What is it
Released slowly, this serum helps target the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles with less risk of irritation. It also boosts overall skin clarity and uneven skin tone for a brighter, more even complexion.
How I use it
A pea sized amount in the evenings every day after cleanser and first essence. I skip on days when I’m using Curology or an exfoliating serum.
Best suited for
All skin types, even sensitive skin, will enjoy and benefit from this gentle anti-aging serum! Avoid if pregnant or nursing.
Things to note
This does contain a good amount of silicones, but is otherwise alcohol and fragrance free. Avoid while pregnant due to retinol content.
A plastic tube. It’s basic but it keeps the ingredients fresh.
Fragrance free with no noticeable scent.
A medium weight gel that’s easy to spread and absorb quickly into the skin. It also has a bit of that silicone slip that can seem similar to primers.
Shiny initial finish but quickly dries down with no stickiness. Pores almost look blurred instantly, but again this could be due to silicone content.
The Inkey List Retinol Serum actually features 2 forms of retinol:
- 1% RetiStar stabilised Retinol, which is retinol mixed with tocopherol, sodium ascorbate and PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil in caprylic/capric triglycerides. This means that the actual retinol is only 0.05%, not 1% (source).
- 0.5% Granactive Retinoid, which I talked about in the PTR Retinoid Peptide Serum review, is a super gentle yet potentially potent form of retinol. But again, the actual granative retinoid % is 0.05%, the rest is the solvent dimethyl isosorbide.
There’s also a mix of emollient ingredients like phospholipid, squalane, and glycolipids that help nourish our skin. These plus the low retinol % is what makes this particular serum so gentle and beginner-friendly.
Also shoutout to the peptides and hyaluronic acid in here! 👋
Pros & Cons of The Inkey List Retinol
After an amazing first impression that I shared on Instagram, here are my thoughts after testing this for 4 weeks now:
✔ No irritations = beginner friendly!
My biggest fear with retinoids is always my face falling off, which true story, did happen when I first used Curology. Obviously tretinoin is its own beast, but even with over-the-counter retinol it’s still possible to experience dryness and flaking, which I did with the Paula’s Choice 0.3% retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment*.
If you’re young and just want to dip your toes into anti-aging retinol, don’t be an idiot like me and dive head-first into the deep end. Start with a low dosage gentle option like this one and your skin will thank you.
✗ Too gentle for serious anti-aging benefits.
Unfortunately The Inkey List Retinol Serum’s gentleness is a double-edged sword. It’s gentle partly due to its low retinol %. But its low retinol % means lower efficacy.
Any retinol is better than no retinol, but if you’re not that young anymore and looking for that one anti-aging heavy hitter, this ain’t it.
Even though it’s not the star, it’d make an excellent sidekick to a powerful active, eg tretinoin. That’s how I’ve been using this and the combo is *chefs kiss*.
✔ Plays well with other products.
My initial fear with the high silicone % was that it might pill when layered. But I’ve thrown all kinds of serum and oils on top of it (because you need those extra hydrating layers when using retinol!) and no issues whatsoever.
✗ Results take time. Like, a long time.
Even tretinoin takes weeks to see results (flaking skin doesn’t count!), so you can imagine how much longer it’ll take this gentle bb do make a noticeable difference. Like I’ve been using this for 4 weeks now and all I can say is that it’s helped maintain the results of my Curology treatment.
And that’s not because this is a bad product, but that’s just the nature of anti-aging products in general. That’s why prevention > treatment, and why it never hurts to start early!
✔ Super affordable!
Anti-aging shouldn’t have to be expensive, and I love that The Inkey List created this formula that’s well suited for younger folks who are more budget conscious.
As long as you don’t expect this to perform like a $100 serum, you won’t be disappointed. Even for me where I’m at the age of requiring more potent formulas, I can see this being a great affordable sidekick to use in between!
Inkey List Retinol alternatives
- Peter Thomas Roth Retinoid Peptide Serum* – Contains 200% more granactive retinoid and also an incredible mix of peptides and fatty acids. I adored this one and would consider it the upgraded version of the Inkey List Retinol serum.
- Beyou Retinol Serum* – Contains an unknown % of retinol + retinal palmitate, plus antioixdants like tumeric and cocoa extract. This is another excellent beginner retinol serum for its gentleness and affordability. Bonus points for the cute packaging! Reviewed here.
- The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion – Contains 0.2% granactive retinoid and unknown % of retinol. Haven’t tried this one but I expect it to be slightly stronger than the Inkey List.
- The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane – Slightly gentler than the above due to the addition of moisturizing squalane and just 0.2% granactive retinoid. A good step up from the Inkey List Retinol.
The Inkey List Retinol Serum
There are two types of people I would recommend this to: 1. Beginners who are low key scared of retinol and want the gentlest option possible. 2. Anyone who already using a potent retinoid but want a super gentle one they can alternate with. Of course, at $9.99 it won't hurt to just try the product even if you're not in the above two camps. Who knows, you might just end up falling in love with this soft bb!