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Inkey List vs The Ordinary: Which Is Better For You?

Updated: 3 days ago

Regarding affordable skincare, two brands have gained significant attention: The Inkey List vs The Ordinary. Both brands have revolutionized the skincare industry by offering high-quality, science-backed products at accessible prices. But which one is better for your skincare routine? In this article, we will delve into the key aspects of both brands to help you make an informed decision.

The Inkey List Vs. The Ordinary, Which Is Better For Your Skin Care Routine?

The Inkey List, founded in 2018, focuses on simplicity and education, providing straightforward products with key ingredients targeting specific skin concerns. Its minimalist packaging and user-friendly approach make it easy for consumers to understand and integrate into their routines, with most products priced under $15. The Inkey List products are globally available online and in-store, including Sephora in the US and Boots in the UK. They can also be purchased from online retailers like Cult Beauty and the brand's official website, ensuring easy access for consumers worldwide.

The Ordinary, launched in 2016 by Deciem, emphasizes transparency and no-frills formulations. The brand's clinical ingredients and affordable prices, ranging from $5 to $30, have made it a staple among skincare enthusiasts. The Ordinary is widely accessible globally, available at Sephora, Ulta, and the Deciem website in North America, and at Boots and Douglas in Europe. Its extensive distribution network and international shipping ensure products reach a global audience. Both brands have garnered loyal followings and are widely available globally, though accessibility may vary by region. Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on individual preferences and specific skincare needs.

Popular Product Comparisons From The Inkey List Vs. The Ordinary

Over the years, I have tried several products from both brands, and I hope to provide more insights based on my personal experience. Below is a stand-off of various best-selling products I have tried from both brands and how they performed on my dry skin.

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum Vs. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid Serum 

As a dry girlie, I know something about hydrating serums and can confirm that both The Inkey List and The Ordinary hyaluronic acid serums are worth it. 

Both serums contain 2% multi-molecular hyaluronic acid to ensure deep skin hydration. They equally contain other ingredients that are beneficial to skin repair. 

inkey list vs the ordinary

The Ordinary’s power hydrator boasts the benefit of including panthenol and ceramides. This blend increases hydration and barrier repair, thanks to ceramides that strengthen the skin. It has a lightweight, slimy (but not tacky) texture and plumping effect. I enjoyed using this serum and reach out for it when my skin barrier is impaired.

The Inkey List hyaluronic acid serum in addition to hyaluronic acid also contains a powerful peptide called Matrixyl 3000. This peptide promotes collagen production, reduces wrinkles, and improves skin elasticity, leading to a smoother, more youthful appearance. In terms of texture, this serum is lighter than its counterpart. It also absorbs easily in the skin and provides satisfactory hydration.

The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Stick Vs. The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner

The Ordinary’s Glycolic acid toner has been one of the most viral skincare products since it hit the market due to its versatility. Personally, this 7% glycolic acid toner was too potent for my face and irritated my skin. However, it remains a good exfoliating toner that helps brighten and even skin tone and improves skin texture. It is not suitable for sensitive skin, and should not be used on wounded or broken skin. It can also be repurposed for the body (which is how I use it) to exfoliate and treat ingrown hair. Typically, when used on the face first changes can take anything between 1-2 weeks to show with a more luminous skin tone.

inkey list vs the ordinary

The Inkey List glycolic acid exfoliating body stick is a body exfoliating treatment designed to target concerns such as KP bumps, ingrown hair, dry and rough skin patches, and clogged pores. Unlike The Ordinary’s toner, this is a body-only product. It equally contains 7% glycolic acid with the added benefits of 0.5% and 10% shea butter to protect and moisturize the skin. I principally use this as a before and after-shave treatment, and it has tremendously reduced razor bumps and ingrown hair. It took a couple of weeks of use to notice an improvement in my ingrown hair after shaving. 

My experience with both products makes me lean more towards the Inkey List’s Exfoliating body stick. Just because it contains additional ingredients that help with my KP and razor bumps, and it is gentler on my skin.

