Getting rid of acne scars can be tricky, but using the right skincare products (and using them consistently!) can make a huge difference. Below, we’ve put together a guide to the best products for acne scars. 

Our Recommendations

1. The Glow Maker Antioxidant Serum

Maelove The Glow Maker Antioxidant Serum

Maelove Product for Brightening and Anti-Aging

Maelove The Glow Maker Antioxidant Serum

This lightweight and oil-free vitamin C serum from Maelove combines vitamin C with other powerful ingredients to fight signs of aging, brighten, and hydrate the skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply an even layer of the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
See on Amazon

This affordable vitamin C serum contains a 15% concentration of l-ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C), which works to minimize signs of aging, promote a more even skin tone, and brighten the complexion. It also contains vitamin E and ferulic acid, two antioxidant-rich ingredients that have been proven to increase the efficacy of vitamin C. The Glow Maker also features hyaluronic acid, which helps hydrate the skin.

Pros

  • Anti-aging and brightening
  • Lightweight
  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some reviewers complain that the serum oxidizes easily (keep in the fridge to maintain integrity of the formula)

This lightweight serum contains a botanical blend that helps soothe and nourish the skin. It includes aloe, magnolia, and vitis vinifera.

Water (Aqua), Ascorbic Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Lecithin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ferulic Acid, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Callus Culture Extract, Magnolia Officinalis Bark Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Metabisulfite, Triethanolamine, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexyglycerin, Maltodextrin, Tocopherol

  1. National Center for Biotechnology. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

2. Vitamin C Serum with Ferulic Acid, Vitamin E, and

Dr. Brenner Vitamin C Serum

Dr. Brenner Product for Brightening and Anti-Aging

Dr. Brenner Vitamin C Serum with Ferulic Acid, Vitamin E, and Hyaluronic Acid

This affordable vitamin C serum combines l-ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C) with other potent ingredients to brighten, even skin tone, increase firmness, and fight against signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply an even layer of the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
See on Amazon

This is an excellent product for those looking for a budget-friendly, fragrance-free vitamin C serum. It contains a 20% concentration of vitamin C, which works to fight signs of aging and even skin tone while defending against damaging oxidative stress. The formula also contains antioxidant-rich vitamin E and ferulic acid, which have been proven to increase the efficacy of vitamin C.

Pros

  • Anti-aging and brightening
  • Affordable
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Dermatologist developed

Cons

  • Some reviewers complain that it feels sticky on the skin

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, this vegan and cruelty-free vitamin C serum contains hyaluronic acid, which helps attract moisture to the skin and lock it in for a plump and hydrated complexion.

Water, Ethoxydiglycol, L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) 20%, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Laureth-23, Tocopherol (Vitamin E) 1%, Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid ) 1%, Ferulic Acid .5%, Panthenol, Triethanolamine, Phenoxyethanol

  1. National Center for Biotechnology. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

3. Vitamin C Serum

Mad Hippie Product for Anti-aging and brightening

Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

This natural vitamin C serum contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate (a stable form of vitamin C) and other effective skincare ingredients to help brighten, hydrate, and provide anti-aging benefits.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Anti-aging and brightening
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply four to five drops of the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
See on Amazon

This effective yet affordable vitamin C serum contains antioxidant-rich vitamin E and ferulic acid, which have been shown to increase the efficacy of vitamin C. It is also packed with additional ingredients that help hydrate, soften, and smooth the skin, including konjac root and hyaluronic acid.

Pros

  • Natural
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some reviewers noted it felt sticky on the skin

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, this vegan and cruelty-free vitamin C serum contains chamomile, grapefruit, and clary sage, which provide antioxidant protection and calm the skin.

Water Deionized, Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate), Alkyl Benzoate, Vegetable Glycerin, Water, Glycerin, Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Anisate, Clary Sage (Salvia Sclarea), Grapefruit (Citrus Grandis), Hyaluronic acid, Amorphophallus Konjac Root Powder, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf, Vitamin E (Tocotrienol), Ferulic acid, Chamomile Flower Extract (Recutita Matricaria), Sodium Phytate, Xanthan Gum, Hydroxyethylcellulose

  1. National Center for Biotechnology. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Nov. 11, 2021.

4. Power 10 Formula LI Effector with Licorice

It’s Skin Power 10 Formula

It’s Skin Product for Brightening and Evening Skin Tone

It’s Skin Power 10 Formula LI Effector with Licorice

This affordable serum contains a high concentration of licorice extract, which works to brighten and promote a more even skin tone.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Evening Skin Tone
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply two to three drops of the serum all over the face and neck. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

This Korean serum is perfect for those looking to even out their skin tone. Licorice (glycyrrhiza uralensi) extract is known to help fade hyperpigmentation and melasma, improve skin texture, soothe the skin, and reduce redness.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Gentle
  • Fragrance-free
  • Oil-free

Cons

  • None

This daily serum can also be combined with other It’s Skin Power 10 serums to target specific skin concerns you’re looking to address.

Water, Glycyrrhiza, Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin,Polyglutamic, Acid, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Methylparaben, Chlorphenesin, Disodium EDTA

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Cosmeceuticals for Hyperpigmentation: What is Available?"

    Accessed Nov. 10, 2021.

5. Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream

Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream

Neutrogena Product for Moisturization and Anti-Aging

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream

This cream moisturizer combines the power of retinol and hyaluronic acid to fight the signs of aging while also plumping and moisturizing the skin.

Skin types: Normal, Dry and Combination
Best for: Moisturization and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply the cream to your face, neck, and chest.
See on Amazon

This anti-aging moisturizer is a great way to add retinol to your routine, as the addition of moisturizing ingredients may help mitigate some of the irritation often associated with retinol. The cream contains retinol SA, which works to smooth lines and even skin tone. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which pulls moisture to the skin for healthy hydration levels.

Pros

  • Anti-aging
  • Fragrance-free
  • Non-greasy
  • Hydrating

Cons

  • May cause irritation

In addition to the hydrating benefits, hyaluronic acid has been shown to help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, which makes this drugstore moisturizer even more effective for anti-aging. Even though the hydrating ingredients may mitigate the irritating effects of retinol, if you’re new to this skincare ingredient or have sensitive skin, you may want to start by using this cream every other day or every two days to see how your skin reacts.

Water, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Glycerin, Dimethicone, PPG 15 Stearyl Ether, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Behenate, Ceteareth 20, Isohexadecane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Cyclopentasiloxane, Polyethylene, Sodium Polyacrylate, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Crosspolymer, Polyacrylamide, PTFE, C13-14 Isoparaf n, Chlorphenesin, Polysorbate 20, Hydrolyzed Myrtus Communis Leaf Extract, Retinol, BHT, Sodium Hyaluronate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Laureth-7, Ascorbic Acid

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: An overview of clinical efficacy and safety"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

6. C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid

SkinCeuticals Product for Anti-aging and brightening

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid

This brightening and anti-aging vitamin C serum is often considered one of the best of the best. It helps improve signs of aging while fighting environmental aggressors.

Skin types: Normal, Dry, Combination and Sensitive
Best for: Anti-aging and brightening
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply four to five drops of the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
See on Amazon

This fragrance-free vitamin C serum contains a potent 15% concentration of l-ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C that helps neutralize free radicals, defend against oxidative stress, and brighten and fight signs of aging. It is formulated with antioxidant-rich vitamin E and ferulic acid, which both further protect against environmental stressors. These ingredients have also been shown to increase the efficacy of vitamin C.

Pros

  • Anti-aging
  • Brightening
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Some reviewers complain about the smell

This anti-aging serum remains effective for at least 72 hours after being absorbed into the skin. It also contains additional ingredients that help hydrate the skin, including glycerin and sodium hyaluronate.

Water, Ethoxydiglycol, L-Ascorbic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Laureth-23, Alpha Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol, Triethanolamine, Ferulic Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate

  1. National Center for Biotechnology. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Nov. 9, 2021.

7. Resurfacing Retinol Serum

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

CeraVe Product for Fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and minimizing large pores

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

This drugstore retinol serum is specifically formulated to tackle post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and large pores, and helps promote an overall even and clear complexion.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and minimizing large pores
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply a pump of the serum evenly all over the face, neck, and chest. Use once a day (or less frequently to prevent irritation).
See on Amazon

This is an excellent choice for those looking for an affordable retinol. This fragrance-free retinol serum not only helps with acne scars and large pores, but it can also help fight signs of aging and brighten the skin.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Fragrance-free
  • Developed with dermatologists

Cons

  • May cause irritation or dryness

This non-comedogenic retinol serum also contains ceramides and niacinamide, which work to calm and restore the skin while maintaining its barrier. Additionally, this formula contains licorice root extract, which gives a brightening boost. That extra benefit may further help lighten discolored scars.

Aqua/Water, Propanediol, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate, Niacinamide, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Potassium Phosphate, Ceramide Np, Ceramide Ap, Ceramide Eop, Carbomer, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Dimethiconol, Lecithin, Sodium Citrate, Retinol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Cholesterol, Phenoxyethanol, Alcohol, Isopropyl Myristate, Caprylyl Glycol, Citric Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Pentylene Glycol, Phytosphingosine, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 20, Ethylhexylglycerin

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for Acne"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients?"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The structure, function, and importance of ceramides in skin and their use as therapeutic agents in skin-care products"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

8. Discoloration Correcting Serum

Good Molecules Discoloration_Correcting Serum

Good Molecules Product for Lightening Dark Spots and Brightening

Good Molecules Discoloration Correcting Serum

This affordable serum is perfect for those looking to lighten discolored spots (like post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from acne or melasma) for a more even complexion.

Skin types: Normal, Oily, Dry and Combination
Best for: Lightening Dark Spots and Brightening
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply a few drops of the serum to affected areas. This serum can be used up to two times per day.
See on Amazon

This fragrance-free serum contains two star ingredients that help fade dark marks: tranexamic acid (AKA cetyl tranexamate mesylate) and niacinamide. Tranexamic acid is known to brighten and lighten dark spots, while niacinamide addresses uneven tone and texture.

Pros

  • Brightening
  • Affordable
  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May not be suitable for sensitive skin

In addition to the key ingredients mentioned above, this daily serum contains glycerin, which helps keep the skin hydrated.

