There's nothing like the irritating feeling you get when you know a breakout is about to happen, but you can't address it until the issue makes its literal rise to the surface. We have long waxed poetic over the efficacy of serums—they penetrate the skin at a more intense level than your traditional moisturizer, delivering the active ingredients to the deeper layers below the surface. Acne serums, which are usually rich in salicylic or glycolic acids, work in the same way to kill those bumps before they take shape, resulting in a lasting, breakout-free finish. Shop 7 of our favorite formulas here.
1. Renee Rouleau BHA Clarifying Serum
Put down the aggressive face scrub—this lactic, salicylic, and glycolic acid-rich serum does all of the heavy exfoliating for you, without stripping your complexion of its much-needed essential oils.
2. Clnique Acne + Line Correcting Serum
After a certain point, your teenage acne makes the transition to adult acne, which brings on the added issue of preventative anti-aging. Consider Clinique's serum to be a breakout treatment with a day job—the multitasking liquid works to address those annoying pimples, while keeping fine lines at bay.
Clinique | $45
3. Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum
Sensitive skin types, rejoice! This organic blend naturally-derived salicylic acid in conjunction with fruit acids, so it won't over-exfoliate even on your most temperamental days.
Juice Beauty | $29
4. Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil
If traditional blemish treatments leave your skin dry and flaky, opt for Sunday Riley's formula, which cuts the salicylic acid with a hydrating oil base to reduce irritation.
Sunday Riley | $80
5. Estee Lauder Clear Difference Advanced Blemish Serum
Like a wolf in sheep's clothing, this lightweight serum is gentle enough to wear during the day underneath makeup, but fights even the most stubborn under-the-skin breakouts with ferocity.
Estee Lauder | $54
6. No. 7 Beautiful Skin Blemish Defence Serum
Infused with willow bark, this under $20 option works wonders at soothing any existing irritation and redness, while clearing out any lingering dirt and makeup in your pores.
Boots | $18
7. Mario Badescu Anti-Acne Serum
Don't underestimate the power of this tiny bottle—a thin layer is all you need to keep breakouts at bay, thanks to the generous dose of salicyilc acid.
Mario Badescu | $20