Home » Skin » Oily

All Rise For The Best Salicylic Acid Serums For Clear Skin

We may earn a small commission on purchases made through our affiliate links below. Learn more about how we review products and our sources of information.

Best Salicylic Acid Serums

If you’ve been breaking out lately or just frustrated with blackheads that your cleanser doesn’t seem to shake off, switching to salicylic acid serums is the skincare upgrade you need. Salicylic acid reigns supreme over everything when it comes to zapping acne and eliminating bacteria that might brew some new ones. And that’s not all, salicylic acid is the exfoliant for oily skin. Even if you’re not dealing with acne, it’s still the best chemical exfoliant that can help you with anything from dull skin to wrinkles and from textured skin to hyperpigmentation.

Using serums formulated with salicylic acid is basically the best way to ensure maximum efficiency. After all, serums beat creams any day of the week when it comes to skin penetration. For that, below are the best salicylic acid serums to try for a clear complexion.

A quick reminder! As much as we like to glorify salicylic acid for its various benefits, it does require caution. Refer to the end of the page on how to use salicylic acid serums.

The Best Salicylic Acid Serums

Whether you have overall oily skin or you’re dealing with acne or blackheads, scroll down to find the best salicylic acid serums.

1. Paula’s Choice Advanced Pore-Refining Treatment 4% BHA

Paula's Choice Advanced Pore-Refining Treatment 4% BHA - Best Salicylic Acid Serums

With a satisfying concentration of 4% salicylic acid, the serum retexturizes oily skin! It cleans out pores, gets rid of the blackheads, and prevents the formation of breakouts. By thoroughly unclogging the skin, the serum improves the look of enlarged pores and gives you a clearer complexion. With great power comes great responsibility.

And with higher concentration comes higher sensitivity. As salicylic acid removes the build-up of dead skin cells, it reveals your new healthy skin layer, making it more prone to sunburn. To avoid that, the serum is packed with antioxidants like grape seed and green tea extracts to block UV damage. You still need to wear SPF, though!

2. HydroPeptide Redefining Facial Serum

HydroPeptide Redefining Facial Serum - Best Salicylic Acid Serums

Besides salicylic acid (1%), this one contains azelaic acid (2.5%). It’s incredibly anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. It also happens to be a great skin-brightener. Additionally, it has niacinamide to improve skin barrier function and fade dark spots and acne scars.

The lightweight serum treats and prevents free radical damage with green tea while keeping the skin plump with hyaluronic acid. As it prompts skin turnover, the serum clears up congested skin and gives you a brighter, smoother, and spotless complexion.

3. Peace Out Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Serum

Peace Out Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Serum - Best Salicylic Acid Serums

This got us all excited when it first launched and did not disappoint! The serum contains 2% salicylic acid to reduce blemishes. Topped with niacinamide and vitamin C, it’s also a glow-booster that reduces scarring and increases radiance. Moreover, it has the antioxidant vitamin E to guard the skin against free radical damage.

And it’s infused with Centella Asiatica as well as aloe to help with inflammation, which is a common culprit of acne. The serum is a targeted one that addresses not just acne but all the associated problems like excess oil, inflammation, and scarring.

4. The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Blemish + Blackhead Serum

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

This one is minimal and super affordable! It’s great for anyone who’s dealing with oily skin, blackheads, and any kind of acne. Utilizing 2% salicylic acid with zinc PCA, the serum stops acne at its tracks by inhibiting excess oil production.

With that, your skin is less prone to congestion, clogging, and eventually breaking out. The hyaluronic acid in the serum provides hydration to oily and dehydrated skin, which also helps with acne in the long run as dehydration also causes excess oil production.

5. SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense

SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense - Best Salicylic Acid Serums

This one is formulated with dioic acid, which regulates oil production and is highly anti-bacterial. And besides salicylic acid, the oil-free serum also contains its derivative, lipo-hydroxy acid, and the gold star AHA, glycolic acid. With its multi-acid formula, it’s designed to help oily skin with excess sebum, acne, dullness, rough texture, and also fine lines.

While salicylic acid sweeps off the bacteria inside the pores, glycolic acid provides an additional surface layer exfoliation. It makes the skin glow and gives you an even skin tone, making this one ideal for aging skin that’s prone to adult acne.

