When it comes to affordable beauty, The Ordinary and The Inkey List are two brands at the forefront of the budget skincare world. These two brands get compared to each other fairly often due to the fact that both brands are affordable, focus on single ingredients and use simple packaging.
But which brand is better? I take a look at the pros and cons of each brand to work out which is best!
Both brands make use of simplistic packaging as part of their branding. It keeps things simple and focussed on the ingredients within.
The majority of products from The Ordinary come in glass bottles with a squeezy dropper top. The design is simple, but makes the products look more scientific somehow! Some of the bottles are clear, while others are tinted to protect products that deteriorate when exposed to light. You will also find The Ordinary products in silver/grey squeezy tube packagings for things like cleansers and moisturisers.
The packaging is simple, classic and looks great on a shelf! However, there are some downsides to the bottles. By opting for a product that you have to unscrew the lid, the product is exposed to the air each time you use it. This can cause the product to go “bad” faster, especially for ingredients that are less stable. While the dropper can allow you to apply the skincare product without touching inside the bottle and contaminating it, the fact air can be let in easily is a problem for some.
On a more positive note, The Ordinary’s packaging is part of the DECIUM recycling scheme, whereby the bottles can be dropped off at specific recycling points to get reused by the company, helping to reduce waste.
The Inkey List
The Inkey List also opt for simplistic packaging, with their branding focussing on black and white bottles. It makes it easy to see what each product is and keeps things focussed on the ingredient.
Most of their products have clicky tops where you can open a little hole and squirt out product, or a pump design to press on and squeeze out product. This prevents the products from becoming exposed to the air, and so reduces the chances of products being ruined from oxidation. Likewise, the bottles are thick, opaque plastic, so the product won’t be affected by light either.
Ease of Use
While the products themselves focus on simplicity, the fact that products are separated into key ingredients rather than purpose-made serums and creams can make things a bit complicated for those who don’t know much about skincare.
I won’t lie, sometimes it feels like you need a PhD in skincare to get your head around The Ordinary. While each product says what it can do for your skin on its box, understanding which products you can use together and in which order takes a bit of working out.
That’s why there are resources like my friend Cheryl’s Extraordinary Skin With The Ordinary course to help you find the best products for you and formulate a routine.
After quite a lot of research I managed to find the products that worked for me and how they should be incorporated into my skincare routine. The trouble with this is that I know a fair amount about skincare and it’s still a lot for me to get my head around. For those less in the know about skincare, it can be very easy to get things wrong and use products that aren’t right or damaging to your skin.
The Inkey List
While The Inkey List also uses simplistic ingredients and packaging, the boxes each product comes in gives great detail about how the product should be used, when the product should be used in a routine and what products to avoid using alongside it. It removes all questions and confusions and makes the whole process very easy.
Compared with The Ordinary, using The Inkey List is a breeze and I rarely have to think twice about which products I should be reaching for.
The Ordinary and The Inkey List are both known as affordable skincare brands, but how budget-friendly are they really?
The Ordinary products range from £4.20 to £14.90.
The Inkey List products range from £4.99 to £14.99.
Prices between the brands are fairly comparable too. TO Hyaluronic Acid is £5.90, TIL Hyaluronic Acid is £5.99.
While each individual product is very affordable, there are some circumstances in which it can work out cheaper buying a different product. For example, if you want to incorporate glycolic acid and vitamin C into your routine, then you may be able to find brands selling a serum or moisturiser for glowing skin that contains both AHA and vitamin C.
For The Ordinary and The Inkey List, you would have to purchase an AHA product, a vitamin C product and a moisturising product separately and add them all into your routine. It can, therefore, sometimes be beneficial to buy a dedicated product from a different brand rather than all of these products together.
To give you a better idea about which brand is better, I’ve compared some of their products. As you will see, both sides have winning products and areas that are stronger than the opposite brand.
The Ordinary Niacinamide + Zinc vs The Inkey List Niacinamide
Niacinamide is a must in my skincare routine – a real star ingredient. It is used for regulating sebum production, minimising pores and stopping breakouts, so it’s a fab ingredient for oily skin.
The Ordinary Niacinamide serum is £5 for 30ml, while The Inkey List is £6.99 for 30ml.
The Ordinary formula is slightly sticky, while The Inkey List Niacinamide sinks into the skin wonderfully. The tackiness of The Ordinary formula doesn’t matter too much though, as I will always follow it with further products anyway.
The biggest difference between these products is that The Ordinary contains additional zinc, which helps to reduce inflammation, while The Inkey List includes hyaluronic acid, which helps to hydrate. Personally, the zinc is more helpful for my skin, so I prefer The Ordinary. But if you have drier skin or no issues with redness and inflammation, then The Inkey List may be a better choice for you.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid vs The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid
Similar to above, the biggest difference between these products is the tackiness. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid serum leaves a sticky feeling on the face, and for me, it takes quite a while to sink into my skin. Hyaluronic acid is a great hydrator and it also helps other products to get properly absorbed into the skin too, so the quicker it sinks in, the quicker you can carry on applying the rest of your skincare.
This is why I love The Inkey List’s Hyaluronic Acid more, as my skin drinks it up and it leaves absolutely no stickiness for me. I’ve tried HA from lots of different brands, both affordable and premium, and this one is by far my favourite, despite being only £5.99!
The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG vs The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream
While slightly different products, both are caffeine-based treatments for eyes. The Ordinary Caffeine Solution is a liquid serum that is applied to the eye area to reduce puffiness and dark circles, while The Inkey List is a cream that aims to do the same.
The ingredients are similar, but the products themselves are not quite the same as The Ordinary serum is in a dropper bottle, while The Inkey List caffeine eye cream is in a squeezy tube, similar to most other eye creams. Personally, I prefer the tube as it makes it much easier to get the right amount of product. Likewise, the slightly thicker texture of the cream is easier to apply than the more fluid serum, which I find harder to apply in the places I want.
Another difference is the price, TO costs £5.80 for 30ml, while TIL costs £8.99 for 15ml. While TIL is clearly a lot more expensive, this is still very reasonable for an eye cream. Despite the higher price, I definitely prefer The Inkey List, as the product is just much nicer to use and gives me better results.
There are pros and cons to both brands, and which is best will largely depend on what priorities you have.
Personally, I think The Ordinary packaging looks way cooler than The Inkey List, as I love the aesthetic of the bottles. I also like being able to see how much product I have left through the glass. However, from a practical point of view, TIL packaging is probably better for keeping products safe and for travel.
In terms of affordability, The Ordinary tends to be a bit cheaper, however, some of The Inkey List products are better quality, so the price is justifiable. However, for many products, they work just as well as each other and issues are mostly personal preferences about texture and consistency. So, if you’d rather spend as little as possible, picking whichever product is cheaper should be fine!
The biggest difference is probably ease of use, as The Inkey List makes it really clear how you should be using each product, whereas The Ordinary takes a little more understanding. Despite that, there is just something about The Ordinary that I just enjoy more than The Inkey List. If you want to understand The Ordinary better, you can check out the Extraordinary Guide to The Ordinary, or my blog post guide!
Have you tried either of these brands? Which products are your favourites? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts!