keep dryness at bay. And let’s not forget your other allies, tea tree oil, zinc, and retinol, which are a great addition to your salicylic acid serum.

The best salicylic acid serums

Below, find our edit of the best salicylic acid serums to try now that your skin will thank you for.


The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

Hear me out; people don’t rave about this product for no reason. The new formula is made with 2% salicylic acid (maximum allowed over the counter) and lacks drying fragrances and alcohol. Instead, it’s spiked with saccharide isomerate, which, despite the name, is nothing else but a plant-derived humectant that aims to offset dryness and balance sebum. This formula has an acid level ranging between 3.20 to 4.00, so if your skin is sensitive or compromised, this is not the one for you.


SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense

SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense

Elevate your skincare routine with SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense Serum if you’re struggling with adult acne. It fusions 1.5% salicylic acid, 0.3% LHA, and 2% dioic acid, all working synergistically to reduce excess sebum, decongest pores and refine skin texture. At the same time, the 3.5% glycolic acid minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, revealing smooth skin. Now you know why this is one of the very best salicylic acid serums out there.


Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum

Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum

Want the best natural salicylic acid serum? Juice Beauty has it in this remarkable formula that includes willow bark-derived 1.75% salicylic acid along with willow bark extract — a boon for balancing oil and exfoliating. The crystal clear liquid has a hydrating-feeling texture without ever feeling sticky, and the opaque glass bottle protects the antioxidants in the formula, ensuring you get most of their protecting benefits. Definitely, the way to nix unwanted blemishes!


The Glow Recipe Strawberry Smooth Salicylic Acid Serum

The Glow Recipe Strawberry Smooth Salicylic Acid Serum

The Glow Recipe Smooth Serum takes the stage by gently exfoliating with 2% salicylic acid to minimize breakouts and decongest pores. Over time, the serum will improve the look of skin texture, too. We love it because it’s got bisabolol (chamomile extract) to calm skin, while allantoin, sodium hyaluronate, and niacinamide add hydration to prevent dryness and further excess sebum. The rich water-gel texture absorbs in the blink of an eye, leaving no sticky feeling behind. Plus, you’ll adore the fresh-cut strawberries scent!


Cocokind Probiotic Acne Serum

Cocokind Probiotic Acne Serum

Minimize acne and help blackheads disappear effectively yet gently with Cocokind Probiotic Acne Serum, made with 1.5% salicylic acid. The serum vows to slough off dead cells and balance oil while reducing inflammation. Besides, thanks to the aloe leaf juice base, probiotics, and beta-glucan, it ensures your skin won’t irritate or dry. Bonus: the formula is free of fragrance, preservatives, parabens, or phthalates — in case this is more in line with your preference.


Caudalie Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum

Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Serum

Made with naturally derived salicylic acid and infused in a non-comedogenic formula, this serum aims to reduce blemishes, shrink pores look and enhance skin texture. The rose water soothes skin, niacinamide, and sodium hyaluronate hydrate, while tocopherol gives antioxidant benefits and softens. In other words, it’s the best salicylic acid serum to tackle breakouts without worrying about drying your skin.


Allies Of Skin Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum

Allies Of Skin Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum

Consider Allies Of Skin Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum the solution to achieving your smoothest, flawless skin yet. With each application, the serum helps decongest pores and slough off dead cells that lead to pimples (thanks to salicylic acid and mandelic, lactic acids) while reinforcing the antioxidant defense system with 1% superoxide dismutase and 1% bakuchiol. Plus, the serum packs a punch of peptides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid to guarantee your skin won’t get too thirsty. This one is especially ideal if you struggle with post-breakout marks — the greatest ally in your PM routine.


La Roche-Posay Effaclar Pore-Refining Serum

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Pore-Refining Serum

Not only does this serum removes dead cells and reduces sebum preventing new breakouts from forming thanks to salicylic acid, but it improves skin texture and evens tone with glycolic acid. Additionally, the LHA (salicylic acid derivative) gently exfoliates the skin’s surface to reveal a luminous, soft complexion. Rest assured, the serum also contains niacinamide and castor oil to keep dryness at bay.


Bliss Clear Genius Toner + Serum

Bliss Clear Genius Toner + Serum

If you’re a fan of double-duty products, you should know that Bliss Clear Genius fusions a toner and serum in one game-changing product. The formula works to purify pores while delivering ingredients for ultimate clear and calm skin without irritations. In addition to salicylic acid, the serum has witch hazel water, niacinamide, zinc, and cica, all great at soothing skin and calming inflamed pimples. P.S.: the scent is given by tea tree oil, giving a fresh and energizing feeling.


The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid

The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid

A trio of salicylic acid, sodium hyaluronate, and zinc in The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid clears junk from deep within the pores to keep pimples from coming to a head. It’s a simple albeit potent formula that fights breakouts, balances oil, and reduces pores’ appearance by unclogging them without ever parching the skin, thanks to 1% small molecular hyaluronic acid that goes straight into the skin to offset dryness and regulate sebum production.


Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Serum

Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta® Pore Perfecting & Refining Serum

As one of the best salicylic acid serums, this one works hard to help you recoup your breakout-free skin. The powerful formula boasts salicylic acid and a slew of AHAs to resurface skin, cleanse pores, and speed up pimples healing. At the same time, it prevents new pimples and blackheads from forming by removing sebum and junk from the pores and encouraging natural cell turnover (thanks, retinol). Its lightweight texture gets absorbed in a second, leaving no sticky feeling behind, making the perfect canvas to follow up with a moisturizer.


Sunday Riley Ultra-Clarifying Acne Treatment Face Oil

Sunday Riley Ultra-Clarifying Acne Treatment Face Oil

Ok, this is not technically a serum but oil, which we couldn’t miss from our round-up. You already know salicylic acid and tea tree oil is a winning duo for addressing acne. Well, this non-comedogenic face oil packs them both, plus a medley of botanical extracts to nourish and smooth fine lines look on a base of milk thistle, which is great for improving inflamed pimples. So what could go better? The oil is made with licorice root and hexylresorcinol to help brighten post-acne marks too.


FAQ about salicylic acid serums

  1. Can I use a salicylic acid serum every day?

    While for some it's okay to use a salicylic acid every day, other people may experience dryness or, in rare cases, irritation. Thus, start by applying your salicylic acid-infused serum three times a week and work up from there, allowing your skin to adjust to it and build tolerance.

  2. Should I moisturize after salicylic acid serum?

    Yes, moisturizing after using salicylic acid serum is a great way to trap the benefits into the skin and also hinder the potential drying effects.

  3. Should I use a salicylic acid serum in the morning or night?

    You can layer your salicylic acid serum either morning or night.

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