Korean skincare brands are known for formulating their products with ingredients beneficial for specific skin concerns. So it’s not surprising that there are several excellent Korean serums for acne prone skin.
Rather than formulating their serums with harsh ingredients that can strip the skin and make it more susceptible to blemishes, Korean brands formulate their serums with active ingredients that help control sebum production, soothe inflamed skin, and fight bacteria.
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12 Best Korean Serums for Acne Prone Skin
A Korean serum that addresses breakouts and acne will not only help clear away and prevent further acne but also soothe leftover redness and post-acne scars.
Many of these Korean serums focus on preventing acne and blemishes by using ingredients like niacinamide, tea tree extract, betaine salicylate, propolis, Centella asiatica, and snail secretion filtrate to repair acne-prone skin.
NOTE: Salicyclic acid is a hugely popular ingredient used in skincare products to treat acne and breakouts.
South Korean regulations limit the amount of salicylic acid in Korean skincare products, so Korean beauty brands use antibacterial and soothing ingredients like the ones mentioned above to prevent and heal acne.
If you’re looking for a serum that will help acne-prone skin, check out one of these ten best Korean serums for acne prone skin:
1. COSRX AC Collection Blemish Spot Clearing Serum
COSRX AC Collection Blemish Spot Clearing Serum is a total solution serum that focuses on clearing acne and redness, dark spots, and acne scars.
The serum helps skin recover from acne damage thanks to COSRX’s CentellAC-Rx Complex, which features the healing compounds: madecassic acid, asiaticoside, and asiatic acid.
These three actives are found in Centella Asiatica, an herbal extract that has been used for centuries to heal wounds.
The most concentrated ingredient in the serum is propolis extract. Propolis is derived from the resin of trees that bees use to seal their hives.This plant extract is known for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
The serum also contains 4% of all-star active niacinamide. Niacinamide is a favorite of those with oily acne-prone skin for its ability to target multiple skin concerns.
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that has been shown to help fade post-acne marks, reduce redness and inflammation, smooth out uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation, and control sebum (oil) production in the skin.
Panthenol and allantoin soothe the skin. Sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid) helps to keep the skin hydrated.
Melaleuca alternifolia leaf oil, also known as tea tree oil, has natural antibacterial properties to help fight blemishes while calming down redness in acne-prone skin.
Ceramide NP acts like a glue to help strengthen the skin’s barrier and prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL). This allows the serum to provide intense hydration to the skin without making it feel greasy or heavy.
This Korean serum has a light, watery texture that absorbs quickly into the skin and leaves it feeling soft and hydrated. For more details, please see my COSRX AC Collection Blemish Spot Clearing Serum review post.
Pair this Korean skin care product with COSRX Centella Blemish Cream, an effective spot treatment for acne and breakouts.
2. iUNIK Tea Tree Relief Natural Facial Serum
iUNIK Tea Tree Relief Natural Facial Serum is formulated with 67% tea tree leaf water and 19.5% Centella asiatica extract to repair, heal and moisturize the skin.
Tea tree leaf water is a diluted version of tea tree leaf oil, which calms sensitive skin with its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Tea tree oil contains about 100 compounds that offer multiple benefits for the skin, especially its acne-fighting benefits.
This clinical study found that 5% tea-tree oil gel showed comparable (although slower) results to 5% benzoyl peroxide lotion with fewer side effects.
Centella asiatica water and extract work to heal, soothe and protect the skin with soothing anti-inflammatory benefits.
Centella asiatica can even stimulate hyaluronic acid production in the skin to increase hydration and moisture.
This Korean serum also contains niacinamide to balance oil production, help brighten and even skin tone, and smooth the look of wrinkles and fine lines, while sodium hyaluronate acts like a sponge to draw moisture to the skin.
Allantoin, beta-glucan, and purslane extract soothe and protect the skin, and betaine balances moisture in the skin.
Licorice root extract is an anti-inflammatory that helps brighten the skin and reduce the look of dark spots, excess pigmentation, and post-acne marks.
Adenosine helps replenish the skin barrier, support collagen production and help reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Six sprout extracts nourish and moisturize the skin.
This serum is ideal for sensitive skin, acne scars, and oily skin dealing with blemishes. It has a very thin consistency that feels refreshing upon application.
3. Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop Serum
If you are looking for a day serum that offers antioxidant benefits to protect from the sun’s UV rays, Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop Serum is a great choice for acne-prone skin.
The serum is formulated with 5% stabilized pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to help brighten and even skin tone and texture while fighting free radical damage from environmental factors like sun exposure and pollution.
This vitamin C serum contains multiple plant extracts like Centella asiatica extract that help soothe, repair, and calm the skin.
Scutellaria baicalensis (skullcap) root extract is an anti-inflammatory that helps to reduce the look of redness while also brightening the skin.
Per the manufacturer, it also has antibacterial benefits against the acne-causing bacteria, P. acnes.
The serum also contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a vitamin C derivative that has also been shown to offer antimicrobial benefits against P. acnes.
While pure vitamin C may irritate the skin when included in higher concentrations, the lower 5% concentration in this serum makes it a great choice for sensitive, acne-prone skin who want the benefits of pure vitamin C.
Please note that the serum contains orange and lavender essential oils.
4. Innisfree Intensive Hydrating Serum with Green Tea Seed
Innisfree Intensive Hydrating Serum with Green Tea Seed is a best-selling gel serum containing Innisfree’s Green Tea Tri-biotics and 5 types of hyaluronic acid to balance and hydrate your skin.
Green tea extract (Jeju green tea water and seed oil) from Korea’s Jeju Island is rich in antioxidants, which help to protect the skin from free radicals and environmental stressors.
Jeju Island’s green tea is grown in an environment rich in minerals and nutrients and contains 16 amino acids that moisturize the skin.
Camellia sinensis leaf extract (green tea extract) in a 2% lotion has even been shown to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne.
Innisfree’s Green Tea Tri-biotics complex (made up of trelahose, lactobacillus ferment lysate, and lactic acid) helps regulate the skin’s moisture balance, protect against bacteria, and improve the skin’s barrier function.
The serum also contains 5 types of hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump the skin at multiple levels.
Niacinamide helps to reduce dullness and the appearance of hyperpigmentation while balancing oil production.
Betaine is an amino acid that helps to strengthen the skin’s barrier function. Panthenol (pro-vitamin B5) helps to soothe and moisturize the skin. Allantoin calms and soothes the skin.
Squalane is a lightweight, non-greasy emollient that helps to hydrate and protect the skin. It’s noncomedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores or worsen acne.
The gel serum has a light, refreshing texture with a light green tea fragrance.
5. Benton Snail Bee Ultimate Serum
Benton Snail Bee Ultimate Serum combines the power of snail mucin and bee venom to improve your complexion. The serum is chock full of actives that repair and replenish the skin.
The serum base contains snail secretion filtrate that has been fermented by yeast-derived grapes (saccharomyces/snail secretion filtrate ferment filtrate).
It repairs the skin and reduces acne scars, hyperpigmentation, and discoloration.
Tea tree and camellia sinensis leaf waters offer antibacterial and antiseptic properties to help clear the skin of acne-causing bacteria.
Bee venom is an anti-inflammatory that targets blemishes and offers anti-aging benefits.
Niacinamide brightens the skin while regulating sebum production. Niacinamide also helps to reduce the look of pores and wrinkles while brightening your complexion.
Aloe vera calms the skin while sodium hyaluronate hydrates the skin.
Willow bark extract, often considered a natural alternative to salicylic acid, contains natural salicylates with astringent and antiseptic properties.
Beta-glucan, betaine, and panthenol moisturize the skin.
If you are looking for additional anti-aging benefits, adenosine energizes the skin and helps to reduce the look of wrinkles and fine lines.
This fragrance-free serum is perfect for those with troubled, acne-prone, and damaged skin as it repairs the skin while controlling blemishes and breakouts in a non-sticky formula.
6. Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule
Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule soothes redness and irritation with over 80% snail secretion filtrate. This anti-aging serum helps tighten the skin while calming redness and irritation from breakouts and blemishes.
Snail secretion filtrate, also known as snail mucin or snail slime, is a very popular K-Beauty ingredient for its intense repairing and moisturizing benefits for the skin.
Snail mucin is a potent antioxidant with reparative and healing benefits for the skin.
It helps to soothe skin irritation while targeting the visible sign of aging. It is filled with skin-loving compounds like hyaluronic acid, glycoprotein enzymes, and copper peptides, which promote cell regeneration, reduce wrinkles and scars, and improve skin elasticity.
The serum also contains sodium hyaluronate, a form of hyaluronic acid. Sodium hyaluronate is known to help skin retain moisture, resulting in a plumper appearance.
Cacao extract is an antioxidant that protects the skin from environmental stress while calms redness from breakouts.
This natural extract also helps improve skin texture and tone. Trelahose and panthenol are humectants that moisturize the skin.
