I’ve used a few products from The Inkey List since they launched, and I must say that it is an affordable brand that impresses me. I have since lost count of the new products launched since, but I might get round to trying them some day.

One of the products that I was most keen to try back then was The Inkey List Retinol serum. The packaging was damaged in my first order, but I later reordered it, because I was started to get into retinol serums, and this fascinated me at how affordable it was!

Like all retinol serums, it takes me ages to form an opinion about them, or even to share a review, because retinol takes time to show results. It most certainly isn’t a magic wand, and it can cause more harm than good, if not properly used. Hence, I always exercise caution and I advise everyone to do the same 🙂

So, does The Inkey List Retinol Serum do anything for me?

Retinol – The proven anti-aging ingredient

When I shared my little tip about how I managed to remove milia from my skin painlessly while using retinol, I received some strange questions, asking me what product it was that I was recommending.

It never struck me that people weren’t aware of retinol as an ingredient.

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A, and what it does is to promote cell renewal of the skin. As the cells repair and renew, they get pushed up more quickly, and what you get is younger looking skin.

As we age, our skin cell renewal slows and this reflects itself in skin that has less glow. What retinol does is to boost this cell renewal, and it’s a proven ingredient that works to target signs of aging like dull skin, fine lines and wrinkles and uneven skin tone.

There are many brands that carry a retinol serum in the market, with varying degrees of retinol in it. There are also prescription creams containing higher/stronger retinol percentages, for more effective results.

I am fairly new to using retinol based serums, and I take my time with them, because retinol can be very drying on skin. As a result, any review of a retinol serum can take months to work on, simply because it won’t work right way, and I don’t like jumping straight into the deep end.

The Inkey List Retinol Serum

So, what about The Inkey List Retinol Serum then? Is it a keeper?

the inkey list retinol serum

The Inkey List Retinol serum is formulated with 1% stable retinol and 0.5% granactive retinoid, which is an ingredient that is supposed to be stronger than retinol. It is also formulated to be slow-released, which apparently, makes it more effective.

What I understand is that this is a fairly high percentage of retinol in this serum, and that means is that it works more effectively.

It also contains squalane, which has hydrating and soothing properties. Retinol tends to be drying, and can cause skin to flake, if used too regularly or introduced too harshly. It is therefore important that it be balanced in a formula that is hydrating and soothing to skin, so it is more pleasant to use.

Truth to tell, I am not one to peep too closely at ingredients lists because I take the stand that it is about the formula. Each product will work differently for each person, so for me, it is always about how the product feels, and how it works for ME. If it works as well for you (or as badly) then, it’s a bonus 🙂

How I use The Inkey List Retinol serum

I started using The Inkey List Retinol serum months ago. When I start a new retinol serum (especially one that is labelled ‘retinol’ and contains a high percentage of the ingredient, I always start slow.

I start out using the serum on cleansed skin, first, immediately after cleansing. No toner, no moisture sandwich, nothing.

RELATED READING: I recommend using the 13-dot technique to distribute it evenly all over your skin for best results READ HERE

Then, I pause for a few minutes to dry my hair and change, before proceeding with the rest of my skincare. The logic behind this, if you read around, is to allow the retinol to fully absorb into the skin, so it works more effectively.

When starting a new retinol serum, I also always go slow.

I start using it just once a week, before using it twice a week and building it up slowly, so I can use it every other night. I always use retinol serums only at night, and always use a high SPF sunscreen in the day (but then, I wear sunscreen daily regardless, and you should too!)

With The Inkey List Retinol, I found this process sped up somewhat. I went from once a week use to every other evening, within a month. I must say here however, that my skin is not a retinol virgin. I have used the Paula’s Choice Retinol serum, and the ones from Clinique and Elizabeth Arden (the latter 2 are quite light by comparison) so it knows what to expect.

I liked the texture, which is rather liquid. It can be harder to handle, as you may inadvertently squeeze out more product than you need, but it feels more comfortable on the skin. It might be due to all the hydrating ingredients in there.

the inkey list retinol serum

As with all retinol, I give it a minimum of 3 months before forming any conclusion on it, and I do like this one from The Inkey List.

I found it a little too strong to use it daily, but I could use it on alternate days without my skin throwing a hissy fit. I also make sure that I buffer it with facial oils and moisturiser, to protect the skin from flaking.

Skin feels smoother and pigmentation is lighter

My experience with this Inkey List Retinol is a positive one. Over the months I was using it (exclusively) I found that my skin felt smoother, softer and stronger almost. I don’t have a serious problem with fine lines and wrinkles (at my age, it’s a blessing!) so I can’t say if it helps lighten them.

My skin looks clearer and at this time, using this retinol serum, coupled with staying at home during the pandemic, I noticed that my blemishes and hyperpigmentation had lightened significantly. They are still there, but not as dark as before.

What I think I like best about The Inkey List Retinol is that it is comfortable, and it did not cause any breakouts nor did it irritate my skin. This, coupled with the fact that it works well to keep my skin smooth and even toned, is the key benefits for me.

For the affordable price tag, I have absolutely no qualms recommending this for anyone who wants to go a step up from a lighter retinol they may be currently using. It may be a little strong, so always start slow, and build it up!


The Inkey List Retinol serum is a serum that contains 1% retinol and 0.5% granactive retinoid, ingredients that are known to boost skin cell turnover and combat aging. Increasing the skin cell turnover forces the skin to regenerate more quickly and efficiently, and the result is smoother, clearer skin. Or so we hope to attain! 😀 I found this one a little strong compared to most of the department store brand retinol serums out there, but if you go at it slowly and build it up, you will be able to use it more regularly. Always pay attention to what’s happening with your skin, and scale back if necessary. My experience was positive, as I found it gave me smoother, stronger and brighter skin. My hyperpigmentation was also lightened, although I attribute this also to being forced to stay home and out of the sun. The light texture absorbs quickly without feeling tacky or uncomfortable, and isn’t overly irritating to my skin. For the price, I have no complaints whatsoever!

Effective retinol serum
Easy to build up tolerance to it
Not overly drying nor irritating on my skin
With regular use, it gave me smoother skin and helped reduce hyperpigmentation (coupled with staying indoors most of the day and copious amounts of sunscreen)

Tube can dispense too much product each time

WHO WILL LIKE THIS: Anyone who wants an affordable and effective simple retinol serum

PRICE: RM60 | US$9.99 | £9.99 for 30ml

WHERE TO BUY: Sephora, Cult Beauty, Lookfantastic

For those interested, this is the ingredients list for The Inkey List Retinol.

Water (Aqua/Eau), Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Propanediol, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Dimethicone, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Caprylyl Glycol, Phospholipids, Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Squalane, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Extract, Carbomer, Sodium Ascorbate, Tocopherol, Polysorbate 60, Tocopheryl Acetate, Glycolipids, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium Edta, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Retinol, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterol, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Hyaluronic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Phenoxyethanol

To my untrained eye, it contains a good amount of hydrating ingredients that buffer the retinol ingredients, so it is less harsh and drying on the skin. It might explain why I fared much better with this one as opposed to the retinol serum from The Ordinary.

Have you tried The Inkey List Retinol? What’s your favourite retinol serum?

I can’t tell you my fave for now. It’s very slow going testing retinol serums, because I want to be sure that they work, yet I want to be sure my face doesn’t fall off LOL! So, stay tuned, I will have more reviews to come, but it will take time 😀

Paris B

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