The Inkey List Review: A Review of The 10 Best The Inkey List Skincare Products

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

08.10.21DISCLAIMER

Founded by Colette Laxton and Mark Curry in 2018, The Inkey List is quickly rising in popularity thanks to their clean formulations with high concentrations of evidenced-based ingredients — think niacinamide, retinol, vitamin C, and more.

Plus, the brand places an emphasis on educating their customers. That’s why every product description clearly describes what it is, what key ingredients are included and what they can do for your skin, and easy-to-understand instructions on how to use the product.

What are the Best Skin Care Products of 2022?

And let’s not forget to mention the affordable price point; all of The Inkey List products are under $20!

While The Inkey List is a brand that certainly has a lot going for it, we’re still going to evaluate the products through a scientific lens. That means we’re diving deep into the formulation details, including the key ingredients in The Inkey List skincare products and the research that supports (or doesn’t support) their use in skincare.

Is Inkey Skincare Worth The Money?

A common question about this brand is if the products are worth the cost.

In our opinion, Inkey Skincare products deliver value for money, but take a look at other brands that don’t require you to sacrifice your precious money.

We recommend brands that are committed to developing clean yet effective products.

One brand is Carrot & Stick, a clean skincare brand that perfectly balances the gentle nurturing of plants with the powerful results of innovative science.

Carrot & Stick intro bundles deliver great value for money because you can bundle 3 full-size products worth up to $240 for $88.

What’s Inside The Inkey List Skincare?

The Inkey List focuses on using evidence-based ingredients in their products, such as Vitamin C, retinol, peptides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid. These ingredients should all be part of your skincare routine. Here’s why: 

Vitamin C
We’ve been hearing for years that Vitamin C is the best anti-aging ingredient. It’s a potent antioxidant that protects the skin from free radicals, the unstable molecules that contribute to the formation of premature wrinkles and fine lines on the skin.

Vitamin C also helps fade dark spots, evens out skin tone, and increases radiance. As if that wasn’t enough, research suggests that when vitamin C is applied to the skin, it significantly reverses aging-related structural changes by influencing collagen and elastin synthesis.

The Inkey List Vitamin C 30% Serum features a high concentration of 30% pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid). 

But our favorite Vitamin C serum is Carrot & Stick The Defence Serum. It contains 3 distinct types of Vitamin C that work together to help fight free radical damage. We recommend using it every morning.

Peptides
As you age, your body’s production of collagen and elastin slows down. These two proteins are responsible for your skin’s structural support. As a result, the skin loses its natural plumpness and smoothness. 

While collagen is necessary for maintaining youthful-looking skin, the collagen protein is too large to absorb into the skin topically. That’s why applying skin care products that contain collagen won’t provide the anti-aging benefits you’re looking for.

This is where peptides come into action. Peptides are the building blocks of protein, and they are easily absorbed into the deeper layers of skin due to their smaller size. 

The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream contains the peptide complex Matrixyl 3000, which is composed of the matrikines palmitoyl tripeptide-1 and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7. These matrikines work synergistically to restore and maintain the skin’s youthful appearance by signaling to cells to produce more collagen.

If you’re looking for a peptide serum, we recommend Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum. It contains 7 plant-based peptides to promote plumper and smoother-looking skin. It also has skin-loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide.

Retinol
Retinol is the go-to anti-aging ingredient recommended by dermatologists and skin experts. It’s clinically proven to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores.

The only downside? Retinol can often lead to side effects like skin dryness, peeling, and irritation. 

That’s why brands use retinol alternatives, such as bakuchiol. Bakuchiol has been shown to produce many of the same effects of using retinol, including the ability to diminish the appearance of wrinkles and reduce the effects of sun damage (including uneven skin tone).

One of the main benefits of bakuchiol is that it provides retinol-like effects without irritation. You can find this retinol alternative in The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturizer. 

Another retinol alternative is Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, an ingredient that provides the same benefits of retinol but without the irritation. We recommend this retinoid oil serum with Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate. 

Niacinamide
Niacinamide is a multi-tasking ingredient that you’ll find in the brand’s most popular products, including The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum and PHA Toner. 

Niacinamide is the amide form of vitamin B3 (niacin) that provides many benefits to the skin. For instance, a publication in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, states that niacinamide can repair the skin barrier and improve skin moisture, as well as reduce inflammation, blotchiness, hyperpigmentation, acne, and wrinkling.

Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan (GAG) that is able to hold more water than any other natural substance—up to 1,000 times its weight in water! This is why using products with hyaluronic acid can help to improve skin hydration. 

You’ll find this ingredient in The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum.

What Are The Top 10 Best The Inkey List Skincare Products?

Below we’re breaking down the top 10 best The Inkey List skincare products, including the key ingredients and how these ingredients will benefit your skin.

 

The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser

The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser is one of the brand’s most popular products, and for good reason. Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, is an excellent ingredient for tackling dullness, acne, and clogged pores.

It works by exfoliating the pore lining, which loosens clogged dirt and oil. It also has the ability to dissolve keratin, the protein that acts as a “glue” to keep dead skin cells together in the stratum corneum. This is effective because dead skin cells can build up on the surface of your skin, leaving it looking dull and also possibly clogging pores.

The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser includes 2% salicylic acid (the maximum amount that can be used in an OTC product).

The rest of the formula consists of surfactants. A surfactant molecule contains one end that is hydrophilic (attracted to water) and one end that is lipophilic (attracted to oil). This allows surfactants to attract and suspend oils, dirt, and other impurities that have accumulated on the skin and wash them away.

Bottom Line: An acne-fighting cleanser that includes 2% salicylic acid to help tackle dullness, acne, and clogged pores.

 

The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum

The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum combines 10% niacinamide with 1% hyaluronic acid into a thin, lightweight formula that can be easily layered into your skincare routine. While anyone can benefit from a niacinamide serum, this ingredient is ideal for those with congested skin, dullness, and/or uneven skin tone.

Niacinamide is the amide form of vitamin B3 (niacin) that provides many benefits to the skin. For instance, a publication in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, states that niacinamide can repair the skin barrier and improve skin moisture, as well as reduce inflammation, blotchiness, hyperpigmentation, acne, and wrinkling.

The serum also includes the moisture-magnet hyaluronic acid, as well as several other hydrating ingredients, such as the humectant glycerin and the emollient squalane.

Bottom Line: A concentrated serum with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid that all skin types can benefit from, especially those with congested skin, dullness, and/or uneven skin tone.

 

The Inkey List Retinol Serum

Instead of using pure retinol, The Inkey List Retinol Serum combines 1% RetiStar stabilized retinol with 0.5% granactive retinoid in order to target the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles with less risk of irritation.

After being absorbed into the skin, these retinol derivatives will be converted to retinoic acid (the active form). Retinoic acid works deep within the skin where it boosts collagen synthesis, increases elasticity, and repairs connective tissue. It also increases cellular turnover, which helps to prevent clogged pores and also promotes smoother, healthier skin.

According to a publication in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, retinoic acid can minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores.

The Inkey List Retinol Serum also includes humectants and emollients in order to keep the skin soft and moisturized, as well as vitamins C and E for antioxidant protection.

Bottom Line: The Inkey List Retinol Serum is ideal for those who are starting to see signs of aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone.

 

The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm

A rich cleansing balm that melts away makeup and impurities without drying the skin. It can be used as the first step in your double cleansing routine, especially if you wear makeup and/or sunscreen.

Oat kernel oil is formulated into a base of sweet almond oil, which together work to hydrate and moisturize skin while effectively removing makeup, sunscreen, and excess oil.

This cleansing balm is great for those with sensitive skin due to the inclusion of colloidal oatmeal, a skin protectant that has been used for centuries to soothe and heal the skin, as well as reduce inflammation and redness.

According to the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, avenanthramides are the principle polyphenolic antioxidants in oats that provide anti-inflammatory, anti-redness, anti-itch, and antihistamine effects when applied to the skin.

And, like all of The Inkey List products, the formula is fragrance free!

Bottom Line: A rich cleansing balm that helps to remove makeup, sunscreen, excess oil, and other impurities while also soothing sensitive skin.

 

The Inkey List PHA Toner

Designed for those with sensitive skin, The Inkey List PHA Toner helps to gently exfoliate skin with the poly hydroxy acid (PHA) gluconolactone.

PHAs are second generation hydroxy acids that are similar to AHAs but provide high-strength anti-aging benefits without irritation. Therefore, PHAs are an ideal choice for sensitive skin types.

Gluconolactone provides anti-aging, antioxidant, and gentle exfoliating benefits. In addition, gluconolactone strengthens the skin’s moisture barrier, thereby leaving it more resilient.

