Try These Serums If You Have Hormonal Acne

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If you're dealing with hormonal acne, you're probably pretty sick of it by now. Hormonal acne comes in all shapes and sizes, and can occur from puberty into adulthood. Dependent on hormonal fluctuations in the body, it ranges from whiteheads, to blackheads, to deep cysts. Hormonal acne occurs when your skin produces too much sebum, clogging pores, but is also linked to bacteria and a build-up of dead skin cells (via Cleveland Clinic). Quite common, 50% of women in their 20s and 25% of women in their 40s deal with hormonal acne at least once in their lifetime. So while the condition is difficult to deal with, you're not alone. Even better — there are countless ways to treat it and superhero products that will get rid of it stat.

So, what do you need to combat hormonal acne? Well, you have tons of options. Dermatologist Dr. Michele Green explained to Bustle, "In terms of ingredients, products containing the following are great for acne-prone skin: alpha hydroxy acids [like glycolic acid], salicylic acid, retinol, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and dimethicone." Meanwhile, she recommends avoiding oil-based serums, which can make acne worse. Dermatologist Dr. Andrea Tomizawa told Marie Claire that benzoyl peroxide and azelaic acid work wonders, especially in dealing with pore inflammation and increases in sebum. With so many choices, you might be left wondering what the magic combination is for you. Not to fret — we've found the best serums for hormonal acne available and divided them up to fit your needs.

The most budget-friendly hormonal acne serums on the market

First, the most wallet-friendly serums for hormonal acne that will zap it away without breaking the bank. Sure, we love luxurious skincare as much as the next person and live for a decadent Sephora haul, but you don't have to spend much to see results. Non-coincidentally, the two most budget-friendly, effective serums we found are both from superstar skincare brand The Ordinary, and they're both good.

The brand's Granactive Retinoid* 2% Emulsion ($9.80) is all we ever wanted in a serum for hormonal acne with no sulfates or parabens, vegan, the price of our McDonald's order, and made for rapid-fire skin cell turnover. You can kiss clogged pores goodbye with this formula, which features a retinoid that fights pimples, plumps the skin, and is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin types. WWD suggests it for anyone dealing with cystic pimples and who's interested in a double-agent anti-aging product, citing its cell renewal benefits. This is perfect for cleaning out pores and getting rid of discoloration.

You can also go for The Ordinary's ​​Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum ($5.90) which rounds out at just around the same price as a coffee. This one combines acne-fighting and mattifying zinc with moisturizing niacinamide (vitamin B3), which also brings on all the glowiness. Recommended by Vogue, dermatologist Dr. Michele Green told the outlet that the ingredients can work "to improve overall tone and texture while reducing breakouts and controlling excess sebum."

Prefer the luxe route? Here are some of the best serums money can buy

On the other side of the equation, you have the luxury options — aka serums that are practically liquid gold and will make every night feel like a spa experience in itself. These serums may hurt your wallet, but will make your skin dewy, moisturized, and acne-free. Plus, these alternatives combine hard-to-find ingredients that are downright opulent.

Skinceuticals' Silymarin CF Serum ($166) is a dermatologist-favorite, science-based product that, to put it quite simply, works. Just like Dr. Michele Green recommended to Bustle, this serum is completely oil-free and is pumped with salicylic acid for gentle chemical exfoliation and unclogging pores, L-absorbic and ferulic acids for an injection of antioxidants that will give you a glow, and silymarin, or milk thistle, which works to ward off free radicals from damaging your skin. Dermatologist Dr. Andrea Tomizawa also suggested this serum to Marie Claire as a perfect option for hormonal acne sufferers who want something seriously mattifying to combat oil and something that makes their skin look lit from within.

Another pricey-but-fantastic option is Vintner's Daughter's Active Botanical Serum ($185), a natural alternative made out of 22 botanicals like rosehip oil, lemon peel oil, sea buckthorn extract, and turmeric to deliver brightening power and fight acne while hydrating, too. This is an unbeatable option for mature skin, or anyone dealing with skin dryness along with pimples. As per Camille Styles, this is a surefire part of any luxe hormonal acne routine.

