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Ampoules: everything you need to know

Already an essential step in Korean beauty regimes, ampoules supercharge your skincare in one single shot. DANIELLE FOX decodes the must-try Asian beauty trend


If you thought that South Korean skincare routines were long enough as they are, then get ready, because you’re about to get another step. Ampoules are a high-potency booster for your skin delivered in daily or weekly ‘shots’; think the viscosity of a serum 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. “Think of them as a bootcamp 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 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 often don’t contain 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. Here’s our ultimate edit of these powerful skin shots…



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