Ampoules vs Vials, What’s the Difference?

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Two of the newest products to hit the markets are the ampoule and the vial. These are often confused with one another — with good reason.

In this article, we are going to look at Ampoules vs Vials. We’ll discuss what they are exactly, what makes them the same, and what makes them different, and finally, dispel some of the confusion and answer the question – how do ampoules differ from vials?


How are Ampoules and Vials the Same?

L'Oreal Ampoule

When it comes to skincare products, you know moisturizers moisturize, cleansers cleanse and toners tone.

Most skincare products are named for their function.

Ampoules and vials, on the other hand, are so named because of their unique packaging, not for what they do.

Different ampoules and vials both provide different targeted skincare. Maybe it’s a super-charged ampoule or vial of retinol to combat wrinkles and skin aging, a boosted dose of Vitamin C to brighten dull skin, or a highly-charged kick of hyaluronic acid and ceramides to plump, moisturize, and increase collagen production.

Regardless, ampoules and vials use different ingredients to target different skin concerns.

Ampoules vs Vials, What’s the Difference?

To understand how they differ, let’s take a look at what ampoules and vials actually are by definition:

What is an Ampoule?

An ampoule is a small plastic or glass vessel with an extended neck that is sealed with a heat lock, which must be broken to open.

Ampoules are designed for one-time use, which helps to preserve the purity and potency of the product because the ingredients are not exposed to things like light and air that can degrade the ampoule contents, that comes from repeatedly opening and closing a bottle.

These are just a few examples of ampoules:

What is a Vial?

A vial is a small, glass container, usually with a screw top lid and a rubber stopper used to seal the neck of the vial. Whereas ampoules contain only enough contents for one portion and are meant for one-time use, vials are larger, contain more product, and have a resealable lid.

They may also have a dropper to extract the product.

These are just a few examples of vials:

You’ll notice although these products call themselves ampoules, they are indeed vials.

So Besides the Bottle, are Ampoules and Vials the Same?


When talking about skincare, vials are often called ‘ampoules’. And the terms ‘vial’ and ‘ampoule’ are often used interchangeably with ‘serums’. It’s incredibly confusing!

This is because there are ampoule, vial, and serum products that target the same skin concerns and use a lot of the same ingredients.

And because ampoules are all the rage at the moment, it’s largely a marketing ploy to try to cash in on the popularity of ampoules.

But there is a very big difference between ampoules and vials (and serums), and it comes down to the packaging.

Now although you can find the same ingredients in ampoules in other skincare products, like vials and serums, ampoules provide a much higher concentration of the active ingredients for more noticeable results, without added ingredients like emulsifiers.

The difference is all in the packaging.

Ampoules allow the highest concentrations of active ingredients in their purest form.

Many of the active ingredients in ampoules that you might find in other skincare products 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 mix it with other ingredients in order to keep it stabilized.

That means lower 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, in a sterile format, with just the right amount you need for one treatment.

Take Away

How do Ampoules differ from vials in a nutshell? Ampoules are one-time-use capsules, and vials are small resealable bottles. Ampoules allow for unstable ingredients that could not otherwise be stored in vials, in their purest, most concentrated form without the need for dilution of stabilizers and emulsifiers, which lessen the effectiveness.

Just note: not all skincare ingredients are unstable, so for some of these products, whether it’s in a vial or an ampoule, it really makes no difference.

But for the ones that are, like Vitamin C, ampoules deliver a much higher potency.

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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).