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Welcome to the long-awaited comprehensive guide to The Inkey List vs The Ordinary! It has to be said, both lines of products appear to be incredibly similar on first glance, so you may be wondering which brand is actually best.

Come with us as we compare their best-sellers side-by-side to help you decide which products are the best fit for you and your skincare routine!

Skip to "Best-Sellers" section

> Niacinamide

> Retinol

> Vitamin C

> Hyularonic Acid

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The Inkey List vs The Ordinary Best-Sellers

Though both brands offer loads of different skincare products, let's be honest, we're all here for the best-sellers. So let's dive straight in!

Best Niacinamide Serum

Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3, and is an absolute powerhouse of an ingredient. It can (and should!) be added to your skincare routine if you are looking to improve hydration, reduce the appearance of blemishes, or even out the skin's complexion. Furthermore, preliminary research has shown that Niacinamide can aid in the production of collagen, thus also helping to treat fine lines and wrinkles.

The Ordinary and The Inkey List both make extremely popular niacinamide products, namely: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% and The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum, but which one is better?

Both serums more or less target the same things: redness, excess oil, and enlarged pores, but they actually take slightly differing approaches to achieving this (which we love, because it gives us options!)

On one hand, The Ordinary's Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum doubles down on being for those with oily skin types. This is in large part due to the inclusion of Zinc PCA, an oil-regulating ingredient. So, if you have oily/combination skin then this means you'll love it even more. However, normal-to-dry skin types may find it to be too drying.

On the other hand, the Inkey List's Niacinamide Serum is formulated with 1% hyaluronic acid instead of 1% zinc. This means that it would be suitable for all skin types - yes, even those of us with dry skin - thanks to hyaluronic acid's intensely hydrating properties.

Fortunately, this difference also makes our lives rather easy when it comes to deciding between the two (especially considering they're pretty much the same price). If you have oily/combination skin, you will prefer The Ordinary's Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum, whereas if you have normal/dry skin you will much prefer The Inkey List's Niacinamide Serum.

Niacinamide Serum by The Inkey List, helps control excess oil and redness.

Niacinamide Serum by The Inkey List

SHOP Check price on amazon.com

Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Helps control excess oil and redness.

What makes it special? A lightweight, power-packed serum containing 10% Niacinamide that can be easily layered into your skincare routine. This naturally occurring B3 vitamin helps to effectively reduce excess oil, blemishes and redness. Its thin consistency is formulated with 1% Hyaluronic Acid for added hydration and effective delivery.

Which skin types? For all skin types.

Find the best price on Amazon

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% by The Ordinary, high-strength vitamin and mineral blemish formula.

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% by The Ordinary

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

High-strength vitamin and mineral blemish formula.

What makes it special? This formula contains niacinamide (vitamin B3) supported with zinc salt to target blemishes and congestion. Zinc salt or Zinc PCA controls acne and decreases sebum production. Both vitamin B3 and zinc occur naturally in the body and can help to decongest the skin and reduce oil production. The serum is vegan, nut-free, alcohol-free, gluten-free, and silicone-free.

Which skin types? For oily/combination skin types.

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Best Retinol Serum

Retinol is typically found in a range of acne/blemish-prone or anti-aging products in skincare. Retinol works to treat both of these conditions by increasing cell renewal and exfoliating the skin. In addition, Retinol can be used to treat age spots, soften rough patches, reduce blemishes, and stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin.

Let's compare two of the most popular retinol products side-by-side; The Inkey List Retinol vs The Ordinary Retinol in Squalane.

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane solution contains 1% pure retinol. If you are new to using retinol in your skincare routine, do not start with the 1% solution. Instead, it is best to start with the 0.2% or 0.5% version before graduating to 1%. Retinol can cause skin sensitivity, redness, tingling, irritation, and your skin may need to build its tolerance.

The Ordinary offers a range of Retinol Solutions so you can start where you feel your skin can tolerate the active ingredients and stay with the same brand as and when your skin desires more.

The Inkey List, on the other hand, only offers a 1% version of their retinol serum. That said, it's not actually pure retinol in The Inkey List Retinol Serum, it's "retiSTAR" - a mixture of retinol, tocopherol, sodium ascorbate, and castor oil. This means that it is more like 0.05% retinol, as opposed to the advertised 1%. This is somewhat made up for with the addition of 0.5% granactive retinoid, but this is still relatively weak even compared to The Ordinary's weakest retinol serum.

All in all, The Inkey List's Retinol is a great introduction to retinol for a beginner, but to see the best results, The Ordinary's range of retinol serums is definitely the way forward.

Retinol Serum by The Inkey List, helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Retinol Serum by The Inkey List

SHOP Check price on amazon.com

Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

What makes it special? Derived from Vitamin A, this slow release Retinol serum helps target the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles with less risk of irritation. It also boosts overall skin clarity and uneven skin tone for a brighter, more even complexion. A perfect introduction to using Retinol for those who are starting to see the signs of ageing.

Which skin types? For normal, combination, oily, and dry skin.

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Retinol 1% In Squalane by The Ordinary, highly-stable, water-free solution of 1% direct retinol.

Retinol 1% In Squalane by The Ordinary

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Highly-stable, water-free solution of 1% direct retinol.

What makes it special? This water-free solution contains 1% pure Retinol, an ingredient that can reduce the appearances of fine lines, of photo damage and of general skin aging. While Retinol has been studied extensively, it is irritating to the skin and newer technologies exist that mimic the visible effects of Retinol without causing skin irritation. For this reason, we generally recommend using Granactive Retinoid 2% or Granactive Retinoid 5% instead of this formula.

Which skin types? For all skin types except sensitive skin types.

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Best Vitamin C Serum

This wouldn’t be a comprehensive The Inkey List vs The Ordinary guide without talking about their top vitamin C products! Vitamin C is by far the most famous skincare vitamin, and rightfully so. Regular use of vitamin C helps your skin produce collagen, heal wounds, reverse sun damage, brighten your complexion, prevent aging, and improve overall skin tone. Skin care experts recommend that even the simplest of skincare routines should include vitamin C because it also makes your SPF more effective. We told you, it really lives up to the hype!

For this product match up, we’ll be comparing The Ordinary’s Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% to The Inkey List's Vitamin C Serum.

As you search for the right vitamin C serum for you, it’s really important to stick to products that are transparent about the type of vitamin C they use and the concentration. Both The Inkey List's Vitamin C Serum and The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% check those boxes.

The Inkey List's Vitamin C Serum contains the most effective form of Vitamin C: L-Ascorbic Acid. However, the concentration is sub-optimal at 30% (optimal being between 10%-20%), likely making it far too strong for the average person. This is heavily reflected in the subpar reviews this product receives online.

As the name of The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% suggests, this solution is formulated with the weaker vitamin C derivative, ascorbyl glucoside, at a dosage of 12%.

Although it’s not as effective as l-ascorbic acid, it does have its benefits. It’s much more stable than l-ascorbic acid which means you don’t have to worry as much about it going rancid. It’s also more easily tolerated because your skin must convert it to l-ascorbic acid before it can use it. That means that if you have sensitive skin or haven’t been able to tolerate l-ascorbic acids in the past, this could be the solution for you! You’ll take additional reassurance knowing that just like the other The Ordinary products we’ve discussed, this solution is alcohol-, oil-, and fragrance-free, as well as vegan and cruelty-free.

As far as best overall is concerned, we are erring on the side of caution by recommending the less potent (but more tolerable) The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%.

Vitamin C Serum by The Inkey List, helps brighten skin.

Vitamin C Serum by The Inkey List

SHOP Check price on amazon.com

Our rating: ★★★★

Price: $$$$

Helps brighten skin.

What makes it special? Formulated with 30% pure L-ascorbic Acid, this serum helps your skin appear brighter and targets signs of ageing. It also helps to protect against free radicals and pollution. Best used in the AM, the rich, creamy texture gives an instant smoothing effect, making it a great base for makeup.

Which skin types? Oily/normal/combination skin types.

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Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% (Vitamin C) by The Ordinary, a brightening serum with stabilized vitamin C derivative.

Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% (Vitamin C) by The Ordinary

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

A brightening serum with stabilized vitamin C derivative.

What makes it special? Formulated with the most stable and tolerable derivatives of vitamin C, this product is water-soluble, so it goes on smoothly to brighten your skin and deliver a gentle dose of antioxidants.

Which skin types? For all skin types.

Find the best price on Amazon

Best Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Although it’s been in skincare products since the mid 90s, hyaluronic acid (HA) really hit its PR-stride in the early noughties and we’re so happy it did! Synonymous with plump, dewy and glowing skin, HA is a humectant which means it draws moisture from the air and pulls it into your skin. It’s also naturally occurring within our skin which makes it extremely well tolerated and great for all skin types.

Skinceuticals and The Ordinary both make extremely popular hyaluronic acid serums, namely: The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum and The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Serum, but which one is better?

When you’re assessing an HA serum, you want to consider how much of the active ingredient is in the serum, what other ingredients are used in the product, the texture, and the efficacy. We’ll use all of these criteria to decide which wins our vote as best overall hyaluronic acid serum!

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Serum is vegan, cruelty free and completely clean. It gets even better as we look at the specific ingredients. The key ingredients include sodium hyaluronate, sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer, and vitamin B5. Sodium hyaluronate is the sodium sister of HA, which chemists agree can be used interchangeably. Sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer is a magical HA mesh that can bind 5 times more water than regular HA, which is already incredible at 1,000 times its body weight! As an added bonus, it’s also an antioxidant! The final ingredient is vitamin B5, a powerful moisturizing agent. Combined, these ingredients give The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid triple moisturizing properties!

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum is also vegan, cruelty free and completely clean. However, the main difference is the inclusion of Matrixyl instead of Vitamin B5. Matrixyl cleverly mimics the behaviour of our body’s own naturally occurring cell-signalers and regulators (called matrikines), thus stimulating the growth of new collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. In case that was too much scientific jargon, essentially it is a fantastic anti-aging ingredient.

We feel that the Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum therefore outperforms The Ordinary for those with mature skin types, however, the best overall is The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Serum.

Hyaluronic Acid Serum by The Inkey List, bestselling hydration super serum.

Hyaluronic Acid Serum by The Inkey List

SHOP Check price on amazon.com

Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Bestselling hydration super serum.

What makes it special? Hyaluronic Acid serum is a powerful moisture-binding ingredient that works beneath the skin surface and can hold up to 1000x its weight in water. ​ Ensuring your skin is hydrated is essential for it to look healthy, therefore it's a must have step in every recipe! No wonder one is sold every 20 seconds worldwide*

Which skin types? All skin types.

Find the best price on Amazon

Hyaluronic Acid + B5 by The Ordinary, a hydration support formula with ultra-pure, vegan hyaluronic acid.

Hyaluronic Acid + B5 by The Ordinary

SHOP Check price on amazon.com

Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

A hydration support formula with ultra-pure, vegan hyaluronic acid.

What makes it special? This serum’s expert formula of 5 different sizes of hyaluronic acid pairs perfectly with Vitamin B5 to provide intense, long-lasting moisture, and skin-soothing effects.

Which skin types? For all skin types.

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