If I've learned anything working in beauty, it's that you don't have to drop megabucks on skincare to see great results. Take affordable brands like The Ordinary and Lixir Skin, for example. Advanced formulations, honest labelling and no-frills packaging have earned them fans all over the globe; and now there's another pioneering skincare brand that deserves a spot in your routine. Enter: The INKEY List.
The brainchild of skin experts Mark Curry and Colette Newberry – formerly of Boots' branding and product development team – The INKEY List only came about in April this year but is already on course to rival the big names. Recently launched into FeelUnique, Cult Beauty and ASOS, the 15-strong range, which boasts skincare essentials like retinol, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C in the form of serums, masks and moisturisers to name but a few products, starts at £4.99. In fact, nothing exceeds the £10 mark. But you'd be silly to think the affordable price tag equals second-rate.
"We go further up the supply chain to get the best ingredients direct from the source – the raw material suppliers," Mark and Colette told R29, which rules out paying over the odds for great skin. "This enables us to get premium grade ingredients without the premium price tag." But it isn't all about money. "We also focus on the formulations to make them incredible in their own right, keeping the packaging simple and informative (ingredients are labelled clearly on the side) and avoiding huge marketing budgets – there's no BS here," continued Mark. Everything in the range has been formulated by experts and scientists. "We even travelled the world over the last 18 weeks (that's how long it took to turn everything around) to ensure we personally signed off every formula. We're from a retail buying and product development background so want to be 100% hands-on with it."
When I met Mark and Colette back in June, I was already pretty much sold, and left armed with lab samples of the 10% Glycolic Acid Liquid Toner, £6.99, and – as a sunscreen obsessive with acne-prone skin – the Zinc Oxide Cream Moisturiser, £8.99 (which contains SPF 50) and the Retinol Serum, £9.99. I slotted them into my skincare routine over the course of one month, using the zinc every morning before makeup and alternating weekly between the glycolic acid toner (applied onto clean, dry skin with a cotton pad) and retinol serum each evening, and the difference has been undeniably positive.
The great thing about the brand is that you don't have to curate an entire routine from exclusively INKEY List products to see results. "We believe that the accessible key range of products allows consumers to add an extra product into their current skincare routine, but because there are toners, serums, moisturisers, a mask and an SPF, they certainly comprise a form of routine anyway!" said Mark, who went on to talk about the products which will undoubtedly be the most popular in the range once it lands.
"We have formulated all products to be suitable to as many skin types as possible while being efficacious, but with all of our acids for example (there's a lactic acid and a natural AHA serum) we put in moisturising agents to help hydrate as well as treat, and with our 1% stabilised retinol, it is the make-up of different types of retinol used within the formulation which maximises product power while making it less irritating. By using an added concentration of an advanced retinoid called Granactive Retinoid (0.05%), we offer the power of anti-ageing without the irritation."
Other products to look out for are the Kaolin Clay Mask, £4.99, Vitamin C Serum, £7.99, and the Hyaluronic Acid Serum, £4.99. "For skincare junkies the Vitamin C packs a punch at 30% but has a smooth texture (unlike some, which can be gritty) and low irritation. Our Hyaluronic Acid is also great value for money at £4.99 and is the product we would recommend for skincare novices who want to give premium skincare a go. Most people have dehydrated skin (characterised by tightness, dullness and fine lines) so this is a great way into serums. If you have acne-prone skin, the Kaolin Clay mask is a gentle yet thick and creamy clay mask that helps to effectively absorb excess oils."
Refinery29's selection is purely editorial and independently chosen – we only feature items we love! As part of our business model we do work with affiliates; if you directly purchase something from a link on this article we may earn a small amount of commission. Transparency is important to us at Refinery29, if you have any questions please reach out to us.