The Inkey List’s Caffeine Serum (also referred to online as “Caffeine Eye Cream” and, on the product’s box as “Caffeine Face Eye” is an eye-area moisturizer as evidenced by its eye cream-standard size. You can apply this all over your face if desired, but a standard size facial moisturizer will go further, both product- and budget-wise!
Name confusion aside, this is a very good eye cream that falls just short of our top rating due to a slightly lower concentration of the harder-hitting anti-aging ingredients (in this case, hyaluronic acid and skin-firming peptides) we like to see in such products. Having said that, the formula is more impressive than you might think you’d get at this price; we just wish it had a nicer finish (more on that below).
Packaged in an opaque squeeze tube that has a “needle-nose” applicator which limits air exposure (a nice benefit as this helps keep the elements-vulnerable ingredient stable during use), this eye cream feels light yet is nicely hydrating. It’s not, however, for those who have very dry skin around the eyes or who prefer a creamy-rich eye cream.
This contains caffeine, although that ingredient isn’t too exciting for use around the eyes, other than its potential to reduce puffiness because of its slight constricting action. That can pose a risk of irritation, but we suspect the amount of caffeine in this product is much too low to have this effect, but it’s still provides some antioxidant benefits.
We’re happier to see the inclusion of smoothing jojoba esters, barrier-replenishing phospholipids, glycolipids, and antioxidants from soy and Albizia Julibrissin, a plant whose bark has one study showing it’s a more effective antioxidant than ascorbic acid (vitamin C). All of this is great, but it remains true that not everyone needs an eye cream, as we explain in the More Info section.
On skin, this thins out during application and takes several minutes to absorb, setting to a finish best described as tacky-waxy. It’s not terrible or uncomfortable, but it’s also not as silky-smooth as today’s best eye creams and gels. Still, for the money, this formula’s shortcomings are forgivable.
- Lightweight yet hydrating cream.
- Contains a good mix of replenishing and antioxidant ingredients.
- Opaque tube packaging keeps delicate ingredients stable.
- Fragrance free.
- Lower amounts of key anti-aging ingredients like hyaluronic acid and peptides.
- Has a somewhat tacky-waxy finish rather than being silky-smooth.
Why You May Not Need an Eye Cream: There’s much you can do to address signs of aging around your eyes, but it’s not mandatory to use a product that claims to be special for the eye area. Any product loaded with antioxidants, emollients, skin-repairing and skin-brightening agents, and skin-soothing ingredients will also work well in the eye area. Those ingredients don’t have to come in a product labeled eye cream, eye gel, eye serum, or eye balm—they can be present in any well-formulated moisturizer or serum.
Most of the products designated as exclusively for the eye area are not really necessary because they contain nothing special for the eye area, they come in packaging that will not maintain the effectiveness of their key ingredients, and/or they are poorly formulated.
Just because a product is labeled as a special eye-area treatment does not mean it’s good for the eye area, or for any part of the face; in fact, many can make matters worse.
It’s staggering how many eye-area products lack even the most basic ingredients to help skin. For example, most eye-area products don’t contain sunscreen, which is a serious problem because it leaves skin around your eyes vulnerable to sun damage—and that absolutely will make dark circles, puffiness, and wrinkles worse! Of course, for nighttime use, eye-area products without sun protection are just fine. If you opt to apply an eye cream without sunscreen during the day, be sure to apply a sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater over it.
Any product you use in the eye area must be well formulated and appropriate for the skin type around your eyes. You might prefer to use a product specially labeled as an eye cream, but you might do just as well by applying your regular facial moisturizer and/or serum around your eyes. Experiment to see what combination of products gives you the best results.
A wake-up call for your eyes, this cream works wonders for the under-eye area, helping to reduce the appearance of puffiness and dark circles. The added Matrxyl 3000™ peptide can help reduce the appearance of fine lines, while the smooth texture provides a perfect canvas for makeup.
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.