The Inkey List skincare review: First impressions & new innovation line

The Inkey List skincare review

Last month I was lucky enough to be invited to a launch event for The Inkey List skincare, to try out their new innovation line and find out more about the brand. If you aren’t familiar with The Inkey List yet, they’re a beauty company that launched at the end of August 2018 with an initial line of 15 products, all at affordable prices (everything under £10) and with interesting formulations. Here are my first impressions and a review of some of their products.

Quality ingredients, clever formulations and low, low prices? Of course I jumped at the chance, this is exactly the sort of thing I love to try out. Off I went to find out more, and to have a look at their three latest innovation line products that have just launched.

The innovation line began with the recent release of a salicylic cleanser and a leave-on beta hydroxy acid (the only beta hydroxy acid used in skincare is salicylic acid, but I’m guessing they didn’t want to give these new products names that were too similar). These were targeted mainly at oily and acne-prone skin types. The three newest additions to The Inkey List are Polyglutamic Acid serum, Hepta-Peptide serum, and a Multi-Biotic moisturiser. It’s fascinating to see how they’re able to tap into skincare trends so quickly and bring them to market – I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

Let’s start a quick introduction to the new products, and some first impressions of them. Then I’ll let you know how they affected my skin after a month of use.


The Inkey List Multi-Biotic moisturiser review

The Inkey List Multi-Biotic review

Quick description: A moisturiser with probiotic bacteria and other skin-friendly ingredients, designed to balance skin and reduce breakouts.

First impressions: Smart airtight pump packaging, thin and spreadable texture, slight smell of yogurt that fades quickly, sinks into skin nicely, plays well when layered with other skincare. Feels soothing and hydrating soon after sinking into the skin.

Good to know: The ‘pre-biotic, pro-biotic and post-biotic’ jargon is a bit confusing. It’s basically strains of lactobaccilus bacteria from yogurt (pro-biotic, sorry not vegan) plus food for the friendly bacteria (inulin, a pre-biotic) as they can’t survive on the skin without something to consume. The ‘post-biotic’ bit is presumably the byproducts from the bacteria metabolising the inulin – in this case it would be lactic acid and probably some other compounds that could inhibit certain potentially harmful bacteria (staphylococcus aureus and others).

This moisturiser also contains “2% Brightenyl’, which is mixture of three ingredients, including a tiny amount of an active compound called diglucosyl gallic acid or trihydroxy benzoic acid alpha-glucoside (THBG). This is said to be broken down by the bacteria in the skin biome to create a secondary compound, THBA. Limited studies have suggested that THBG and THBA can reduce pigmentation and redness, increase skin brighness and reduce free radical formation.

It also contains a decent amount of glycerin and squalane, and some sodium hyaluronate, among other ingredients, so it should be hydrating and moisturising, but hopefully not pore-clogging.

How to use: Apply morning and night, avoiding the eye area, after serums. For daytime I’d strongly suggest following with sunscreen.

My results after a month: This product sounded almost too good to be true, and as always I tested this on only one part of my skin – the lower half of one side of my face this time – to compare against my usual routine. My basic skin type is combination and sensitive, with a tendency to get blocked pores and small hormonal breakouts. After a month I compared the test patch against a second area of skin that was treated every other day with 5% benzoyl peroxide, and a third patch of skin that had no anti-acne treatment on it. And…. this stuff really worked for me! Hurrah!

The Multi-Biotic moisturiser treated area of skin looks noticeably different after 30 days. It feels more comfortable, breakouts are significantly reduced and healing slightly faster than usual, there’s much less redness and there’s been a slight decrease in post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation marks as well. The skin does look a little brighter in general too, and there’s less congestion in the t-zone.

I wasn’t expecting this much of a response in the given time frame. In probiotic skincare studies the test period was two months, although some subjects has improvements after a month. In a THBG pigmentation study the response time ranged from 28 to 84 days. The only studies I could find also had a small number of test subjects so I didn’t put that much faith in the results. Also, improving acne-prone skin usually takes a minimum of a month and often considerably longer to see a genuine effect.

I’ll keep using this for another month and come back with a quick update later, in case there are further improvements. Anyway, I have been *very* impressed by this product already. The general formulation is good and the addition of Brightenyl probably gives it an extra boost. Definitely worth a try if you have occasional small breakouts or mild to moderate acne, and you find that low-strength benzoyl peroxide is too irritating for your skin.

Side note: The friendly bacteria from probiotic moisturisers don’t hang around on your skin in the long term, so you need to keep reapplying them to maintain the effects. At this price I’m happy to keep using it regularly, and a little goes a long way so you don’t get through a bottle that fast.

I loved this so much that I’ve gone out and bought a replacement for when the first bottle’s finished.

Buy The Inkey List Multi-Biotic: Exclusive to Cult Beauty, £12.99 for 30ml.


The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid serum review

The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid serum review

Quick description: A serum created to target dehydrated skin.

First impressions: Airtight pump packaging, clear water-gel serum, spreads well and dries quickly, leaves a non-sticky semi-matte appearance. Easy to layer with other skincare.

Good to know: Polyglutamic acid is said to hold two to four times more moisture than hyaluronic acid, and is a larger molecule that’s also naturally found in healthy skin. This serum contains a “3% polyglutamic acid complex” which is a mixture of ingredients. The actual amount of pure polyglutamic acid makes up 1% or less of the total product.

This serum also contains “2% Invisaskin”, a mixture of water-soluble ingredients that create a film or light barrier over the skin’s surface. The film-forming action may help to seal in moisture or at least reduce the rate of dehydration, and I think it might potentially be useful if the skin’s natural barrier is compromised or your skin’s main requirement is rehydration. Includes silicones.

How to use: Apply a small amount morning and evening after other serums, and before moisturiser.

My results: This had a slightly soothing feeling on days when my skin felt more dehydrated than usual. I didn’t have a bad reaction to it, but when used alone I didn’t feel it was hydrating enough and it hasn’t visibly changed the appearance of my skin over time. I’ll probably keep using it as an extra step on days when my skin feels particularly dried out and irritable, but I personally didn’t find it worked especially well as a stand-alone product. It’s been interesting to try though.

Side note: After the initial test I put a multi-molecular hyaluronic acid serum on first to reach the deeper layers of the skin, then put this polyglutamic over the top to add some more hydration and form a light seal. This seemed to help a lot, so maybe think of the polyglutamic acid serum as a second serum and follow it on with moisturiser. If your main skin issue is dehydration, this could be one to try.

Buy The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid: Exclusive to Cult Beauty, £12.99 for 30ml.


The Inkey List Hepta-Peptide serum review

The Inkey List Hepta-Peptide Review (1)

Quick description: A single-peptide serum that aims to promote skin renewal and target visible signs of aging.

First impressions: Handy airtight pump packaging, thick white serum that spreads evenly, dries fast to create a deliberate ‘blurring’ effect which is mattifying and slightly evens out skintone. Powdery to the touch after it dries, slight pilling can happen with product layering.

Good to know: This is a single-peptide serum that contains heptapeptide-7. It’s been wrongly reported all over the place that this serum ‘contains seven different peptides’ but this simply isn’t true – it contains one peptide only, a patented molecule that’s a chain of seven amino acids. There’s a tiny amount of limited research into the effects of heptapeptide-7 and as far as I can tell it’s been tested on a small number of menopausal women, mostly in their mid-fifties. Research suggested it could increase collagen synthesis, improve skin texture and reduce forehead wrinkles.

The packaging says “5% gransome heptapeptide-7”, which relates to a group of ingredients. The actual concentration of heptapeptide-7 is way down the ingredients list so it’s definitely less than 1%. Also contains a small amount of squalane which has moisturising properties, also I found it slightly drying.

The base of this product has been deliberately selected to give an instant ‘blurring’ effect. To my eye, this is a mattifying effect rather than a pleasant light reflecting effect.

How to use: Apply morning and night, after lighter serums.

My results: I just couldn’t get on with this serum, unfortunately. I used it regularly on one side of my forehead for 30 days and I honestly can’t see a difference in fine lines, wrinkles, skin texture or anything really. It also pilled a bit under some moisturisers, rubbed off on things and left a powdery residue against darker clothes.

I can’t see the point of having the instant blurring effect because if you really want a proper anti-aging skincare routine then you absolutely must put a sunscreen or at least some SPF makeup over the top of it during the day – and the blurring effect just disappears. Also, who cares about a blurring effect in nighttime skincare as they’re nodding off to sleep in the dark?

That said, it’s a relatively cheap way to try out an unusual skincare ingredient, and who knows, it might work better for someone else a few years older than me as I’m not in the target age group. Also, it’s possible I didn’t use it for long enough to see an effect, but like I said I can’t seem to get along with the texture.

Side note: I’d still be interested in trying out a multi-peptide serum that had heptapeptide-7 in it, or a heptapeptide-7 serum or moisturiser that contained more powerhouse actives (SPF / ceramides / Vitamin C / niacinamide / retinol etc) since mature skin tends to have multiple concerns.

Buy The Inkey List Hepta-Peptide serum: Exclusive to Cult Beauty, £14.99 for 30ml.


Coming up soonish…

I also have some of The Inkey List’s Retinol Serum and Hyaluronic Acid to try out, although these are part of their original collection rather than this more recent launch. The ingredients list looks really good so far. I’m just starting to do a test area with it, and will only be using it every few days to begin with.

I’ll come back and do a proper review of both of those once I’ve been able to build up to using it carefully each night for a month – and I hope to go on to review a few more of their products after that.


Do you like the sound of any of these new The Inkey List skincare products? I’m keen to hear from anyone who’s already tried them too – how did they work for you?


Full disclosure: I was a guest at The Inkey List’s showcase for these three new products, and have been trialling gifted samples. This is not a paid post and contains my honest opinions. Different products work for different skin types, so your mileage may vary.


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