There was a time when spot treatments were the most available remedy for stubborn pimples. Luckily, the skincare industry has evolved drastically to address this common problem. But from the slew of solutions you can now choose from, none are quite as preventive as an anti-acne serum.

The best remedies (for anything, really) are pre-emptive. And unlike spot treatments, you don’t need to be actively breaking out to use an anti-acne serum. They’re designed to fight off everything that causes pimples before they wreak havoc on your skin, from clogged pores and bacteria to excess oil and inflammation. Not all at once, obviously—the key is to choose a formula with the active ingredients that best suit your concerns. This can be a little tricky if you don’t know what to look for, but for starters, here’s a cheat sheet of effective anti-acne ingredients to guide your choice.

CENTELLA ASIATICA

BEST FOR: Relieving red, inflamed skin
WE LOVE: Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Serum (Season 2), P2,250

In the last few years, centella asiatica has become an ubiquitous ingredient in modern Asian skincare. It’s most commonly used in products for acne-prone skin and is often referred to by a variety of names, including tiger grass or gotu kola. Known for anti-inflammatory benefits, centella asiatica diminishes redness; relieves painful, inflamed skin; and soothes breakouts. It’s also rich in amino acids and a powerful antioxidant called madecassoside. These properties allow centella asiatica to be both hydrating and healing, so it repairs troubled skin without being too harsh. If gentle and effective is what you’re looking for, this is the ingredient to put your money on.

TEA TREE

BEST FOR: Shrinking pimples
WE LOVE: Some by Mi Miracle Serum, now on sale at P1,300 (limited time only)

Tea tree is a classic anti-acne remedy and there’s a reason it continues to be a mainstay in popular skincare. Native to Australia, this botanical ingredient shares some similarities to Centella Asiatica, in that it contains both antioxidative and soothing properties. It’s most effective for acne in small concentrations of 2 to 10 percent. Besides fighting pimple-causing bacteria, it also cushions the skin against further damage by promoting collagen production and accelerating skin cell renewal. Due to tea tree’s potency and sometimes volatile components, this ingredient should only be used in the recommended trace amounts. Any more and it can irritate the skin, so make sure to do your research before picking up a formula.

ZINC

BEST FOR: Balancing oily skin and active breakouts
WE LOVE: G9Skin Azulene & Zinc Light Serum, now on sale at P795 (limited time only)

You can take zinc for acne in two ways: orally via supplements or topically via a skincare product, such as a cream or serum. Studies have shown that people who suffer from acne are often deficient in this mineral, causing an imbalance that can lead to breakouts, inflammation, and clogged pores. But what exactly makes zinc such a high-powered ingredient? Well, according to Byrdie, it addresses all four causes of acne: excess oil, follicular occlusion (otherwise known as clogged pores), bacteria or organism growth that occurs in clogged pores, and inflammation.

BETA + ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS (BHA + AHA)

BEST FOR: Clarifying clogged, textured skin
WE LOVE: So Natural Red Peel Tingle Serum, P1,580

There aren’t many ingredients that get us more excited than acids. They benefit all skin types, but acne-prone skin especially benefits from their clarifying properties. If your skin often looks dull and congested, try a combination of beta (BHA) and alpha hydroxy acids (AHA). They deliver two types of exfoliation: AHA clears skin on a surface level by buffing away dead skin cells and evening out texture, while BHA works deeper to loosen pore-clogging impurities. When used in tandem, these acids help reduce shine, maintain clear pores, and gradually reveal a brighter, more even skin tone. It’s a difference you can feel and see.

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