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The Inkey List

Alpha Hydroxy Acid Face Exfoliant

1.00 fl. oz. for $ 10.99
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Brand Overview

We’re surprised that with all of the research on acid exfoliants, The Inkey List opted to forgo research-proven options like glycolic and lactic acids in favor of the so-called “fruit acids”, none of which have much research on their ability to exfoliate skin. This singular issue makes Alpha Hydroxy Acid Face Exfoliant not worth considering, even if you’re “new to exfoliating acids”, as mentioned in the claims.

Housed in a short, opaque plastic bottle topped with a dispensing cap, this thin, serum-textured exfoliant feels great on skin: its silky and not the least bit sticky. We like that The Inkey List includes sodium hyaluronate (the salt form of hyaluronic acid) plus a form of vitamin C known as ascorbyl glucoside, which helps brighten skin and provides an antioxidant kick.

Then we get to the fruit acids, some of which are from citrus and, as such, pose a risk of irritating skin. Even if these acids were proven to exfoliate, they would still be subject to a specific pH range in order to work. Alpha Hydroxy Acid Face Exfoliant has a pH of 5, which is outside the optimal range (pH 3-4) acids need to work most effectively.

In short, this isn’t one of The Inkey List’s must-have products. See out list of best AHA exfoliants for superior options, including some that are in the same price per ounce as this.

  • Thin serum texture feels silky and isn’t sticky.
  • Good mix of sodium hyaluronate and vitamin C.
  • Packaged to keep its delicate ingredients stable.
  • Contains citrus extracts that pose a risk of irritating skin.
  • Does not contain genuine AHA ingredients.
  • The pH is too high for the citric acid component of fruit acids to exfoliate (although citric acid isn’t an ideal AHA for skin due to its irritant potential when used in high amounts).
Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: No

With 10 percent fruit acids and one percent hyaluronic acid, this AHA gently removes dead skin cells from the surface and improves the appearance of skin texture and pigmentation for a brighter complexion. New to exfoliating acids? This serum is a great starting point, providing exfoliation without irritation.


Water, Propanediol, Vaccinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) Fruit Extract, Glycerin, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Xanthan Gum, Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple) Extract, Sodium Benzoate, Allantoin, Sodium Levulinate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Anisate, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate.

The Inkey List is the creation of Colette Newberry and Mark Curry, respectively the former branding and product developers of the widespread UK-based drugstore chain Boots, which has its own namesake skin care line. As with a number of up-and-coming “indie” brands, the media coverage centers on their inexpensive products with minimalist formulas that tend to focus on a single star ingredient, such as hyaluronic acid, squalane, or retinol.

If you’re wondering about the inspiration for the name, it’s the pronunciation of the acronym “INCI,” which stands for the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients, an agreed-upon, regulated list of how cosmetics ingredients should be identified on product labels. Each product has its chief ingredient listed on the packaging with dictionary-style writing underneath showing how the name is phoneticized, a clever and slightly erudite touch.

Though the formulas are somewhat basic, The Inkey List gets its packaging spot-on – all products are in opaque containers, with no jars or clear containers to be found. Fragrance isn’t on this brand’s radar, either--at least not in terms of adding it to their products (which will make your skin very happy).

We’d like to see more complex formulas, but then again such formulas cost more to make, and The Inkey List is mostly a bargain brand. We wrote “mostly” because in some cases, on an ounce-per-ounce basis, The Inkey List costs just as much as some other brands offering the same type of products (like leave-on exfoliants) in larger sizes.

Even with the predominantly one-note ingredient theme, the brand typically includes beneficial ingredients in efficacious amounts and skips irritants, with the exception of a couple a products that contain witch hazel water and drying denatured alcohol.

That aside, the brand offers a good selection of effective products, something we’re always glad to see. The Inkey List is sold exclusively in the U.S. at Sephora; you can learn more about the brand here:

About the Experts

The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.

Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.

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