What is the one skincare product you’ve tried that has blown your mind? Mine is the iS Clinical Active Serum. I got a little sample of it from an online order and I became obsessed very quickly. It had the consistency of water and was so good at eliminating my texture and fading dark spots. Yet it wasn’t harsh and my skin looked amazing. I was obsessed until I discovered the price, so let’s dupe it!
Our favorite dupe for the iS Clinical Active Serum is REN AHA & BHA Glow Tonic. This Ren Glow Tonic has AHAs and BHAs to exfoliate and the addition of Azelaic Acid to brighten – a mirror to iS Clinical’s Formula. Ren’s formula is clean, free of parabens and chemicals and it is so cost-effective compared to the Active Serum. The only thing different is that it’s a toner rather than a serum. Overall, it’s such a great dupe and alternative, you will not be missing out!
iS Clinical Active Serum Dupes
This serum smooths the appearance of fine lines and improves texture and tone, resulting in a clearer and healthier complexion.
The iS Clinical Active serum works to decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while fading dark spots and smoothing the skin. There are lots of serums that do this but the formula on this one is so special. It’s geared for blemish prone skin and as a dry skin girl, I loved every second of it. It has a watery texture that feels like a toner but it’s a serum.
The star ingredients include Willow Bark Extract, a BHA which is tremendous for oily skin, unclogging pores and acne. And sugarcane extract, an AHA which is key for exfoliating, and improving skin texture while hydrating the skin. Plus, Arbutin & Mushroom Extract which are great brighteners. It’s crazy that iS Clinicals can combine all of these active ingredients to make a magic serum that is so effective and somewhat gentle. It’s crazy good and we can’t think of a better name than ‘Active Serum.’
The breakdown for the serum goes 8% AHA, 2% BHA and 1% Arbutin. Around a 10% concentrate of actives is good because your skin does not need any more than that to see results. Any more is when it starts to get gimmicky. The serum can be used a few times a week (no need for daily use). I say somewhat gentle because it may have a slight tingle if you’re new to acids.
REN Clean Skincare Glow Tonic
This serum contains a dual-action exfoliator with fruit acids and gentle mechanical exfoliants that cleanses pores and removes dead skin cells.
Cue our hidden gem… this Ren Glow Tonic will brighten, smooth and refine the skin. While not a serum, this toner has a clean formula with very similar ingredients to the Active Serum – AHAs, BHAs and azelaic acid to brighten. This is a great alternative to the Active Serum and will yield very similar results for your skin. The Active Serum already has a watery texture like a toner so really, these two products aren’t all that different.
A toner is better aimed at everyday use and this has a super convenient pump top applicator for your cotton. Lastly, the price on this product is great and so affordable compared to the Active Serum.
- Cruelty-free, vegan and clean ingredients.
- This has a pump top applicator for easy use.
- Much more affordable than the Active Serum.
- The ingredient breakdown is very similar to the Active Serum. AHAs, BHAs and Azelaic acid which is a brightening ingredient and a good sub for Arbutin.
- High quality formula with really great reviews for a glowing complexion.
- Helps to minimize pores.
- This is a toner, not a serum.
Where to buy it:
Cosrx 7 AHA Whitehead Power Liquid
This mild exfoliating liquid is perfect for dry skin and it hydrates the skin while exfoliating as it contains hyaluronic acid.
This serum contains AHAs and apple fruit water for brightening, smoothing and exfoliating the skin. While it does not contain BHA or Arbutin, this serum is very similar to the consistency and benefits you would get from the Active Serum. Plus let’s not forget, Cosrx is less than 1/10 of the price of the Active Serum. This product is not geared towards acne so you will want to use it in conjunction with a BHA on alternating days.
If you’re looking for a cost effective dupe with similar effects, this is a great option and the bottle will last you a really long time.
- The claims and ingredients for this product are very similar to the Active Serum.
- 1/10 of the price of Active Serum. Yes, you read that right this is soooo affordable!
- Uses AHAs and apple water to smooth and brighten the skin.
- AHAs are moisturizing so this will work for all skin types.
- Get tons of product for the price.
- Does not contain BHA.
- This is a liquid, not a serum.
Where to buy it:
Herbivore Prism 12% AHA, 3% BHA Serum
This serum leaves skin exfoliated, smooth, and glowing with a stronger, brighter rainbow of 100% natural fruit and plant-based AHAs and Willow Bark BHA.
This serum has the mix of AHA and BHA that we see in the Active Serum. We love that Herbivore discloses the percentages used and it’s actually a bit more than what the Active Serum contains. More does not mean better! Luckily this serum is on the more gentle side for a resurfacing serum. It will help to smooth fine lines and fade dark spots while helping to combat acne and clogged pores.
You don’t need to use this everyday but a little will go a long way.
- Gentle, resurfacing serum that will yield results similar to the Active Serum.
- Contains AHA and BHA. Plus, Herbivore is actually a clean and natural beauty brand.
- The packaging is stunning.
- Herbivore is notoriously known for going bad quickly. (It’s natural without tons of preservatives.) Once you buy this serum you want to use it up so it doesn’t get wasted.
- This is still a pretty pricey serum.
Where to buy it:
Versed Just Breath Clarifying Serum
This serum from Versed contains Willow bark Extract – BHA and Niacinamide. Niacinamide is similar to Arbutin in that it can brighten the skin but it is rarely irritating so everyone can benefit from it. This serum is super affordable plus it has a clean, natural formula. It definitely reminds us of a high end skincare product sans the hefty price. Call this dupe the Active Serum for way, way less.
- Affordable and easy to find at Target!
- Clean and green formula – free from silicones, parabens and sulfates.
- This formula is a good dupe for the Active Serum!
- Helps to smooth and decongest the skin.
- Does not contain AHAs like the Active Serum.
Where to buy it:
QRx Labs Glycolic Acid/AHA 15% Renewal Serum
This serum increases radiance and brightness and evens out skin tone over time.
This serum will brighten and smooth wrinkles with 15% AHA and this stuff is potent. This is a highly concentrated formula and is not a product you should use daily as it will cause irritation! While it does not contain BHAs, this is a really good option if wrinkles and fine lines are something you struggle with. The price is great for what you get, especially considering the formulation is up there with high end serums.
- Great option for targeting fine lines and wrinkles just like the Active Serum. This affordable price and formulation can be harder to find so this makes this serum a really nice dupe.
- Contains 15% AHA and the price is very affordable. This reminds us of high end serums.
- Contains HA to hydrate the skin while exfoliating.
- Can work for all skin types with tailored use.
- This can be very irritating if you use it daily or have sensitive skin. Air on the side of caution and please wear SPF with this!
- Does not contain BHAs.
- Remember, you don’t need 15% AHAs to see results.
Where to buy it:
Bliss Renew & Smooth Night Serum
This gentle resurfacing night serum contains a unique six-acid blend of powerful acids to dissolve dead skin cells for super smooth skin overnight.
A gentle and refining night serum that won’t break the bank. This will be much milder than the Active Serum but if you have sensitive skin, want something easy or are new to skincare this is a good option. This serum by Bliss contains Glycolic Acid (AHA) and PHAs (milder AHAs) to brighten the skin without irritation.
- Super affordable and easy to find online or at the drugstore!
- Bliss is vegan and cruelty-free. Also free of parabens and phthalates.
- Smoothes the skin’s surface, fine lines and dark spots.
- Pump applicator for easy, mess free usage.
- Nowhere near as potent as the Active Serum. This is a very mild serum.
- Has a floral scent, that can be good or bad depending on what you like.
Where to buy it:
If you’re looking to dupe the iS Clinical Active Serum you’re likely okay with spending a little bit but not 3 figures. Luckily there are so many good products with similar ingredients and effects as the magic Active Serum. Our favorite, we call it our hidden gem, is the Ren Glow Tonic! With AHAs, BHAs, and Azelaic acid, this toner will brighten the skin and smooth wrinkles easily with consistent use.
As a toner, it’s less irritating and you can use it more frequently. Plus let’s not forget why we’re here – it has a clean formula and the price is so, so good! The bottle will last a while and the initial purchase hurts much less than the Active Serum ever would!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to wear SPF if I use actives?
YES! Acids or actives, make your skin more susceptible to sun damage. Please, please wear adequate SPF because your skin will be more sensitive. You don’t want to counteract all the benefits your actives and serums are doing with avoidable sun damage.
Do I really need AHAs and BHAs?
Ideally yes because BHAs break up oil and target clogged pores and acne which AHAs cannot do. So, if you’re using AHAs daily you’ll have smooth, wrinkle free skin but you may still suffer from clogged pores and acne. If you don’t have oily skin you may not need BHAs all that often but they will make a difference.
If you use a BHA and an AHA once a week you’re in good shape. Whether that be in one product or in a few on alternating nights.
Do I use these serums at night or morning?
Acids should always be at night as they make your skin more sensitive to the sun. The best routine is Vitamin C in the AM – an antioxidant that brightens skin. And acids in the evening for improving texture, acne, dark spots and clogged pores.