The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm Vs. The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser 

Juggling with dry skin that is prone to irritation and itchiness makes me very picky when it comes to cleansers. Striking the balance between cleansing without stripping and hydration is a line I waddle on all the time.  The Inkey List Oat Cleansing balm and The Ordinary Squalane cleanser are two products that strike that balance and if you struggle will sensitive skin of any kind, you should consider trying either of these.

inkey list vs the ordinary

The Ordinary’s Squalane cleanser is to date my most repurchased product from the brand (here’s my full review) because it gently cleanses my skin and leaves it visibly hydrated. It gently melts away makeup, sweat, sunscreen, and all other impurities on the skin while repairing the skin’s barrier in the process. 

The Inkey List Oat Cleansing balm has a soothing effect on the skin that I love. Oat extract has the advantage of soothing itchy or inflamed skin. However, I struggled with the texture of this product as it tends to melt down in its tube when temperatures go up and sometimes turn gritty. It also does not rinse off as easily as The Ordinary’s squalane cleanser (not to say it's greasy). It does get rid of sunscreen, impurities, and makeup and isn’t stripping. 

Even though both get the job done, I prefer The Ordinary’s Squalane cleanser which I find to be more moisturizing and nourishing.

How Long Do They Take To Work Between Inkey List Vs. The Ordinary? 

It is hard to tell with exactitude how soon results from specific products will show because sometimes skincare is very subjective. However, referring to brand estimations can help set realistic expectations.  Here are some reviews of a few fast-response products from both The Ordinary and The Inkey List.

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

  • Expected Results: Visible improvements in skin texture, clarity, and brightness can be seen after just one use, with optimal results within 1-2 weeks.

  • Key Ingredients: Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Tasmanian Pepperberry

Dr. Marisa Garshick, leading board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology appreciates the brand for its high-quality, affordable active ingredients. Highlights the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution for its rapid results in improving skin texture and clarity.

The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream

  • Expected Results: Users often notice reduced puffiness and dark circles within a few days to a week of consistent use.

  • Key Ingredients: Caffeine, Matrixyl 3000, Albizia Julibrissin Bark Extract

Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Associate Professor of Dermatology and the Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City notes that products like the Caffeine Eye Cream can quickly address common concerns like puffiness and dark circles, providing rapid visible improvements.

Which Brand To Use, When And How

The Inkey List:

For Beginners: The Inkey List offers straightforward, easy-to-understand products that are great for those new to skincare.

Targeted Solutions: If you need specific treatments for concerns like acne, fine lines, or dullness, The Inkey List has targeted products designed for quick results.

Budget-Friendly: Their products are affordable, making it easier to try multiple items without a significant financial commitment.

Combination Skin: Products like the Salicylic Acid Cleanser and Niacinamide are excellent for balancing oily and dry areas.

The Ordinary:

For Skincare Enthusiasts: The Ordinary provides highly concentrated active ingredients that can be mixed and matched for a customized routine. It may not be the best for beginners who do not yet understand actives and how to layer them.

Advanced Treatments: Ideal for those who are more familiar with active ingredients and how to layer them.

Transparency: The Ordinary is known for its transparency about ingredient concentrations, which appeals to users who want to know exactly what they’re putting on their skin.

Oily and Acne-Prone Skin: 

Products like Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% and Salicylic Acid 2% Solution are particularly effective for managing oil production and treating acne.

Which Is Best For Acne Between Inkey List Or The Ordinary?

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer as to which of these will be best for acne. This is simply because product formulas vary and their effect even more so from one person to the next. 

However, here is a recommendation of various acne treatments sold by each brand and how they benefit the skin. Based on this, you can make a choice.

Product Recommendations For Acne-Prone Skin

The Inkey List:

Salicylic Acid Cleanser
  • Benefits: Gently exfoliates, unclogs pores, and reduces inflammation.

  • Key Ingredients: Salicylic Acid, Zinc PCA, Allantoin.

  • Precaution: May cause dryness or irritation. Start with once-daily use and increase as tolerated. Avoid using with other strong exfoliants or retinoids to prevent irritation.

  • Application Tips: Use twice daily, morning and night. Apply a small amount to damp skin, massage gently, and rinse thoroughly.