Water, Butylene Glycol, Propanediol, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Cetyl Tranexamate Mesylate, Cetyl Alcohol, Ceratonia Siliqua (Carob) Gum, Tamarindus Indica Seed Gum, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Caprylyl Glycol

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Tranexamic Acid for Melasma: Evaluating the Various Formulations"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "New topical tranexamic acid derivative for the improvement of hyperpigmentation and inflammation in the sun-damaged skin"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients?"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

9. RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream

Avene_RetrinAL_0.1_Intensive_Cream

Avène Product for Fighting the Signs of Aging

Avène RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream

This over-the-counter anti-aging retinol contains retinaldehyde, a potent retinoid, as well as other ingredients that help minimize the appearance of wrinkles, plump the skin, and protect against free radicals for a youthful complexion.

Skin types: Normal, Oily, Dry and Combination
Best for: Fighting the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: At night, after cleansing and drying the skin, apply to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

The star ingredient of this over-the-counter, fragrance-free retinol treatment is retinaldehyde. This kind of retinoid is one of the strongest that you can get without a prescription, and it has been proven to stimulate collagen production, smooth the appearance of wrinkles, and brighten skin tone. It also contains peptides that help plump the skin.

Pros

  • Anti-aging
  • Fragrance-free
  • Formulated to minimize the risk of allergic reactions

Cons

  • Contains color additives
  • May cause irritation (especially for those new to using retinoids)

In addition to the peptides and retinaldehyde, this anti-aging treatment cream contains vitamin E, an antioxidant, as well as Avène thermal spring water, which is meant to soothe and soften the skin.

Water (Avène Thermal Spring Water), Triethylhexanoin, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cyclohexasiloxane, Ceteareth-20, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Ceteareth-33, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ammonium Acryloyl Dimethyltaurate/Vp Copolymer, Benzoic Acid, Bht, Caramel, Disodium Edta, Mica, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Oleoyl Dipeptide-15, Oleoyl Tetrapeptide-31, Phenoxyethanol, Red 33, Retinal, Silica, Sodium Hydroxide, Titanium Dioxide, Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Glucoside

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin E in dermatology"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

10. AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

Mizon Product for Gentle Exfoliation

Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

This toner is an excellent product if you’re looking for gentle daily exfoliation. It contains AHAs, BHAs, and papaya enzymes that exfoliate to unclog pores and smooth tone and texture.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Gentle Exfoliation
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, soak a cotton pad with the toner, and then swipe all over the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

This exfoliating toner contains glycolic acid and lactic acid, which are alpha hydroxy acids. These AHAs work on the surface of the skin to improve tone and texture and minimize signs of aging. It also contains salicylic acid, a BHA that works deep in the pores to unclog and prevent acne.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Exfoliating

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the AHAs and BHAs, this toner contains glycerin, which hydrates, and papaya fruit extract, which further exfoliates.

Water, Glycerin, Sodium Lactate, Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Portulaca Oleracea (Green Purslane) Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Arnica Montana (Arnica) Flower Extract, Artemisia Absinthium (Mugwort) Extract, Achillea Millefolium (Common Yarrow) Extract, Gentiana Lutea (Yellow Gentian) Root Extract, Salicylic Acid, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Fragrance

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin"

    Accessed Aug. 26, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 26, 2021.

11. Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Product for Exfoliating, Lightly Hydrating, and Reducing the Signs of Aging

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

This 8% AHA product exfoliates the skin while also lightly hydrating to keep the skin smooth, calm, and moisturized.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating, Lightly Hydrating, and Reducing the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply a dime-sized amount of the lotion over the entire face. Those with drier skin may choose to use an additional moisturizer on top. During the day, follow up with an SPF.
See on Paula's Choice

The star ingredient in this exfoliating lotion is glycolic acid. Glycolic acid – an alpha hydroxy acid – is an exfoliant that reduces the signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps smooth the skin for a more even tone and texture.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Hydrating

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin

In addition to the glycolic acid, this lotion contains a variety of ingredients that help soothe and moisturize the skin, including glycerin, vitamin E, matricaria flower extract, and sunflower seed oil.

Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid (exfoliant), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-replenishing emollient), Glycerin (skin-replenishing/hydration), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Beheneth-5 (emulsifier), Behenyl Alcohol (fatty alcohol/emollient thickener), Dimethicone (silicone slip agent), Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate (emollient thickener), Polyglyceryl-3 Stearate (emollient emulsifier), Undecane (emollient), Phospholipids (skin-replenishing fatty acids), Allantoin (skin soothing), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E/antioxidant),Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (soothing plant extract), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil (non-fragrant skin-replenishing emollient), Bisabolol (soothing plant component), Arctium Lappa Root Extract (burdock root; antioxidant and soothing plant), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (licorice-derived soothing agent), Panthenol (hydrating B vitamin), Sodium Acrylates Copolymer (film-forming agent), Tridecane (emollient), Hydrogenated Polyisobutene (emollient), Sclerotium Gum (emulsion stabilizer), Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate (emulsifier), Disodium EDTA (chelating agent), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)

12. AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Mizon Product for Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging

Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum

This exfoliating serum combines the power of glycolic acid with other calming ingredients to reveal a smoother skin tone and texture while soothing the skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, massage the product into the skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

This serum contains an 8% concentration of glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). Glycolic acid improves skin tone and texture while minimizing signs of aging.

