The INKEY List vs The Ordinary: Battle of the Brands

LuxeLuminous is reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

High quality skincare that won’t break your budget is what everyone’s after these days. And luckily, you don’t have to look further than the product ranges made available by two popular skincare brands — The Ordinary and INKEY List.

Targeting specific concerns and all skin types, both skincare brands have their raving fans. But if you’re new to this skincare routine game, which should you choose? Read on for the beauty battle of the year — The INKEY List vs The Ordinary.


The INKEY List vs The Ordinary

The Ordinary first launched back in 2016, and its products hit the shelves of beauty outlets with a bang. Never before had we been offered such ingredient transparency, with actives like retinoids, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide in declared concentrations and at a ridiculously purse-friendly price.

By contrast, the INKEY List was born in 2018, with the mission to provide better knowledge of its beauty line so that its users could make better decisions. Because skincare can be a minefield of confusion, the INKEY List prides itself on the transparency of its products. It is the main competition to The Ordinary brand.

The INKEY List also has open discussions with its community via askINKEY on its website, a 24/7 live chat function where you can talk to a member of the INKEY List team and ask them any question, without judgment.  

Knowledge is power, and armed with the right knowledge, INKEY gives you the power to control your skincare regime.

INKEY List’s transparency even comes down to each individual product, which lists all of the ingredients contained in the package so that customers can really make an informed choice about which ones will suit their skin at any given moment.

What The Ordinary brings to the table is that it has a strong reputation in the consumer beauty market because it produces products that work without needing to spend a lot of money.

And although there are many other budget skincare brands available, only the INKEY List is a true competitor.

Active Ingredients

Both brands are transparent about the ingredients used in the products, which are fragrance-free and a boost to those with sensitive skin. And the concentration of the active ingredients used make them stand up to more luxury brands at a budget-friendly price.

The cost of The Ordinary’s products range from about $8-$40. The price range for The INKEY List’s skincare line runs from $9-$15 for single products.

The Ordinary’s products are available at over 100 online retailers, including Amazon, Sephora, and Deciem itself. Although due to Covid, there are currently quite a lot of restrictions to send packages to some countries.

It also has some physical stores in Canada, the US, UK, Australia, and South Korea.

Note that when it comes to Amazon, there are tons of knockoffs of The Ordinary products. Be careful that you’re actually purchasing from the brand The Ordinary, and make sure the “The” is there!

The INKEY List is sold in Sephora stores in more than 30 countries, as well on Amazon, as online direct from the company’s website.

The INKEY List is a British brand that was co-founded by Colette Laxton and Mark Curry, and now has a representative from Unilever Ventures on its board of directors after a recent minority investment from a venture capital firm.

In contrast, The Ordinary was a startup venture that quickly rose to fame with the help of Canadian skincare brand developer Deciem, of which beauty giant Estee Lauder became a majority shareholder a year after its launch, so it has very big backing behind it. This has its benefits and its drawbacks

In 2018, the beauty conglomerate took legal action against one of the co-founders, who later died in mysterious circumstances.

Skincare Popularity from The Ordinary

The Ordinary can pretty much claim to be the world’s most popular skincare brand, due to the fact that Lookfantastic’s 2021 Skinfluencer Index found that it has a yearly global search volume of almost 40 million searches.

It’s The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution that comes out as the most searched product in the Skinfluencer Index, followed by No products found. (discussed here) at number five out and its Salicylic Acid  at number eight, thus holding three places in the top 10 products globally.

So, let’s take a look at The Ordinary’s most popular products.

Peel Away Into the Night

The Ordinary Peeling Solution 30ml AHA 30% + BHA 2%, 1 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)
  • This product has NO safety seal
  • Size: 30ml
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Country of origin is United States

The rave about The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution started where all viral content happens these days — TikTok. Look up #theordinarypeelingsolution on the social media app and you will find hundreds of videos with almost 21 million views. And you can read about it right here as well!

However, it is one of the company’s products that can’t be bought in Australia, due to the high AHA and BHA content, which has been deemed too strong to be used in that sunny climate.

It is suggesting that users of this product don’t have any exposure to the sun for at least one week after using it to peel your skin.

This is because the peeling solution is an acid exfoliant, which gives an appearance of a bloody face on application and helped to fuel the TikTok trend. What the acid does is strip away at the top layer of your skin. This reveals a brighter, clearer complexion, improves skin texture, fights blemishes and even smoothes wrinkles.

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is useful for every skin type.  

Azeliac Banks

No products found.

Next is The Ordinary’s Azeliac Acid is a 10% concentration serum that brightens skin tone and improves its texture to reduce the appearance of blemishes.

Its active ingredient, azelaic acid, is an effective topical treatment for acne, rosacea, hyperpigmentation, melasma and other skin discoloration.

Acid Trip

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid is a water-based cleansing formulation with a 2% concentration of its active ingredient, and is suitable for all skin types.

It is a lightweight exfoliator that gently removes dead skin cells to decongest pores and works especially well for those who deal with blemishes regularly.

Best Selling Sellouts from The INKEY List

Meanwhile, The INKEY List has two products that sell out in seconds globally — Salicylic Acid Cleanser  and Hyaluronic Acid Serum , which contains two of the most searchable ingredients, salicylic and hyaluronic acids, on the Skinfluencer Index.

Acid Cleanser

The INKEY List Salicylic Acid Cleanser, Face Wash for Acne, Blackheads, Oily Skin and Breakouts, Safe for All Skin Types, 5.0 fl oz
  • The INKEY List Salicylic Acid Cleanser....
  • Oil Reducing Cleanser. Target enlarged...
  • Powerful Ingredients, Real Results. 2%...
  • How To Use. Gently massage a...
  • Your Needs, Our Knowledge. We believe...

The INKEY List’s Salicylic Acid Cleanser also comes in a 2% concentration like its rival, although it also has an added zinc compound in the mix. This allows the foaming cleanser to not only gently remove makeup and dirt, but also to control oil and greasiness, reduce blackheads and breakouts, and give your face a more even complexion.

Serious About Serum

The Inkey List Face Serum And Cream Skincare Set! Hyaluronic Acid Serum And Vitamin C Cream! Antioxidant & Skin Brightening Face Cream! Hydrating Serum For Wrinkles, Dryness And Fine Lines!
  • Hydrating Face Serum: Contains...
  • Vitamin C Cream: Brightens skin with...
  • Antioxidant Face Cream: Formulated with...
  • Wrinkle Reduction Cream: Polysorbate 20...
  • Unisex Face Serum: Suitable for all skin...

The company’s best selling Hyaluronic Acid Serum (one is sold every 30 seconds worldwide, according to INKEY List’s) works well when combined with the Salicylic Acid Cleanser. This moisture magnet that attracts moisture from the atmosphere, and has the consistency of a thick serum that will plump your skin to leave it feeling truly hydrated.

The product’s 2% concentration of pure hyaluronic acid has three molecular weights, which allow it to hydrate the skin at every layer of skin for maximum absorption. The INKEY List’s Hyaluronic Acid Serum reduces dark circles, as well as visible lines and wrinkles, and even improves skin tone to leave your face feeling smoother, more radiant and totally nourished.

Sustainability Factor

Most of The Ordinary’s products come in glass dropper bottles, which fit in with the simple and clinical labeling that make the brand look more scientific. Some bottles are clear, while others come with a tint to protect ingredients from being exposed to light.

However, this means that the products must be opened with each application, which exposes them to air.

Exposure to air raises the chance of the product oxidizing, the chemical reaction that happens when oxygen hits certain substances, causing the product to degrade faster.

The Ordinary’s cleansers and moisturizers are packaged in squeezy plastic tubes.

By contrast, The INKEY List’s black and white plastic bottles won’t be affected by light and they are easy to access, whether from a squeeze or a pump, which also prevents them from being exposed to air.

The packaging is also better suited for travel and they can all be recycled, except for the caps.

Use Your Intuition

When it comes down to it, it’s up to you to make the decision about whether you prefer the product range of The INKEY List or The Ordinary. There are pros and cons of both brands.

But armed with the right information and distinguishing your priorities, you can come to a decision that will best suit your needs for skincare.

The main difference you’ll probably want to consider is the fact that the INKEY List’s full transparency about what the products do and what they contain makes them easier to use.

INKEY List makes it very clear on the package what it’s for, how you should use it, and what ingredients it contains.

In terms of the actual products, the INKEY List sprints just ahead with more quality ingredients. However both brands provide great quality for the price. The preference you choose will probably come down to the texture or consistency of the products themselves.

For example, The Ordinary provides more options in general, while the INKEY List is all about the moisturizers.

The breadth of the Ordinary’s product selection is great, but it can also be a challenge to figure out exactly which of the 100 products you need to use!

On the other hand, maybe it’s the aesthetics and affordability that are more concerning to you.

If that’s the case, The Ordinary’s lower price overall and glass bottle packaging could be more your thing. Saying that, though, as far as ease of use goes, The INKEY List’s products make it really clear how to use them, while it takes some time to figure out how the application of The Ordinary’s line works.

So now it’s time for you to choose your own winner in the skincare battle of the INKEY List vs The Ordinary. There’s o right answer, it all depends on how you want to approach your skincare!

See also:

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).