Try lactic acid serums to get rid of hormonal acne stat

You might be interested in the exfoliating powers of lactic acid, a milk-derived, naturally-produced AHA that chemically exfoliates your skin for fast skin-cell turnover, clean-as-can-be pores, and a more refined skin texture, as per clinician Natalie Abouchar (via Marie Claire). If you're dealing with scarring or discoloration from cystic acne, then look no further.

An unmissable option is Sunday Riley's Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment ($85), a lactic acid-based serum that exfoliates skin and brightens it to boot. This will tone and even out skin discoloration over time, and will heavily reduce the appearance of acne scars. This is also great for aging skin, famously plumping wrinkles in just three minutes. It might just be a miracle. Arnica and lemongrass work to calm the skin for no irritation, while licorice root gently exfoliates as well. As Dr. Michele Green told Bustle, this is a "favorite" serum for hormonal acne, clarifying pores while moisturizing with prickly pear extract. This works for sensitive skin, too!

When in doubt, go for a Goop hormonal acne favorite like The Beauty Chef's Probiotic Skin Refiner ($75), which works as an exfoliant, moisturizer, and toner all in one. If you like to use formulas that cut down your need to buy more products, this is it. The lactic acid in it is made out of fermented whole-foods, naturally scrubbing away pore-clogging oil and dead skin. This also revs up your collagen production, and gives you a noticeable glow.

If you want a major glow, try these vitamin C serums

This category is for anyone who wants a J.Lo-esque glow, which might just make people stop you on the street. If you want all the healthy radiance you can get, you need an amazing vitamin C serum in your life that also works to fight hormonal acne at the source. Sound like an impossible task? We found the two best vitamin C-infused serums for major brightness and no pimples in sight.

SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF ($166) is arguably the best vitamin C serum on the market, recommended by dermatologists all over the world for its mega-potent antioxidant powers. Phloretin comes from apples and works as a chemical exfoliant to clean out pores, even-out dark spots, and shield skin from environmental pollutants, while ferulic acid works scientifically to enhance its effects (and delivers antioxidants, too). 10% pure vitamin C in the form of L-absorbic acid is one of the best anti-aging ingredients out there, which will make your skin plump and soft. This is great for all skin types, and as per WWD, is just the thing for hormonal acne scars.

We also love COSRX's Triple C Lightning Liquid ($27), a much cheaper alternative that's just as good — and super-charged with even more vitamin C. As per The Cut, this serum is amazing for hormonal acne, particularly in dealing with discoloration. With a whopping 20.5% vitamin C, this will make you glow, working to hydrate the skin with black chokeberry.

If your hormonal acne means oiliness, these balancing serums are must-haves

Now, on to a very different skin concern altogether: dreaded oiliness. If you know the feeling of leaving the house with a perfectly-pressed dusting of loose powder only to see a shiny T-zone in the mirror a few hours later, you need these oil-fighting hormonal acne serums in your life.

La Roche Posay's Effaclar DUO+ ($25.99) will seamlessly mattify your skin, working overtime to make sure shiny T-zones are a thing of the past. Your complexion will have an airbrushed quality to it while using this serum, which combines soothing niacinamide, exfoliating lipohydroxy and salicylic acids, piroctone olamine as a fantastic antibacterial, and linoleic acid which stops pimples from forming deep in the follicle. As recommended by Vogue and Rank & Style for the sensitive, cystic acne-prone, this is great for skin cell turnover, healing pimples, and even works to get rid of discoloration and scarring. You can apply it as a base for your makeup or under SPF, letting it work throughout the day to make sure oiliness is a thing of the past.

Or, try Kypris' Clearing Balance & Calm Serum ($90), which WWD suggests for balancing oil production, and even fight acne inflammation and redness. This is chock-full of nutritious skin saviors, including quinoa seed oil, lilac green tea, willow bark, apple extract, orange and lemon extract, soothing aloe vera, and nighttime-ready lavender oil. Sunflower oil and shea butter make it distinctly moisturizing and skin-calming, too.

Want an all-natural formula? These are your best bets

While most of these formulations include nature-found components like arnica, aloe, thyme, or lemongrass, you might want something that is made completely out of natural ingredients instead. No matter your concern, if you prefer plant-based products that are gentle on skin but are still seriously effective, we've found the best hormonal acne serums that are picked fresh from the harvest.

You will love InstaNatural Niacinamide 5% Face Serum ($15.97), an option that makes our hearts flutter with its super-clean, straight from the earth ingredient list. If you don't want an ingredient list you can't pronounce, this is it. It includes components like skin-calming aloe vera, hydrating olive fruit oil, avocado oil, rosemary extract, calming lavender, and healing vitamin E for brightening hyperpigmentation and getting rid of hormonal acne scars quick and easy. This option is tailor-made for sensitive skin types that want to keep things plant-based. Dr. Michele Green told Bustle that the niacinamide in it "fights acne by reducing inflammation and dark spots. With its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, niacinamide also helps to treat active breakouts." The best of all worlds.

If you want to go the more expensive route, Tata Harper's Resurfacing Serum ($92) is a plant-based serum combining potent, all-natural sources of vitamin C, AHAs and BHAs for gentle chemical exfoliation that really works. Recommended to Vogue by dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman, this serum is loaded with rare ingredients like bilberry lactic acid, kakadu plum, and cupuacu butter.

Tea tree oil is nature's acne medication, so give these serums a try

When talking about natural ingredients in hormonal acne serums, there's one component that needs its own category altogether: tea tree oil. As per Healthline, studies show that tea tree oil is fantastic for treating acne, working as an anti-inflammatory and an antibacterial. It reduces redness, and can speed up the healing process to make sure pimples leave your face fast. Of course, we needed to find the best tea tree oil serums for hormonal acne on the market — and they delivered.

Dermalogica's MediBac Clearing Overnight Clearing Gel ($56.99) is a nighttime treatment that works deep into the skin while you sleep. It combines exfoliating salicylic acid with antimicrobial tea tree oil to heal acne, prevent new pimples, and get rid of discoloration and scarring. While this serum's chemical exfoliation is seriously-effective, it still manages to be gentle. With no artificial fragrances, it is safe for sensitive skin, and includes rosemary and spiraea to calm inflammation. Adore Beauty recommends it for anyone dealing with hormonal acne, citing its bacteria-fighting complexes and azelaic acid to get rid of hyperpigmentation.

Another tea tree oil-imbued option is Derma E Acne Blemish Control Treatment Serum ($20.49), suggested by Bustle as a budget-friendly salicylic acid serum for hormonal acne. With a hefty dose of the "anti-blemish complex" that combines toning tea tree oil and willow bark, this vegan formula also includes soothing aloe vera, moisturizing chamomile, antioxidant green tea, and skin-calming lavender.

Keep it simple with salicylic acid-rich serums instead

While we've been through several hormonal acne serums that include salicylic acid in their formulations, you might prefer to keep it simple. If you're interested in high-quality, dermatologist-approved serums that contain salicylic acid and little else, we've uncovered unbeatable products that need just a few ingredients to be supremely effective at treating your pesky, frustrating acne. Plus, both are oil-free.

One option we'll always go back to for its ingredient list and price is Mario Badescu's Anti-Acne Serum ($20), which comes in a refreshing, cooling gel formula you'll love applying onto skin after a hot shower. Hero ingredients salicylic acid and thyme work to reduce inflammation, increase skin cell turnover, and make your face glow from within. You'll notice less pimples cropping up, and calmer, more balanced skin overall. Water-based, light, with a short ingredient list, You Beauty recommends this product for unclogging pores and keeping acne at bay. It's also amazing as an overnight spot treatment, which saves product, too.

Another more luxe option is SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense ($92), a science-backed alternative that combines powerful salicylic acid with natural dioic acid to reduce excess oil, so you can say goodbye to shiny T-zones for good. Glycolic and citric acids act as a potent anti-aging duo, exfoliating and cleaning pores while plumping fine lines seamlessly. This is fantastic for dark spots and hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal acne, while the salicylic acid will stop it from forming in the first place. 

