The 7 Best Salicylic Acid Serums for Flawless Skin (2023 ✅)

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Find the best salicylic acid serum for your skin type, skin condition, and budget! Overall, my top recommendation is COSMEDIX Clarity Skin-Clarifying Serum.

Facial serums have recently become popular for their moisturizing elements, but did you know that they can help clear acne too?

Salicylic acid serums work by unclogging pores, clearing breakouts, and controlling sebum production ( Source: Medical News)

But with the market saturated with serums, where do you even begin figuring out which one to buy?

You can start with this article!


What Is The Best Salicylic Acid Serum?

Here are my top recommendations:

  1. Editor’s Choice: COSMEDIX Clarity Skin-Clarifying Serum
  2. Salon Quality: PCA Skin Acne Gel Advanced Treatment
  3. 100% Natural: Caudalie Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum
  4. Korean Cult Classic: SOME BY MI AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Serum
  5. Complete Acne Kit: Exposed Skin Care Clear Pore Serum
  6. Best Acne Spot Treatment: Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment
  7. Best for Adult Acne & Anti-Aging: Dermalogica AGE Bright Clearing Serum
COSMEDIX Clarity Skin-Clarifying Serum
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Skin-Clarifying Serum

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Best For:

✅ Acne
✅ Blemishes
✅ Breakouts
✅ Clogged Pores
✅ Congested Skin

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Retinol
⭐ Salicylic Acid
⭐ Willow Herb
⭐ Tea Tree Oil
⭐ Aloe Vera
⭐ Niacinamide

Key Features:

👍 No Harsh Ingredients
👍 Fragrance-Free
👍 Soothes & Clarifies
👍 Bonus Brightening Effect

We all want clarity in life, and COSMEDIX Clarity Skin-Clarifying Serum is clearly the way to flawless skin.

This fantastic serum can do just about everything, as it has a well-rounded ingredient list, including:

  • Retinol: anti-aging

  • Salicylic Acid: acne-busting

  • Willow Herb: skin-soothing

  • Tea Tree Oil: relieving inflammation

  • Aloe Vera: moisturizing

  • Niacinamide: brightening

The fact that both Retinol and Salicylic Acid are in one product is worthy of note. Both are powerful active ingredients, and their potency has perpetuated the common misconception that they cannot be mixed.

However, dermatologists have confirmed that it is perfectly safe to do so. In fact, using them together can make them more effective, as they both slough off dead skin cells, thereby allowing the other ingredient to penetrate deeper into the skin (source: Sandra Lee MD).

It’s not the cheapest serum at $42 for 1 oz, but it’s from a premium brand, it has a great ingredient list, and it’s still more affordable than the other premium beauty brands on this list.

For that, we consider it of good value.

Our Verdict: With a block-buster ingredient mix including Salicylic Acid, Retinol, Niacinamide, and Willow Herb, COSMEDIX Clarity Skin-Clarifying Serum seems to do no wrong as it does it all.

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PCA Skin Acne Gel Advanced Treatment
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PCA Skin 
Acne Gel Advanced Treatment

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Best For:

✅ Blemishes
✅ Breakouts
✅ Clogged Pores
✅ Enlarged Pores
✅ Uneven Skin Tone

Key Ingredients:

⭐ 2% Salicylic Acid
⭐ Mandelic Acid
⭐ Hexylresorcinol
⭐ Ethyl Linoleate

Key Features:

👍 Time-Released Formula
👍 Professional Quality
👍 Clears Existing Acne
👍 Brightens Dark Spots

We typically apply spot treatments after serum, but have you ever heard of a spot treatment that also works as a serum? No? Then let me introduce you to PCA Skin Acne Gel Advanced Treatment!

Through its patented Omnisome delivery technology, stabilized Salicylic Acid is time-released over the next ten hours. This helps the skin heal blemishes faster and stay clear for longer.

Mandelic Acid, a gentle alpha hydroxy acid, then comes into play to assist with cell turnover and regulate oil production. Meanwhile, Hexylresorcinol and Ethyl Linoleate work together to lighten dark spots.

The former is considered comparable to the gold standard of melanin inhibition that is hydroquinone (Source: Incidecoder), while the latter also has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-acne properties (Source: NCBI). Talk about professional quality!

However, you may want to know that alcohol is second on its ingredient list and that some users have complained about irritation. Because of this, I would advise those with sensitive skin to use it as a spot treatment before having it function as a serum.