Pros

  • Contains soothing ingredients to counteract irritation
  • Exfoliating

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the glycolic acid, this serum contains a variety of ingredients that hydrate and soothe the skin, including aloe, allantoin, castor oil, centella asiatica (tiger grass) extract, and papaya fruit extract.

Water, Glycolic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lactate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Hyaluronate, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Panthenol, Allantoin, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract, Portulaca Oleracea (Green Purslane) Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Arnica Montana (Arnica) Flower Extract, Artemisia Absinthium (Mugwort) Extract, Achillea Millefolium (Common Yarrow) Extract, Gentiana Lutea (Yellow Gentian) Root Extract, Alcohol, Polyquaternium-10, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Fragrance

13. Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

The Ordinary Product for Fighting Acne and Evening Skin Tone

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

This product from The Ordinary hosts an impressive variety of benefits. Azelaic acid is a brightening skincare ingredient known for minimizing acne, lightening hyperpigmentation, and reducing redness.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Fighting Acne and Evening Skin Tone
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

This product contains a 10% concentration of azelaic acid, a gentle exfoliator that has antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. The lightweight gel-cream helps to improve and brighten skin tone, as well as unclog pores and reduce blemishes for clear, smooth skin.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some reviewers note that this product can be drying

In addition to its ability to fight acne, azelaic acid is often used to treat rosacea to promote a more even skin tone.

Aqua (Water), Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Dimethicone, Azelaic Acid, Dimethicone/Bis-Isobutyl PPG-20 Crosspolymer, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polysilicone-11, Isohexadecane, Tocopherol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Isoceteth-20, Polysorbate 60, Triethanolamine, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Azelaic acid"

    Accessed Aug. 11, 2021.

14. Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

The Ordinary Product for Exfoliating

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

This chemical exfoliator is one of the most-loved The Ordinary products, with an effective 7% concentration of glycolic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid, or AHA).

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, dispense the product onto a cotton round, and gently sweep across the face, neck, and chest.
See on Amazon

Regular exfoliation is necessary in order to maintain clear, smooth skin. This product contains an effective 7% concentration of glycolic acid, which has been shown to reduce the signs of aging (including wrinkles and sun spots) and minimize texture.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight and non-greasy
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

This chemical exfoliator also contains Tasmanian pepperberry, which helps reduce irritation, as well as aloe vera and ginseng, which soothe the skin.

Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Rosa damascena flower water, Centaurea cyanus flower water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Propanediol, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glycine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Arginine, PCA, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Hexyl Nicotinate, Dextrin, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Gellan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

15. AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary Product for Improving Skin Texture and Tone

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

This peeling solution is one of the best The Ordinary products, particularly for those looking for a high-strength but budget-friendly at-home peel.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Improving Skin Texture and Tone
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Cleanse the skin, and wait for it to fully dry. Once dry, apply the peel evenly over the face and neck. Leave on for up to 10 minutes, and rinse with lukewarm water.
See on Amazon

This peel offers a range of benefits, thanks to a high concentration of alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, and citric acid), as well as an effective concentration of beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid). The AHAs help to exfoliate the top layer of the skin to reduce the signs of aging, improve texture, and minimize hyperpigmentation, while BHA unclogs pores for a clear complexion.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • High probability of irritation (best used by those experienced with acids)

This peel contains ingredients to help counteract irritation, including Tasmanian pepperberry and vitamin B5. However, this peel is still very strong for an over-the-counter product, and is best suited for those who already have experience using chemical exfoliators in their routine.

Glycolic Acid, Aqua (Water), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Daucus Carota Sativa Extract, Propanediol, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Xanthan gum, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin"

    Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.

16. 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

La Roche-Posay Product for Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles

La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

This serum contains a potent concentration of vitamin C, which is known for its ability to brighten, diminish post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and even skin tone.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum all over the face, neck, and chest.
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Vitamin C is an incredibly effective skincare ingredient that is known to boost collagen production, which in turn brightens, fades hyperpigmentation, and diminishes fine lines and wrinkles. This serum contains a potent 10% concentration of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which will help even overall skin tone and texture.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Dermatologist tested

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to ascorbic acid, this serum contains salicylic acid, which gently exfoliates, and hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate, which draw moisture to the skin.

Aqua/Water/Eau, Ascorbic Acid, Cyclohexasiloxane, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Potassium Hydroxide, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Polysilicone-11, Dimethicone, Propylene Glycol, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Tocopherol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Adenosine, Acetyl Dipeptide-1 Cetyl Ester, Peg-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Poloxamer 338, Salicylic Acid, Polyacrylamide, Toluene Sulfonic Acid, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Disodium Edta, Bht, Laureth-7, Parfum/Fragrance.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health"

    Accessed Aug. 16, 2021.

17. Daily Face Cleanser

Cetaphil Daily Face Cleanser

Cetaphil Product for Daily Cleansing

Cetaphil Daily Face Cleanser

For those with normal to oily skin, this is one of the best cleansers from Cetaphil. The gel to foam formula is clinically proven to deeply cleanse the skin, but is still gentle enough to not strip it of its natural oils.

Skin types: Normal, Oily, Combination and Sensitive
Best for: Daily Cleansing
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: Wet your face with lukewarm water, and then gently massage the cleanser into your skin. Rinse with lukewarm water.
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This is an excellent cleanser for daily use, particularly for those with normal to oily skin. It cleanses without irritating or drying out the skin and contains vitamins B3 and B5, as well as glycerin, which hydrate and nourish the skin.

