If You're Breaking Out, Switch to a Serum With This Acne-Fighting Ingredient



Believe me when I say that I know what it's like to be wading through breakout city on the regular—it's not exactly a fun time. I'm sure my acne-prone folks can relate, especially now that we're moving into the winter months when skin can become even more sensitive and dry. That's when you know it's time to stock up on your skin-saving allies. According to derms, there's one particular skincare ingredient that will really keep the blemishes at bay. Yep, surprise, it's salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid is a powerful BHA (beta hydroxy acid) that's by no means a new acne-fighting ingredient, but it does tend to get overlooked when we cultivate a routine for the winter. Some may argue that it's too drying for this time of year, but I'm here to tell you it can be incorporated in a way that will really enhance your overall glow.

Board-certified dermatologist Marisha Garshick is here to back me up on this. "Incorporating a salicylic acid serum can be a very effective option for someone with acne-prone skin. It helps to exfoliate and get rid of dead skin cells, but it is also oil-soluble and able to penetrate the pores to reduce excess oil and unclog them. It also works well to improve the overall appearance of blackheads and whiteheads," she says. Mixed with the right hydrating ingredients, this BHA can pack a punch but still leave your skin feeling extra nourished. Garshick has a few recommendations for you, plus I threw in a few of our other favorites. For the absolute best salicylic acid serums, keep scrolling below. 

1. Kate Somerville EradiKate Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment

"This treatment incorporates 2% salicylic acid as well as retinol to help reduce blemishes and prevent and treat breakouts at the source."

2. SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense

"This splurge-worthy serum incorporates salicylic acid to help with oil and breakouts as well as dioic acid, glycolic acid, LHA and citric acid. They all work together to help exfoliate and improve overall skin tone and texture."

3. Beautycounter Countercontrol All Over Acne Treatment

"This salicylic acid serum works to reduce breakouts and blemishes without irritating the skin. The addition of squalane in the formula leaves skin feeling soft, smooth, and hydrated."

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

The Inkey List's exfoliating serum unclogs and refines pores using a blend of zinc and salicylic acid. For less dryness (that can sometimes come with acne-fighting ingredients) the formula also contains hyaluronic acid.

5. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting & Refining Serum

When you have acne-prone skin, you often have a waxy layer of sheen that just sits on top of your face, no? This serum can help with that. In addition to salicylic acid, it has Farnesol and Agarikon Mushroom Extract to help dissolve excess oil while firming the skin.

6. Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Serum

Salicylic acid and niacinamide work together in this formula to refine and clear pores while the addition of grape-seed polyphenols limits sebum oxidation.

7. Clinique Acne Solutions Acne + Line Correcting Serum

Yes, a serum that can fight both acne and fine lines does exist. Behold Clinique's correcting serum. It's gentle and hydrating with ingredients like whey protein, but still features a healthy dose of salicylic acid to help fight breakouts.

8. CosMedix Clarity Serum

Not only does this serum have acne-banishing ingredients, it also contains retinol to help speed up cellular renewal within the skin and brighten up dark spots.

9. La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C Face Serum with Salicylic Acid

If you'd rather have your dose of salicylic acid added to your vitamin C serum, look no further than La Roche-Posay'ss option.

10. Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum

This blemish-clearing serum features naturally occurring salicylic acid found in willow bark and other organic fruit juices that kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin.

11. HydroPeptide Redefining Serum

HydroPeptide's Redefining Serum truly plays the long game. It gradually improves tone, texture, radiance and blemishes with ingredients like black tea ferment, hyaluronic acid, and salicylic acid.

12. Holifrog Halo AHA + BHA Evening Serum

With an 11% blend of AHAs and salicylic acid, this resurfacing serum is basically guaranteed to give you a brighter, smoother complexion. 

13. Tata Harper Resurfacing AHA + BHA Serum

Glowy skin on a daily basis will be thanks to this brightening and resurfacing serum with seven AHAs, salicylic acid, and vitamin C.

14. Dermalogica Age Bright Clearing Serum

The phytoactives in this serum hydrate and smooth the skin while salicylic acid prompts both deep exfoliation within the pores and the clearing of surface congestion.

15. Pure Salicylic Acid 5% Solution

I love a good budget option and this one comes highly-rated on Amazon. It features a trio of acids including salicylic, lactic, and glycolic for more even and radiant skin.

16. Facetheory BHA Exfoliating Serum

The secret ingredient in this serum (besides salicylic acid) is carnitine, a BHA with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help control oil production in the skin.

17. Makeup Revolution Skincare Targeted Blemish Serum 2% Salicylic Acid 

Lightweight and oil-free, this formula also has witch hazel to help soothe skin while 

18. Cos De Salicylic Acid 4% Exfoliant Facial Serum

This exfoliating serum is great for dullness, uneven texture, and blemishes, but won't dry you out. Aloe and niacinamide both soothe the skin barrier for luminous, clear skin.