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The INKEY List vs The Ordinary: Which Brand Wins?

Last Updated: August 17, 2022

Calling all skincare enthusiasts — the skincare showdown is about to begin between these two popular superstar brands: The INKEY List and The Ordinary. 

Both brands are affordable and use simple, straightforward ingredients to elevate your skincare routine, but is one brand better than the other? 

Read our The INKEY List vs The Ordinary review to find out!

Quick Overview: The INKEY List and The Ordinary are very similar brands, both being affordable and focused on science-backed skincare formulations. They have quite a few competing products (such as their hyaluronic acid and niacinamide serums), as well as some formulations that are unique to each brand.

Skincare is different for everyone, so we can’t pick one brand over the other because it truly depends on your skin. Most skincare enthusiasts love products from both brands. Keep reading to see the main differences between both brands!

The INKEY List vs The Ordinary: Overview

The INKEY ListThe Ordinary
– Very affordable prices

– Transparent about ingredients

– Offers more products than The Ordinary

– Offers multiple moisturizers and cleansers

– Sold at Sephora, but not Ulta

– Creates serums as well as formulas that utilize multiple ingredients

– Packaged mainly in plastic bottles and tubes

– Cruelty-free (not tested on animals), but not all of their products are vegan
– Very affordable prices

– Transparent about ingredients

– Smaller collection of products than The INKEY List

– Offers one moisturizer and cleanser

– Sold at Ulta and Sephora

– Focuses more on serums and oils to elevate skincare routine

– Packaged mainly in glass bottles

– All products are vegan and cruelty-free

RELATED: 13 Best Affordable Skincare Brands That Really Work

What is The INKEY List?

The INKEY List
📷IG @good_rosie

Founded in 2018, The INKEY List is a skincare brand that revolves around transparency, efficacy, quality, and knowledge.

The INKEY List believes skincare knowledge is needed to make the best decisions, and that’s what this brand likes to provide for their customers—knowledge, solutions, and tips about any skincare concerns or products shoppers have. 

With a collection of cleansers, moisturizers, serums, and more, The INKEY List is a very reputable, admirable skincare brand that doesn’t beat around the bush.

What is The Ordinary?

The Ordinary
📷IG @theordinary

On the other hand, The Ordinary is a skincare brand that was launched in 2016 and has grown tremendously in popularity, largely due to the boom of social media platforms. 

The Ordinary has a smaller collection of skincare products, but each product packs a punch in the best way possible. 

Known best for their face serums and peeling solution, The Ordinary is a consistent brand that is affordable, accessible, and effective. 

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s get into the specifics and compare these brands in depth!


The INKEY List

Retinol Serum

The INKEY List has a nice collection of products to choose from, covering all the bases for one’s everyday skincare needs in addition to having skin boosters like serums and face masks.

Unlike The Ordinary, the INKEY List has multiple moisturizers and cleansers to choose from so that you have options to build an optimal and effective skincare routine. 

The INKEY List also offers hair and scalp treatments as well (The Ordinary only offers one hair serum).

One of The INKEY List’s most popular products is the retinol serum. Aimed to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce hyperpigmentation, and improve overall skin clarity, shoppers love The INKEY List’s retinol serum as part of their nighttime skincare routine. 

The Ordinary

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Meanwhile, The Ordinary focuses more on individual skin boosters rather than whole collections.

With a small (but effective) offering, The Ordinary products all shine in their own way, but certain types of product have fewer options to choose from. 

The Ordinary offers one cleanser, one moisturizer, and one face mask. However, they offer multiple skin boosters like serums and exfoliators.

You could definitely build out an entire skincare routine using The Ordinary products, but this might be an issue if you’re not a fan of their cleanser or moisturizer.

While The INKEY List has a variety of hair products, The Ordinary only offers one hair product.

One of the most popular The Ordinary products is their niacinamide, a serum made to improve skin brightness, blemishes, and skin congestion! 


The INKEY List


The INKEY List is all about making skincare affordable so that creating a skincare routine and trying out different products doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. 

All individual products are less than $20 and are as low as $10! 

The INKEY List offers two sizes for some of their products, like the Oat Cleansing Balm. You can choose from either 150mL or 50mL.

The Ordinary

Squalane Cleanser

When it comes to pricing, The Ordinary is in the same boat as The INKEY List. 

Most of their products cost less than $10, but they do have a few options that cost more than $10 (but typically less than $20).

You can also shop for larger sizes in some of their top products that will be a better bang for your buck, but slightly more expensive. For example, the Squalane Cleanser is $20 for 150mL and $8 for 50mL. 

Benefits and Ingredients

The INKEY List

The Inkey List
📷IG @theinkeylist

The INKEY List is very transparent about what is put into their products — as they should be!

The brand’s mission to spread reputable knowledge to their customers starts with having a transparent relationship with them, which is why The INKEY List cites all the ingredients, offers up usage tips, has an FAQ section, and even has customer testimonies on every product page. 

The INKEY List uses active super ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to improve overall skin health and clarity. 

The INKEY List does not use any scents or essential oils, and you can even shop by skin type to make sure your skin is getting what it needs!

The Ordinary

📷IG @theordinary

Like The INKEY List, The Ordinary is also very transparent about product ingredients and recipes. 

Since The Ordinary is more skin booster-based, the serums, face oils, and exfoliators are all made with active ingredients like niacinamide and salicylic acid, and are derived from other vitamins to help heal, smooth, and brighten the skin. 

On every product page, The Ordinary provides the ingredient list, directions, and the technology of the product! 

The Ordinary products are also essential oil-free and scent-free, and the product pages also specify if there is water, oil, or alcohol in a product. 

The Bottomline: Which Is Better?

Both The INKEY List and The Ordinary have excellent products and are reputable brands every skincare enthusiast should check out, but is one better than the other? We don’t think so.

Skincare is not one-size-fits-all, so don’t be afraid to experiment with both brands. You might prefer one over the other, but it all boils down to your preferences and which brand works better for your skin!

One difference that you might care about is that The Ordinary uses glass dropper bottles for most of their packaging (aside from a few products like their cleanser and moisturizer), whereas The INKEY List is packaged in plastic squeeze bottles.

The Ordinary is also 100% vegan and cruelty-free, whereas The INKEY List is just cruelty-free (not all of their products are vegan, although you can shop their products that are vegan).

Instead of trying to pick one brand over the other, it’s also perfectly okay to use products from both brands. Someone might not like The Ordinary’s moisturizer, but love one from The Inkey List.

Luckily, both brands are very affordable, so you have the flexibility to try different products and compare options from both brands.

Both brands offer many competing products, so we’d recommend trying both to see what you like best. Here are a few products that are often compared to each other:

Aside from this, we love the transparency of both brands and how affordable they make their products so that everyone can build a great skincare routine. 

Everyone’s skin deserves proper care, tenderness, and love! 

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