9 Favorite Skincare Products From The Inkey List

The Inkey List — for those who may not know and consequently have been seriously missing out —  is a U.K.-based brand that made its way to Sephora shelves worldwide back in 2019. Brand co-founder and chemist Mark Curry along with co-founder Colette Laxton were devoted to creating a brand that introduces effective ingredients into your skincare routine without asking you to spend more than $15. In other words, you get to save some money while you watch your skin thrive.

Not only is the brand very reasonably priced, but it’s also very easy for a consumer to navigate and shop. Each product in The Inkey List is named after its main ingredient. For example, if you want to try a hydrating hyaluronic acid, it makes a serum that’s simply called Hyaluronic Acid. The same goes for exfoliating glycolic acid; the brand offers a Glycolic Acid Toner. You get the gist. And if you’re confused about which ingredients you need for your skin type, concerns, and goals, it has you covered with plenty of helpful information. 

With more than 30 affordable, ingredient-centric products in The Inkey List’s lineup, it’s hard to know what you may want to start with. While I enjoy a lot of the products, I’ve narrowed it down to nine of my favorite products.

Oat Cleansing Balm

The Inkey List’s Oat Cleansing Balm is formulated with oat kernel oil to keep skin moisturized and colloidal oatmeal to reduce redness. This surprisingly luxurious face wash will strip all the makeup and dirt off your skin but will never strip your skin of moisture. And that’s why it won a 2020 Best of Beauty Award.

Shop $10

Hyaluronic Acid

For just $8, the Hyaluronic Acid is a great pick if your skin needs a burst of hydration. Just a dime-size amount of this lightweight serum and your dry, dehydrated skin will be thanking you for quenching its thirst.

Shop $8

Caffeine Eye Cream

The Caffeine Eye Cream does for your eyes what a cup of coffee does for the rest of you: make you look more awake. The formula is made up of caffeine that reduces puffiness and Matrixyl 3000, a peptide that cosmetic chemist Ginger King says will help to boost collagen to firm up the skin and minimize fine lines. When the two are combined, you’ll be looking like you had a full night’s rest (even if you didn’t).

Shop $10

Salicylic Acid Cleanser

The Salicylic Acid Cleanser gets a gold star for helping acne-prone skin get — and stay — clearer. This formula features 2 percent beta hydroxy acid to exfoliate skin and unclog pores, and its zinc compound helps reduce inflammation.  

Shop $10

Glycolic Acid Toner

The Glycolic Acid Toner features 10 percent of its star alpha hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, to minimize the look of pores and fine lines. It also has witch hazel to help control excess oil. After just one use, you’ll notice smoother, brighter skin. 

Shop $11

Kaolin Clay Mask

The Kaolin Clay Mask is ideal for getting all that gunk out of your pores. The mixture includes kaolin and smectite clays, which work together to remove gunk from pores and absorb excess oil. All in all, this mask will leave skin looking even and feeling clean.  

Shop $7

Rosehip Oil 

After winning a Best of Beauty Award in 2019, the Rosehip Oil is still an all-time favorite. It’s made of 100 percent pure rosehip oil, which promotes softer and smoother skin. Apply a couple of drops as the last step in your skin-care routine before you go to sleep, and you’ll wake up with glowy, moisturized skin every time.

Shop $11

Tranexamic Acid Night Treatment

According to Miami board-certified dermatologist Roberta Del Campo, tranexamic acid is an increasingly popular ingredient for treating discoloration. “It’s known to help not only lighten [hyperpigmentation] but decrease recurrence,” she says, and that’s exactly what the Tranexamic Acid Night Treatment does. After your pimple heals and becomes a dark spot, just apply a pea-size drop of this magic potion every night, and you’ll surely notice a difference in your skin after about a month’s use.

Shop $15

Vitamin C  

Get your glow on with the Vitamin C cream. The formula is 30 percent L-ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C that brightens dull skin. Another perk: Use this moisturizer before your morning makeup routine and you can say hello to a smoother canvas for your foundation. 

Shop $10

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The Best Face Scrubs Under $20

I feel as though physical exfoliation is one of the most satisfying skin-care practices because of the instant gratification it can provide (hello, immediately refreshed skin). Not only does exfoliation feel amazing and leave skin instantly more luminous; a good face scrub paves the way for the serums and moisturizers to follow, according to board-certified dermatologist Jeannette Graf.

“Exfoliating can help skin-care products penetrate 20 percent better,” she tells Allure. But here’s a word to the wise: As with most things, there is such thing as too much of a good thing in the case of scrubbing your face. You can avoid over-exfoliation by capping your scrub sessions to a maximum of three times per week.

Whether you need something that’s extra gentle for sensitive skin or want a scrub with a little extra oomph for perpetually clogged pores, I’ve got you — and your wallet — covered. Happy scrubbing, folks.

Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub

It’s not ideal to use a face scrub every day, according to dermatologists — so if you’re going to kick up your exfoliation, use the most gentle scrub possible to prevent damage to your skin barrier. The daily scrub from Cetaphil is packed with pH-balancing glycerin, so it hydrates while it sloughs away dead skin cells.

$10 (Shop Now)

Bioderma Sebium Exfoliating Gel

If you’re prone to acne, dullness, and hyperpigmentation, here’s a prime pick for you. The itty-bitty granules in Bioderma’s Exfoliating Gel physically exfoliate until they burst with salicylic and glycolic acid, which chemically exfoliate away impurities. With this formula, you’re getting twice the exfoliation in one product.

$15 (Shop Now)

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefuit Exfoliating Scrub

Dermatologists love the Best of Beauty-winning Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser from Neutrogena, and the scrub version is full of all the same clarifying ingredients, plus tiny microbeads that give an added boost of physical exfoliation.

$11 (Shop Now)

No7 Radiant Results Revitalising Daily Face Polish

No7’s Daily Face Polish contains ginseng root, which, all by itself, comes with a multitude of skin benefits. According to dermatologists, ginseng contains all sorts of antioxidants and vitamins that prevent fine lines, acne, and even hyperpigmentation.

$9 (Shop Now)

Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Daily Scrub

You can always count on an Aveeno product to be gentle on even the most sensitive skin types, and its Radiant Skin Brightening Daily Scrub is no exception. With antioxidant soy extract, gylcerin, and jojoba oil, this scrub exfoliates just as much as it soothes and nourishes.

$12 (Shop Now)

Bliss Micro Magic

Just like the treatments available at Bliss Spa locations, the Micro Magic scrub will leave you feeling totally refreshed. It’s basically a gentle, at-home version of a microdermabrasion that sloughs away dirt and oil with volcanic pumice while its aloe vera soothes and de-puffs.

$13 (Shop Now)

La Roche-Posay Ultra-Fine Scrub

If sensitive skin plus physical exfoliation sounds like a recipe for disaster, let the Ultra-Fine Scrub by La Roche-Posay change your mind. Super-fine pumice particles — suspended in a cooling gel formula — provide just the right amount of grit without feeling scratchy. Plus, this stuff leaves skin with a quenched suppleness you might expect from a water-based gel moisturizer.

$18 (Shop Now)

L’Oréal Paris Pure-Sugar Scrub Nourish & Soften

This L’Oréal Paris sugar scrub is everything a sugar scrub should be — but better. The Pure-Sugar Scrub is infused with not one but three different types of sugar, suspended in a creamy mixture of coconut oil and cocoa butter. The skin-softening formula isn’t overly abrasive, yet it leaves skin visibly glowing after one use. As you probably guessed by the ingredients, the formula smells like baking batter — but just like real batter, you definitely shouldn’t eat it. That said, it does doubles as an excellent lip scrub if you’re compelled to use it near your mouth.

