Let’s talk about skincare ampoules! It seems like every day a new product category is introduced, which can be either exciting or exhausting depending on what kind of skincare fan you are.
I gotta admit I felt closer to the latter when brands started releasing ampoules for skin. I wondered if I really needed this extra step when some nights it takes all of my will power to do the bare minimum of cleansing and moisturizing. By learning about the different ampoules on the market, however, I was able to figure out exactly what makes them unique, which allowed me to make an educated decision about whether I wanted them in my routine!
To start this article, I explain exactly what skincare ampoules are, and how they differ from serums and essences. I explain what the benefits for ampoules for skin are, and finish off with a thorough guide on how to use them!
In this article:
- What Are Ampoules for Skin?
- Ampoules vs. Serums vs. Essences
- What Are the Benefits of Using Skincare Ampoules?
- Are There Any Drawbacks to Skin Ampoules?
- How to Use Ampoules for Skin
What Are Ampoules for Skin?
To keep it simple, skin ampoules are concentrated and highly targeted skincare products with a slippery liquid or gel texture that is readily absorbed by the skin. They are usually a part of a multi-step skincare routine inspired by Korean as well as other Asian beauty trends.
Because ampoules are so concentrated they often come in smaller containers than your average serum. They might even come in little single-use vials or capsules that ensure that you won’t overuse the product.
Ampoules vs. Serums vs. Essences
With so many products and steps in the Korean skincare routine, it’s okay to get confused. The toughest distinction to make is between ampoules and serums, partially because the line truly is very blurry. Some ampoules are a lot like serums, while others are totally different.
I think the best way to look at it is by considering ampoules to be especially concentrated serums. They don’t contain any of the essential moisturizing ingredients you would find in a moisturizer, and they don’t have much water in them the way an essence or serum would. A serum can often replace a moisturizer, but ampoules are less likely to be able to take over on that front.
Speaking of essences, they are much more similar to toners. They are more hydrating than your average toner and might have a very slightly thicker texture. Essences will usually contain some sort of active ingredient meant to soothe, hydrate, or in some way transform the skin in a concentration that is higher than what you would find in a toner but lower than what you would find in a serum or an ampoule.
What Are the Benefits of Using Skincare Ampoules?
The specific benefit of an ampoule is that it delivers a concentrated amount of… something. The more specific effects highly depend on what the main active ingredients in the ampoule are.
Most ampoules are made to either give an anti-aging, healing or soothing effect. There are also hydrating ampoules, ampoules made to fight acne, and ampoules made to give the skin a brightening boost.
Usually, an ampoule will only have one or two main purposes which, are highly targeted, unlike a moisturizer, which will usually be made to address several concerns. In some instances, a skin ampoule will be made with a very high concentration of one primary ingredient that is able to treat a few different issues, which is wonderful if your skin happens to respond well to that particular ingredient.
If you have the kind of beauty routine where each product has a very clear purpose, and you’re not afraid of multiple steps, then definitely consider adding in a skin ampoule.
Some ampoules are sold in small sets and are only meant to be used for a few days in a row, so they can offer a nice treat if you feel like you need a pick-me-up after a bout of stress or illness. Alternatively, ampoules can become something you cycle in and out of your routine throughout the week depending on your skin’s unique needs on any given day.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Skin Ampoules?
There are no drawbacks that are particularly unique to skincare ampoules. As with all skincare products, there is no way to guarantee that a particular ampoule won’t cause an allergic reaction or lead to breakouts.
It is up to you to check the ingredient list of any particular ampoule you’re thinking of trying to see if it contains any ingredients that might trigger your acne or allergies. If you have a negative reaction to one ampoule, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a reaction to a different one.
There are two main safety suggestions I have when it comes to trying new skincare products. The first is to conduct a patch test for a few days before smearing the product all over your face. You do a patch test by trying the product for a few days in a row on a small area of skin like the inner arm or behind the ear if you’re testing for dermatitis and allergies, or a small part of the face where you sometimes break out if you’re testing for acne.
The second safety suggestion I make is to only introduce one new product at a time and to wait at least a week (though preferably longer) before adding any other products to your routine. This way, if you do end up with an adverse reaction of some sort, you will know exactly which product was responsible.
How to Use Ampoules for Skin
- An ampoule should usually go on the skin after you’ve cleansed, toned or applied an essence, but before heavier serums, face oils and moisturizers.
- The logic here is that products should be applied to the skin from the thinnest and most water-based to the thickest and oiliest. This is because the thin products penetrate into the skin quickly, while the thicker products are able to lock them into the skin and prevent the evaporation of moisture.
- Some skincare ampoules contain pH-dependent actives like vitamin C, in which case they should be applied after toner but before a hydrating essence, though this is fairly unusual.
- Other ampoules (especially Western ones) might be slightly oilier, in which case they should be applied after serums but before face oils and moisturizers.
- You don’t have to use all of these products in your routine in order to benefit from an ampoule, of course! You can add one to a routine that consists of just cleansing and moisturizing just as easily as you can fit it into a 10-step routine.
- As you saw, many skincare ampoules are sold in sets as a sort of “re-charge program” that is meant to quickly improve the condition of the skin after it has experienced some damage or before a special event.
- There are a few methods to apply an ampoule to the skin. My first suggestion applies primarily to more slippery ampoules, which go on after you’ve already applied a hydrating essence or serum.
- I recommend that you first dispense a tiny amount of the product in the palm of your hand, rub both hands together, and then give yourself a nice, uplifting massage by using circular, upward motions. This method is very energizing, as it helps to bring a bit of blood flow to the epidermis.
- The second method is ideal if your ampoule for skin is on the more fluid side and doesn’t have as much slip. In that case, you will probably apply it after toners and essences, but before serums. This is the method that most Korean and European sources recommend, including K-beauty Youtuber NamiiCho and French aesthetician Isabelle Bellis.
- You will want to dispense the product in your palms again, but this time, instead of massaging it in, you will actually tap it on gently. Simply press your hands against your cheeks, and then move them over to your forehead and chin. Make sure a bit of product gets on the length of your fingers, so you can press them against the sides of your nose and other hard-to-reach areas.
- You can press your hands against your skin a few more times just to make sure all of the product is thoroughly absorbed. This method allows your skin to soak up the ampoule without tugging or pulling on it. It is great for those with sensitive or broken-out skin, as it has less potential to irritate.
- If you’re short on time, you can make a little cocktail in the palm of your hand, consisting of your ampoule and moisturizer or your ampoule and serum. Apply it to your skin just like that to save on a few steps.
- Lastly, you can also experiment with applying your ampoule under a sheet mask. This way, your sheet mask will stay moist for longer and your skin will get a double dose of beneficial ingredients!
Photos via @ffranzy, Instagram