Aisling Keenan investigates whether skincare capsules and ampoules are worth the hype
I’m always on high alert when it comes to skincare. Skeptical and ever-ready to spot, and run from, a gimmick, I am equally prepped to sprint towards a genuine innovation that will level-up my routine and give my skin the edge.
When I first read about these singleuse capsules and ampoules, filled with super-concentrated serums, they promised a lot. Shocking to absolutely no one, I was certain I was witnessing a gimmick. Tiny pods of product that pack a powerful active ingredient punch sounded like the dream addition to my routine, but would they really work and be worth the spend? To make sure I wasn’t being hoodwinked, I started trialling and investigating.
I won’t lie, I noticed my skin felt better, looked more glowing, and was reliably plump when I used the various ampoules or capsules, and I used them on days when my skin was particularly craving a specific boost. But I never really understood why a capsule with vitamin C was giving more immediate results than my alternative serums.
Jennifer Rock, aka The Skin Nerd, is one of Ireland’s most respected names in skincare. I asked her what the reasoning behind applying product directly from capsules is. “There are two main purposes of ampoules or addin capsules in skincare: to keep the ingredients fresh and stable, and to allow an easily customisable skincare experience.
Sometimes, the ampoules we see are a little gimmicky because not all ingredients need to be encased in tiny packaging, but there is something classically fun about them, and I believe skincare should be fun,” says Jennifer.
More technically, certain ingredients like vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and vitamin A can be altered by light, air and water molecules getting in there. “If we put products into single-use, fully-sealed packaging, such as glass ampoules or capsules, it means that each time you use the product, it won’t be compromised by the introduction of air,” explains Jen. “Oxygen can cause certain ingredients to become less stable. This doesn’t mean that the ingredient will cause damage, but it does mean that it becomes less effective. This is the same reason that companies package serums, cleansers and masks in airless pumps.”
ARE THEY ESSENTIAL?
While ampoules and capsules are becoming increasingly popular in Ireland and the UK, they have been a major player in the Korean beauty arena for many years. Dawn Hill from Floraison ( @floraison_ie) is one of Ireland’s foremost facialists. She says the love-in with capsules and ampoules happening right now is a natural next step as we follow Korean beauty trends here in Ireland. “Capsules and ampoules are a K-Beauty and French skincare trend, and have been huge in their respective countries for years. We’re slowly following suit. First it was essences, then sheet masks, and now ampoules. Everyone is looking for that glowy, glass-like skin, and ampoules promise to give that glow.”
However, I wanted to know how essential they are. I was happy to use them occasionally, but the price is somewhat prohibitive. Dawn says they’re not meant as a daily dose type of product. “The beauty market is saturated with excellent products for the skin, ranging from treatment toners to performance-driven serums,” Dawn explains. “Skincare works a lot harder now than before. So ampoules, in my opinion, are great as a treat for the skin, used before a big event or a couple of times a year, but essential? Probably not.”
Something I have always loved about ampoules and capsules is the lack of cross-contamination worry – I’m a divil for stressing about unwanted germs. As well as that, using capsules or ampoules also means you’re using a fixed amount of product, which generally means you’re using the right and intended amount for best results and efficacy, and minimising waste.
So as well as capsules preventing active ingredients being compromised and maintaining the potency, they are tiny and travel extremely well. Instead of having to bring your entire bottle of €60 or €70 serum along with you when you travel for a night, or even a fortnight, you can pack the requisite amount of capsules and know that your active ingredients will still pack a punch when you’re away.
“Tiny pods that pack a powerful active ingredient punch sounded like the dream, but would they work and be worth the spend?”