These hormonal acne serums are amazing at tightening pores

Let's say your main skin concern isn't an oily T-zone per se or even discoloration. While you would love a serum to fight those issues, you might just really want one that can make your skin look poreless — aka a complexion that's perfectly smooth, as if you had on a tinted moisturizer at all times. Ah, goals. If you want a serum that diminishes pores, we've found the best ones that also get rid of hormonal acne.

One natural option we adore is Caudalie's Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum ($49), recommended by You Beauty for refining skin, diminishing spots and imperfections, and yes, tightening pores like magic. This is made specifically for people with hormonal acne, or anyone with a complexion that's easily-irritated or sensitive to artificial ingredients. No need to worry when using this serum as it's free of parabens, sulfates, mineral oils, silicone, petroleum and phthalates, and is also vegan. It contains exfoliating salicylic acid (always a winner), pore-refining niacinamide, and antioxidant grapeseed oil for moisturizing and toning your complexion. This one is great for using twice a day.

When in doubt, French brand Biologique Recherche always gets the job done, and their Serum Complexe Iribiol ($44) is no exception. Recommended by skincare guru Joanna Czech for anyone dealing with hormonal acne, this serum mixes pimple-fighting zinc and healing iris to balance oil production, smooth out scars, and make pores as tiny as can be.

These are must-tries for anyone with sensitive, irritated skin

It's no secret that sensitive skin is difficult to deal with, and can feel like a full time job on off-days. If you're dealing with hormonal acne as you also deal with rashes, rosacea, or dermatitis, life can feel difficult at the moment. In fact, you might be treading lightly with buying new products in case you make your flare-ups worse. Not to worry, we've found hormonal acne serums that are tailor-made for sensitive skin and are still effective at fighting pimples.

A K-beauty favorite we can't get enough of, Beauty of Joseon's Glow Serum ($14.89), is recommended by The Cut as a perfect moisturizer for anyone dealing with hormonal acne. This is great layered on after a good cleanse and applying an AHA or BHA, and can be paired with a thick moisturizer, especially in the winter months. This works as an "emulsion" that keeps your skin from producing excess sebum, won't cause breakouts, and is truly gentle. Containing zero artificial fragrances, parabens, sulfates, alcohol, or silicones, this serum was created to calm irritation, using honey propolis for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, plus turmeric and niacinamide for brightening.

Similarly, Avene's Cleanance Concentrate Blemish Control Serum ($28) is almost as wallet-friendly and just as effective to treat irritation and breakouts. Recommended by Vogue as a top-tier hormonal acne treatment for sensitive skin, this water-gel formula simply contains thermal spring water and simple plant-based extracts — a pared-down approach to skincare.

These retinol-imbued hormonal acne serums will give you fast skin cell turnover

It's no secret we love a good retinol product, especially where hormonal acne is concerned. As explained by Healthline, retinols are vitamin A derivatives that increase collagen production while also exfoliating skin at the pore level. This is why retinol works as an anti-aging component, plumping skin and giving it a youthful appearance, while also decreasing acne, smoothing out scarring, and evening out skin tone. Over time, it can also control sebum production to get rid of shiny T-zones for good. Clearly, a retinol-packed serum is an amazing choice for anyone dealing with hormonal acne and here are our favorites.

First up, CeraVe's Retinol Serum for Post-Acne Marks and Skin Texture ($19.99) — a dermatologist-approved option that contains encapsulated retinol to smooth out your complexion while keeping the process gentle on sensitive skin. It also combines pore-tightening niacinamide, moisturizing ceramides, and licorice root extract for battling hyperpigmentation and brightening skin. Non-comedogenic, this will heal existing acne, stop new pimples from forming, and balance oil, too. As per You Beauty, this product is perfect if you want a serum that's both hydrating and exfoliating.

Another option is January Labs' Triple Active Reclaiming Serum ($86), which contains a non-irritating retinol that's designed especially for sensitive skin types. Niacinamide works to boost collagen and give your complexion a glow, while vitamin C gives you all the antioxidant benefits you could ever need. Lactic acid, sodium PCA, and aloe vera all work to deliver ample moisture, too.

If you need tons of moisture, these seaweed-infused hyaluronic acid serums are perfect

Another crucial component when thinking about serums for hormonal acne is hyaluronic acid, a sugar created by our own bodies that keeps skin hydrated and 1,000 times its weight in water (via Harper's Bazaar). While hormonal acne might be your primary concern, even those with excess oil should worry about hydration, especially so your skin doesn't overreact and create more sebum. Ahead, find the best acne-fighting hyaluronic serums available.

As recommended by Goop to treat hormonal acne naturally, True Botanicals' Clear Repair Serum ($140) is an overnight treatment that's light yet deeply hydrating. Hyaluronic acid is mixed with ingredients like green and white tea extracts, pumpkin seed oil, olive-derived squalane, seaweed, olive extract, vitamin C, and rosemary. Plant-based, this is a hydrating serum that helps heal scarring and prevent new pimples from forming. As per Goop, this is a fantastic addition to any hormonal acne preventative routine, especially when feeling extra dry or irritated. Just apply at night and wake up with glowy skin — easy.

Osea's Hyaluronic Sea Serum ($88) is another incredible option, and works with similar plant-based ingredients to refine and moisturize skin. As recommended by Camille Styles, it also features seaweed extracts for all the possible hydration — even if you pulled an all-nighter or had too many tequila shots the night before. The red and brown algae in the formula are seriously anti-aging to boot.

These serums mix AHAs and BHAs for a super-potent combination

If you want a serum that works overtime to fight your acne from every angle, and you don't have sensitive skin concerns, we've found the products for you. Serums that combine AHAs and BHAs work like double agents, fighting sebum and pimples while smoothing out texture and discoloration in no time.

You need to try Murad's Acne Control Outsmart Acne Clarifying Treatment ($44), a gel serum that promises to reduce acne in just one week. Fiercely powerful in its scientific formula, it blends five different acids as part of its penta-acid technology. Each of these components fight breakouts with ease, and they work quickly to deliver results. Moreover, this serum still keeps things gentle with soothing antibacterial honey, nourishing rice extract and boswellia, which make sure your skin never feels parched, inflamed, or dried out. As dermatologist Dr. Elyse Love told Vogue, this serum is an "effective treatment for inflammatory acne" that will make way for a flawless complexion.

Alternatively, Peter Thomas Roth's Goodbye Acne AHA/BHA Acne Clearing Gel ($40.80) is fragrance-free and oil-free, while combining 2% salicylic acid and 10% glycolic acid to tighten pores, reduce sebum, and resurface skin. Even more, licorice and arnica help reduce discoloration, and the aloe vera in the formula is super-soothing. As per Rank & Style, this is a must-try for anyone dealing with cystic acne.

These are the absolute best drugstore serums for hormonal acne

Who doesn't love a good drugstore buy? We love strolling through the aisles at our local CVS or Walgreens, perusing the skin care and makeup section for way longer than we should. There's just something about drugstore beauty that feels extra fun. Not just the prices are generally lower, but even the packaging feels more colorful and exciting. While not everyone will understand the beauty of drugstore skincare buys, if you do, we've found the best hormonal acne serums you can most likely pick up today.

Bliss's Clear Genius Clarifying Toner + Serum ($12.97) is a must-have, especially if you want a cost-effective product that works double duty. Both a toner and serum, this cooling gel-like formula delivers clearer, soothed skin in two weeks, bringing together exfoliating salicylic acid, toning witch hazel for balancing oil production, pore-tightening niacinamide, and zinc for soothing irritation and fighting existing pimples. Meanwhile, cica, willow bark extract, and tea tree oil all work to make skin feel refreshed and nourished at the same time. This vegan option is recommended wholeheartedly by Bustle for its effects on hormonal acne, its brightening properties, and "deep-clean" feel.

Lastly, Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($15.32) is a hormonal acne go-to for a reason, with an oil-free, non-comedogenic formula that will never clog pores or exacerbate acne. The gentle serum is deeply moisturizing and perfect for sensitive skin, with fans loving the simple ingredient list.