The Inkey List PHA Toner also includes the multitasking ingredient niacinamide, as well as hydrating ingredients like glycerin and aloe vera leaf juice.

Bottom Line: An exfoliating toner that includes gluconolactone to provide gentle exfoliating benefits while also strengthening the skin’s moisture barrier, making this a good option for those with sensitive skin.

 

The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream

Just as the name suggests, caffeine is the hero ingredient in this lightweight yet hydrating eye cream.

After caffeine penetrates the skin barrier, it’s absorbed by the surrounding blood vessels, causing vasoconstriction while also stimulating blood flow. This helps in reducing the amount of blood that accumulates under the eyes (a major factor that contributes to dark circles).

Caffeine also acts as a diuretic and can help to relieve water retention, a major cause of puffiness under the eyes.

The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream also includes the peptide complex Matrixyl 3000, which is composed of the matrikines palmitoyl tripeptide-1 and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7. These matrikines work synergistically to restore and maintain the skin’s youthful appearance by signaling to cells to produce more collagen.

Bottom Line: A lightweight, hydrating eye cream that combines caffeine and Matrixyl 3000 to help instantly reduce puffiness and dark circles while improving the appearance of lines and wrinkles over time.

 

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum is an excellent hydration support formula for all skin types, especially if you have dehydrated skin.

Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan (GAG), a long polysaccharide (sugar molecule) composed of disaccharides called amino sugars and uronic acid that is naturally found in the dermis. GAGs are negatively charged and thus tend to attract positively charged sodium and potassium ions.

Ultimately, this causes the GAGs to absorb and hold a large amount of water. In fact, hyaluronic acid is able to hold more water than any other natural substance—up to 1,000 times its weight in water!

Plus, hyaluronic acid can help to reduce signs of aging because the extra moisture is extra volume, which effectively “plumps” the look of lines and wrinkles.

Bottom Line: A hydrating serum for all skin types that increases skin’s hydration while also reducing signs of aging.

 

The Inkey List Vitamin C 30% Serum

A concentrated serum that includes 30% L-ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C) in a base of silicones, which give the product a very silky texture that spreads onto the skin easily.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects your skin from environmental free radical damage. This is important because free radicals can damage important cellular structures, including the protein collagen. Damaged collagen manifests as signs of premature skin aging, including wrinkles, lines, and sagging skin.

Furthermore, research suggests that when vitamin C is applied to the skin, it significantly reverses aging-related structural changes by influencing collagen and elastin synthesis.

According to the Indian Dermatology Online Journal, clinical studies have shown that the topical use of ascorbic acid increases collagen production in both young and aged human skin. By increasing the amount of collagen in the skin, signs of aging will be diminished and the skin will appear more firm.

Vitamin C also helps to promote a brighter complexion with fewer dark spots and a more even skin tone by inhibiting melanin synthesis. Melanin is a pigment that gives our skin color, but too much of this pigment can lead to undesirable dark spots called hyperpigmentation. Vitamin C decreases melanin formation by inhibiting tyrosinase, an enzyme that is required for melanin synthesis.

Bottom Line: A silicone-based vitamin C serum that includes 30% L-ascorbic acid to protect, brighten, and firm skin.

 

The Inkey List Vitamin C 15% + EGF Serum

This serum combines 15% of the vitamin C derivative ascorbyl glucoside with 1% Epitensive.

After being absorbed into the skin, ascorbyl glucoside is converted to ascorbic acid and provides the same benefits that we mentioned above: protection against free radicals, fewer dark spots, firmer skin, and brighter complexion.

Epitensive is a plant-derived Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) system that helps stimulate skin cells to regenerate. The result? Rejuvenated, youthful skin.

This serum can be used by all skin types, and is ideal for those struggling with dullness and/or hyperpigmentation.

Bottom Line: A concentrated vitamin C serum with the added benefits of Epitensive to stimulate skin cell regeneration.

 

The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturizer

If you’re trying to prevent or reduce signs of skin aging, then you’ve probably heard that it’s a good idea to add a retinol cream into your nightly routine. Maybe you’ve tried a retinol product, but you’ve experienced the common (yet annoying) side effects of retinol, like skin dryness and peeling. If so, then The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturizer could be a good option for you.

Bakuchiol has been shown to produce many of the same effects of using retinol, including the ability to diminish the appearance of wrinkles and reduce the effects of sun damage (including uneven skin tone). One of the main benefits of bakuchiol is that it provides retinol-like effects without irritation.

For example,a 2019 study published in the British Academy of Dermatology compared bakuchiol and retinol in a head-to-head 12-week, double-blind clinical trial on human subjects.

For the study, 44 participants received either a twice-daily 0.5% bakuchiol product or a once-daily 0.5% retinol product. Both groups saw improvements in hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and redness, and there was no statistically significant difference between their results.

This suggests that using bakuchiol twice a day is as effective as using retinol once a day. Another benefit is that the bakuchiol group reported less skin scaling and flaking than the retinol group.

Plus, there are additional supporting ingredients in The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturizer, such as squalane, glycerin, and sacha inchi oil.

Bottom Line: An anti-aging moisturizer that provides many of the same benefits of retinol (reduce wrinkles, fine lines, and uneven skin tone) without the irritation.

Is The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser Right For You?

Before purchasing The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser, here’s a summary of the most important factors to consider:

  • Key ingredients? Salicylic acid
  • Skin type? Acne-prone/oily skin
  • Texture? Lightly foaming cleanser
  • Fragrance? No
  • Cruelty free? Yes
  • Cost? $9.99 USD for 150 mL
  • EWG Rating? 4

How Much Do The Inkey List Skincare Products Cost?

The Inkey List products are very affordable, for example, The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser costs $9.99 USD for 150 mL and the Niacinamide Serum costs $6.99 for 30 mL.

Where to Buy The Inkey List Skincare Products?

The Inkey List skincare products are sold on the brand’s website, as well as a few third party online retailers, such as Sephora and Amazon.

What is The Inkey List Return Policy?

Currently, The Inkey List does not accept returns.

Is The Inkey List Cruelty Free?

Yes, The Inkey List is cruelty free.

Is The Inkey List Vegan?

The Inkey List may offer some products that are suitable for vegans, but this is not a 100% vegan brand.

The Inkey List Reviews

The Inkey List reviews on the brand’s website are overall very positive. The product with the most reviews is The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser, which has earned an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars after almost 100 customer reviews.

On Sephora.com, The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser has earned an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars after nearly 1,000 customer reviews.

The positive reviews for The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser mention how well it helps to clear breakouts, even for those with cystic acne.

For example, one review says, “After about a month of consistent use my hormonal/cystic acne basically disappeared!! 10/10 would recommend it!!”

And another 5-star review says, “This product by The Inkey List is by far my favorite. I bought this about two weeks ago and have noticed massive results. My skin is finally starting to clear up after using so many products and this has worked incredibly.”

However, there are a handful of negative reviews for The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser from customers who actually had the opposite experience — they found themselves with worse acne breakouts after using this product!

For example, one review says, “I’m a skincare junkie and I was so excited to try this cleanser after reading other reviews. However, it caused more breakouts than it helped clear. I don’t have horrible acne but after using this for 2 weeks you’d think I did. I kept using it thinking it was hormones but nope once I stopped using this cleanser my skin cleared up.”

And another 1-star review says, “This product caused more acne than treated it. It left my skin feeling oily. You have to use a lot of the product compared to other cleaners. I regret purchasing this.”

Our Verdict

Overall, we think that The Inkey List products are formulated extremely well, and it’s great that they offer these products at such affordable prices.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Products contain evidence-based ingredients (salicylic acid, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, retinol, etc)
  • Many positive The Inkey List reviews
  • The Inkey List is cruelty free

Cons

  • Some reviews for The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser mention worse acne breakouts after using this product

What Are Some Alternatives to The Inkey List Skincare Products?

There’s no need to compromise when it comes to finding skincare that’s effective and safe.

If you’re looking for effective skincare products that skip harmful toxins, one brand we recommend is Carrot & Stick.

Carrot & Stick is committed to creating plant-derived formulas that deliver extraordinary results without relying on toxic chemicals or standard preservatives.

Carrot & Stick takes a tough love approach to skincare, perfectly balancing the gentle nurturing of plants with innovative science.

References:
J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010 Feb; 3(2): 22–41
Clin Interv Aging. 2006 Dec; 1(4): 327–348.
J Drugs Dermatol. 2014;13(10):1180-1183.
Nutrients. 2017 Aug; 9(8): 866.
Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013 Apr-Jun; 4(2): 143–146.
Br J Dermatol 2019 Feb;180(2):289-296.

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