Our Verdict: If you’re looking for a Salicylic Acid serum that is potent enough to function as a spot treatment, look no further than PCA Skin Acne Gel Advanced Treatment, as it also contains Mandelic Acid, Hexylresorcinol, and Ethyl Linoleate.

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Caudalie Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum
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100% Natural

Caudalie Vinopure 
Skin Perfecting Serum

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Best For:

✅ Oily Skin
✅ Acne-Prone Skin
✅ Enlarged Pores
✅ Excess Shine

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Natural Salicylic Acid
⭐ Grapeseed Polyphenols
⭐ Niacinamide
⭐ Organic Essential Oils

Key Features:

👍 100% Natural Ingredients
👍 Rich in Antioxidants
👍 Refreshing & Soothing
👍 Mattifies Oily Skin

It’s only natural that you want to find the best Salicylic Acid serum for your skin, and if you’re looking to do that the natural way, then Caudalie Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum may be the one for you.

It contains 100% Natural Salicylic Acid for the exfoliation and refinement of skin texture, Grapeseed Polyphenols to limit sebum oxidation and lessen blackheads (Source: NCBI), and Niacinamide to lighten acne scars and dark spots.

82% of the test users in a company study have reported that this formulation successfully tightens pores, and interestingly enough, 82% of Amazon reviewers gave it a glowing 5-stars. That’s a consistent and positive statistic.

Nonetheless, there are six essential oils in this serum, which can lead to breakouts and irritation.

In that case, you may want to consider Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum, another organic Salicylic Acid serum that is cheaper than Caudalie.

It goes for $30 for 2 oz, while Caudalie costs $49 for 1 oz.

While it does have Lavender Oil in its ingredient list, one essential oil is less irritating than six. It also contains 0.75% Salicylic Acid from willow bark, Vitamin C and AHAs from lemon juice and apple juice, CoQ10, Aloe, and Green Tea.

Our Verdict: Go organic with Caudalie Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum, with natural salicylic acid, grapeseed polyphenols, and essential oils. If that doesn’t work out for you, you may also consider Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum.

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SOME BY MI AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Serum
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30 Days Miracle Serum

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Best For:

✅ K-Beauty Lovers
✅ Blackheads
✅ Clogged Pores
✅ Stressed Out Skin
✅ Damaged Skin

Key Ingredients:

⭐ 14.77% Centella Asiatica
⭐ 1% Tea Tree Oil
⭐ Niacinamide

Key Features:

👍 Gentle on Sensitive Skin
👍 Exfoliates & Soothes
👍 Repairs Skin Barrier
👍 Super Affordable

Are you looking for a skincare miracle? Well, you’re in luck. SOME BY MI AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Serum does wonders!

Don’t let the multitude of exfoliating acids scare you, as this serum centers on calming and renewing acne-prone skin. It contains 14.77% Centella Asiatica, which is made up of 30% Madecassic Acid to restore damaged skin, 30% Asiatic Acid to strengthen the skin barrier, and 40% Asiaticoside to soothe and calm irritation (Source: NCBI)

It also has 10,000 ppm Tea Tree Oil. Since ppm refers to parts per million, this equates to a 1% concentration. At this level, Tea Tree Oil can work its antibacterial magic without irritating the skin (Source: Skinlibrary)

Other active ingredients include:

  • Beta Hydroxy Acid: dissolves excess sebum
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids: remove dead skin cells
  • Polyhydroxy Acid: hydrate and regenerate skin cells
  • Niacinamide: minimize pores and uneven tone

This product is formulated for gentle exfoliation, so it’s something to try if you have sensitive skin and are just starting out with chemical exfoliants.

Our Verdict: SOME BY MI AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Serum gently exfoliates and calms skin with its formulation of Centella, Tea Tree, BHA, AHA, PHA, and Niacinamide.

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Exposed Skin Care Clear Pore Serum
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Exposed Skin Care 
Clear Pore Serum

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Best For:

✅ Complete Acne Kit
✅ Blemishes
✅ Blackheads
✅ Breakouts

Key Ingredients:

⭐ 1% Salicylic Acid
⭐ Green Tea
⭐ Licorice Root
⭐ Meadowsweet

Key Features:

👍 Super Soothing Gel
👍 Visible Improvements
👍 Clears Up Breakouts
👍 Great Value with Kit
👍 Editor Approved!

Expose your best skin with Exposed Skin Care Clear Pore Serum!

It’s not your usual serum, as it comes in gel form. The 1% Salicylic Acid dissolves excess oil and unclogs pores, while the Green Tea Extract moisturizes the skin, and the Licorice Root Extract brightens and treats dark spots.

It also has Meadowsweet extract, which is an antioxidant that has been proven to soothe and calm redness (Source: Paula’s Choice)

Our editor, Tom, has used this Salicylic Acid serum before and can vouch for its efficacy. It helped calm his acne and reduce blemishes while giving that soothing sensation that can only be experienced through gel formulations.

It is part of an acne treatment kit by Exposed Skin Care, which includes a cleanser, toner, and two serums for day and night. Since the serum alone costs $22.95, whereas the kit with four products costs $59.95, availing the kit will give you more bang for your buck.

Our Verdict: Tested and proven, Exposed Skin Care Clear Pore Serum gives way to clearer skin as it exfoliates, moisturizes, soothes, and brightens.

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Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment
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Murad Rapid Relief 
Acne Spot Treatment

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Best For:

✅ Instant Relief
✅ Pimples
✅ Cysts & Nodules
✅ Stubborn Acne

Key Ingredients:

⭐ 2% Salicylic Acid
⭐ Pine & Thyme
⭐ Horse Chestnut
⭐ Oat Extract

Key Features:

👍 Zap Zits Quickly
👍 Overnight Spot Treatment
👍 Helps Reduce Redness

A pimple emergency and a date in four hours? Sounds like a job for Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment!

With 2% Salicylic Acid, it literally cannot get any better (or more potent) than this.

This treatment also includes a Patented Pine and Thyme-Inspired Complex, which fights irritation and maintains a healthy skin balance, and Horse Chestnut and Oat Extracts, which soothe the skin and reduce redness.

A company study showed that it reduces pimple size within 4 hours, and 97% of the test users agreed that blemish appearance improved after just one day.

I can attest to this speediness, as this treatment has saved me from sudden-pimple-on-the-day-of-an-important-event situations. With over 1,600 positive reviews on Amazon, I know I’m not the only one.

Some may say that it’s too expensive since it’s comparable to a drugstore acne spot treatment, but then again, it works significantly faster, has premium ingredients, and has won an Allure Best of Beauty Award in 2018. It’s also great for all skin types!

Still, if you’re looking for a budget alternative, consider Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment.

Our Verdict: Arguably one of the most essential Salicylic Acid products that you could have in your arsenal, Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment zaps away your blemishes with Salicylic Acid, Pine and Thyme, and Horse Chestnut and Oat Extracts.

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Dermalogica AGE Bright Clearing Serum
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AGE Bright Clearing Serum

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Best For:

✅ Oily Skin
✅ Excess Shine
✅ Soothing Skin
✅ Mattifying Skin

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Salicylic Acid
⭐ Lactic Acid
⭐ Witch Hazel
⭐ Botanical Extracts
⭐ Red Macroalgae

Key Features:

👍 8 oz Value Size
👍 Loaded with Goodness!
👍 Excellent Value for Money

The bad news? Acne isn’t just for teenagers. The good news? Dermalogica AGE Bright Clearing Serum has your back (and face)!

Specifically designed to address adult acne and wrinkles, this two-in-one serum works on the multiple skin concerns that come with age. It achieves this through noteworthy ingredients, such as:

  • Salicylic Acid to dissolve dead skin cells and fight acne
  • Resurrection Plant Phytoactives to improve hydration
  • Niacinamide to smoothen wrinkles and reduce dark spots
  • White Shiitake Mushroom as a natural source of kojic acid to address skin discoloration (Source: Dermstore)

At $68 for 1 oz, the price can seem pretty steep, but then again, you no longer have to buy separate products for acne and anti-aging. You can just use this one to do both.

In fact, according to the glowing reviews, even women in their 50s-60s who are going through hormonal changes have found this serum to be effective in achieving smoother skin while preventing future breakouts.

Our Verdict: Great for acne-prone skin of all ages, Dermalogica AGE Bright Clearing Serum uses Salicylic Acid, Resurrection Plant Phytoactives, Niacinamide, and White Shiitake Mushroom to reduce age spots and prevent breakouts.

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