Retinol Face Serum
The Inkey List’s Retinol Face Serum avoids harsh ingredients and unnecessary fragrance, making it a good, inexpensive way to add retinol to your skin care routine.
This lightweight gel comes in an opaque plastic squeeze tube that will protect its light- and air-sensitive ingredients from both elements. It glides across skin smoothly and absorbs quickly, drying down to a finish that isn’t tacky, and works well over or under other skin care products.
This formula contains both retinol and a related ingredient, hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR). This second ingredient is an ester of retinoic acid, which is what retinol breaks down to in the skin.
Some research shows HPR can bind directly to skin’s retinoid receptors instead of being metabolized into retinoic acid, like pure retinol is. There are also claims that this process makes it easier for skin to tolerate than retinol, which some people can find sensitizing. In the end, both ingredients can work together to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as signs of sun damage.
Accompanying these two is squalane, which is rich in both antioxidants and fatty acids, along with vitamins C and E, plus two peptides that can help skin both look and act younger. It’s a great mix of ingredients, and one that will lead to a smoother and more radiant complexion as claimed.
- Lightweight gel texture absorbs quickly.
- Contains both retinol and hydroxypinacolone retinoate, which help fight fine lines and wrinkles.
- Includes antioxidant ingredients and peptides that help skin look younger.
- Packaged to protect its light- and air-sensitive ingredients.
- Fragrance free.
A powerful retinol that is released slowly to help promote a smoother, more radiant complexion—with less irritation.
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.