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The Inkey List Retinol Review

If you’ve been looking for a skincare ingredient to smooth fine lines and wrinkles and firm your skin, then you may have tried a retinol skin care product. Retinol is one of the best over-the-counter anti-aging treatments you can use.

The Inkey List Retinol Serum is formulated to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve elasticity, brighten dark spots, and even out your complexion. But does it work? I’ll discuss my experience with the serum in this The Inkey List retinol review.

The Inkey List Retinol Serum

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The Inkey List Retinol Serum

The Inkey List Retinol Serum

The Inkey List Retinol Serum contains 1% RetiSTAR Stabilized Retinol and 0.5% Granactive Retinoid in a slow-release formula to address the signs of aging like wrinkles and fine lines with minimal irritation.

Per the manufacturer, RetiSTAR Stabilized Retinol protects against photoaging, wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, and loss of skin elasticity.

The 1% concentration is made up of 0.05% retinol, tocopherol, sodium ascorbate, and PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil (in caprylic/capric triglycerides) in an oily dispersion.

So while 1% RetiSTAR Stabilized Retinol sounds like a high 1% concentration of retinol, keep in mind that it is a complex of multiple actives that contains 0.05% retinol.

Granactive Retinoid is made up of dimethyl isosorbide (and) hydroxypinacolone retinoate, an ester of all-trans retinoic acid.

It is supposed to provide similar results as retinoic acid but with low irritation, as well as decrease skin damage from UV rays and reduce symptoms related to acne.

The serum also contains moisturizing glycerin and squalane, which will appeal to those with dry skin. Vitamin E is a skin-protective antioxidant.

Hyaluronic acid hydrates and plumps the skin. The serum even contains a small amount of anti-aging peptide Matrixyl 3000 (palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 and palmitoyl tripeptide-1).

This retinol serum is ideal for normal, dry, combination, and oily skin types. If you have skin on the sensitive side (like me), you might even be able to use this serum.

Just be sure to patch test before using it for the first time.

The Inkey List Retinol Serum Ingredient List

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.

The Inkey List Retinol Review

The Inkey List Retinol Serum sampled on palm of hand

The Inkey List Retinol Serum has a lightweight consistency and pale yellow translucent shade. It absorbs quickly into my skin without leaving behind any greasy residue or clogging pores.

Once absorbed, it really feels weightless on my skin.

After using this retinol serum in the evening, I wake to brighter, smoother skin. Over time, I’ve noticed an improvement in skin texture, clarity, and more even skin tone.

I often use it with a niacinamide serum for anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair benefits.

The Inkey List Retinol Serum is one of the first retinol products I tried (along with this retinoid from The Ordinary) that I could tolerate. This was a revelation for me.

I tried unsuccessfully for years to incorporate retinol into my skincare routine. My skin would get dry, flaky, and irritated, and I would give up.

I’ve learned since then to dial back the frequency of more potent retinoids and increase my patience level. If you’d prefer an easy and gentle way to introduce retinol into your skincare regimen, I would suggest giving this retinol serum a try.

I can even use this serum a few nights in a row without experiencing the typical dryness, flakiness, and irritation that I get with other retinol and retinoid products.

For the low price point, The Inkey List Retinol Serum is an excellent option for those looking to introduce retinols into their skincare routine without breaking the bank.

It would also be great if you are just starting to notice some wrinkles and fine lines or have never used retinol before. All in all, a great beginner retinol!

Related Post: The Inkey List Review

How To Use The Inkey List Retinol

Use in the PM in your evening skincare routine. Apply after cleansing or toning. If you are using a hyaluronic acid serum, like my favorite hyaluronic acid serum, The Inkey List recommends applying the hyaluronic acid first.

Then apply a pea-sized amount of The Inkey List Retinol to your face and neck. Follow with a moisturizer and/or face oil.

The Inkey List suggests when first starting out, you should use this retinol serum 1-2 times per week and increase usage as your skin can tolerate it.

Be sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher in your AM skin routine to protect your skin from free radical damage caused by UV rays.

The Inkey List Retinol Serum Conflicts

Like all retinoids and retinol products, you should not use the Inkey List Retinol Serum with other potent actives.

This includes other retinoids, chemical exfoliants like exfoliating acids (AHAs and BHAs) (i.e., glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid), physical exfoliants, copper peptides, benzoyl peroxide, and pure or ethylated vitamin C (ascorbic acid).

Where to Buy The Inkey List Retinol Serum

You can buy The Inkey List Retinol Serum at Sephora and The Inkey List’s website in the US.

How Much Does The Inkey List Retinol Cost?

The Inkey List Retinol Serum is currently priced at $10.99 for 30ml (1.01 oz).

Does The Inkey List Retinol Help With Acne?

Retinol increases cell turnover, so it can help remove dead skin cells and debris, which can clog pores and worsen acne. It also balances keratinization, which helps to keep pores unclogged and reduces sebum (oil) production in the skin.

Alternatives to The Inkey List Retinol Serum

If you are interested in trying another retinoid serum that is gentle on the skin and available at drugstore prices, consider these alternatives.

