Skincare is baffling, isn’t it? Unless you’ve got a chemistry degree or are a dedicated skincare addict, it’s pretty tricky to know your alpha hydroxy acid from your squalane (if you’re interested, the former acts as a light exfoliant, the latter plumps skin with moisture). And, even when we’ve heard of – and are using – well-known ingredients, it’s not always clear what they do beyond the fact that they’re “good for” our skin.
It’s not surprising that we want to know what we’re putting on our faces and, increasingly, we’re looking for brands that focus on demystifying and simplifying what they offer. It’s why The Ordinary has taken off – straightforward ingredients that work well.
But, obvious as it may sound, very few products do what they say on the tin, and that’s because very few products are clear about precisely what their purpose is on the packaging. A label that reads “lactic acid” is all well and good, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it sounds highly flammable and, probably, a bit savage on cheeks (FYI, it's a light exfoliator that gently evens out skin texture). That’s where new beauty brand The Inkey List comes in. Its aim is to act as a beauty translator, making “intelligent beauty accessible to all”.
Transparency has replaced hard-to-pronounce ingredients and marketing waffle as the gold standard in skincare
To start with, it has stripped packaging of jargon and, like The Ordinary, opted for single-ingredient products. Crucially, the name of each ingredient sits on the front of the boxes with a clear definition (dictionary style) of what it does, written, quite literally, in black and white underneath. It also has clear instructions on how and where to use each product. Beyond that, the brand has chosen proven, well-researched and high-performing ingredients that deliver on quality. The pricing is affordable, too – nothing costs more than a tenner – “keeping costs low means you can test out what works for you,” says the brand. Which means it’s possible to experiment without paying a fortune.
It’s strange to think that a brand that simply says what it does is set to make such a splash, but transparency has replaced hard-to-pronounce ingredients and marketing waffle as the gold standard in skincare, and rightly so. As for how to get your hands on it, the brand has just launched on Feelunique and will be rolling out on Asos soon. And, while it’s an unknown name now, with easy-to-navigate, effective products at give-it-a-go prices you can bet that this is a new cult brand in the making.
WHAT TO TRY from The Inkey List
BEST FOR BRIGHTENING: VITAMIN C
A smooth paste that sinks in quickly and helps to brighten and even out skin tone. It's a very potent antioxidant, which means it will help to neutralise the effects of pollution on your skin that can make skin dull, therefore it will help to boost radiance. Pat it on to your face in the morning before moisturiser and SPF.
BEST FOR HYDRATING: HYALURONIC ACID
A clear, lightweight serum that feels instantly quenching on skin and helps to supercharge hydration levels by holding on to 1,000 times its own weight in water. Apply AM or PM before moisturiser or on its own for a top-up when needed.
BEST FOR PROTECTING: ZINC
A lightweight cream that sinks in immediately. Zinc oxide is used in mineral sunscreens to provide sun protection but can often feel quite heavy. This one doesn't at all. It offers SPF 35, creates an invisible protective barrier over skin and helps to deflect pollution particles. The ingredient is also known to soothe spots because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Apply it as the last step in your skincare routine before applying make-up.
BEST FOR EXFOLIATING: LACTIC ACID
A water-weight serum that's easily absorbed and completely comfortable on skin. You'll know from above that this is excellent for encouraging cell turnover to improve skin texture, which will give glow. This is an ideal exfoliating option for sensitive skin if you find glycolic acid too stingy. Pat it into skin in the evening after cleansing, then follow with other serums or moisturiser. Use every other day, then build up to daily if needed.
BEST FOR SMOOTHING: RETINOL
A silky, lightweight cream that helps to smooth skin over time. It helps to firm up skin by promoting cell renewal and boosting collagen. It can cause sun sensitivity so is best applied in the evening and, because it can be quite potent, follow it with a moisturiser in the evening and always use SPF the next day. Apply a pea-sized amount to skin after cleansing.