$10 (Shop Now)

Simple Smoothing Facial Scrub

Oily-skinned folks, listen up. The creamy white exfoliator from Simple contains rice powder to absorb excess oil, and the gentle silica particles — a replacement for microbeads — work to manually slough off dead skin, leaving you positively glowing.

$8 (Shop Now)

Yes To Coconut Energizing Coffee 2-in-1 Scrub & Cleanser Stick

In case you prefer toting your cleansers around in stick form, consider this portable scrub by Yes to Coconut, which makes exfoliating way easier than ever. Not to mention, Yes To’s coconut and coffee combo smells amazing.

$10 (Shop Now)

Olay Micropolishing Cleansing Infusions Facial Cleanser with Crushed Ginger

This micro-polish cleanser from Olay reminds me of formulas that are five times its price. The tiny granules feel pleasantly sandy and break down into a creamy consistency as you cleanse, leaving skin visibly glowy post-rinse. Plus, the formula has a zingy scent that smells like summer and happy days, thanks to crushed ginger and citrus.

$10 (Shop Now)

St. Ives Energizing Coconut & Coffee Scrub

Fun fact: This concoction from St. Ives was born after the brand asked fans which scrub they’d like to see next on shelves. This enlivening coffee and coconut combo won. Fans of the (albeit, controversial) Apricot Scrub will love how this provides the same level of super-deep exfoliation (thanks to an infusion of crushed walnut) with the added benefits of skin-softening coconut and circulation-promoting coffee.

$5 (Shop Now)

Yes To Grapefruit Daily Facial Scrub

Citrus scents in the shower are a pick-me-up as much as they are a wake-me-up. The grapefruit extract in Yes To’s citrusy scrub is naturally high in vitamin C (so it boosts collagen production and helps reduce hyperpigmentation), as well as lycopene, which naturally aids in protecting skin from UV damage.

$7 (Shop Now)

Bioré Charcoal Pore Minimizer

The beaker-like nozzle of Bioré’s Charcoal Pore Minimizer makes you feel like you’re in chemistry class every time you use this black scrub. The charcoal powder pulls out oil and pollutants like a magnet, and it all rinses away with the gel.

$10 (Shop Now)

Mario Badescu Kiwi Face Scrub

The super-creamy formula, which features kiwi seeds and alpha-hydroxy acids (which you can read more about here), leaves your skin smoother than ever — and yet it’s astonishingly nonabrasive. The pearlescent mint-green color is so stunning!

$15 (Shop Now)

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6 Skin Care Ingredients You Should Be Using

By now you know the drill: Every few months a new wunderkind skin care ingredient is discovered in some remote locale, and pretty soon it’s everywhere—in your masks, serums, foot creams, insert-step-in-your-beauty-routine-here. But at the end of the day, there are only a handful of ingredients that have stood the test of time and truly become essential. “In skin care, they’re the holy grail,” says Cambridge, Massachusetts, dermatologist Ranella Hirsch.

You’ve probably heard of all these by now. (Retinol, hyaluronic acid, AHAs, peptides, and vitamin C all make the list.) But you may still be a little confused on what exactly each one does—and how you should be using them. Here, I break it all down.

Retinol: For Softening Wrinkles and Fighting Acne

If there’s one ingredient lauded more than any other for its wrinkle-fighting, complexion-perfecting abilities, it’s this derivative of vitamin A. “Here’s the deal with retinol,” explains Hirsch. “We were talking about it in 1975, and we’re still talking about it now because it works.” In study after study, retinol has been shown to build collagen, decrease fine lines, improve skin’s texture, and fight acne.

The prescription version (retinoic acid, or Retin-A) acts fastest, but it’s pricey—and it can be drying. Over-the-counter retinols take eight to 10 weeks to show results (compared with six weeks with an Rx), but are normally paired with anti-inflammatories to calm the redness, peeling, or dryness; they can also cost less than a prescription, depending on your insurance, generally starting around $100.