Pros

  • Non-comedogenic
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Gentle

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

The mild and low lather formula is dermatologist tested, and shown to be gentle on sensitive skin. Since it is also non-comedogenic, it won’t clog pores, making it a suitable choice for those with acne-prone skin.

Water, Glycerin, Peg-200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Acrylates/Steareth-20 Methacrylate Copolymer, Peg-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Phenoxyethanol, Masking Fragrance, Panthenol, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium Edta, Methylparaben

  1. Sage Journals. "Safety Assessment of Glycerin as Used in Cosmetics"

    Accessed Aug. 24, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Skin moisturizing effects of panthenol-based formulations"

    Accessed Aug. 24, 2021.

18. Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

COSRX Product for Acne and Daily Cleansing

COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

This gentle foaming cleanser removes excess oils and helps unclog pores without drying out the skin.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Acne and Daily Cleansing
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Dispense the cleanser into your palms, and then gently massage it into wet skin. Rinse with lukewarm water.
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If you’re acne-prone, you need a daily cleanser that will remove excess oils and impurities without further irritating breakouts or drying out the skin. This cleanser contains a 0.5% concentration of salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps gently unclog pores to minimize breakouts.

Pros

  • Gentle
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the salicylic acid, this cleanser contains willow bark water, tea tree oil, evening primrose extract, and other soothing skincare ingredients.

Water, Glycerin, Myristic Acid, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Lauric Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycol Distearate, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Salicylic Acid, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Fragrance, Sodium Chloride, Melaleuca Alternigolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water, Saccharomyces Ferment, Cryptomeria Japonica Leaf Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Leaf Extract, Pinus Palustris Leaf Extract, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Flower Extract, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, 1,2-Hexanediol, Ethyl Hexanediol, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 24, 2021.

19. Clear Face Cleansing Foam

Sebamed Clear Face Cleansing Foam

Sebamed Product for Daily Cleansing

Sebamed Clear Face Cleansing Foam

This Sebamed cleansing foam is excellent for those with acne-prone skin that tends to be a bit oilier, as it deeply cleans pores while also hydrating for balanced skin.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Daily Cleansing
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Wet your face with lukewarm water, and then gently massage the cleanser into your skin. Rinse with lukewarm water.
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This cleanser contains Montaline C40, an antibacterial ingredient that helps clean away impurities that clog pores. The mild soap also helps cleanse the skin without stripping it of its natural oils.

Pros

  • Gentle
  • Fights acne
  • Soothing

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the Montaline C40, this cleanser contains vitamin B5 (panthenol), which soothes the skin.

Water (Aqua), Cocamidopropyl Betainamide MEA Chloride, Hydroxypropyl Oxidized Starch PG-Trimonium Chloride, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance (Parfum), Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Skin moisturizing effects of panthenol-based formulations"

    Accessed Aug. 24, 2021.

20. Foaming Facial Cleanser

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

CeraVe Product for Daily Cleansing

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

This foaming cleanser is gentle and non-irritating on the skin, but still effectively removes dirt, debris, and excess oil without stripping it.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Daily Cleansing
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: Wet the skin with lukewarm water, and then gently massage the cleanser into the skin. Rinse with lukewarm water.
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This cleanser is one of the best CeraVe products for oilier skin types, because it cleanses the skin without stripping it of its natural moisture. Maintaining the skin’s moisture is vital, as products that dry out the skin can actually trigger the skin to produce more oil. This cleanser allows you to protect your skin while still cleansing away excess oil, dirt, and debris.

Pros

  • Gentle
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Non-irritating
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • None

This daily foaming gel cleanser contains hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and three essential ceramides. These ingredients help ensure the cleanser doesn’t strip the skin of its natural moisture. They also help calm and soothe the skin.

Aqua / Water / Eau, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Glycerin, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Peg-150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate, Niacinamide, Peg-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl, Taurate, Propylene Glycol, Ceramide Np, Ceramide Ap, Ceramide Eop, Carbomer, Methylparaben, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Cholesterol, Disodium Edta, Propylparaben, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium Edta, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Phytosphingosine, Xanthan Gum

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. "How to control oily skin"

    Accessed Aug. 24, 2021.

21. Effaclar Adapalene Gel

La Roche-Posay Product for Acne

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel

This acne gel treatment contains prescription-strength levels of adapalene, a topical retinoid that helps clear breakouts and prevent new acne from forming.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Acne
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing and drying the skin, apply a pea-sized amount over the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This treatment is one of the best La Roche-Posay products for acne. It contains a 0.1% concentration of adapalene, which has been shown to be incredibly effective in the treatment of acne. This topical retinoid increases cell turnover rate, which keeps pores from clogging and prevents acne.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Oil-free
  • Dermatologist tested
  • Non-comedogenic

Cons

  • May cause irritation

While adapalene is less likely to cause irritation compared to stronger prescription retinoids (like tretinoin), it still may lead to some irritation, especially for those new to using retinoids. Start by using it every other night or twice a week to allow your skin to adjust.

