review the inkey list niacinamide

The Inkey List Niacinamide is one of those rare skincare unicorns that works for everyone. It’s true that everyone’s skin is different. What works for one person may not work for another. Backfire, even. And yet… Niacinamide is the exception to the rule.

Niacinamide is an ingredient absolutely anyone can use. It does everything you want it to, from fighting wrinkles to treating acne and fading away dark spots. But, unlike other powerhouses that do all this (*cough* retinol *cough*), it’s so gentle, it won’t irritate sensitive skin.

I recommend all my clients to use a moisturiser with niacinamide. It’s the easiest way to incorporate this active into your skincare routine. But if yours doesn’t, and you’re not willing to change it, this serum is the next best thing. Here’s why:

About The Brand: The Inkey List

Colette Laxton and Mark Curry know how confusing skincare shopping can be. When they founded The Inkey List, they decided to take the complexity away, so consumers can make better decisions. They started by adding the name of the active ingredient and its pronunciation onto the packaging. Heck, The Inkey List is a wordplay on the INCI List (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) – the long and incomprehensible list of ingredients you find at the back of skincare product.

Still, I’m not sure the brand has managed to deliver on its simplicity promise. Every product gives you only one (maximum two) active per product to deliver the promised benefits. To give skin everything it needs, you’d have to use quite a few products together, adding complexity back in. But hey, at least the products are cheap, so you won’t be breaking the bank.

My real issue is that, sometimes, The Inkey List uses new actives the manufacturer claims are the next skincare breakthrough, but science hasn’t proven their effectiveness yet – again adding another layer of complexity into your skincare shopping. Still, at this price point, it doesn’t hurt your wallet too much to try the latest It ingredient of the moment.

Key Ingredients In The Inkey List Niacinamide: What Makes It Work?


Niacinamide is the undisputed star of The Inkey List Niacinamide. This form of Vitamin B3 does everything for your skin:

No matter what your skin type is, it’s a must for everyone:

  • Dry skin: it helps keep it soft and hydrated
  • Oily skin: it helps shrink large pores and heal pimples faster
  • Sensitive skin: it helps soothe redness and irritations
  • Mature, sun-damaged skin: it helps lighten dark spots and keep wrinkles at bay

See why I recommend it to everyone, now?

Related: The Complete Guide To Niacinamide: What It Is, What It Does, And How To Use It


Hyaluronic Acid is one of the most powerful humectants used in skincare. Hume… what? Humectant is a catch-all terms for ingredients that attract and bind water to your skin to boost its natural hydration levels.

Hyaluronic Acid is so good at this, it binds up to 1000 times its weight in water! All that moisture plumps up fine lines and wrinkles, so they look smaller; makes skin softer to the touch; and gives the complexion a lovely as if lit-from-within glow. The Inkey List contains 1% Hyaluronic Acid – it can seem a tiny %, but it’s more than enough to do the hydrating job well.

The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Water (Aqua / Eau): The main solvent in the formula, it helps dissolve other ingredients.
  • Glycerin: A humectant that attracts and binds water to the skin to increase its hydration levels. It makes skin softer and supple.
  • Propanediol: It hydrates skin and acts as a solvent, to dissolve other ingredients in the formula.
  • Butylene Glycol: A humectant that attracts and binds moisture to the skin to make it softer and smoother. It also acts as a solvent to dissolve other ingredients.
  • Phenoxyethanol: A preservative that prevents germs and bacteria from growing into the serum and spoiling it.
  • Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer: It helps to create textures that are a pleasure to use.
  • Hydroxyethylcellulose: It helps improve the texture and feel of a product.
  • Phospholipids: They have humectant properties that bind water to the skin to hydrate it and make it softer and smoother.
  • Squalane: Very similar to human sebum, it deeply moisturises skin and makes it softer and smoother.
  • Xanthan Gum: It helps thicken the texture of skincare products.
  • Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil: A non-fragrant plant oil with moisturising and antioxidants properties. It makes skin softer and smoother and helps prevent premature wrinkles.
  • Allantoin: A soothing agent that calms down redness and irritation.
  • Sodium Phytate: It neutralises the metal ions in the water that would otherwise spoil the formula.
  • Polysorbate 60: It improves the texture and feel of products.
  • Panthenol: A humectant that binds water to your skin to boost its hydration levels and make it softer and plumper. While it’s at it, it also soothes redness and irritation.
  • Glycolipids: They strengthen the skin’s protective barrier so that moisture stays in (hello hydrating skin!) and germs stay out (goodbye irritations!).
  • Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate: A preservatives that inhibits the growth of bacteria in your skincare products.
  • Sorbitan Isostearate: It stabilises oil-in-water formulas and keeps the mixture from separating.
  • Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols: They lubricate skin and make it softer and smoother.
  • Citric Acid: It helps to adjust the pH of the product.
  • Disodium Phosphate: It helps to adjust the pH of skincare products.
  • Sodium Phosphate: It helps to adjust the pH of skincare products.


