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11 Super-Light Serums That Really Do Clear Oily Complexions

3 different oils on a background

Graphic by Cristina Cianci

Oily skin can be tough to contend with, but not when you've got a cracking serum. Believe it or not, serums aren't just for turbocharging your line-fighting regimen. With the right ingredients and texture, this beauty product can do wonders in helping to rebalance oily and spot-prone skin. If you find that moisturising creams tend to clog your pores or feel too heavy (cue more breakouts), a lighter, thinner serum could be the answer to keeping your skin properly hydrated while encouraging lower sebum production (the main cause of constantly shiny, oil-flooded skin).

It's important to find the right formula to suit your skin type, however. The power of serums lies in the fact that they're loaded with higher concentrations of damage-repairing ingredients and contain more potent combinations of skin-healing molecules that conventional creams and lotions just don't have room for. But given that they're so power-packed, you need to make sure you've got the right fit for your skin to really reap the benefits.

A light, water-based version is best for oily or acne-prone skin, as too many rich plant oils can leave you feeling greasy and lead to clogging. Oily skin is often in need of moisture deep down to help regulate the skin's production of natural oils called sebum, so look for effective hydrators like hyaluronic acid and glycerin (a great alternative to oils), plus vitamins A, C, and E.

To help bring your breakouts under control, you'll also want to make sure you've got some antibacterial ingredients in the mix. Tea tree oil is a fantastic natural option, as is witch hazel, while salicylic acid (also known as beta-hydroxy acid) is both a soothing anti-irritant and an effective exfoliant, which can even help to clear bacteria from inside the skin's pore lining, as well as on the surface. Blackheads, whiteheads, fully formed spots—they don’t stand a chance.

Now that you know what you're looking for, we've rounded up 11 of our favorite serums for oily and spot-prone skin to help you get started. Start scrolling to find your perfect match.

It's Skin Power 10 VB Sebum Control Serum
It's Skin Power 10 VB Sebum Control Serum $14 $10

As it's so lightweight and watery, It's Skin's serum won't perpetuate your current shine issues but instead will hydrate deep below the surface. It also contains Vitamin B6 to keep the skin's moisture balance on point.

Sunday Riley Good Genes
Sunday Riley Good Genes $122

The lactic acid in Sunday Riley's serum makes for a brilliant exfoliator that helps regulate sebum control. It's also brilliant at improving skin tone, helping to fade any marks left over by dormant spots.

Lixirskin Night Switch AHA/BHA 10%
Lixirskin Night Switch AHA/BHA 10% $28

The salicylic acid in Lixirskin's night serum will flush out pores and ensure that any extra oil doesn't turn into a patch of blackheads. It also contains azelaic acid to limit the amount of sebum that the skin creates.

Evolve Beauty Rainforest Rescue Blemish Serum
Evolve Beauty Rainforest Rescue Blemish Serum $36

Some members of the Byrdie team swear by Evolve Beauty's serum to clear up spots left behind by overzealous sebum glands, thanks to willow bark and açai.

Key Ingredients

Willow bark extract contains salicylic acid, a BHA that is a natural exfoliant and is used in many acne treatments.

BareMinerals Blemish Remedy Serum
BareMinerals Blemish Remedy Serum $42

We're pretty obsessed with this serum. Why? Well, for spot-prone skin, it’s ideal, as it contains salicylic acid to help exfoliate any dead skin cells and give you a brightened complexion.

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Blemish and Line Correcting Serum
Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Blemish and Line Correcting Serum $45

Containing both hyaluronic acid for lightweight hydration and salicylic acid to fight breakouts, this is a great daily serum to replenish, repair, and keep spots at bay.

Odacité Oily-Acne Prone Serum Concentrate
Odacité Oily-Acne Prone Serum Concentrate $36

If you prefer organic formulations, this is a blend of skin-regulating grapeseed oil, which is high in linoleic acid—known to help rebalance sebum levels and reduce breakouts—plus replenishing vitamin E.

Ultra Light Antioxidant Serum
Paula's Choice Resist Ultra-Light Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum $39 $31

This is a great serum (that's super light and packed with vitamins) for oily skin that still tackles signs of aging, too.

Kypris Clearing Serum
Kypris Clearing Serum $90

An all-natural blend, this serum is great for hydrating reactive oily skin that's on the sensitive side while helping to rebalance sebum production and heal blemishes or breakouts.

HealGel Face Serum
HealGel Face Serum $55

Created by a team of plastic surgeons to soothe skin and speed healing, this lightweight serum teams hyaluronic acid and glycerin with salicylic acid to replenish, repair, and clear the skin.

Key Ingredients

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring molecule that has the ability to retain six liters of water per gram, leading to hydrated, plump skin.

Ren ClearCalm 3 Replenishing Gel Cream
Ren ClearCalm 3 Replenishing Gel Cream $42

Tackling the three key causes of breakouts—excess sebum, a buildup of dead skin cells and the subsequent buildup of bacteria—this serum teams alpha-linoleic acid with Japanese licorice extract to soothe irritation and bring oiliness under control.

Once you've decided on your chosen serum, be sure to use it every single day. While some will offer instant results, you'll probably need a good few weeks to see those changes you're after.

Next Up: The best moisturizers for oily skin.

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