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What is a Serum in Skincare Anyway? Serums vs Ampoules vs Boosters Explained.

February 05, 2021 Charlotte Cho

korean serums vs ampoules vs boosters

When you think of “boosting” your skin care or looking for a powerful face fix, you probably reach for a serum in your beauty potions cabinet (aka, your medicine cabinet). They tend to be the hero products we look to for our glow-goals, and feature scientific or “exotic”-sounding fancy botanical ingredients. I mean, I wouldn’t let a snail roam around my face, but I have no objections to rubbing formulated snail mucin on my mug when bottled in a nice-looking vial with a dropper or pump.

For the most part, serums are just a concentrated treatment, not unlike your essence or sheet mask. You may have heard of other similar products, ampoules and boosters thrown in the mix too.
Wait, what are those? Do I need them? Will they magically Photoshop my face into perfection or supercharge my serum? Can’t I just use a cleanser or moisturizer that does the same things and call it a day?

Sure, you could, but serums are like that moisturizer, stripped down to only the most powerful actives. Think about it—your cleanser or moisturizer may claim to be brightening, anti-aging, smoothing or whatever, but there are lots of other functions they have that come before that. Serums don’t contain filler like emulsifiers or emollients that cleansers and moisturizers do, so the actives can get to your skin faster, and how! Before you throw your money at them, here are a few things to know about these powerful products: 

Serums, ampoules, boosters… they’re all the same thing—skin treatments. The wording is mostly a marketing tactic to differentiate skin care products and make them sound special (not to say that they aren’t!). But just so you know, they all basically function similarly. Maybe you’ve read that ampoules and boosters are super-concentrated serums, but concentration varies depending on how the product itself is formulated anyway. After all, it’s not like there’s some concentration formulation standard that ALL serums have to comply with to be a serum. 

You don’t actually need to use a serum or ampoule ALL over your face. They’re concentrated, so depending on what it does, serums can be spot-applied just on the target area you’re trying to treat. For instance, if you want to eradicate brown spots and hyperpigmentation, and you’re using a vitamin C serum, you can dab it onto the areas you want to treat—it’ll make your serum last longer that way (ps. Vitamin C serums are great at fading pigmentation but also preventing brown spots from appearing as well!).

It takes about four weeks to see results from a skin treatment. That’s how long it takes for your skin cells to do a full Hokey-Pokey and turn themselves around. Some people will see results earlier than 28 days, but if you want to give a new serum a fighting chance, give it a month! After all, even though the treatment is concentrated, it won’t change the rate your skin cells turn over.

There’s no real age when one should start using a serum. You’re never too young to start taking care of your skin! Sure, serums are great for repairing skin damage, but using them before damage can make its mark is a great way to keep your skin looking 100%. 

You can layer your serums as well as add serum to your other products for an extra “boost”. We’re all for following the rules with our skin care regimen, but we also love marrying skin care and makeup. If you want to give your makeup that extra boost, you can add a drop of serum to your foundation right before you apply it for an added boost. Depending on how much you mix in, it could change the consistency of said foundation however, so that will be up to you. 

What are you go-to serums? Do you have any unique application techniques that work for you? Share your serum secrets!



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About Charlotte

Soko Glam co-founder and chief curator. Licensed esthetician sharing the love of all things K-beauty.

About Sokoglam

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