Niacinamide Serum
  • Benefits: Helps to reduce excess oil, redness, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

  • Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid.

  • Precaution: Generally well-tolerated, but using too many niacinamide products at once can cause skin irritation.

  • Application Tips: Apply a few drops to the entire face morning and night after cleansing and before moisturizing.

Succinic Acid Treatment
  • Benefits: Targets blemishes, reduces size and redness of spots, and prevents future breakouts.

  • Key Ingredients: Succinic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid.

  • Precaution: Use sparingly on targeted areas. Overuse can lead to dryness or irritation.

  • Application Tips: Apply directly to blemishes up to three times a day. Follow with a moisturizer.

The Ordinary

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
  • Benefits: Reduces the appearance of blemishes, regulates sebum production and minimizes pore size.

  • Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, Zinc PCA.

  • Precautions: This may cause mild irritation for some users. Avoid using with products containing niacinamide.

  • Application tips: Apply directly to affected areas in the morning and evening before applying heavier creams.

Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
  • Benefits: Exfoliates inside the pores, reduces congestion, and helps clear up acne.

  • Key Ingredients: Salicylic Acid.

  • Precaution: This can cause dryness, redness, and peeling, especially in sensitive skin. Avoid combining with other direct acids or retinoids.

  • Application Tips: Apply directly to affected areas in the morning and evening before applying heavier creams.

Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
  • Benefits: Reduces inflammation, helps with acne-related redness, and brightens the skin.

  • Key Ingredients: Azelaic Acid.

  • Precaution: Can cause mild irritation, dryness, or peeling. Avoid mixing with strong acids or exfoliants.

  • Application Tips: Apply to face in the morning and/or evening to improve visible brightness and the appearance of skin texture.

What Do Dermatologists Say On The Inkey List Vs. The Ordinary Products

If you are anything like me, knowing what dermatologists and experts in skincare have to say about a brand or a product helps me make a purchasing decision. In this section, I recouped a few expert opinions on both brands just for you:

  • Dr. Anjali Mahto, a consultant dermatologist based in London who specializes in acne, skin cancer, eczema, psoriasis, and aging skin, appreciates the brand's affordability and accessibility. She highlights the Salicylic Acid Cleanser as a gentle yet effective solution for acne-prone skin.

  • Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist and the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, commends The Ordinary for its transparency and high concentration of active ingredients. This specialist renowned for his research on acne and cosmetology dermatology recommends the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% for reducing the appearance of blemishes and regulating sebum production.

Do Celebrities Prefer The Inkey List Or The Ordinary? 

Celebrities like Danni Minogue have endorsed The Inkey List, expressing appreciation for the brand's effectiveness and affordability. The brand has also gained traction through social media endorsements and celebrity gifting strategies, enhancing its visibility and reputation among high-profile individuals.

On the other hand, The Ordinary has been widely endorsed by celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, who has mentioned using The Ordinary’s products in her skincare routine. Other notable mentions include Emily Ratajkowski and Hailey Bieber, who have praised the brand for its simplicity and effectiveness.

Comprehensive Product Reviews And User Testimonials




Key Ingredients

User Satisfaction


The Inkey List


Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid

High (4.5/5)

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

The Ordinary


Niacinamide, Zinc PCA

Very High (4.7/5)

Hyaluronic Acid Serum

The Inkey List


Hyaluronic Acid, Matrixyl 3000

High (4.4/5)

Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

The Ordinary


Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin B5

Very High (4.6/5)


The Inkey List


Retinol, Squalane

High (4.3/5)

AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary


Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid

High (4.5/5)

Frequently Asked Questions About Inkey List Vs. The Ordinary 

The Inkey List Vs. The Ordinary, Which Is Better?

Both brands offer effective, affordable skincare. The Inkey List is ideal for beginners with straightforward formulations, while The Ordinary is favored by enthusiasts for high-concentration actives. The best choice depends on your skincare needs and preferences.

Can I Mix Products from The Inkey List and The Ordinary in My Routine?

Yes, you can mix products from both brands. Ensure compatibility by layering correctly (thinnest to thickest) and avoiding potentially irritating combinations (e.g., multiple exfoliants). Always patch-test new combinations.


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