Hearing “You have great skin” from a stranger is the equivalent of finding Park Place in McDonald’s Monopoly for me. Like the annual French fries parlay, I know that it’s a possibility, but it still catches me completely by surprise and brings me an immense amount of joy when it does happen. To be honest, my skincare routine is borderline obsessive. Lately, I’ve been receiving skin-related compliments more often than ever before, so I did a blind study to see what it could be.
My findings were definite: more compliments came on days that I was wearing ampoules.
Since the only thing I ever talk about with anyone is skincare, I learned that most people don’t use ampoules. Upon further questioning, I learned it’s because most people don’t know what they are. Basically, ampoules are little glass vials of super-charged serums divvied out into daily doses. Typically, they are meant for a two-week or sometimes month-long intensive program to rebalance or recharge tired skin—kind of like a trip to an ashram for your face.
Opening an ampoule can sometimes feel like an impossible task (more on that later). Ampoules’ otherwise-foolproof portion control keeps people from wasting potent ingredients or getting skin irritation and chemical burns by using too much product (raise your hand if you’ve been guilty of this, too). When examining ingredients on these, typically you’ll find extremely high concentrations (90 to 100%) of botanical extracts or other actives.
If you’ve been working non-stop, have had no time for self-care, and need to hit a quick restart button, an ampoule set may be your answer. Below, I’ve listed the best ampoule programs I've tried for a total skin re-set—get ready for the random compliments.
Ground Plan 1 Week Miracle Ampoule Program
In Korea, ampoules are a staple for women of all ages. If you’re following all the steps of a traditional Korean skincare routine, ampoules go on after cleansing, toning, and essence. Ground Plan is a very popular Korean brand known for its clean beauty and earthly derivatives, and these formulas are no less than excellent. You start the week’s program off with the one rice ampoule made for evening your skin tone and fading dark spots. Then, you transition to the six tomatoes (!) extract ampoules that hydrate the skin and target signs of aging. It’s the first time I put tomato on my face (intentionally) and I loved it. Also, the price is great considering it’s a miracle restart in just one week.
Royal Fern Phytoactive Anti-Oxidative Ampoules
Dr. Timm Golueke is a German dermatologist certified in both Germany and the US. These ampoules can go on at night after cleansing and toning, or during the day time when you’re not wearing makeup. The anti-oxidative formula promises to protect skin from environmental aggressors and urban pollution. Considering I split my time between L.A. and NY, sometimes I just feel like walking-talking city smog. While I couldn’t see the effects of this on pollution-related damage, I could definitely see a difference in the glow of my skin.
Susanne Kauffmann Pollution Skin Defence System
Okay—first, let’s talk about opening a glass ampoule. I have literally cut my finger open and almost needed stitches because I didn’t read the directions, so please heed this warning. The instructions say to wrap a towel (I use a face washcloth) around the ampoule and break the neck of the bottle at the white dotted mark. Do not use your bare hands! With the towel, it works pretty smoothly—just add a bit of elbow grease.
Once the ampoule’s open, it’s time to enjoy. This is a 15-day program with 3 sets of vials: Vitamin c, ectoin, and coenzyme Q10. The first 5 days of the skin renewal process begin with vitamin c. Next is ectoin, which is a serum that protects the skin from UVA (the skin-aging UV rays) while counteracting the effects of accelerated skin aging from the sun (yes, please). Lastly, coenzyme Q10 (or just Q10 for short) is a naturally-occurring molecule in our DNA that protects collagen and skin elasticity enzymes. This step in the ampoule regimen was my favorite. It restores balance to the skin and makes it feel so pump, you’ll swear your cheek is an uncooked Pillsbury biscuit.
Dr. Grandel Hyaluron Ampoule
Dr. Grandel calls this concentrate’s effects “wrinkle filling”, which makes sense given that injectable dermal fillers are made from hyaluronic acid. Depending on how dry your skin is, or how indulgent you’ve recently been, this can be a one- to four-week program. Personally, I love my skin to look and feel hydrated, so I went through this system in a week (I know, I’m excessive and have only two speeds: fast and faster), but it could easily last someone a month for a definitive hydration reset.
A little-known French secret, this homeopathic pharmacy find is a must. Every French girl I know who has perfect skin uses these trace mineral-balancing ampoules. Because it's homeopathic, you can also drink the magnesium supplement, but most girls (myself included) apply it topically at night time after cleansing and toning.
In this 2017 medical journal titled, “The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare”, researchers found lower levels of magnesium in patients with atopic dermatitis (eczema). Their controlled trial found topical magnesium to be as effective in treating eczema as hydrocortisone (steroid) creams. Research also notes that magnesium was found to enhance skin hydration and reduce inflammation. Bottom line: Start using magnesium.