The serum also contains copper tripeptide-1, palmitoyl pentapeptide-4 (Matrixyl), and sH-Oligopeptide-1 for firmer, more youthful-looking skin.
We all know that aging skin can still experience acne and pimples, whether it be whiteheads or blackheads, so this serum is an excellent option for aging, acne prone skin.
7. Skinfood Peach Sake Pore Serum
Skinfood Peach Sake Pore Serum contains rice sake and peach extract to reduce the look of enlarged pores and control sebum production.
Excellent for oily skin prone to acne and breakouts, rice ferment (sake) improves circulation and prevents skin discoloration.
Peach fruit extract contains vitamins A and C, pectin, and organic acids to tone the skin and diminish the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Licorice root extract helps to brighten and even out skin tone while offering anti-inflammatory benefits.
Centella asiatica extract is beloved for its wound-healing properties and helps improve skin texture while calming irritated skin. Chamomile extract is another active ingredient that soothes and calms the skin.
Argan oil is rich in moisturizing fatty acids that help to nourish and protect the skin. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects against skin damage from UVB rays.
This pore serum has a light, refreshing texture and a delicious peach scent. It leaves a matte finish on your skin that lasts and lasts.
This is a perfect day serum for combination, oily or acne-prone skin struggling with excess oil production and wants a matte finish!
8. Beplain Cicaful Ampoule
Beplain Cicaful Ampoule is a Centella serum formulated for acne and dark spots. This ampoule (concentrated serum) contains a whopping 84.28% Centella asiatica extract.
Centella asiatica is an excellent active ingredient for acne prone skin, as it helps to soothe, calm and heal the skin, targeting redness and acne scars. It protects the skin from irritation while strengthening the skin barrier.
The ampoule also contains chamomile flower extract to soothe and calm the skin.
Sodium hyaluronate is a form of hyaluronic acid with a smaller molecule size than hyaluronic acid, making it more easily absorbed by the skin. It plumps and hydrates the skin.
Saccharomyces ferment filtrate is rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and beta-glucan to soothe, repair, and moisturize the skin.
The clear serum has a very lightweight, non-sticky texture that melts into the skin, leaving skin soft, smooth, and moisturized.
9. Cos De Baha Niacinamide 10% + Zinc PCA 1% Serum
Cos De Baha Niacinamide 10% + Zinc PCA 1% Serum is a serum for acne-prone skin that targets enlarged pores and uneven skin tone with 78% organic ingredients.
It contains 10% niacinamide to reduce redness, sensitivity, hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and uneven skin tone for a brighter complexion with improved clarity.
Niacinamide helps to reduce the look of oversized pores while lightening post-acne scars.
It also offers anti-aging benefits as it stimulates collagen production, which can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
It also increases ceramide levels in the skin, which helps to strengthen the skin barrier and prevents moisture loss.
The serum also contains 1% Zinc PCA, a form of zinc that helps control the production of oil and sebum, which can help reduce the occurrence of acne breakouts.
Witch hazel extract offers astringent and antibacterial benefits.
Aloe barbadensis leaf extract is a natural anti-inflammatory and humectant that helps to soothe and moisturize the skin.
Allantoin calms irritation. Dipotassium glycyrrhizate from the licorice plant soothes the skin and balances sebum production.
This serum is ideal for those with oily, acne-prone skin looking for a treatment to help control oil production while also reducing the appearance of uneven skin tone, dark spots, wrinkles, and fine lines.
Please note that the serum contains rosemary, eucalyptus, and thyme extracts.
10. Beauty of Joseon Glow Serum
Beauty of Joseon Glow Serum features two ingredients to target acne and its side effects: propolis and niacinamide.
This honey-like serum is filled with Hanbang (traditional Korean herbal medicine) ingredients that soothe, replenish, and brighten the skin.
Like the COSRX serum above, propolis extract is Glow Serum’s most concentrated ingredient. Propolis is a resin-like material collected by bees from various plants.
It has antibacterial and antioxidant properties to help protect the hive from infection and environmental damage.
In regard to acne, propolis is known to defend against the bacteria that cause breakouts while also reducing inflammation.
The serum also contains niacinamide, which is known to have anti-inflammatory and skin lightening properties, making it a good choice for those with acne-prone skin that is also dull or has uneven skin tone and dark spots.
Curcuma longa (turmeric) root extract is another beneficial active ingredient in the serum. It is a natural antibacterial and antioxidant that helps to soothe and protect the skin from environmental stressors.
It can also balance sebum production in the skin and provide skin-brightening benefits.
Centella asiatica extract, also known as gotu kola, is a well-known ingredient in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for its healing properties. It has soothing and healing benefits for the skin.
