Let's play a game: Name the most minimal, most buzzworthy and most affordable skincare brand available right now.
If you shouted The Ordinary, we commend you. The brand does, indeed, offer up a spectacular lineup of skin heroes, and some of the brand's main talking points are simplistic, in-demand formulas clocking in at very impressive (i.e., budget-friendly) price points. However, as much as we love The Ordinary, it's actually not the holy-grail skincare brand we're referring to. Beauty lovers everywhere, meet The Inkey List—the under-the-radar brand that delivers sleek and minimal product formulas for under £15 each. Yep, you read that right!
Founded by former Boots' branding and product developers Colette Newberry and Mark Curry, the British company has been garnering lots of talk and excitement about its unique M.O.: formulating whip-smart products made with the most well-known—and wanted—skincare ingredients. (Think rosehip oil, hyaluronic acid, collagen, retinol and more.) That said, there are a few exceptions, as its Polyglutamic Acid, Multi-Biotic Moisturiser and Heptapeptide Serum are touted by the brand as "innovation" formulas due to the very causal fact there's nothing else on the market quite like them. Cool, no?
Of course, as we mentioned, people can't help but compare The Inkey List to The Ordinary since they contain common denominators like single-ingredient-oriented product formulas, high-efficacy actives and non-terrifying price tags. After trying out almost all of the brand's offerings ourselves, we don't think it's quite fair to compare.
Since there are quite a few products to choose from all boasting very enticing claims and labels, we thought we'd give you a head start by listing some of the most-loved products from The Ordinary, and the most exciting counterparts or next-to-try bottles and tubes from The Inkey List. Keep scrolling for all of our recommendations.
How they're similar: These products are almost identical; the only difference being a price difference and the fact that The Ordinary's best-selling formula is touted as organic. That said, both are cold-pressed, high-quality and saturated with antioxidants and skin-loving omega-6 fatty acids. Apply it as the last step in your evening skincare routine after any serums and moisturiser.
How they're similar: The Ordinary's cult-combination of brightening niacinamide and oil-regulating zinc is a real best seller from the brand, but if you're looking for something different, The Inkey List's brightening formula has the same hero—niacinamide—but is paired with hydrating MVP hyaluronic acid instead.
How they're similar: Though this collagen-spiked serum from The Inkey List is a few pounds cheaper than The Ordinary's fan favourite, both have the main prerogative of targeting visible signs of ageing. Great for plumping fine lines, boosting elasticity and encouraging a dewy, youthful glow, they contain common denominator ingredients like Matrixyl 3000, hyaluronic acid and peptides.
How they're similar: Instead of vitamin B5 (like The Ordinary), The Inkey List's hyaluronic hero is paired with Matrixyl 3000—a strategic ingredient that supports the skin's natural collagen production—in turn creating dewier, plumper complexion long term.
How they're similar: This toner from The Inkey List does similar work in that the ultimate goal is gently exfoliating and a very glowy after-effect. However, whereas the former features glycolic acid, amino acids, aloe vera, ginseng and Tasmanian pepper berry, the latter from The Inkey List stars a more simplified lineup of polyhydroxy acid, niacinamide and aloe vera.
How they're similar: So you actually have a couple of options here. To kill all your birds with one stone, we recommend The Inkey List's Tranexamic Acid Night Treatment as a skin-improving alternative to The Ordinary's holy grail AHA- and BHA-spiked peel. Both aim to improve skin texture and pigmentation, but we think the Tranexamic Acid plays just a LITTLE nicer for sensitive skin types. But if your skin needs a major kick, we recommend The Ordinary.
How they're similar: Both of these expert eye creams contain caffeine to help tighten and tone a worse-for-the-wear eye contour. (One two many late nights? These will be your new partners in crime.) The Ordinary's concentrate also harbors Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) to ease extra puff and circles, and The Inkey List's alternative contains Beautifeye (to target dark circles) along with Matrixyl 3000 to boost that collagen production.
How they're similar: Although a tad more expensive, The Inkey List's retinol-spiked serum is very similar to The Ordinary's in its genetic makeup. Both feature squalane, which works to hydrate and soothe, while granactive retinoid works the typical magic associated with retinol (aka skin glow, exfoliation and overall anti-ageing) and is gentler and less irritating.
How they're similar: If you have dark spots or really any kind of pigmentation for that matter, alpha arbutin will be your BFF skincare addition. Both of the above are highly concentrated to yield fast and efficient results—you'll be brighter and more clear noticeably fast—and feature hyaluronic acid for bonus moisturising perks. That said, we love that The Inkey List's serum has the added benefit of squalane for even more hydration thirsty fall and winter skin is craving.
How they're similar: Although both feature exotic moisturising oils—The Ordinary's from chia seeds and The Inkey List's from Sancha Inchi—the latter brand has a tad more to offer formulaically with its buzzy cream that's also fortified with natural retinol alternative bakuchiol and hydrating squalane for additional soothing perks.
How they're similar: Oil cleansers are all the rage, so, naturally, both brands have intriguing options for you. The above from The Ordinary is gentle, hyper-moisturising and filled with hydrating squalane, while The Inkey List's is also an oil-water hybrid but boasts enticing ingredients like sweet almond oil, sea buckthorn oil and panthenol instead.
How they're similar: So many face masks these days cost an arm, leg and entire paycheck, so even though these two face masks are a little different in their elemental composition, you could totally buy both for less than even half of most others on the market. And they'll work just as brilliantly to de-clog your pores, clear congestion and improve the overall clarity and texture of your skin in less than 10 minutes. Both star kaolin clay—a first-class oil sucker.
How they're similar: Sorry to burst this bubble but these two vitamin C creams have the exact same ingredient lists. (Dimethicone, Ascorbic Acid, Polysilicone-11, Peg-10 Dimethicone.) Regardless of whichever formulaic way the wind blows you, both formulas promise lots of skin-improving antioxidants thanks to vitamin C with an extra helpful dose of moisture. Winter is coming—load up!