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The Inkey List

Sea Kelp Face Serum

1.00 fl. oz. for $ 9.99
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Brand Overview

The Inkey List Sea Kelp Face Serum contains 1% sea kelp as claimed, but little else to truly benefit skin. Although we’d love to see more in the way of supporting ingredients, this is an OK fragrance-free serum for all skin types, and kelp has some interesting benefits for skin. It’s an antioxidant, can reduce inflammation, and helps offset the negative impact many types of airborne pollutants have on skin.

Housed in a clear plastic bottle capped with a pump dispenser, the first thing to do is keep this stored in a dark place because ongoing exposure to natural light will weaken the potency of the kelp extract.

Sea Kelp Face Serum has a watery gel texture that slips over skin then vanishes in seconds, leaving a smooth finish that doesn’t interfere with products applied afterward. And you will need more products (including sunscreen during the day) because this simple formula cannot address all of skin’s complex needs, much the same way eating only kelp would deprive your body of key nutrients it needs to be healthy.

The Inkey List claims the malachite (a green mineral) is antioxidant and can detoxify skin, but we haven’t seen any valid research supporting these claims, only folklore. Neutralizing airborne pollutants could be viewed as a type of detox, but as we explain in the More Info section, it’s not possible to detox skin; at best, if you view airborne pollutants as toxins, kelp can minimize their impact, not stop it.

Interestingly, although malachite isn’t known to be harmful to skin, the scientific research that does exist for this ingredient indicates it’s highly toxic to aquatic life (it’s been used in the past to control parasite and fungal growth in ponds).

  • Watery gel slips over skin than vanishes, leaving a smooth finish.
  • Kelp offers antioxidant and pollution-neutralizing benefits for skin.
  • Fragrance free.
  • Claims around malachite for skin are unproven.
  • Cannot detoxify skin.
  • A fairly basic formula in the world of serums.
  • Clear packaging requires storage in a dark place.

More info:

Why Beauty Products Cannot Detoxify Your Skin: Despite the claims of many cosmetics companies, you cannot “detox” your skin. Brands that make this claim never really specify exactly what substances or toxins their products are supposed to eliminate, which makes sense, because your skin does not store toxins.

Toxins are classified according to whether they are produced by the body or are introduced into the body, usually through eating or inhaling. Toxins are produced by plants, animals, insects, reptiles (think snake venom and bee stings), and so on. Toxins also can be inorganic, such as heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and others.

When it comes to your skin, toxins cannot leave your body through your skin or sebaceous (oil) glands—it’s physiologically impossible. Other parts of your body, mainly your kidneys and liver, handle the process of “detoxifying” just fine, as long as you have a healthy diet.

There are a handful of studies indicating that sweat acts as a carrier in “detoxifying” by removing trace heavy metals from the body; however, the methodology of those studies is considered questionable when reviewed by third-party experts.

Nonetheless, if you choose to sauna, steam, or exercise to increase sweating, that’s a lifestyle option to discuss with your physician, but it does absolutely nothing as a purifying skin care activity.

Skin care products are not going to “detox” your body or skin. As we always say: Stick to what the research says really works, and ignore the fantasy claims because they aren’t going to help your skin or your budget.

References for this information:
Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, December 2015, pages 675–686
Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, pages 1–10

Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: No

Sea Kelp Extract 1% helps to protect, strengthen, and reduce pollutants from the skin. Malachite Mineral Complex 5%: Provides antioxidant and skin detoxification properties.

Aqua (Water/Eau), Macrocystis Pyrifera (Kelp) Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Glycerin, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Levulinate, Lysolecithin, Sclerotium Gum, Malachite Extract, Pullulan, Sodium Anisate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Gluconate, Citric Acid, Silica, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate.

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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