Review: The Inkey List – Retinol Serum (Gel)

Where to purchase: Available at Look Fantastic: LINK / Feel Unique: LINK / Cult Beauty: LINK / Sephora: LINK

Price: £9.99

Volume: 30ml

Made in: The UK

What is it?: A Slow Release Retinol Serum in Lightweight Gel format.

What does it do?: Helps target Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Uneven Skin Tone + Textural Irregularities while avoiding irritation (through slow-release, encapsulated Retinol).

Supposedly Good for: All Skin Types (And those who are starting to see signs of ageing).

What I think: I would agree – I think this works great for first-timers who are nervous about using retinol. Also, this works well for Oily-Combo (as a Moisturiser), Combo, Normal and Dry Skins.


Vegan?: Yes

Cruelty Free?: Yes

How long does it last after opening?: 6 Months

Packaging: Recyclable + Made with reduced plastic. This is a Squeeze-y Tube with a Screw-top Lid. As you can see, it can kind of get a bit messy with build-up.

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Directions: Use in the PM on Cleansed Skin – apply a pea sized amount onto the face and neck. For the more delicate skin around the eyes; The Inkey List Recommends their Retinol Eye Cream. (For Dry Skins) you can follow with a Moisturiser and/or Oil. Start off using 1-2 x per week and then build up usage if your skin can tolerate it.

NOTE: For more Sensitive Skin Types; apply Niacinamide before Retinol to help reduce irritation (they work well together).

How I use it: I apply in the PM as a Moisturiser. Due to my Oily-Combo Skin, I find that using this AND a moisturiser on top would be too much for my skin (this is already oily + moisturising). But it works great as a moisturiser 🙂

  • I find that this is so gentle that I don’t need to ”buffer” this product (unlike my Differin).

Retinol?: 0.05% Retinol (Vitamin A – a Cell Communicating Ingredient that promotes Skin Shedding, therefore improves the texture and overall look of the skin and reduces the deepness of lines and wrinkles + stimulates collagen with continued use), 0.05% Granactive Retinoid (Hydroxypinacolone) – this is a much more gentle Retinol derivative.

NOTE: The Inkey List have used ”Retistar” Retinol which means that this 0.05% pure retinol comes out in a ”slow release” formula which is what helps minimise skin irritation while still providing retinol to the skin. I think this definitely is a gentle Retinol so I recommend Slow-releasing Retinol for those with Sensitive skins.


Key Ingredients: Sodium Ascorbate (Antioxidant). Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 + Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 (Together both form Matrixyl 3000) – Reduces the breakdown of Collagen in the Skin. Emollient and Moisturising Ingredients Include: Squalane, Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin + Phospholipids – So as you can see, these make an emollient, creamy and moisturising product.

Full Ingredients: 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.

NOTE: The Incidecoder have a full ingredient breakdown HERE

Texture: A Creamy, Emollient Gel (That’s lightweight!). This feels smooth along the skin and doesn’t feel sticky or tacky. It can feel a bit greasy if using in Hot + Humid Weather (Retinol has to be formulated in oil-based formulas). But I’m impressed by how lightweight this is. This doesn’t make my skin feel like it can’t breathe and has been absolutely pleasant for my oily-combo skin to use as a moisturiser. It doesn’t transfer onto my pillow like an oil would.

See the Texture Video below.

This has a Yellow Tint as you can see. It comes out easily from the tube (sometimes I do over-apply because this is a lightweight gel cream). This feels very smooth and not grainy. It doesn’t tint the skin yellow either.


Hopefully you can see the butter-like, lightweight texture of this creamy gel. It’s a great Moisturiser in the PM and Cold Weather for Oily-Combo skin and Normal Skins. Dry skins would eat this up under their moisturiser on top.


Does this Sting if the Skin has been Irritated / Sensitised by Shaving/Heavy Retinol Use?: No! If my skin is already irritated and sensitised before applying this retinol, it doesn’t irritate. However, if the skin is already irritated + sensitised then I wouldn’t recommend applying retinol until the skin has recovered.

Summer or Winter?: Retinol is suggested to be used in the Winter (avoid sunlight when using). But even for my Oily-Combo Skin, this works in the PM and on colder evenings.

Layerable?: Yes (Doesn’t ball up as this is creamy).


Video Swatch:

Fragrance?: No added Fragrance and/or EO (BUT this does have a particular retinol scent. However, it’s not too off-putting for me).

Good Under Makeup?: I wouldn’t recommend it.

Will I use until Completion?: Yes! (This in fact is my 2nd tube).

How long have I been using this?: It took me 2-3 Months to finish this 30ml bottle (I used this like a Moisturiser + covered the neck).

The Effect?: Glowy Skin (My sister has commented on my skin frequently) that’s maintained (didn’t irritate or purge/ruin my skin). Pores also appear smaller (less noticeable). But this does require continued use!

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What I like:

  • Fragrance + EO Free
  • Great for Sensitive Skins (Or those starting out on Retinol)
  • Actually contains Retinol
  • Moisturising
  • Layerable
  • Didn’t sting or irritate/damage my skin
  • Lightweight and not sticky or tacky

What I don’t like:

  • Can feel a bit greasy (Especially in the Summer) So I wouldn’t recommend to oily skins or those living in very hot and humid weather.
  • Very gentle (i.e. won’t be hard-hitting enough for some. For you, I’d recommend the Retinol Serums from The Ordinary).

Overall Rating and Conclusion: 4/5 – A very nice Retinol-starting product! I don’t think those who are avid Retinol users would find this strong enough, however if, like me, you like alternating between something like Differin and this, this works! It’s also very moisturising and doesn’t make my skin feel like it can’t breathe. I didn’t experience a worsening of my skin condition while using this.

Would I repurchase?: Yes! I enjoy how moisturising yet lightweight this is without feeling like I’m just applying oil to the face. There’s some creaminess to it. I also like how gentle this is and how I can use it on alternate days to my Differin Cream.

Dupe?: If you want an even more gentle version (for Retinoid first-timers), then the The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid Emulsion: LINK / My Review: LINK. If you want something stronger, then the Paula’s Choice Retinol 1%: LINK is a product people seem to enjoy.

My Skin Type: I am acne prone and have slightly dehydrated combo skin. My skin is usually tight where the cheeks and eye area is and the outer parts of my face. My T zone is oily. My skin isn’t a fan of thick/heavy formulas so I opt for lightweight formulas to prevent it from clogging up. My skin doesn’t like essential oils either and I try to avoid fragrance when I can.

Disclaimer: I am a skincare enthusiast and not a skin expert. I am not qualified to give out dermatological advice. This type of advice should only be given by a medical practitioner. Upon trying / using any of the reviewed products on the blog, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings and please seek medical advice if needed.

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3 thoughts on “Review: The Inkey List – Retinol Serum (Gel)

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