It’s a common misconception that Korean skincare routines involve 20+ layers of softeners, serums, lotions, emulsions and creams – but it’s not entirely true. Sure, there are more steps than your typical ‘cleanse, tone and moisturize’, but each step is considered and serves a purpose, whether that’s to boost moisture or add glow. Ampoules – high-potency boosters delivered in daily or weekly ‘shots’ – are often one such step.
Not sure what a skincare ampoule is? Think of a product with the viscosity of a serum but packed with even more actives per drop, which work double-time on everything from blemishes to fine lines – basically a booster shot for your skin. “Ampoules contain a higher concentration of vitamins and enzymes,” says Alicia Yoon, founder of Korean beauty website Peach & Lily. “In some, the molecule size is smaller than that of a serum, so it can penetrate deeper into the dermis.”
In Korea, ampoules are used in addition to toner, serum and/or essence and eye cream. The reparative formulas are targeted towards specific concerns – repairing, hydrating, brightening, anti-aging – so they’re a handy secret weapon in times of dullness, breakouts, irritation and inflammation. Essentially, you’ll want to reach for one whenever your skin is looking less than its best. Most come packaged as a set of five or seven for a week-long, intensely targeted treatment. “Think of them as a boot camp for your skincare,” explains Yoon. “They are meant to complement the existing products in your arsenal, and fit between your cleansing and toning steps.” For best results, lightly exfoliate beforehand with a gentle physical exfoliator like Sisley Phyto-Blanc Buff and Wash Facial Gel to maximize the benefits, as dead cells on the skin’s surface will hinder absorption. Just remember that due to the potent actives, skin can become sensitive at first, so a few drops in your hand is plenty.
Think of ampoules as a boot camp for your skincare – they complement the products in your arsenal, and fit between cleansing and toning”
Designed to be used nightly over a course of one to four weeks, most ampoules come in a set of single-use vials, meaning you don’t have to worry about using more product than necessary. The packaging is airtight to protect potency, and they are often free of preservatives. As a result, they have a short lifespan, so check the label for a symbol of an opened tub – the number on it tells you how many months it will last after opening. And layer a light moisturizer immediately after applying to create a protective barrier and prevent the active ingredients from evaporating. On days when your skin needs extra help, first apply an ampoule and then follow with a mask to help push the actives even deeper into the skin.
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