Apple Cider Vinegar Acid Peel
The Inkey List’s Apple Cider Vinegar Acid Peel is primarily an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA, specifically glycolic acid) product that’s paired with vinegar and mixed fruit extracts said to exfoliate. This is “mixed”, alright, but mostly in the sense that it’s a mixed bag for all skin types!
You’re instructed to apply this weekly at-home peel to clean skin, wait 10 minutes, then rinse and pat dry. it’s packaged in an opaque plastic bottle topped with a pump dispenser and has a silky gel texture that’s very easy to apply and feels nice on skin as you wait to rinse.
What’s not so nice is the initial acrid scent of vinegar, but at least this dissipates quickly. But there’s a bigger issue: whether derived from apples or another source, vinegar’s acid content can irritate skin. In fact, recent research has shown soaking skin in a 0.5% concentration of apple cider vinegar can provoke irritation on both barrier-compromised (think eczema) and normal, healthy skin. Unlike alpha and beta hydroxy acids, research hasn’t shown topical application of vinegar to broadly benefit skin, it’s simply more risky.
On the other hand, this peel is mostly glycolic acid, proven to be safe and effective for skin, and it will exfoliate thanks to the 10% concentration and the pH of 3.4. We could see trying this even with the vinegar issue since it’s meant for infrequent usage and only has brief contact with skin.
As for the fruit extracts, they’ve never been shown to exfoliate skin, so their 5% concentration here is relatively meaningless save for antioxidant benefit. While that’s helpful, various fragrant components in lemon and orange pose a risk of irritating skin, as does the fragrance ingredient citronellyl methylcrotonate, most likely used here to mask the unpleasant scent of vinegar.
See what we mean by mixed bag? It’s great that The Inkey List includes skin soothers like willow bark and sea buckthorn, but in a formula like this they’re limiting this benefit skin since skin also has to contend with other irritants. Ultimately, you’ll get skin-smoothing, refining exfoliation from this product, but there are far gentler options on our list of best AHA exfoliants.
- Contains 10% glycolic acid to exfoliate.
- Contains skin soothers like willow bark and sea buckthorn.
- Packaging keeps the delicate ingredients stable in use.
- The fruit extracts aren’t proven to exfoliate.
- Vinegar is a skin irritant.
- Contains fragrance ingredient citronellyl methylcrotonate.
An exfoliating, 10 percent glycolic peel with gentle fruit enzymes and brightening, antioxidant-rich ACV to help reduce redness and refine the look of skin texture. 10% Glycolic Acid supports skin’s oil balance and natural cell turnover. 5% Multi-Fruit Acid reveals smoother skin. 2% Apple Cider Vinegar contains acetic acid to target blemish-causing bacteria and citric, lactic, and succinic acids for a more even-looking, radiant skin tone.
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: https://www.sephora.com/brand/the-inkey-list.
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.