BRANDS I LOVE : THE INKEY LIST AFFORDABLE SERUMS, MOISTURIZERS & MORE
I first discovered The Inkey List last fall around the time Deciem’s former founder seemed to be shutting down The Ordinary. I was horrified. Like everyone else, I finally had access to simple, well-formulated, effective, bs-free skin care that I could afford. I felt free — free of the big beauty brand spin that has brainwashed us all for decades into believing the hype around skin care.
That the more expensive a product is, the better it works. That established skincare brands only make products that improve your skin health. That fancy packaging and exotic ingredients mean better efficacy. That a scientific sounding complex name is an indication of innovative science.
None of that is real. The truth is…
More expensive products don’t work better than drugstore brands. (They're often the same formulas in different packaging.)
Established skincare brands often don’t formulate products that improve the health of your skin. (They don’t care about your skin’s health; they care about making money.)
Fancy packaging is nonsense and exotic ingredients are marketing spin — neither of which makes a better formula. (We’re all guilty of wanting to be wowed — the only thing we should be wowed by is skin care that makes our skin healthier!)
And, sciency complex names are all made up and usually have nothing to do with innovation. (Trust me, as a skincare copywriter, I’ve named dozens of cool sounding complexes, none of them informed by a scientist!)
Truth is, I haven’t believed any of it for years. Until very recently, great skin care was pretty hit or miss. You just had to trust and risk throwing away your money. Oh, and hope you weren’t being taken for a ride.
Brands spend millions on marketing campaigns to lure you and me with overpriced skincare products that may or may not be good for our skin. Both The Ordinary and The Inkey List have made well-formulated skin care accessible. In fact, I think of what they’ve done as pushing the democratization of skin care — where everyone can afford to have healthy skin.
The grand irony of it all has been that the rich and the posers have been spun by all the marketing nonsense, spending their not-so-hard-earned money on overpriced creams and serums from brands like La Mer, La Prairie and Chanel — believing the products were somehow superior. With their noses in the air, they didn’t (and still don’t) realize that the joke’s on them. And has been all along!
In fact, I proved it’s all a big joke with my comparison of La Mer’s popular $175 Creme de la Mer with a $2.79 jar of Vaseline petroleum jelly. If you missed that, you can still have fun reading it here.
Back to what I love about The Inkey List, though.
Quite coincidentally, I was invited to their Soho pop-up shop in New York City this weekend. This blog article had already been in the works for about two weeks — so the timing was perfect.
At the pop-up I got a chance to preview several new, exciting and affordable products. The place was packed with New Yorkers (and, come to think of it, maybe a few tourists!) — all excited by the brand’s brilliantly displayed and lit up products. The contrast between the simple, understated Inkey packaging and the glam show going on around them could not have been more glaring. It was the perfect reminder to me of what I love about the brand — and what I talked about the first time I reviewed it six months ago: there’s no b.s. here. It’s just really good skin care — and nothing else matters.
While I was excited to see the products, to bathe in the glow of The Inkey List, and to catch a glimpse of what’s to come, I was most excited to meet Inkey’s two co-founders — the really smart minds behind the brand, Colette Newberry and Mark Curry. I felt like I was meeting rockstars!
I had great chats with both of them — deepening my understanding of what the brand is about and conversing about things only skincare wonks would care to talk about. Like the differences in the molecular weights of various forms of Hyaluronic Acid, the benefits of a natural form of Retinol (Bakuchiol!), how to pronounce weird ingredient names, and more.
I have my tried-and-true Inkey favorites like the Caffeine eye serum, the Glycolic toner and the perfectly lovable, though downright smelly Turmeric moisturizer — in my opinion, the best product that The Inkey List offers to this day.
I got to preview several new, exciting products from the brand that are launching over the next few weeks, among them a surprising hybrid cleanser that features a rich, nourishing blend of Sea Buckthorn Oil and Sweet Almond Oil that gives it an electric orange hue layer at the top!
It’s exciting to have been there at the brand’s birth and to tag along on the journey as it grows up. Brands are like people and you want to see them mature and win — especially the ones you really like and believe in. Take a peek at some of my faves from The Inkey List’s well-formulated accessible skin care.
In my opinion, The Inkey List’s Turmeric Cream is the best product of the two dozen or so they offer. It’s the perfect balance of a lightweight textured lotion and seriously pro-skin health ingredients like, of course, Turmeric Root Extract. I use some form of turmeric every day to alleviate inflammation in my feet, knees and elbows after my workouts. After all, the ancient cure-all is purported to be an effective alternative to acetaminophen. In addition to its proven anti-inflammatory benefits, turmeric is also a potent antioxidant on par with Vitamin C. But The Inkey List’s formula isn’t just an antioxidant-packed cream. It’s also loaded with moisturizing, skin-replenishing plant oils like Squalane, Coconut Oil, and Oat Kernel Oil — in addition to Vitamin E, emollient Lecithin and humectant Glycerin. As with all of their formulas, The Inkey List kept out any potential irritants like denatured alcohol and fragrant plant oils used to scent a product to make it more appealing. That must have been particularly tempting with this one as turmeric has a really strong odor. In fact, the Turmeric Cream does smell slightly spicy, earthy and oddly savory — but it doesn’t linger long. Its soft, creamy texture melts right into skin.
Vitamin C Serum
I must get a half dozen DMs a week asking me how to fade, erase, eliminate dark spots and acne marks. My answer is the same every time: a potent vitamin C serum! Though there are several other means of doing so, the benefits of Vitamin C cannot be overstated. It’s likely the single most effective ingredient in skin care for promoting skin health — with all manner of rewards: It’s an excellent antioxidant. It’s an awesome complexion brightener. It evens out skin tone. It even helps to stimulate collagen production.
The Inkey List’s Vitamin C Serum is spot on, as my British friends like to say. As powerful as Vitamin C is, it’s very weak in the presence of water, air and a multitude of other ingredients used in skin care. The remarkably unstable substance simply doesn’t play well with others. And that’s why it’s wise to use a separate Vitamin C serum, rather than relying on the efficacy, potency and questionable stability of the Vitamin C found in your daily moisturizer.
The Inkey List clearly understands that by keeping the formula’s ingredients limited to just four — Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) and 3 forms of silicone that give this powerful yet timid ingredient something to sit in. Otherwise, you’d have a straight up Vitamin C powder like The Ordinary’s popular 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder — named the 2018 Skincarma Product of the Year.
Because Vitamin C doesn’t mix well with water, this waterless serum is actually going to stay potent and effective long enough for you to use it up — unlike most Vitamin C serums. Plus, at a high level of 30%, it can do wonders for your complexion.
Multi-Biotic Face Moisturizer
The probiotic trend in skin care is going full force! I think it’s one of the smartest of the many skincare trends (some of them crazes like, ahem, snail mucin!) — with real ability to alter the health of the skin. Most importantly balancing probiotics have the rare ability to transform acne-prone and even sensitive skin. If you have a concern for acne and are still using alcohol to dry out your blemishes, probiotics are the answer. (Please, stop doing that!)
I recently blogged about treatment of acne with balancing probiotics (link to it here) and really believe probiotic products are the first legitimate solution to come about in years.
If you aren’t using a probiotic product, The Inkey List’s new Multi-Biotic Face Moisturizer is a great place to start. The formula contains a “multi-biotic” complex of pre-, pro- and post-biotics that combine to help strengthen and soothe the skin, enhance moisture retention and restore skin’s pH balance to boost the good bacteria on the surface of the skin and prevent the spread of bad bacteria. It’s that bad bacteria that often causes sensitivity and acne blemishes.
The texture of the Multi-Biotic moisturizer is as light as a gel-cream and literally melts instantly into the skin, making it perfect for oily, acne-prone skin. It’s a well-balanced moisturizer with humectant Sodium Hyaluronate and Heptapeptide-7 — an active peptide derived from a naturally occurring wound-healing protein with EGF-like activity. How cool is that?! For moisture, Inkey added a high level of both skin-compatible Squalane and Oat Kernel Oil — which has proven sensitivity soothing abilities. This is a pretty solid probiotic-powered moisturizer for all skin types, but a great option for oily and blemish prone skin.
Glycolic Acid Liquid Toner
I love this product. In fact, I’ve probably gone through a half dozen of The Inkey List’s Glycolic Acid Liquid Toner since it launched late last year. But, I don’t use it on my face. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I use Glycolic Acid toners in place of my daily deodorant. If that’s news to you, and I just sound all shades of crazy, you can read my previous blog on it here. It takes some trial and error to get one that works perfectly — but when it comes to a glycolic-toner-deodorant-concoction, this one is the holy grail! It’s devoid of drying alcohol and plant oils that only nourish and feed the odor-causing bacteria — the last thing you want to do when preventing odor. The precise formula is everything. And this is it! One of the main issues surrounding the use of a glycolic toner in place of a deodorant is price. If they’re too expensive, it’s just not worth it. But with The Inkey List’s product, it makes sense at $10.99. One bottle lasts me about 2 months.
Caffeine Eye Serum
I gotta admit, sometimes I don’t use a separate eye cream. That sounds scandalous, doesn’t it? I just don’t believe that my eye area needs anything different than the skin on the rest of my face. Or yours. What it needs is hydration, moisture, antioxidants, sunscreen, maybe even amino acid proteins. From time to time, I do want to treat puffiness and even pretend to treat dark circles, which are essentially untreatable in any real way. Get sleep, drink water. If those don’t help, use a concealer.
Inkey’s Caffeine eye serum has a nice, light, and silky consistency that my skin soaks right up in the morning, making it easy to layer. It’s not an overly complicated or very innovative formula — it’s just a straight up solid formula for the eye area.