Adapalene USP 0.1% (retinoid), Carbomer homopolymer, Edetate disodium, Methylparaben, Poloxamer 182, Propylene glycol, Purified water, and Sodium hydroxide

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "A review of the use of adapalene for the treatment of acne vulgaris"

    Accessed Aug. 18, 2021.

22. Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

The Ordinary Product for Evening Skin Tone and Fighting the Signs of Aging

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

This is one of the best The Ordinary products to add to your skincare routine, because it contains a potent concentration of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which brightens and evens out overall skin tone while fighting the signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Evening Skin Tone and Fighting the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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Those looking to brighten their skin tone while also fighting against the signs of aging should turn to this product, which has the highest concentration of antioxidant-rich vitamin C of any of the products the brand offers. Since vitamin C has been shown to help with hyperpigmentation, this option is also great for those looking to even out dark spots. In addition to vitamin C, this product contains sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid), which increases moisture in the skin.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

Since this product contains such a high percentage of vitamin C, some users may experience tingling as their skin adjusts, particularly if they’re newer to topical vitamin C.

Ascorbic Acid, Squalane, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Coconut Alkanes, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glucomannan, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Trihydroxystearin, BHT.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Aug. 11, 2021.

23. 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Product for Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

This gel exfoliant contains glycolic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid, or AHA), a chemical exfoliator that sheds dead skin cells to reveal smooth, younger looking skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply a dime-sized amount of the gel all over the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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AHAs like glycolic acid are commonly used to reduce the signs of aging, including wrinkles. This gel exfoliant contains an effective 8% concentration of glycolic acid, along with other soothing ingredients.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin

In addition to the glycolic acid, this exfoliator contains soothing and hydrating ingredients, including chamomile, aloe, and green tea.

Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Chamomilla Recutita Matricaria Flower Extract (chamomile/skin-soothing), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (hydration), Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract (green tea/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin replenishing), Panthenol (hydration), Sodium PCA (skin replenishing), Propylene Glycol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture-enhancing), Polyquaternium-10 (texture-enhancing), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Sodium Benzoate (preservative)

24. 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula's Choice Product for Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

This treatment combines retinol, a powerful anti-aging ingredient, with hydrating and brightening ingredients for an even, smooth skin tone.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, massage a pea-sized amount of the treatment into the skin. Initially, limit usage to three times a week to allow the skin to adjust.
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Retinol is the gold-standard for fighting signs of aging, so this is an excellent choice for those with wrinkles, fine lines, and sun spots. The addition of soothing and hydrating ingredients helps counteract some of the potential irritating side effects of retinol.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

This serum contains vitamin C, which brightens the skin, as well as licorice extract and oat extract, which soothe and calm redness.

Water (Aqua), Dimethicone (skin-softening), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Butylene Glycol (hydrating), Isononyl Isononanoate (emollient), Castor Isostearate Succinate (skin-softening ), Glyceryl Stearate (texture enhancer), C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (emollient), Dimethicone Crosspolymer (texture enhancer), PEG-33 (stabilizer), Polysorbate 20 (texture enhancer), Behenyl Alcohol (texture enhancer), PEG-100 Stearate (texture enhancer), Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate (stabilizer), Polymethylsilsesquioxane (texture enhancer), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (vitamin C/antioxidant), Retinol (skin-restoring), Ceramide NG (skin-replenishing) , Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (skin-restoring), Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12 (skin-restoring), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin-replenishing ), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (antioxidant plant extracts/skin-soothing), Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract (licorice extract/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Avena Sativa Kernel Extract (oat extract/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Arctium Lappa Root Extract (burdock extract/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Salix Alba Bark Extract (willow bark extract/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Glycine Soja Sterols (antioxidant/skin-softening ), Lecithin (skin-restoring), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E/antioxidant), Hydrolyzed Soy Protein (antioxidant/skin-softening), Sorbitan Laurate (texture enhancer), Acetyl Dipeptide-1 Cetyl Ester (skin-soothing), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture enhancer), Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 (skin-restoring), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Tribehenin (emollient), Caprylyl Glycol (skin-softening), Ethylhexylglycerin (skin-softening), Pentylene Glycol (hydrating), PEG-75 Shea Butter Glycerides (emollient), PPG-12/SMDI Copolymer (stabilizer), PEG-10 Phytosterol (fatty acid-based emollient), PEG-8 Dimethicone (skin-softening), PEG-14 (texture enhancer), Magnesium Aluminum Silicate (texture enhancer), Arachidyl Glucoside (texture enhancer), Arachidyl Alcohol (texture enhancer), Sclerotium Gum (texture enhancer), Carbomer (gel-based texture enhancer), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Benzoic Acid (preservative)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: An overview of clinical efficacy and safety"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

25. 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

Paula's Choice Product for Evening Tone and Texture

Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

This booster combines azelaic acid with other brightening ingredients that work together to fade post-acne marks, minimize blemishes, brighten, and even out tone and texture.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Evening Tone and Texture
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the booster to affected areas or all over the skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This is a great multi-purpose serum to have on hand. If you have hyperpigmentation, this is a particularly excellent product for you, as azelaic acid has been shown to help fade dark marks. It’s also great for smoothing the skin for a more even texture.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Oil-free
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

This booster contains salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliator that further minimizes the appearance of blemishes and evens out skin texture and tone. It also contains licorice root, which calms redness and brightens.