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion contains both Granactive Retinoid and retinol, like The Inkey List Retinol, but in a different concentration.

It contains a 2% concentration of Granactive Retinoid and a sustained-delivery form of pure retinol in a protective capsule system (concentration not disclosed).

This serum has a creamy texture, more liquidy than The Inkey List. It is also very gentle on the skin. And it’s very affordable, just like The Inkey List. This is probably my favorite retinoid to use on a daily basis.

For more comparisons of The Inkey List and The Ordinary products, please see my post on The Inkey List vs The Ordinary.

Good Molecules Retinol Cream

Good Molecules Retinol Cream

Good Molecules Retinol Cream contains 0.1% retinol to improve the look of fine lines, wrinkles, and lack of elasticity for firmer-looking skin. It also targets skin congestion, breakouts, and enlarged pores.

This retinol cream is enriched with antioxidant-rich bakuchiol, which has been shown to decrease wrinkles and hyperpigmentation as well as retinol but with less facial skin scaling and stinging.

The cream also contains glycerin and grapeseed oil for moisture and nourishment and allantoin and Acmella oleracea extract to soothe and calm the skin.

Good Molecules is very transparent with their product ingredients. They have a “Nothing To Hide Ingredient List” that discloses the exact concentration of every ingredient in this retinol cream.

This gentle retinol cream is suitable for all skin types. For normal skin types, Good Molecules suggests using it up to 4x weekly at night. For sensitive skin or dry skin types, you can use it up to 3x weekly at night.

The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturizer

The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturizer

If your skin cannot tolerate retinol, consider trying bakuchiol, a retinol alternative. The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturizer contains 1% bakuchiol, squalane, and Sacha inchi oil to target wrinkles and fine lines while hydrating and nourishing the skin.

Please see this post for my complete review of The Inkey List Bakuchiol.

The Benefits of Retinol

Retinol is a type of retinoid and a derivative of vitamin A that has powerful anti-aging properties.

Retinol works by increasing collagen production. Collagen is a structural protein that helps skin stay toned and tight. Retinol also thickens epidermal skin, resulting in a reduction of lines and wrinkles.

Additionally, it speeds up cell turnover and encourages skin renewal to disperse melanin (pigment) and patchy uneven skin tone. This helps to reduce the look of age spots and hyperpigmentation and brighten dull skin.

Retinol also has properties that can benefit those with oily and acne-prone skin. Retinol and retinoids help balance keratinization (the exfoliation of dead skin cells).

This helps to unclog pores which can lead to fewer breakouts and acne. Retinoids can also reduce sebum (oil) production in the skin, which is helpful for oily skin types.

Retinol needs to be converted by the skin to retinaldehyde and then to retinoic acid to be available in the skin. So while it’s not as potent as prescription retinoic acid products (it loses potency with each conversion), it is also not as irritating as stronger prescription retinoids.

Depending on your skin type and retinol concentration, it may still cause redness, irritation, flakiness, and dryness in the skin.

Be sure to use hydrating and moisturizing products alongside retinol like hyaluronic acid, and be sure to follow with a nourishing moisturizer or face oil to support a healthy skin barrier.

If you have more sensitive skin, The Inkey List recommends using their Niacinamide Serum before this retinol serum to decrease irritation. For the sensitive skin around your eyes, The Inkey List recommends their Retinol Eye Cream.

Final Thoughts on The Inkey List Retinol Review

The Inkey List Retinol is one of the most effective and affordable over-the-counter retinol products that I have tried. It is gentle enough for sensitive skin types but powerful enough to help treat stubborn signs of aging like wrinkles and sun damage.

Due to the gentle formula and affordable price, it’s a great option that has become one of my “holy grail” skincare products I keep in my arsenal of anti-aging serums!

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday 16th of March 2022

Hi Sarah,

I love most of your reviews. May I know which retinol is more tolerable for sensitive skin... The inkeylist retinol or The good molecules gentle retinol?

Stay safe! Jewel 🙂


Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

The Inkey List Retinol contains 1% RetiStar Stabilized Retinol and 0.5% Granactive Retinoid, a gentle retinoid that works similar to retinol. 1% RetiStar Stabilized Retinol is a complex that actually contains 0.05% retinol. Good Molecules Gentle Retinol Cream contains 0.11% retinol, so about twice the amount of The Inkey List Retinol, plus 0.3% bakuchiol, a gentle plant-based retinol alternative. Both are good starter retinol products, but it's hard to say how your skin would respond. When it comes to sensitive skin, be sure to patch test before using new products to avoid an allergic reaction. Thanks so much for reaching out!


Sunday 21st of November 2021

Hi Sarah, I love your advice and I look forward to your newsletter every week! I hope you’re doing well. Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Margaret xxx (Spurlin) 😁


Sunday 21st of November 2021

So great to hear from you, Margaret! Thank you so much for your kind words. Miss you and hope you are well too! Can you believe almost another whole year has passed? I hope you and your family enjoy the holidays!!! - Sarah