We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
Glow Recipe Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Serum
Pleasant, naturally-derived strawberry scent
Hydrates and calms skin
Clears breakouts and fades hyperpigmentation
Glow Recipe Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Serum
We put Glow Recipe's Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Serum to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Keep reading for our full product review.
As somebody who has struggled with breakouts since middle school, I've tried my fair share of acne treatments. From dermatologist-prescribed topical gels that are overly drying or drugstore spot treatments that smell less than pleasant, I've come to terms with the fact that acne treatments are far from glamorous. So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard that fruit-powered skincare brand Glow Recipe was releasing an acne serum. The line is best known for its fresh-smelling, aesthetically pleasing Korean beauty-inspired products. Could this be one of the few acne serums that smelled good, felt good, and actually works?
If it already sounds too good to be true, throw in the fact that the brand picked strawberries as the backbone of this particular serum. "Strawberry has always been on our minds during our innovation sessions since the start of Glow Recipe, and we knew we wanted to harness the power of strawberry in a blemish-fighting and retexturizing treatment," says Sarah Lee, co-founder and co-CEO of Glow Recipe. In fact, Lee says that strawberry is the brand's most requested fruit on all of their socials. So, did this blemish-fighting, strawberry-powered serum live up to expectations? Read on for my full review.
Best for: Acne-prone skin
Uses: A serum that hydrates skin, clears acne, and evens skin tone.
Potential allergens: Contains naturally derived fragrance (could potentially irritate sensitive skin types)
Active ingredients: 10% clarity acid complex
Byrdie Clean? Yes
About the brand: Glow Recipe is a fruit-forward Korean beauty brand created by Sarah Lee and Christine Chang. All of Glow Recipe’s products are vegan and cruelty-free.
About My Skin: Dry and breakout-prone
Since I can remember, my primary skin concern has been breakouts. My skin constantly goes through waves—some worse than others—of acne on my chin and cheeks. My dermatologist recently started me on spironolactone to help with this. The oral prescription has tamed my more intense cystic blemishes, but I still have the occasional breakout—and I am definitely still working to treat post-acne scarring. In addition to breakouts, my skin is also prone to dryness. If I go a day without using moisturizer, my skin instantly feels tight and dehydrated. Because of this, I’m always on the hunt for new serums and moisturizers to try out.
The Feel: A lightweight gel
If you’re a fan of Glow Recipe, you probably already know that most of the brand's serums have a gel-like consistency, and this new launch is no different. Immediately after applying the product to my skin, I was hit with a refreshing, cooling sensation. After, the gel consistency quickly transformed into a lightweight formula that instantly absorbed into my skin.
The Scent: Like strawberries on a summer evening...
Harry Styles jokes aside, one of the selling points of this serum is its fruit-forward scent. Straight out of the bottle, I was met with a strawberry aroma that was clean and refreshing. Imagine the smell of a freshly picked, juicy strawberry, but it’s an acne serum. Incredible! Personally, I don’t mind products with a natural fragrance, but I don’t love it when the scent sticks with me the whole day. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that although the strawberry smell is initially potent, it fades away fairly quickly.
The Ingredients: Powerful and nourishing
Glow Recipe's goal with the Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Serum is to offer an acne-clearing product that is more nourishing than drying, so the formula includes actives and hydration alike.
- 10% Clarity Acid Complex: This serum’s key technology, the clarity acid complex, includes a 2% BHA + 1% AHA blend, 3.5% strawberry, 3% azelaic acid liposome, and 0.5% succinic acid.
- Strawberry Fruit Extract: “Strawberry naturally contains decongesting salicylic acid (BHA), oil-balancing malic acid, and brightening vitamin C. Strawberries also contain ellagic acid, which helps to smooth the skin,” says Chang.
- Hyaluronic Acid: This popular skincare ingredient is used to moisturize skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Its primary function in this formula is to hydrate and plump skin.
- Allantoin: Another moisturizing ingredient in this formula, allantoin, soothes skin while boosting smoothness and hydration.
- Bisabolol: This is an oil that’s active in chamomile. It functions as a brightening humectant, which means that it helps retain and lock in moisture.
The Science: A unique blend of AHA + BHA
It’s rare to find an effective acne treatment that isn’t overly drying and works for sensitive skin, yet Glow Recipe managed to find a way. How did they do it? It’s rooted in the unique blend of powerful yet gentle ingredients. “Acid treatments are often over-drying and irritating, especially for dry and sensitive skin types, and we put a lot of work during the formulation process to ensure this treatment was balanced without compromising on results,” Christine Chang, co-founder and co-CEO of Glow Recipe, tells Byrdie.
Finding an acne treatment suitable for more sensitive skin was a top priority for the team at Glow Recipe. “When we developed Strawberry Smooth BHA+AHA Salicylic Serum, we wanted to be sure the formula was not only potent and clarifying but gentle enough for daily use and suitable for all skin types,” she says.
“Our new Strawberry Smooth BHA+AHA Salicylic Serum is formulated with 2% encapsulated salicylic acid to minimize irritation as the encapsulation technology helps gently release the ingredient within skin over time,” Chang continues. Strawberry naturally contains BHA, an oil-balancing malic acid, and brightening vitamin C. This formula infuses that with an AHA blend that includes mandelic acid, a larger exfoliating molecule for a gentler exfoliation. The formula also contains hyaluronic acid, which counteracts the drying effects of the salicylic acid, and allantoin and bisabolol, both of which soothe and protect skin.
The Results: Hydrated, clear skin
After using it for about a week, I can honestly say this is one of my favorite Glow Recipe products. My skin didn’t have too many issues with breakouts immediately before I started using it, so I can’t judge if it helped active blemishes, but I didn’t have any new breakouts form while using it—which is rare for me. Also, the serum left my skin with a glowy, hydrated look after each use. Usually, I refrain from using acne serums during the day because they are overly drying and can make my face red, but this serum was so gentle that I enjoyed wearing it.
My only complaint is that I did experience a bit of pilling with this serum, but only when I layered it with other products. This isn’t a dealbreaker for me (as it could simply be the other products), but it’s something to keep in mind. Overall, as I mentioned, this is one of my favorite Glow Recipe launches, and I can definitely see myself repurchasing it.
The Value: On par for an acne serum
With a $40 price tag, this product falls right in the same range as Glow Recipe’s other serums—most of which are priced between $34-$45. As with Glow Recipe’s other serums, you get 1 oz. of product. Honestly, I think that if you are using this product every day, you will go through it pretty quickly. Personally, I think that I would only use it if I had a flare-up of blemishes—not as a part of my daily skincare routine. All in all, I’d say that, given the caliber of the ingredients in the formula, this serum is reasonably priced.
Similar Products: You've got options
Sunday Riley U.F.O Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil: Probably the most comparable product to this serum is Sunday Riley's U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil ($40). The formula contains 1.5% salicylic acid, tea tree oil, black cumin seed oil, and more to fight acne and clear blackheads. Plus, it’s a dry oil that instantly absorbs into the skin and can be used in the morning or evening. The downside is that you only get half an ounce of product unless you want to splurge on the $80 bottle.
Caudalie Skin Perfecting Serum: This serum ($49) from Caudalie is another excellent all-natural option that minimizes pores and improves the texture of acne-prone skin. It’s formulated with salicylic acid, polyphenols, and niacinamide and is gentle enough for everyday wear.
If you have breakout-prone skin or post-acne scarring, this is one product to keep on your radar. Not only does it smell incredible, but it’s an easy-to-wear daily acne serum that also works to hydrate and refresh skin. While I don’t think it’s a replacement for heavy-duty acne treatments, it’s a great option for more minor breakouts or blemish prevention. Not to mention, the strawberry-inspired packaging is definitely shelfie-worthy.
- Price $40.00
- Weight 1 oz.
- Full Ingredient List Water/Aqua/Eau, Methylpropanediol, C9-12 Alkane, Fragaria Vesca (Strawberry) Fruit Extract, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Salicylic Acid, Pentylene Glycol, Mandelic Acid, Succinic Acid, Fragaria Vesca (Strawberry) Leaf Extract, Azelaic Acid, Allantoin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Bisabolol, Opuntia Ficus-Indica (Prickly Pear) Flower Extract, Niacinamide, Glucosamine, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Saccharomyces Ferment, Dextrin, Polydextrose, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Hydroxyacetophenone, Amylopectin, Butylene Glycol, Succinoglycan, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Lauroyl Lysine, Sodium Phytate, Lecithin, Aminomethyl Propanol, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Fragrance/Parfum*. *100% Naturally Derived.