the ordinary vs the inkey list alpha arbutin dupes

Which one is better: The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin or The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA?

Both promise to fade away dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Both are dirt cheap. Does it really matter which one you pick?

Kinda. It all depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s what I mean:

Key Ingredients In Both The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin And The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA


Arbutin’s nickname is natural hydroquinone. Why? Derived from bearberry leaves, it turns into hydroquinone when applied to the skin.

Arbutin/hydroquinone works in two ways: it mimics the enzyme tyrosinase to slow down the production of melanin and interferes with the maturation of melanosomes (the organelles responsible for melanin production).

In plain English, arbutin stops your skin from pumping out too much excess melanin. As production stops, your dark spots slowly fade away.

Arbutin is gentler than hydroquinone, but high concentrations can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark spots left behind by inflammation).

The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin And The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA both use 2% alpha-arbutin, a derivative that is more powerful than arbutin itself.

IMPORTANT: Be patient. You need to use Alpha Arbutin consistently for at least 3 months before deciding if it works or not for you.

Related: The Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: What Is The Best Alternative To Hydroquinone?


Hyaluronic Acid is a moisture magnet. Literally.

It attracts water from the environment and binds it into the skin. It’s so powerful, it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water!

All that moisture plumps up your skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, makes skin softer to the touch, and gives the complexion a dewy glow.

The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin contains straight Hyaluronic Acid, while The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA uses Hydrolyzed Sodium Hyaluronate, a super small version of hyaluronic acid that penetrates deeper into the skin.

Related: Why You Need Hyaluronic Acid In Your Skincare Routine, No Matter Your Skin Type

What Else Is In These Serums?

In true The Ordinary’s style, Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA has a very simple formula. You know what you’re getting from then name.

The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin has a higher share of humectants. Humectants are ingredients like hyaluronic acid that attract and bind water to the skin. This makes The Inkey List serum more hydrating.

Related: What Are Humectants And Why Do You Need Them?

What’s The Texture Like?

Not much difference here. Both The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA and The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin have a lightweight texture that feels tacky for 10 minutes after application.

What’s The Packaging Like?

The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin comes in a small tube while The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA is packaged in a see-though bottle with a pipette applicator.

Both are small – that’s one of the ways these drugstore brands keep the prices so low.

How To Use Them

Morning and night, after cleansing/exfoliating, on discolourations only.

Which Of The Two Should You Go For?

If you have dry skin, opt for The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin, it’s the most hydrating of the two.

On a budget? The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA will do just fine.


The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin (£9.99): Available at Asos, Cult Beauty, and Feel Unique

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA ($7.00): Available at Asos, Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, Escentual, Feel Unique, and Sephora

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Is The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA A Dupe For The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin?

I wouldn’t say The Ordinary Alpha Arbuin 2% + HA is an exact dupe for The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin. It’s a simpler, less hydrating version that fades away dark spots just as well.

Have you tried The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA and The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin? Share your fave pick in the comments below.

Water (Aqua/ Eau), Butylene Glycol, Propanediol, Glycerin, Alpha-Arbutin, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Hyaluronic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Caprylyl Glycol, Squalane, Phospholipids, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Extract, Carbomer, Polysorbate 60, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Glycolipids, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterol, Tetrapeptide -30.

Aqua (Water), Alpha-Arbutin, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Hydrolyzed Sodium Hyaluronate, Propanediol, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lactic Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin