When The Inkey List launched in 2018, the skincare brand aimed to keep education at its heart with its ingredient-led, accessibly-priced products, summed up with the tag line: "Knowledge. Your most powerful ingredient.". Now, the company founded by Mark Curry and Colette Laxton, is aiming to demystify the haircare industry too, using the same ingredient-focused approach.
"When it came to skincare, we saw the rise of the confused and curious people on Reddit and instantly thought there was a gap in the market,” explains Laxton. “We set out on a mission to democratise skincare through knowledge, empowering people to make the best decisions for themselves.”
It’s for this reason that the brand has found particular favour with the so-called 'skintellectuals' – a group of increasingly savvy skincare customers who want to know not only if their products ‘work’ but how they do so, enabling them to source the ingredients that will serve them best.
By the end of 2020, this drive for research and information is predicted to fully extend into haircare, with the co-founder of Cult Beauty, Alexia Inge, dubbing this exciting sub-set of the clued-up consumer, the ‘trichologistas’.
These are the individuals who are tired of being unhappy with their tresses, looking for solutions to common concerns, such as dryness and lack of volume, through an understanding of the ingredients they actually need.
The Inkey List is stepping up to cater to this growing market, taking the single ingredient-focused approach from its skincare and applying the same logic to our haircare routines.
“We wanted to take the demystifying of beauty a step further and the base of knowledge is actually even lower in haircare,” says Curry. “We are going from the traditional shampoo and conditioner approach, to deep-diving into ingredient-based solutions.”
Designed for all, no matter your hair colour or type, The Inkey List haircare range focuses on efficacious ingredients for specific issues – with help at hand whether your hair is poker straight or tightly coiled.
Split into two categories, with three targeted products for scalp and five for the hair itself, the first thing to note is that the range does not include a shampoo or conditioner, the traditional pillars of a haircare routine.
Instead, the brand has focused on individual products or ‘boosters’ with one main hero ingredient that can be added into the customers’ day-to-day routine. As a result, the range aims to supercharge your regime, rather than asking you to completely rethink it.
By concentrating on what is ‘in’ its haircare products, The Inkey List has also arguably avoided the trap that many sustainable haircare brands inevitably fall into – talking about what isn’t in a product so much that this becomes the only real selling point.
For example, think back to the last time you heard about what shouldn’t be in your shampoo (stripping sulphates for example) and compare that to the opportunities you’ve had to hear about the ingredients that should. To use an allegory: you might not want to find a tiger (aka a ‘bad’ ingredient) in your formula, but even that’s more exciting than investing in an empty box (a formula that does nothing at all).
Luckily, The Inkey List takes care of both sides – with a sustainable message and formulas that work without ingredients that are unkind to your skin or hair.
Any existing ‘skintelluctals’ present will recognise a lot of the ingredients from their skincare shelf – although it’s important to state that they are in forms that are most beneficial for the hair, so don’t necessarily go slathering them on your face.
For the scalp (where good hair really starts, according to the brand), the hero ingredient you’ll probably know already is salicylic acid, which appears in the Exfoliating Treatment to slough away dead skin cells, balance oil and avoid irritation and flakiness.
You may also be familiar with caffeine – not simply from your ‘energising’ eye cream but from hair loss shampoo adverts – for its ability to stimulate the hair follicle (although its been given a chicer revamp by The Inkey List).
The lesser known but probably most exciting ingredient is an antioxidant – darkenyl, included in the Anti-Gray formula to tackle and prolong the time between initial grey hairs (although it won’t work miracles on a full head of silver). It works by helping to stop free radicals (the same ones that cause damage in our skin) from disrupting the melanocytes that create melanin (pigment) at the hair follicle, thus avoiding the acceleration of greying.
For the hair itself, which the brand is conscious to stress is ‘dead’ but can benefit from surface treatments, the hydrating superhero hyaluronic acid, shea oil (for nourishment), chia seed (especially for curl definition), as well as vitamin C (for glossiness) and peptides (for plumping) are all utilised. These ingredients work by clinging to the surface of the hair, rebuilding its natural barrier and thus helping the cuticle lie flatter, boosting shine, decreasing frizz and increasing the amount of moisture that can be kept locked in.
A recap on skincare
If you have yet to experience the skincare offering from The Inkey List, which is unbelievably extensive, you can expect to find all your usual ingredient ‘superheroes’ including retinol, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, which cover all your concerns including fine lines, dullness and lack of hydration.
“We take the ‘superstar’ ingredient and what it is famous for, and pair it with two-three ‘support actors’ that either dial up the benefit or pair-back potential side effects, for example irritation,” says Curry. “We then create a delicious texture base with as few other ingredients as possible to zero-in on the key desired effect and ensure supreme value.”
There are also more obscure but no less effective ingredients given a spotlight too, including Laxton’s favourite, polyglutamic acid – a “versatile super-hydrator that can hold up to four times more moisture than hyaluronic acid, to be used as the final skincare step/serum for ultimate hydration.” Her top tip is to “add a drop into my foundation for a smoother effect and hydrating coverage.”
What else sets it apart?
If you wanted further proof that The Inkey List is a brand that prides itself on cutting through technical beauty jargon and confusing beauty marketing, you need look no further than the packaging. There you’ll find, in simple but informative terms: what the product is, what it does and how you should use it, with more information revealed about how the products work by opening up the 100 per cent sustainable outside pack.
“It was actually my dad who inspired it – I saw that he drew a little sun and moon on packs to remind him when and how to use the products (am/pm),” says Curry. “That kind of made sense… we literally changed all our packs to make it unmistakably clear (on the main packs and cartons) when and how to use each of the products in your own skincare routine.”
What’s more, the brand doesn’t simply encourage you to purchase products, it actively helps you to find the ones that are worth investing in for you, in the form of its #AskInkey service. Available via the website on live chat, as well as over Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, this gives you access to 24/7 personalised skincare and now haircare advice every day of the year. These advisors are real people (not chatbots) who have been specifically trained to help and they have thus far provided over 40,000 personal skincare consultations. There’s even a recipe builder available that allows personalised skincare recommendations to be emailed over to you, if you are struggling.
What’s the cost?
Bottling beauty expertise might sound costly but in fact another key ethos for the brand is affordability, thus making expertise as accessible as possible. You’ll find both the skincare and haircare products capped at no more than £15, which gives you room to experiment without worrying about what that will cost you.
As Curry concludes, The Inkey List truly is “always ingredient-led, always spreading knowledge and never beyond the budget of normal people like ourselves.”
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