6. Renee Rouleau Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum

Renee Rouleau Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum

This one has a similar formulation to help aging skin with breakouts as well as fine lines. It contains salicylic acid to target blemishes and congestion on the nose, cheeks, and chin area. And it has glycolic acid to brush off dead skin cells and polish your complexion. To top it all off, it has lactic acid for gentle exfoliation with the added benefits of hydrating and plumping up your skin.

Plus, niacinamide brightens the skin and reduces scars for an even skin tone while soothing aloe keeps redness and irritation at bay. The multi-purpose formula is great for combination skin and is absolutely one of the best salicylic acid serums.

7. Dermalogica AGE Bright Clearing Serum

Dermalogica AGE Bright Clearing Serum

Combining salicylic acid with niacinamide, the exfoliating serum targets hyperpigmentation on oily and acne-prone skin. Whether it’s sunspots you’re dealing with or stubborn acne scars, the serum refines and clarifies the complexion.

In addition, there’s also rosemary oil in the formula because of its antiseptic properties to prevent future breakouts. But if you have sensitive skin, the blend of essential oils, as anti-bacterial as they may be, can cause irritation.

8. Versed Just Breathe Clarifying Serum

Versed Just Breathe Clarifying Serum - Best Salicylic Acid Serums

Formulated with naturally-derived salicylic acid, niacinamide, and zinc PCA, the serum hits the trifecta for clear skin. All you need for unclogging pores, improving scars, and reducing acne are packed inside this affordable and non-toxic serum.

The light serum also has a hydrating base thanks to hyaluronic acid to replenish oily and dehydrated skin and reduce the look of enlarged pores.

9. Pixi Clarity Concentrate

Pixi Clarity Concentrate

This one is a night serum that utilizes AHAs as well. It’s made with glycolic and lactic acids to remove dead skin cells and prevent them from clogging your pores. Salicylic acid loosens the trapped dirt inside the pores and sheds them off.

Plus, the combination of niacinamide and licorice extract brightens your skin while fading away dark spots and acne scars. It’s an overall great serum that also happens to be super lightweight. It’s perfect for achieving that smooth, shine-free, and radiant skin.

10. Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Liquid Peel

Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Liquid Peel

If you have oily and dehydrated skin, your best bet is to combine a hyaluronic acid serum with an oil-free moisturizer. Otherwise, your skin will keep producing more oil and that’ll just start that annoying cycle that results in acne. My point is, hydration is essential for oily skin. And in the context of chemical exfoliants, certain ones are incredibly hydrating for the skin. Gluconolactone, a poly-hydroxy acid, is one of those.

It’s a gentle exfoliant (loves rosacea skin) that also works as a humectant. Coming back to the serum, it’s a complete acid fest with all the AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs. Plus, it has a time-release delivery system, meaning that the skin absorbs it gradually. It’s perfect for exfoliation without irritation. The night serum shrinks pores, eliminates congestion, and increases the water content in the skin. Additional goodies include soothing aloe, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and brightening licorice.

How To Use Salicylic Acid Serums

  • Over-the-counter salicylic acid products are not pregnancy-safe. Even though there are certain parties claiming that it’s safe to use in low concentrations, you should still steer clear of salicylic acid.
  • As serums are leave-on products, most of them are suitable for both AM and PM use. However, nighttime is the best time to let the skin work with active ingredients. Because there’s no makeup, sweat, sun exposure, or pollution to interfere.
  • It’s easier for oily skin types to tolerate active ingredients. But it’s more advisable to start off by using your salicylic acid serum a few times a week until you’re sure your skin is OK with it.
  • A tiny bit of tingling or burning is expected when using chemical exfoliants. No need to freak out. But maybe lower the frequency until your skin builds up enough tolerance.
  • For the ultimate anti-aging and anti-acne benefits, pair your salicylic acid serum with a retinol serum and alternate between the two. It’ll give you your best skin ever and will go as far as smoothing out smile lines!
  • Salicylic acid makes your skin prone to sunburn. This is not a hoax; there are hundreds of studies confirming it. So always remember to use sunscreen to keep that new skin healthy and spotless.
  • To avoid irritation, use your salicylic acid serum on completely dry skin.

Read Next: The Best Brightening Toners That Even Out The Skin Tone

Scroll to Top