Water (Aqua), Azelaic Acid (skin-brightening/tone-improving), C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (emollient), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-replenishing), Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate (emollient), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Cetearyl Alcohol (texture enhancer), Glyceryl Stearate (texture enhancer), Dimethicone (hydration/texture enhancer), Salicylic Acid (exfoliant), Adenosine (skin-restoring), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (skin-soothing), Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract (skin-soothing), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Cyclopentasiloxane (texture enhancer), Xanthan Gum (stabilizer), Sclerotium Gum (stabilizer), Propanediol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

26. Adapalene Gel 0.1%

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1%

Differin Product for Acne, Blackheads and Dark Spots

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1%

This treatment gel contains adapalene, a retinoid that is commonly used to treat acne and prevent new breakouts from forming.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Acne, Blackheads and Dark Spots
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply a thin layer of the treatment all over your face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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Adapalene is incredibly effective when it comes to treating acne, and it can also help fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from past breakouts. It increases cell turnover rates, which in turn helps clear acne and improve tone and texture.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Oil-free

Cons

  • May irritate the skin

This gel is free of fragrances, and is also non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t contribute to clogged pores. You may initially experience some irritation as your skin adjusts to the retinoid.

Adapalene 0.1% (retinoid), carbomer 940, edetate disodium, methylparaben, poloxamer 182, propylene glycol, purified water and sodium hydroxide

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "A review of the use of adapalene for the treatment of acne vulgaris"

    Accessed Sep. 1, 2021.

27. Acne Foaming Wash 10% Maximum Strength

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash 10% Maximum Strength

PanOxyl Product for Acne

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash 10% Maximum Strength

This foaming benzoyl peroxide cleanser is excellent for fighting acne on both the face and body.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Acne
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: Gently massage the cleanser into the face, as well as any other areas of the body that are prone to acne (like the back or chest). Rinse with lukewarm water.
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This foaming cleanser contains a 10% concentration of benzoyl peroxide. This high concentration helps kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin while also unclogging pores to treat current breakouts and prevent new blemishes from forming.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Non-comedogenic

Cons

  • May irritate the skin

For the best results, this cleanser should be used on a regular basis as part of an effective skincare routine to keep breakouts at bay.

Active Ingredient: Benzoyl Peroxide (10%) Inactive Ingredients: Carbomer Homopolymer Type C, Carbomer Interpolymer Type A, Decyl Glucoside, Dimethicone, Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate, Glycerin, Palmitic Acid, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Polyoxyl 40 Stearate, Propanediol, Purified Water, Silica, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate, Sorbitan Stearate, Stearic Acid, t-Butyl Alcohol, Xanthan Gum

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Benzoyl Peroxide"

    Accessed Sep. 1, 2021.

28. 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum

Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum

Timeless Product for Brightening and Anti-Aging

Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum

This affordable vitamin C serum contains a 20% concentration of vitamin C, which helps brighten and fight signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
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This lightweight serum contains a 20% concentration of l-ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C that works to brighten and provide anti-aging benefits. It also contains vitamin E and ferulic acid, two skincare ingredients that protect the skin from environmental stressors and have also been shown to increase the efficacy of vitamin C.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some reviewers complain about the pump

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, this serum contains hyaluronic acid, which attracts moisture to the skin to keep it hydrated.

Water, Ethoxydiglycol, L-Ascorbic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Alpha Tocopherol, Polysorbate 80, Panthenol, Ferulic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Benzylalcohol, Dehydroacetic Acid

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin C in Dermatology"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.

29. Vitamin C Serum

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum

TruSkin Product for Brightening and Anti-Aging

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum

This gentle and affordable serum contains vitamin C, which brightens and fights signs of aging, as well as other soothing and hydrating skincare ingredients.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
See on Amazon

This vitamin C serum contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a stable form of vitamin C that helps brighten and provide anti-aging benefits. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which attracts moisture to the skin, and vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects against free radical damage to the skin.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some acne-prone reviewers noted that it broke them out

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, this serum contains jojoba oil, which moisturizes, and witch hazel, which soothes.

Organic Deionized Herbal Infusion, Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), MSM, Botanical Hyaluronic Acid (Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel), Vitamin E (d-alpha Tocopheryl Acetate), Carbomer, (2s)-2-Amino-5-guanidinopentanoic Acid, Organic Gotu Kola, Wildcrafted Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense), Wildcrafted Dandelion, Wildcrafted Geranium, Organic Jojoba Oil (Organic Simmondsia Chinensis), Phenoxyethanol, Ethyl Hexyl Glycerin.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Sodium ascorbyl phosphate in topical microemulsions"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.

30. 2% BHA Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ExfoliantCult favorite

Paula's Choice Product for Gently Exfoliating and Preventing Breakouts

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

This cult-favorite product contains salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliator that gently exfoliates dead skin cells and unclogs pores for a clear complexion.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Gently Exfoliating and Preventing Breakouts
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, soak a cotton pad with the product and swipe all over the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This is a best seller at Paula’s Choice, and for a good reason. Salicylic acid (a beta-hydroxy acid, or BHA) is an excellent chemical exfoliator that sheds excess skin cells and decongests pores to fight acne and blackheads and promote a more even skin tone.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

This product also contains green tea, which soothes irritation and provides anti-aging benefits.

