Ampoule vs Serum: What is the Difference?

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The complexities of skincare only seem to grow as more and more products are introduced and those products become more advanced. One of the newest products to hit the markets is the ampoule, which is often confused with a similar product – the serum. In fact, they are sometimes connected.

In this article we are going to look at the Ampoule Vs. Serum. We’ll go over what they are exactly, what makes them the same, and what makes them different. This will help you decide if you want to use one or the other or both, as part of your skincare regime.


Ampoule vs Serum – What make them the same

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It’s easy to see where the confusion arises when you’re talking about ampoules and serums. They are both light, easily absorbed, oil- or water-based liquids. They are both designed to deliver high concentrations of active ingredients to target specific skincare concerns.

Some of the most commonly used ingredients in both ampoules and serums are:

  • Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that works to nourish and protect your skin from damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin E also has anti-inflammatory properties and is known for helping to reduce stretch marks, scars, and dark spots.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals, has a myriad of benefits for the skin which include increased collagen production, diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and helping to even out skin tone.

  • Retinol

Retinol is a form of Vitamin A, which is also an antioxidant (detecting a theme?). Retinol stimulates collagen production and is often used in conjunction with Vitamin C in a lot of skincare products for dramatic anti-aging effects.

Retinol plumps up skin, and minimizes the look of fine lines and wrinkles.

  • Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a hydration specialist. It moisturizes, plumps and helps skin retain moisture.

  • Peptides

Peptides smooth and improve the texture of the skin. They’re the building blocks of collagen and other proteins, so they plump the skin making fine lines and wrinkles less visible while improving the skin barrier to protect from outside environmental factors.

They also make the skin more elastic and ease inflammation.

Ampoule vs Serum – What makes them different?

Face SErum

So far serums and Ampoules sound pretty much the same… and in a lot of ways they are. But this is where they differ.

Whereas “serum” refers to the product, “ampoule” refers to the packaging.

An ampoule is a sealed, small glass (or sometimes plastic) vessel that is used to hold a one-time use portion of a solution.

In the case of skin ampoules, that solution is a type of serum.

So what’s the difference between serum in a bottle and serum in an ampoule? Is Ampoule just the latest marketing buzzword in skincare to make us think we are getting something special when really, it’s just serum in cute packaging?

The difference is all in the packaging

Now although you can find the same ingredients in serums and ampoules, it’s because of the packaging, or ampoule, that allows for a much higher concentration of the active ingredients in their purest form.

A lot of the active ingredients in ampoules that you might find in other skincare products, like serums or night creams, are highly unstable.

Ascorbic acid, the pure form of vitamin C, is a perfect example.

Because of its instability, skincare products with Vitamin C either need to use a Vitamin C derivative or have to mix it with other ingredients in order to keep it stabilized, which lessens the potency.

However, with single-use ampoules, there’s no need to worry about stability or oxidation. With every ampoule, you get the highest concentration of an active ingredient that’s sterile and just the right amount you need for one treatment.

Not All Active Ingredients Are Unstable

Now this is where it gets tricky.

Not all active ingredients are highly unstable and you will see eyedropper bottles of serum marketing themselves as ampoules.

Some just have a clever marketing team trying to cash in on the latest ampoule trend, and some are actually legit high concentrations of the active ingredients.

The words “ampoule” and “serum” are not regulated terms. There are no rules or guidelines that dictate an ampoule or a serum must contain this or that.

If you want to know the difference between the products that are labeled as ampoules that come in a bottle (which technically are not ampoules) and whether they contain high concentrations of active ingredients, or if they are just a serum that’s taking advantage of the latest buzzword in skincare – check the ingredients.

On the same token, if you see the little one-dose ampoules marketing themselves as a daily treatment, they are most likely not as concentrated and more like a serum.

Again check the ingredients to make sure you are getting what you think you are getting.

When you check the ingredients, you are looking for a high concentration – 80% or 100% of a botanical extract or another active ingredient.

If it does not say the specific amount of each ingredient, make sure that your active ingredients are at the beginning of your ingredients list.

The one thing that is regulated is that the ingredients have to be listed in order of concentration from highest to lowest.

If you have a list of ingredients that starts off with water, followed by a bunch of other ingredients and your active ingredients are at the end, then the product will not have a high concentration of those ingredients.

Highly-Concentrated Ampoules

Here are some of our picks for “ampoules” in a bottle that are highly concentrated:

Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule

MIZON Snail Line, Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule, Wrinkle Care, Skin Nutrition (30ml 1.01 fl oz)
  • 🔸 [Snail Mucus] MIZON´s famous Snail...
  • 🔸[One Drop Is Enough] Be smart about...
  • 🔸[Anti-aging solution] Ingredients of...
  • 🔸 [Premium Ampoule] This ampoules...

Key Ingredients: Snail secretion filtrate(80%), Hyaluronic acid, and Adenosine

Super hydrating, anti-aging

SKIN1004 Madagascar Centella Asiatica Ampoule

SKIN1004 Madagascar Centella Asiatica Ampoule Facial Serum 3.38 fl.oz(100ml)
  • SKIN1004's signature ampoule with a...
  • Madagascan Centella asiatica contains 7...
  • Immediately calms and hydrates sensitive...
  • Full Ingredients List: Water, Glycerin,...

Key Ingredients: 100 % Centella Asiatica Extract

Soothes acne-prone and sensitive skin

Earth Harbor AURORA Superfood Luminance Ampoule

Earth Harbor | AURORA Superfood Luminance Ampoule | 100% Botanical Skin Treatment | Calm and Illuminate | Seaweed & Cannabis Sativa |1 fl oz
  • WHAT IT IS: A multi-purpose facial...
  • TARGET CONCERNS : Soothes blemishes and...
  • OUR STANDARDS: Purely Natural ·...

Key Ingredients: cannabis sativa, sea greens, avocado, blue tansy, buckthorn berry

targets blemishes, reduces excess oil production, minimizes dark spots

Beplain Cicaful Ampoule

Key Ingredients: Centella Asiatica extract (81%), madecassoside, panthenol, hyaluronic acid

Skin soothing, hydrating

Using Ampoules vs. Using Serums

Using Ampoule

One of the other big differences between ampoules and serums is when and how you use them.

Serums can be used twice a day; morning and night. But because ampoules are so super concentrated, it’s recommended to use ampoules only once or twice a week — but this depends on the ampoule.

When using multiple skincare products together, apply your products in order of texture – from light to heavy.

Serums and ampoules are considered to be on the light end of the range. An ampoule or serum should be applied after cleansing and toning, and before moisturizer.

Can I use ampoule and serum together?

You can use serums and ampoules together. Think of your serum as your daily workout, and your ampoule as the intense training that targets specific problem areas. So while you can use both serums and ampoules together, remember, you should not be using ampoules every day, as you would serums.

On the days you choose to use them together, cleanse, tone, and apply your ampoule, then serum, and finish off with your moisturizer.

Take Away

When it comes to Ampoule vs. Serum, they are similar in a lot of ways. But ampoules are (supposed to be) more concentrated than serums. There are no guidelines in the skincare product industry that regulate what a manufacturer calls its product, so before you purchase a product, read the ingredients and make sure you are getting what you paid for!

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Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).