I’ve always had to deal with oily, congestion-prone skin since I was a teenager. And despite my enthusiastic use of oil-control products throughout my adolescence, nothing has quite done the job. That is, until I read a magazine article, about 10 years ago, as i approached the cusp of adulthood, that giving my skin hydration was the only way to truly combat oiliness. See, that piece of information stuck with me and quite literally changed by life because up till then, I’d always thought that the only way to control oily skin and stop breakouts from happening was to constantly and aggressively remove excess sebum from my skin. From alcohol-laden toners that stung to blotting paper, I had amassed quite an impressive skincare arsenal for a teenage in the ’00s.
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I digress, but basically, the newfound knowledge of using hydration to counter oily skin was kind of counter-intuitive but yet, it kind of made sense. And so I began my decade-long search of the perfect hydrating serum. Needless to say, when I decided to make testing beauty products (and writing about them) my career, I’ve gone through my fair share of hydrating products. While some have been great (i.e. Bioderma Hydrabio Serum) and other kind of “meh”, the one key ingredient that kept coming up was hyaluronic acid (HA).
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Known for its ability to hold 6000 times its weight in water, HA is responsible for keeping moisture within skin so it appears plump and wrinkle-free. Though it is naturally found in our skin, its level declines as we get older, which explains why we need to apply it topically to help replenish skin with much-needed moisture. And it wasn’t just over-the-counter products; derms and aesthetic doctors praised HA’s ability to hold moisture and plump skin.
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But one tricky thing about HA is that the single HA molecule is huge, making it a challenge to penetrate into skin. As a result, while many skincare products claim to contain HA, it only remains on skin’s surface to form a protective barrier to keep moisture in instead of actually replenishing lost moisture. Which explains why some skincare products, like For Beloved One’s Hyaluronic Acid GHK-Cu Moisturizing Serum, contains HA of different molecular weights so some are able to penetrate skin’s surface.
Another HA product that I’ve been reading about in recent months is Dr Barbara Sturm’s Hyaluronic Ampoules. I first came across Dr Sturm when I stumbled upon an article about how she applies orthopaedic methods to aesthetic medicine by harvesting patients’ blood proteins before re-introducing them to effect intense healing and regeneration. That piqued my interest, so when I got the chance to personally meet her and learn about her signature products, of course I was super psyched.
One of the key takeaway from meeting her was how passionate she is about what she’s doing, beyond merely building a brand but really harnessing the benefits of clinically-proven ingredients to help women and men achieve healthy skin without compromising on sensorial pleasure (and at the same time, being free of fragrances, parabens and mineral oils).
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She spoke mostly about the key ingredient in her skincare line, Purslane. Rich in fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, this humble herb is a powerhouse antioxidant in its own right, thanks to its ability to protect the skin and body from the potential damaging effects of environmental factors. And when she presented me with a box of skincare products to try, I was the most excited about the Hyaluronic Ampoules.
As its name suggests, HA is a key component of the Hyaluronic Ampoules. Moreover, Dr Sturm uses both long- and short-chain HA so it is more readily absorbed by the skin to deliver its plumping effects throughout the different layers of the skin. And besides, I’ve always liked the idea of using ampoules: The thought of breaking one open each time I’m using it just makes me feel like my skin is getting the highest concentration of active ingredients in the freshest state possible. So once I got home, I couldn’t wait to wash my face and give it a go.
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I went through my usual routine of double-cleansing, facial toner and eye cream before I snapped the neck of the little vial and emptied its contents on my palm. The clear fluid feels almost slippery on the skin and gives a good glide as I spread it evenly all over my face and neck. The amount is generous because there is definitely more than enough to go around for my face, neck and even the chest. It doesn’t get absorbed into skin instantly, which is actually a plus for me because I like to massage my skin a little when I apply my skincare products. I like to think of it as a mini facial or just to work my facial muscles to keep them toned and firm. By the time I’m done with my DIY facial massage, I press the product into my skin using my palms (which already feel kind of nice and warm after all that massaging), which in my opinion really aids in product penetration. Finally, I follow with my regular moisturiser, just like the product’s directions of use indicates.
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The first thing I notice is my skin looks and feels smoother. Everything sinks into the skin, with no hint of stickiness or oiliness whatsoever. So far so good, I thought to myself. But the magic only began the next morning. Firstly, I have to add a disclaimer that my air-conditioning is set at 20 degrees Celsius every night when I sleep. Bad for global warming, I know, but I recycle almost everything I toss. Anyway, I also have no humidifier in my room so I know that it can get quite dehydrating because I have woken up on mornings when I was lazy with my skincare the night before only to be horrified with a parched complexion. However, the morning after I used the Hyaluronic Ampoule, I woke up to soft, supple skin that didn’t feel oily nor tight. That, of course, was enough to motivate me to keep using the ampoules for the rest of the week.
And if you recall, I mentioned earlier that this product does not absorb quickly so it might not be as practical to use it in the morning if you’re always in a rush. Thus, I reserved it for night-time use for a week, which is perfect since each box of Hyaluronic Ampoules contains seven vials. With each passing day, I remember thinking to myself that I felt more comfortable going bare-faced. And by the time I’d finished all my ampoules, I no longer felt embarrassed about showing up at the office without a smidgen of makeup on my face. In fact, I was eager to show how good my skin could look: first of all, it was smooth because fine lines caused by dehydration were a thing of the past. It felt perfectly balanced (neither dry nor oily) and utterly soft. My pores around the cheeks were visibly less noticeable and most importantly, my skin tone looked more even. And when I was getting ready to go out that night, not only did I need less makeup, I also noticed that my makeup went on smoother than usual.
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Verdict: At almost $200 per set (each ampoule works out to be about $30), this might not be feasible for daily use, but it is definitely worth the splurge if you have an event coming up and want your skin to be in tip-top condition.
Dr Barbara Sturm’s Hyaluronic Ampoules are available at Net-A-Porter.