An honest review of the Inkey List

The number-one question I get from friends, family, and readers is "What skincare products should I be using?" I'm flattered that people come to me for advice (I do work in the beauty industry and like to think that I've learned something), but the bigger issue is that there are so many products out there and people are overwhelmed by the options, plus finding the right mixture of ingredients to target your skin's needs can be a challenge. I have favorites that I tend to recommend, but not all products work for every skin type—something that's good for my dry, redness-prone skin might not be effective on your sensitive, acne-prone skin. Enter The Inkey List. It's a company that's all about personalizing your skincare routine down to the ingredients that work specifically for you and your skin's needs, in a very accessible way—nearly all of their products are under $15. To get started, you answer 5 questions (it takes only a couple minutes), and Inkey List will create a personalized regimen. Here's my honest review of what they sent me.

Fulvic Acid Brightening Cleanser

As I've mentioned many times before, I have incredibly dry skin and find that most cleansers strip my skin of too much moisture. So while this one had a nice texture and didn't irritate my eyes, it was definitely a bit too drying for me. I re-took the quiz (I had initially listed brightening and plumping as my main concerns) and think the Oat Cleansing Balm would have been a better pick for me, so I'll try that next time.

Fulvic Acid Brightening Cleanser $10.99

PHA Toner

I love a good toner—I use one daily before I put on my makeup—because they exfoliate the skin and help prep it for the rest of your skincare routine. This one is a quiet workhorse; it doesn't tingle or do anything crazy, but it gently rebalances the skin and helps improve texture. Most importantly, it didn't irritate my sensitive skin at all. 

PHA Toner $10.99

Hyaluronic Acid

I sometimes have a funny reaction to hyaluronic acid, which is that if I don't put it on first in my routine, it actually makes my skin more dry. (Apparently the way it works is that the acid draws moisture, so if you're putting it on top of something else, it will actually suck moisture away from your skin, which is not what you want.) So I tried this entire routine without it and my skin was so tight by 11 a.m., I had to put more moisturizer on. Lesson learned, this now goes on right after the toner and WOW does it make a difference in how hydrated my skin feels. I will definitely be repurchasing this for the winter because I feel like I literally cannot live without it. 

Hyaluronic Acid $7.99

15% Vitamin C and EGF Serum

A vitamin C serum is something that pretty much everyone should be using, however a good one is hard to find—vitamin C is a notoriously unstable ingredient, so the ideal packaging should be airtight and not exposed to light. This serum comes in a nice little pump, and thankfully, it does not have the hotdog-water scent that plagues many vitamin C serums (all Inkey List products are unscented). More importantly, this serum sinks in nicely without any stickiness, and does not irritate my skin. It doesn't carry quite the potent glow that you get from pricer Vitamin C serums, but at $15, it's pretty much the steal of the century. 

15% Vitamin C and EGF serum $14.99


Bakuchiol is often referred to as "nature's retinol"—it has many of the barrier-repairing properties of retinol, minus the irritation. And unlike retinol, it's safe to use during the day. This was my first exposure to bakuchiol and while it may not be quite as powerful as retinol, the texture of this product is delightful.  It almost has a soothing sensation as it sinks into your skin, and as you can see, I ripped through this tube. This was hands down my favorite product in the regimen. 


I've been using 0.05% Trentoin for years; this is a "gentle" retinol that contains 1% RetiSTAR stabilized retinol and 0.5% granactive retinol, plus a little squalane for hydration. The percentages are somewhat confusing (this post might help clear things up), but long story short, the actual amount of retinol is pretty low (more like 0.05%). So while I found this to be not quite as effective as my prescription retinol, it is a pretty good nighttime treatment that targets fine lines and wrinkles, especially for the price. Oh, and it just won an Allure Best of Beauty award, if you care about that sort of thing. 

Retinol serum $9.99

Retinol Eye Cream 

I don't mind the fine lines developing around my eyes (they kind of make me look like I'm smizing all the time), but I also don't want them to get worse, hence why I'm assuming Inkey List suggested this eye cream. I often find eye creams to be greasy and hard to absorb, and the worst of them irritate my eyes, but this one is light yet rich and I've found that I actually look forward to putting it on. Yes, it feels somewhat extra to have a separate nighttime eye cream (since it has retinol, you shouldn't use it for day, unless you want sunburned eyelids), but it's totally worth it, especially at this price.

Retinol Eye Cream $9.99

My honest review

The obvious benefit to using a personalized skincare routine is that your skin will (or at least should) look amazing because you are using specific products with ingredients to target your concerns and needs. I wanted plump, glowy skin, and that's pretty much what I got, although like I mentioned earlier, some of the steps could use some fine tuning. Speaking of steps, there can be many, so be realistic about what you can commit to—my daytime routine (including my own eye cream and SPF not shown here) now involves 7 of them. A silver lining is that The Inkey List's prices are so reasonable, even 7 products can end up costing less than 3 potentially not-as-effective products from another brand. But all of those products also add up to a lot of packaging waste, which is what worries me the most. The Inkey List's containers are mostly recyclable (in many cases telling you which parts of the packaging are and are not recyclable), however that doesn't necessarily mean that your local waste management company will recycle them. In the meantime, I throw mine in the bin and hope for the best.


Lovely said...

Beautiful review! I have the Inkey List Bakuchiol, and I love it.

Mica said...

I haven't tried anything from this brand although I know some people love it! like you my normal routine is a lot less than 7 steps but it's good the steps all work well together for you!

Hope that you are having a great week :)

Away From The Blue

Carrie @ Curly Crafty Mom said...

I have not heard of this brand (where have I been?), but thank you for introducing it to me. Being in my almost (eek!) mid-forties, I really want to research some better products for my skin. I need to check these out!


Gail Is This Mutton? said...

Thanks for this good honest review! I didn't know that hyaluronic acid draws moisture from anything applied before it. That explains why my current one, which I always liked, has been under performing. I had a couple of Inkey items in a gift bag and was impressed with the results and pricing. Thanks for linking.

Laura B said...

I'm really impressed with the personalization and the pricing! At those prices if it doesn't quite work out, then you can definitely justify purchasing a different product that may be better. Thanks for sharing!

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lorrwill said...

The Inkey List Omega Water Cream made me itch horribly and break out. I lasted 2 hours before I had to wash it back off and was still broken out for a few days after that ONE application. The Inkey List webpage says they have a "60-Day customer satisfaction guarantee" but their customer service make all sorts of ridiculous accusations in order to not refund your money. I would not recommend this brand to anyone.

Kamila Hornakova said...

Wow, I've never heard of that brand before! Thanks for telling me about them. As someone who is almost halfway to fifty, I really need to look into more skin products. My current routine just isn't cutting it anymore. I'll have to check out what this company has to offer. Who knows, maybe I'll find positive birth affirmations for c section or something that really works for me. Skin care is so important, especially as we get older. I appreciate you giving me a new option to research.

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