Whichever type you use, you’ll want to ease into your retinol use slowly. “I start patients on the mildest version, one night a week at the onset,” says New York City dermatologist Amy Wechsler. As your skin begins to tolerate a pea-size amount, you can eventually go up to two nights a week. But stay off harsh physical scrubs and peels while you’re using retinol; remember to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize; and use extra sunscreen for the first six months.

Try Lancôme Visionnaire Skin Solutions 0.2% Retinol Correcting Night Concentrate $75

Hyaluronic Acid: For Serious Moisture

This tiny molecule helps lubricate joints and keep skin plump, and is one of the world’s finest humectants (elements that attract and retain water). What does that mean for skin? “Hyaluronic acid is awesome,” says Wechsler. In addition to being a terrific moisturizer, she says, it partners well with other active skin care ingredients (so you can layer it with retinol, for example, and use it daily). “The beauty of hyaluronic acid is that it doesn’t have any fine print,” says Hirsch. “It benefits any skin type, at any age. And the truth is that everyone looks great with hydrated skin.”

Try L’Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensive Hyaluronic Acid Serum $30

Vitamin C: For a Glow Boost

Doctors love vitamin C because it’s an incredible antioxidant and it stimulates collagen production—in other words, it increases glow and evens out spots. For best results, look for a high concentration, up to 20% in a serum or cream.

Vitamin C does have a downside, though: It breaks down when exposed to oxygen and light. Seek out truly airtight packaging, watch out for discolored formulas, and know that because vitamin C loses efficacy in the sun, it’s best as a nighttime product, says Montclair, New Jersey, dermatologist Jeanine Downie. But “use it on the nights you’re not applying retinol,” she adds. It’s also great in an eye cream to help soften fine lines and spots.

Try SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic $166

Peptides: For Firming

“Think of peptides as Legos—they’re protein building blocks,” says Hirsch of the skin strengtheners. Studies show certain peptides can boost collagen production and speed wound healing; or they can mimic the effect of Botox when applied topically. That means you’ll likely want to introduce peptides in your 30s, when you notice your skin doesn’t feel quite as firm or bouncy as it did in your 20s. They can also be used on your body to smooth and firm skin, and they may fade old scars and stretch marks. There’s emerging science that some peptides have been found to safely treat eczema.

Try Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Life & Firm Moisturizer $95

Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide: For Eradicating Acne

Okay, these are technically two ingredients—but the pair is name-dropped so frequently in the same acne-fighting sentence that it seems a shame to split them up.

“Salicylic acid is a lipid-soluble acid, so it penetrates into oily pores to clean them out, and it’s anti-inflammatory too,” renowned dermatologist Fredric Brandt once told us. “Benzoyl is antibacterial, so together they work synergistically.”

Look for bacteria-zapping benzoyl peroxide in face washes or spot treatments. It’s widely available in drugstores, ranging from 2.5% to 10% concentrations. (To minimize irritation, start with the lowest.) Try salicylic acid in an allover toner or cream to prevent breakouts, or on pimples if you have sensitive skin—it’s gentler than benzoyl, explains Wechsler.

Try Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 $5

Alpha Hydroxy Acids: For Smoothing

“My patients love, love, love AHAs,” says Downie, who explains that the powerful exfoliators are genius for clearing up sun damage, hyperpigmentation, acne, and fine lines. Multiple AHAs exist, but the most popular (and potent) is glycolic acid, which penetrates damaged skin to spur fresh, new skin cell production. Glycolic acid does its exfoliating work in everything from once-monthly in-office face peels to nightly washes, but it’s best not to use glycolic acid while you’re on retinols. And if your skin is sensitive, try glycolic’s less intense AHA cousin, lactic acid, which also chemically exfoliates but isn’t as drying.

Try Pixi Glow Tonic $14

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