Water (Aqua), Methylpropanediol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Salicylic Acid (beta hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Polysorbate 20 (stabilizer), Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract (green tea/skin calming/antioxidant), Sodium Hydroxide (pH balancer), Tetrasodium EDTA (stabilizer)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

31. Paula's Choice 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide

Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide

Paula's Choice Product for Diminishing Breakouts and Preventing New Acne

Paula's Choice Clear Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment

The 2.5% concentration of benzoyl peroxide helps fight current breakouts while preventing new acne from forming.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Diminishing Breakouts and Preventing New Acne
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the treatment to acne-prone areas. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This is one of the best Paula’s Choice products for acne because benzoyl peroxide is a highly effective acne-fighting ingredient. It kills acne-causing bacteria on the skin and also gets rid of excess oil and pore-clogging dead skin cells.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

This treatment also includes soothing and hydrating ingredients, including allantoin and bisabolol. These additional ingredients help calm redness and minimize drying from the benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% (anti-acne), Water (Aqua), Propylene Glycol (hydration/penetration enhancer), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer (texture-enhancing), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture-enhancing), Sodium Citrate (pH adjuster), Laureth-4 (stabilizer), Caprylyl Glycol (preservatives), Hexylene Glycol (preservatives), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer), Phenoxyethanol (preservative).

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Benzoyl Peroxide"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

32. C15 Super Booster

Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster

Paula's Choice Product for Brightening and Fighting Signs of Aging

Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster

The 15% concentration of pure vitamin C in this serum helps brighten the skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Fighting Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Massage two to three drops of the serum into clean skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This lightweight serum is one of the best Paula’s Choice products, as it contains a powerful concentration of vitamin C, which evens out and brightens the skin tone while also minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. It also contains ingredients that hydrate and soothe the skin.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

In addition to vitamin C, this serum contains ferulic acid and vitamin E. These antioxidants protect the skin, and are also known to increase the efficacy of vitamin C.

Water (Aqua), Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C/antioxidant), Butylene Glycol (solvent/texture enhancer), Ethoxydiglycol (solvent/texture enhancer), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), PPG-26-Buteth-26 (emulsifier/skin-softening), PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil (emulsifier/solubility enhancer), Pentylene Glycol (skin-softening slip agent), Tocopherol (vitamin E/stabilizing antioxidant), Sodium Hyaluronate (hydration), Hexanoyl Dipeptide-3 Norleucine Acetate (skin-restoring peptide), Lecithin (skin-restoring/hydration), Ferulic Acid (stabilizing antioxidant), Panthenol (vitamin B5/skin-softening, skin-soothing), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract (skin-softening/chelating agent), Propyl Gallate (antioxidant), Sodium Gluconate (chelating agent), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

33. C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum

Drunk Elephant Product for Fading Hyperpigmentation and Anti-Aging

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum

This serum contains a potent concentration of vitamin C, which is excellent for brightening and lightening post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, as well as fighting the signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Fading Hyperpigmentation and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Massage the serum into the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, as well as SPF during the day.
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This serum contains a 15% concentration of vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid), which promotes the production of collagen. This in turn helps minimize the appearance of hyperpigmentation, while also providing anti-aging benefits. It also contains antioxidant-rich ferulic acid and vitamin E, which protect the skin from environmental stressors, and have also been shown to increase the efficacy of vitamin C.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some reviewers complain about the smell

In addition to the blend of vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid, this serum contains pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract, which dissolve skin cells on the surface of the skin for even, smooth skin.

Water/Aqua/Eau, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Ascorbic Acid, Laureth-23, Glycerin, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Tocopherol, Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Phytosterols, Glutamylamidoethyl Imidazole, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Ferulic Acid, Acetyl Glucosamine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tetrahydrobisdemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrodemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane, Glycine, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Sucrose, Maltodextrin, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Sorbitan Isostearate, Propanediol, Pentylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Chlorphenesin, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Potassium Sorbate, Sorbic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

FAQs

What is the best glycolic acid product for acne scars?

Glycolic acid (an alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA) is a great skincare ingredient for acne scars. This chemical exfoliant is particularly beneficial for fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (the discolored marks left behind by acne), but it may help with raised or pitted scars, as well. Some of the best glycolic acid products for acne scars include the Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner, the Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum (which is more potent than the toner), The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, and the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant. 

How do you fade acne scars overnight?

Unfortunately, you can’t fade acne scars overnight. However, you can speed up the process of healing these scars by using the right products consistently. Exactly how long it will take for a scar to heal will depend on your skin, the specific type of scar you’re dealing with, and its severity. If you use some of the best products for acne scars consistently, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation will start to fade in approximately three weeks. For raised and pitted scars, the process will take longer, and you may need a professional treatment to fully smooth them out.

Is vitamin C good for acne scars?

Vitamin C is a great ingredient to include in your skincare routine if you’re looking to fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, because it promotes the production of collagen and has been proven to help even skin tone. It may also help with raised or pitted scars, although these scars can be harder to treat without professional treatments. 

The Bottom Line

Acne scars are frustrating reminders of previous breakouts, but the right products can make a difference in the overall appearance of these marks. If you’re battling acne scars, consider using some of our recommended products in your skincare routine to improve your overall complexion.