Considering both serums and ampoules are concentrated formulations to target specific skin care concerns, it’s easy to get them mixed up. Plus, these are not regulated beauty terms, so more often than not, brands decide to market their products in the form of serums or ampoules.
But in general, you can think of tubes as super, powerful serums. In most cases, they have a higher concentration of the active ingredient without any fillers or preservatives – so they tend to have a single unit dose in vials, which have that is meant to be used sparingly only for special occasions.
“I compare it to exercise,” says Alicia Yoon, famous esthetician and founder Peach & lily. “Think of serums as your daily workout routine, while ampoule is the intensive fitness course you’re actually taking to target a stubborn area.”
But again, there are no strict guidelines that are considered drug versus serum tubes. Yoon added, “Whatever the active ingredient is, if it’s at a higher level, in my mind I would treat it like a medicine tube, even if the brand calls it a serum. On the other hand, you may find products marketed as “daily tubes” that actually have a formula slightly closer to the serum.