With their vaguely scientific-sounding name and similarity to serums, ampoules are quite intriguing to the unfamiliar. Unlike toners (which tone), and cleansers (which cleanse), the name ampoule doesn’t give you much of an idea of what these trendy treatments do. Add to that their origins in the amazing, ever-evolving world of Korean skincare, and it’s fair to say that skin ampoules are one of the more question-raising skincare products on the market (at least, judging by the amount of “what are ampoules?” articles a Google search pulls up).
When it comes down to it, though, skin ampoules aren’t nearly as confounding as they sound. Here, we’ll give you the scoop on what ampoules are and what they do. You’ll also discover our must-have ampoule treatment and learn how to use this potent program in your skincare routine. Get ready for the dish and read on for the Kiehl’s guide to ampoules for skin.
What Are Ampoules For Skin?
Officially, an ampoule is defined as a small, sealed glass jar that contains a liquid medicine of some sort. The name ampoule comes from the French word ampule, which refers not to the liquid but to the vial in which it is stored. Obviously, this official definition doesn’t quite line up with skin ampoules. While there’s no universal answer as to what constitutes a skin ampoule, they’re usually described as highly-concentrated liquid treatments designed to help address a specific skin concern, like dark spots and discolorations. Like the word from which it’s derived, ampoules typically come in small, sealed packages (though not always glass) and usually contain just enough product for a single application.
Our Clearly Corrective Accelerated Clarity Renewing Ampoules are a perfect example of skin ampoules. The two-week treatment includes 28 individually-packaged, single-use vials containing a powerful brightening serum that contains a blend of phytic, glycolic, and lactic acids as well as activated vitamin C. When used as directed—that is, one vial every morning and night for 14 consecutive days—this intensive treatment is clinically-demonstrated to visibly brighten skin by 33%.* It also helps improve the appearance of skin’s texture and tone, leaving the skin looking rejuvenated and radiant.
*Based on expert grading in a two-week clinical study of 85 panelists in Brazil.
How Do Ampoules and Serums Differ?
Ampoules and face serums are similar: They’re both concentrated liquid skincare products made to target specific visible skin concerns. The main difference lies in their potency. Serums, while quite effective, are typically designed to be suitable for daily use. Ampoules, on the other hand, are occasional treatments. They’re generally reserved for when your routine needs a boost or when you need to address a specific skin concern quickly (like before a big event). Because of their concentrated formulations, ampoules for skin may provide visible results faster than using a serum alone.
Can You Use Ampoules and Serums Together?
Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Corrector
Yes, you can use ampoules and serums together—in fact, Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective ampoules are designed to be used alongside our popular Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Corrector serum. When used as recommended, these brightening ampoules help boost your regular skincare routine to promote glowing, even-looking skin.
Of course, we can’t speak to every product on the market; some may not be compatible with your go-to serum. Before starting any ampoule program, we recommend reading the directions thoroughly to ensure the product will complement your current skincare routine.
How Do You Use Ampoules For Skin?
Now that you’re caught up on what ampoules are, we’ll teach you how to use them. Keep reading for a simple routine starring our powerful brightening ampoules.
Cleanse To Remove Dirt and Oil
Before applying your ampoule—or any other product, for that matter—you want to make sure your skin is clean and free of debris. Since our ampoules contain chemical exfoliants, we recommend starting with a gentle (non-exfoliating) face wash, such as Calendula Deep-Cleansing Foaming Face Wash. Made with calendula extract and glycerin, this high-foaming formula gently lifts away impurities to cleanse without stripping the skin’s natural moisture barrier. The balancing face wash is suitable for all skin types, including problem skin, and can be used morning and night for an instantly refreshed, revitalized feel.
Apply The Contents Of Your Ampoule
After washing your face, pat it dry with a clean towel. Then, grab an ampoule from the pack, shake it thoroughly, and dispense the entire contents of the vial into your (clean) hands. Pat the water-light formula onto your face and neck, taking care to avoid contact with your eyes or lips. Once you apply the concentrated treatment, you may feel a slight tingling sensation—that’s normal (and expected). Later in this routine, you’ll be applying moisturizer to help lock in hydration and keep your skin feeling balanced and comfortable.
Kiehl’s Tip: Though our ampoules are intended for usage twice a day, those with sensitive skin may prefer to start with a once-daily application.
Layer On Your Serum
Next, apply Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Corrector to your face, neck, and chest. As we noted earlier, this brightening serum is uniquely formulated to complement our ampoule treatment (in fact, the pairing is shown to boost skin’s luminosity even more than the serum alone).* The gentle yet effective formula is also clinically-demonstrated to visibly reduce the appearance of skin discolorations, including sun spots and post-blemish marks.** It’s suitable for all skin types and tones and can be used twice daily for even, radiant-looking skin.
*Based on expert grading in a two-week clinical study on 85 panelists in Brazil.
**Results based on expert grading in a 12-week clinical test on 104 subjects.
Moisturize To Lock In Hydration
Moisturizer is always essential, but it’s especially important after using a chemical exfoliant like our ampoules. Once you’ve given your serum a minute or two to absorb, apply a hydrating facial moisturizer, like Clearly Corrective Brightening & Smoothing Moisture Treatment, to your face and neck. This rich face cream provides intense hydration that leaves your skin feeling moisturized for up to 24 hours. The unique formula also helps correct the appearance of skin discolorations and improves roughness when used consistently. We recommend applying a thin, even layer to your face and neck morning and night for softer, smoother-looking skin.
And while you shouldn’t apply our ampoule treatment directly around your eyes, that doesn’t mean you should neglect the area, either. Keep your eyes looking their best with an anti-aging eye treatment, like Super Multi-Corrective Eye-Opening Serum. Suitable for all skin types, this lightweight treatment smoothes and hydrates, helping to diminish the appearance of crow’s feet, fine lines, and other eye-area concerns. The gentle formula can be used alone or layered underneath a richer eye cream for visibly firmer, more youthful-looking skin over time.
Smooth On SPF (Mornings Only)
Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50+
In the morning, conclude your skincare routine by applying a generous layer of sunscreen to help protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays. This is especially critical after using our ampoules, as they contain alpha-hydroxy acids, which can increase your sensitivity to the sun. We recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, like Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50+. It’s lightweight and absorbs quickly to provide long-lasting protection against UVA and UVB rays. If you prefer mineral sunscreen, try Super Fluid Daily UV Mineral Defense instead.
Kiehl’s Tip: Sunscreen is a must, but it’s not the only way you should protect yourself from the sun. We also recommend avoiding direct sunlight at midday, sticking to the shade, and protecting your skin with hats (and sunglasses) whenever you plan to spend time outdoors.
How Often Should You Use Ampoules?
There’s no universal guideline for how often you should add ampoules into your routine—it’s really a matter of preference. Generally, we recommend reaching for our two-week ampoule treatment sparingly, like after a period of high stress, following a sun-drenched vacation, or before a big event to brighten your skin. Between ampoule programs, follow a brightening skincare routine and make sure to wear sunscreen every day to help keep your newly-treated skin looking and feeling its best.