The Inkey List Niacinamide has a gel texture that feels a little tacky for the first few seconds. But it absorbs quickly, leaving no residue behind. Oily skin may not fall in love with it straight away, but it’s not annoying enough to put you off completely.


It’s fragrance-free. I’m glad The Inkey List made this choice. I’ll be the first to say that a beautiful citrus or rose scent makes any skincare product an absolute pleasure to use. But, fragrance is the most irritating ingredient in skincare products. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to develop an irritation or allergy to use a cream – especially one that can soothe sensitive skin (niacinamide can do that). It’s much better there’s no added scent here.

How To Use It

You can use niacinamide every other, both morning and evening. Apply this product right before moisturiser. If you’re using an anti-aging serum with retinol, Vitamin C, or antioxidants, use that first and niacinamide second. If you exfoliate with AHAs or BHA, apply the apply the exfoliant first, follow it up with an anti-aging serum, and then niacinamide.


The Inkey List Niacinamide comes in a sleek black and white bottle. It’s cute and releases only the amount of product you need so that none gets wasted. But it’s small. It only gives you 30ml of product. Expect to repurchase it often.

Performance & Personal Opinion

I’m a skincare minimalist. Most mornings, I cleanse, follow up with vitamin C serum and end my routine with sunscreen. Why add more steps if you don’t need it? In winter, my skin does need a little extra care. What does it crave? Moisture. That’s where The Inkey List Niacinamide comes in. I slather it on in between Vitamin C and sunscreen to up my moisturizing game.

It works. The serum does a wonderful job at strengthening my skin’s protective barrier. How do I know? For starters, my skin feels so soft and plumper straight after application. But the main evidence is this: I can walk around freezing London for days and my skin never gets worse for wear. There’s no tell-tale sign of dryness or flakiness that lets me know my skin’s barrier’s compromised. Thanks, Niacinamide!

I’ve also noticed that, whenever I use niacinamide, the large pores around my nose area look smaller. Instead, I can’t stay I’ve seen a reduction in oil production or breakouts, but then my skin isn’t that oily to begin with. But I’ll tell you this: if I were dealing with very oily, acne-prone skin, I’d go with The Ordinary 10% Niacinamide + 1% Zinc. Zinc makes it more drying than The Inkey List Niacinamide, but it’s also better at keeping excess oil production under control.

Instead, my main concerns are dryness and antiaging. When I’m done with The Inkey List Niacinamide, I’m going back to my beloved Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster. I know it’s way more expensive, but there’s a reason for that: it has antioxidants (like Vitamin C), skin-lightening ingredients and soothing agents that help fight the premature signs of aging, like wrinkles and dark spots.

The Inkey List Niacinamide only has one antiaging superstar (that’s niacinamide, duh!), so you’ll see results on a smaller scale. Unless… If you’re already using moisturisers and serums with Vitamin C & co and wondering how the heck to incorporate Niacinamide too, this is it. It’s a basic formula that won’t interfere with anything else you’re using.

Related: Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster Full Review

the inkey list niacinamide

How Does The Inkey List Niacinamide Compare To The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%?

OTHER ACTIVEHydrating Hyaluronic AcidOil-asborbing Zinc
TEXTUREGel-like and a little tackyLightweight, non-sticky
SKIN TYPESAll skin typesOily and acne-prone

The Inkey List Niacinamide and The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% are NOT dupes. They can NOT be used interchangeably. Let me explain why. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% contains zinc, a powerful anti-acne active that, among its superpowers, has the ability to help regulate the production of sebum.

Sebum is your skin’s natural moisturiser. When your skin produces too much, you get acne. When it produces too little, you get dry skin. The addition of Zinc makes The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% suitable only for oily, acne-prone skin that produces too much oil. Everyone else will find it too drying. On the other hand, The Inkey List Niacinamide is hydrating, so everyone can use it.

They have different textures, too. The Ordinary is just slightly thicker than water, non-sticky, and foams upon application. The Inkey List is a lightweight gel that feels tacky only for a few seconds.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($6.00) is available at Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK, The Ordinary and Ulta.

How Does The Inkey List Niacinamide Compare To Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster?

OTHER ACTIVESHydrating Hyaluronic AcidAnti-aging antioxidants
TEXTUREGel-like and a little tackyRunny, non-sticky
SKIN TYPESAll skin typesAll skin types, but especially anyone concerned with anti-aging

I personally wouldn’t say The Inkey List Niacinamide and Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster are dupes either. If anything, The Inkey List Niacinamide is a stripped down version of Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster. Here’s what I mean by that.

The Inkey List Niacinamide is a mostly hydrating formula. It can help treat acne and fade away dark spots thanks to the inclusion of niacinamide, but the rest of the formula is pretty basic. Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster, on the other hand, is infused with antioxidants (including Vitamin C and green tea) that can prevent premature aging and boost sun protection. It’s more expensive – because you get more.

The textures are different, too. The Inkey List has a gel-like, slightly tacky texture that dries to a smooth finish. Paula’s Choice has a runny, fast-absorbing texture that leaves no greasy residue behind. If you can afford the spurge, Paula’s Choice gives you the most bang for your buck. If you’re on a budget, you’ll still experience the wonders of niacinamide with The Inkey List.

Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster is available at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Net-A-Porter, Paula’s Choice, Sephora and SpaceNK.

What I Like About The Inkey List Niacinamide

  • Gel-like, fast-absorbing texture.
  • Fragrance-free.
  • Hydrating, makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Brightens the complexion and helps fade away dark spots.
  • Helps treat acne.
  • Makes pores look smaller.
  • Soothes sensitive skin.
  • Practical packaging.
  • Affordable.

What I DON’T Like About The Inkey List Niacinamide

  • Basic formula, lacks antioxidants.
  • Packaging is small, so it won’t last you long.

Who Should Use This?

Anyone who’s currently not using niacinamide into their skincare routine. It’s a basic formula that’s easy to incorporate without interfering with other antiaging actives. I’m only hesitant to recommend it to

  • Oily and acne-prone skin: You’ll benefit more from a niacinamide product with zinc.
  • Anyone who wants a more multitasking antiaging product: This only gives you niacinamide, without any extra antioxidants or soothing ingredients.

Related: 5 Antiaging Superstars You Should Add To Your Skincare Routine

Does The Inkey List Niacinamide Live Up To Its Claims?

Lightweight, power packed serum that contains 10% Niacinamide, a naturally occurring B3 vitamin that helps to reduce excess oil, blemishes and redness. True.
Additionally formulated with 1% Hyaluronic Acid for added hydration.True again.

Is The Inkey List Cruelty-Free?

Yes, The Inkey List is cruelty-free. They don’t test on animals, either themselves or through a third-party.

Price & Availability

$9.99/£9.99 at Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, and The Inkey List

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

If you’re not using Niacinamide yet, and are looking for a cheap way to add it to your skincare routine without interfering with your other actives, definitely check out The Inkey List Niacinamide. It’s suitable for all skin types, but especially dry and sensitive.

Dupes & Alternatives


Water (Aqua / Eau), Niacinamide, Glycerin, Propanediol, Butylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Phospholipids, Squalane, Xanthan Gum, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Allantoin, Sodium Phytate, Polysorbate 60, Panthenol, Glycolipids, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Sorbitan Isostearate, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols, Citric Acid, Hyaluronic Acid, Disodium Phosphate, Sodium Phosphate.