Yes, it contains Caffeine to help alleviate puffiness. Caffeine is also a good antioxidant. Even better antioxidants in the formula include Soybean Extract and, interestingly, Albizia Julibrissin Bark Extract. According to my skincare muse Paula Begoun, the plant’s bark “has one study showing it’s a more effective antioxidant than ascorbic acid (vitamin C).” In addition, Inkey added the Matrixyl 3000 Peptide molecule to help support collagen production. You can’t go wrong with this one. In fact, I wish every fool who’s ever purchased La Mer’s $215 The Eye Concentrate could be sent one of these with an accompanying dunce cap.
One of the most intriguing products from The Inkey List is the brand’s new Polyglutamic Acid serum. I had never heard of the active ingredient prior to the introduction of this product — and was intrigued by what Mark shared with me at the pop-up. In fact, the Polyglutamic Acid serum is one of his favorite product creations, and I can understand why.
The ingredient has similar properties to Hyaluronic Acid with superior performance as a humectant, locking in hydration and holding it in the skin to prevent water loss. As HA, it’s not a direct acid like glycolic, lactic and salicylic are — so there’s no need to go easy with it. I never skimp on Hyaluronic Acid — two or three drops are not nearly enough. I usually use an amount that fills the center of my palm. That’s why it’s great to have options that are inexpensive. The more you use, the more it will keep your skin hydrated and healthy! Interestingly, Polyglutamic Acid is purported to be an even stronger humectant than the star HA molecule is — with 4x the humectant power.
However, Polyglutamic Acid is not as effective an antioxidant and doesn’t have the skin-soothing abilities of Hyaluronic Acid. What it does bring to the table is a unique occlusive benefit that acts to prevent moisture loss — similar to many common plant oils. This serum’s texture also indicates that it may work well as a lightweight primer.
This is an exciting time in skin care — with great accessibility to products that actually improve the health of our skin. By cutting out the b.s., The Inkey List is playing an important role today and I’m excited to see what’s next. When they win, we all win!
The Ingredient List of The Inkey List Turmeric Cream:
Aqua (Water), Squalane, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, C12-16 Alcohols, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Flour, Curcuma Longa Root (Turmeric) Root Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Oil, Palmitic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Phenoxyethanol, Lecithin, Glycerin, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Anisate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Tocopherol.
The Ingredient List of The Inkey List Caffeine Serum:
Propanediol, Polyglyceryl-6 Distearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Jojoba Esters, Glyceryl Dibehenate, Albizia Julibrissin Bark Extract, Squalane, Caffeine, Polyglyceryl-3 Beeswax, Phospholipids, Tribehenin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Xanthan Gum, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Extract, Polysorbate 60, Disodium Edta, Glyceryl Behenate, Butylene Glycol, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterol, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Hyaluronic Acid, Carbomer, Darutoside, Polysorbate 20, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Phenoxyethanol.
The Ingredient List of The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Liquid Toner:
Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Propanediol, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Alcohol, PPG-26-Buteth-26, Betaine, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract, Ethylhexylglycerin, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate.
The Ingredient List of The Inkey List Vitamin C Cream:
Dimethicone, Ascorbic Acid, Polysilicone-11, Peg-10 Dimethicone.
The Ingredient List of The Inkey List Oil & Water Double Cleanser:
Aqua (Water/ Eau), Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Isopropyl Palmitate, Isododecane, Hydrogenated Tetradecenyl/ Methylpentadecene, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Seabuckthorn) Fruit Oil, Panthenol, Disodium Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Gluconolactone, Sodium Benzoate, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Avena Strigosa Seed Extract, Lecithin, Calcium Gluconate, Potassium Sorbate.
The Ingredient List of The Inkey List Multi-Biotic Moisturizer:
Water, Inulin, Glycerin, Isoamyl Laurate, Propanediol, Squalane, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Yogurt Powder, Sodium Caproyl Prolinate, Carbomer, Isoamyl Cocoate, Benzyl Alcohol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Diglucosyl Gallic Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Dehydroacetic Acid Polysorbate 60, Dehydroacetic Acid, Citric Acid, Heptapeptide-7, Lecithin, Potassium Sorbate, Propanediol, Sodium Benzoate, Xanthan Gum, Sorbitan Isostearate.
The Ingredient List of The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid Serum:
Water, Dimethicone, Butylene Glycol, Bis-PEG-12 Dimethicone, Glycerin, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Polysilicone-11, Phenoxyethanol, Polyglutamic Acid, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Propanediol, Coco-Glucoside, Sodium Benzoate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Polysorbate 80, Ethylhexylglycerin, Potassium Sorbate, Decyl Glucoside, Dimethylacrylamide/Acrylic Acid/Polystyrene Ethyl Methacrylate Copolymer, Sorbitan Oleate, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract.