10 Best Acne Serums of 2020 for Breakouts and Blackheads

acne serums

Katie Buckleitner

I could seriously write a poem about how much I love serums—I’ll save you the haiku, but I’m telling you, they are legit one of the most important and effective products you could include in your skincare routine, especially if you have acne. Acne serums—not to be confused with, you know, regular serums—are lightweight formulas packed with potent active ingredients (the things in skincare products that actually get shit done) that help treat breakouts fast. And not only do these serums help destroy your zits and stop new ones from showing up, but they can also target dryness, oily skin, and even hyperpigmentation. Sound a little too good to be true? I thought so, too, until I found these 10 best acne serums for every single skin type and concern, ahead.

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Best Organic Acne Serum

Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum

Think of this organic serum as your go-to for all of your acne concerns. It works to keep breakouts at bay (thanks to the formula’s willow bark, which contains a natural form of salicylic acid) and fades any marks that your breakouts do leave behind (shout out to vitamin C), while also making sure your skin stays plump and hydrated (all due to a blend of vitamins E and B5). Win, win, win.


Best Acne Serum for Dark Spots

Get Hyper Hyper Clear Vitamin C Serum

NGL, my main skincare goal is to look bright and glowy AF. That means I’ve pretty much tried every single serum that claims to fade hyperpigmentation (aka those dark spots and marks that zits can leave behind). And after all of those tests and trials, I can definitely tell you this is one of the best. 

This serum contains 15 percent vitamin C and E—two antioxidant powerhouses that come together with kojic acid and turmeric to brighten your skin, cancel out dullness, and fade dark spots. There’s also a combination of natural botanicals in the formula that help prevent future breakouts.


Best Hydrating Acne Serum

Paula’s Choice Resist Ultra-Light Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum

Acne products can unfortunately be pretty drying, leading your already-oily skin to produce even more oil to compensate for the loss, which can then lead to—you guessed it—more breakouts. No need to worry about that vicious cycle with this acne serum, though. It’s packed with hyaluronic acid, which makes it hella hydrating, and niacinamide, and ingredient that calms down inflammation while keeping your oil production under control.


Best Exfoliating Acne Serum

Mario Badescu Anti-Acne Serum

This acne serum is basically a life-saver for me. Whenever I feel a pimple brewing underneath the surface, I spread a thin layer of the formula over my face every night, and, within a few days, the sucker is totally gone. The key ingredient is salicylic acid, and it works as a chemical exfoliant to help unclog your pores of the excess oil and buildup that causes breakouts.


Best Acne Serum for Inflammation

Urban Skin Rx Clear Complexion Acne Serum + Spot Treatment

Sure, all acne is annoying to deal with, but I’d make the argument that inflammatory acne (think: pustules) are actually the worst. Not only are they freakin’ painful, but the redness that comes along with these suckers can be v hard to cover up. That’s where this acne serum comes into play—you can layer it on all over your face or use it as a spot treatment. 

Benzoyl peroxide (an ingredient that kills acne-causing bacteria on your skin and in your pores), glycolic acid, and willow bark extract work overtime to get rid of zits fast, while ingredients like arnica help fight against inflammation and irritation. 


Best Anti-Aging Acne Serum

FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate

If you don’t have a retinol in your skincare routine, WYD? No, seriously—it’s the one ingredient that derms swear by when it comes to anti-aging and acne. It speeds up cell turnover (to help fade fine lines and wrinkles), reduces oil production, and calms inflammation. What’s not to love?


Best Drugstore Acne Serum

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Like I said, loading up your skin with too many drying products can lead to the overproduction of oil and more breakouts down the road. This drugstore hyaluronic acid-filled formula actually tackles dryness instead of masking it, and it’s oil-free and non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog your pores). Translation: It will keep your skin balanced and hydrated without breaking the budget. 


Best Acne Serum for Oily Skin

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

The Ordinary


The star of the show in this acne serum’s formula is niacinamide, an MVP ingredient that will transform your oily skin. It balances oil production, meaning your T-zone will def be less shiny, while also reducing acne spots and soothing inflammation. You’ll be left with clearer, brighter, and less greasy skin.


Best Acne Serum for Sensitive Skin

Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Serum

Acne-prone skin that’s on the sensitive side can be kinda hard to treat, especially since most acne-clearing products are pretty harsh. Not with this acne serum, though, since it relies on soothing ingredients that will actually get the job done. Tiger grass paired with the brand’s Cicapair complex helps to protect and strengthen sensitive skin while also hydrating and soothing dry, red, and inflamed patches.


Best Acne Serum for Blackheads

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

BHAs (translation: beta hydroxy acids) are the go-to ingredient if you’re dealing with blackheads—the chemical exfoliant dissolves the excess oil and dead skin cells that lead to congestion and black little dots. Tap this serum in around your nose—plus any other places where you’re prone to blackheads—and watch them basically disappear.

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