Sodium hyaluronate is a form of hyaluronic acid that is very effective in retaining moisture in the skin, which can be helpful for those with dry skin.
Tamanu oil is an antioxidant that offers hearing benefits.
Betaine salicylate combines moisturizing betaine with beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) salicylic acid to gently exfoliate by sweeping away dead skin cells and unclogging pores.
The serum has a lightweight, non-greasy texture that the skin drinks in. Use it for brighter, smoother, glowing skin with improved clarity and a reduction in the look of pore size.
Related Post: COSRX Derm Serums Review
11. COSRX The Niacinamide 15 Serum
COSRX The Niacinamide 15 Serum contains a potent concentration of 15% niacinamide for total acne control.
By now, we know that niacinamide is an excellent ingredient for acne-prone skin. It helps reduce oil synthesis, whiteheads, and blackheads and improves the look of pigmentation, blemishes, and acne scars.
This serum also contains N-Acetylglucosamine (NAG), that, when paired with niacinamide, helps fade hyperpigmentation.
Zinc PCA aids in healing and reduces inflammation. Allantoin, derived from the comfrey plant, soothes your skin.
The serum is non-comedogenic, which means it doesn’t contain any ingredients that are likely to clog your pores.
The COSRX The Niacinamide 15 Serum is lightweight, non-sticky, and wears well with other products in your skincare routine and under makeup.
12. AXIS-Y Dark Spot Correcting Glow Serum
AXIS-Y Dark Spot Correcting Glow Serum is a 5% niacinamide serum formulated to improve dark spots and uneven skin tone.
Excellent for post-acne hyperpigmentation or discoloration from sun exposure, this serum is ideal for fading acne scars and those dealing with moderate acne.
The serum also helps improve inflammation from acne and rosacea.
Key ingredients include niacinamide and rice bran, which work together to brighten your skin, while squalane, a non-comedogenic oily liquid, helps to nourish and condition your skin
Papaya and sea buckthorn brighten your skin, including dark under-eye circles. Allantoin and calendula soothe your skin.
This Korean hyperpigmentation serum is perfect for sensitive skin types or acne sufferers who need help with dark spots and uneven tone.
How To Use Korean Serums for Acne-Prone Skin
Using a Korean serum effectively for acne-prone skin requires more than just applying it to your face.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to ensure you get the most out of your Korean serum for acne. While there are additional products you can use, this is routine will cover the basics:
- Cleanse Your Face: Begin your skincare routine with a gentle, hydrating cleanser. This ensures that your skin is clean and ready to absorb the serum effectively. You may want to double cleanse in the PM if you want to effectively remove makeup, dirt, oil, and sunscreen.
- Tone Your Skin: Apply a hydrating toner to balance your skin’s pH levels. Well-balanced skin is more receptive to the active ingredients in serums.
- Apply the Serum: Take a few drops of the Korean serum on your fingertips. Gently pat and spread the serum across your face and neck, ensuring you cover areas most affected by acne. Remember, a little goes a long way!
- Wait for Absorption: Allow the serum to be fully absorbed into your skin. This usually takes a few minutes. It’s essential to let your skin absorb the serum to fully maximize its benefits.
- Moisturize: Even if you have oily, acne-prone skin, hydration is necessary. Apply a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizer to seal in the serum and maintain skin hydration.
- Apply Sunscreen (Morning Routine): Always finish your morning skincare routine with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Night Treatment (Evening Routine): If you’re using the serum at night, consider pairing it with a suitable acne spot treatment or a hydrating overnight mask for added benefits.
Serum Usage Tips:
- Always do a patch test when trying a new serum to ensure no allergic reactions or breakouts.
- Be consistent. Serums work best when used regularly.
- If using multiple serums, start with the thinnest consistency and work your way up to the thickest.
- Pay attention to how your skin reacts. If you notice increased irritation or new breakouts, reconsider the products you’re using or if you’ve introduced new products to your routine recently.
Final Thoughts On The Best Korean Serums For Acne Prone Skin
The best Korean serum for acne prone skin will depend upon your specific skin concerns.
Since these serums are formulated to be gentle and healing, depending on your skin type, most can be used in conjunction with other acne treatments to help soothe and repair your skin.
As with any new skincare product, be sure to patch test before using it for the first time.
Also, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher during the day to protect your skin from excess sun exposure, which can worsen acne by compromising your delicate skin barrier.
For more of the best Korean products for oily and acne prone skin, be sure to check out these posts:
Thanks for reading, and until next time, here’s to your good skin health!