Hyaluronic acid is one of the most prevalent ingredients in skincare. With a multitude of use cases and benefits for the skin, it’s no wonder that it’s such a popular go-to.

Although many brands sell hyaluronic acid in one form or another, perhaps two of the most well-known ones with dedicated serums are The INKEY List and The Ordinary.

In fact, you’ve probably come across the INKEY List vs The Ordinary Hyaluronic acid debate before, if you’re into the space.

Let’s see which of the two products is better.

What is hyaluronic acid?

Before I go into detail about the hyaluronic acid serums offered by these two brands, it’s worth stating all the must-know facts about the ingredient.

Why is it so popular and such an active part of skincare? And why will you benefit from a dedicated serum?

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring ingredient that can be found in our skin. However, as we age, its levels decline and the only way we can give the skin enough of it is by using good products that contain it.

The main role of hyaluronic acid is to lock in moisture in the skin for longer periods. Or, to slow down transepidermal water loss, so to speak.

Therefore, it’s super hydrating for your skin.

When the skin retains enough moisture, the cell turnover improves, leading to visibly smoother and plumper skin. Yes, hyaluronic acid has an immediate plumping effect!

As a result, it can also help by slowing down aging and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

The Ordinary vs INKEY List Hyaluronic Acid ingredient comparison

So are all hyaluronic acid products created equal?

Not at all.

Every brand produces different types of hyaluronic acid-based products. And even if the main ingredient is hyaluronic acid, chances are that there are other substances in the formula that make the product useful for other purposes or just a different experience in using it.

When it comes to the INKEY List hyaluronic acid vs The Ordinary, the best way to approach the debate is to start by looking at the ingredient list of each product:

The Ordinary Hyaluronic acid ingredient list (INCI):

Aqua (Water), Sodium Hyaluronate, Pentylene Glycol, Propanediol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Panthenol, Ahnfeltia Concinna Extract, Glycerin, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Isoceteth-20, Ethoxydiglycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol

The INKEY List Hyaluronic acid ingredient list (INCI):

Water (Aqua /​ Eau), Propanediol, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/​Vp Copolymer, Leuconostoc/​Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Hyaluronic Acid, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Phenoxyethanol

The different ingredients that The Ordinary’s serum contains in comparison to The INKEY List’s product are:

  • Citric acid – an AHA that gently exfoliates and unclogs pores. Supports the reduction of fine lines and evens out the skin tone
  • Panthenol – moisturizes the skin and helps with the retention of water.
  • Ahnfeltia Concinna extract – strengthens hyaluronic acid’s ability to penetrate the skin and work better.
  • Vitamin B5 – improves surface hydration.

On the other hand, IL has not only 2% Hyaluronic acid but also Matrixyl 3000 – a famous peptide. This peptide is known to increase collagen in the skin and is great for people who don’t have any other peptide-based products in their skincare routine but also want to have the hydration that comes with hyaluronic acid.

The IL hyaluronic acid serum is also free from alcohol, and essential oils, and it’s not tested on animals.

TO’s product doesn’t fall behind either and is also free from oil and it’s cruelty-free. In addition, it doesn’t contain any gluten, silicones, nuts, water, or alcohol.

A key difference between both in terms of ingredients is that The Ordinary’s hyaluronic acid serum is fungal-acne-safe and vegan, while The INKEY List’s hyaluronic acid serum isn’t.

Experience with the two hyaluronic acid serums

When I tried The INKEY List Hyaluronic Acid, I definitely enjoyed the lightweight and watery consistency of the product. I used it on damp skin and I loved how it applied evenly, without leaving behind any sticky residue.

It doesn’t feel greasy or sticky and it won’t pill. The skin absorbs it pretty quickly and it’s ideal for all skin types.

When comparing it to The Ordinary, I’d definitely say that the IL is the superior one.

TO’s hyaluronic acid serum can feel a bit sticky and it doesn’t feel as hydrating as other hyaluronic acid serums. However, the stickiness can be prevented if you apply it to damp skin or wet your hands before application. I always apply it immediately after a good, hydrating toner.

Another major difference between the experience of the two is fragrance.

The Ordinary’s product is fragrance-free, while The INKEY List does have a specific scent that you can pick up. Personally, I don’t find fragrance disturbing in skin care unless it’s unbearably strong and The INKEY List’s scent is due to the ingredients and not any extra fragrance put into it.

Comparing price, size & availability of both serums

The Ordinary vs INKEY List hyaluronic acid comparison also involves looking at the availability and price of both. After all, what good does it do to discover the perfect product if it’s too expensive or if you can’t find it anywhere?

The INKEY List is definitely a bit harder to get your hands on, while The Ordinary is a pretty popular brand available in many shops – online and offline.

When it comes to the amount of product that you get, The INKEY List’s hyaluronic acid serum comes in a standard 30ml/1.01 fl oz bottle that costs around US $9.

The Ordinary’s hyaluronic acid serum also comes in a 30ml/1.01 fl oz bottle but it’s priced around US $7-$8 – slightly cheaper.

You can also find TO’s hyaluronic acid in a 60ml/2.02 format for $13-$14 which is super convenient if you plan on using the serum often and don’t want to order it frequently.

Performance and personal thoughts

In a nutshell, both TO’s and IL hyaluronic acid products do what they’re designed to – they hydrate.

The fact is that The INKEY List’s product is a lot more appropriate for people with oily skin. This is mostly because it doesn’t leave behind a greasy feeling and it’s not sticky like TO’s hyaluronic acid.

On the other hand, I’d say that TO is ideal for a base under makeup. I use it as a primer all the time.

If I had to conclude which one is better, I’d certainly say that they’re both good, but perhaps the IL is a bit more pleasant to use, especially if your skincare routine is more complex.

I’d also like to point out that hyaluronic acid is not a rare ingredient at all.

In fact, nowadays it’s included in so many different skincare products that I’d say it doesn’t really make much sense to invest in a product specifically dedicated to hyaluronic acid.

It’s neither as effective nor as cost-efficient.

Personally, I prefer choosing skincare that combines hyaluronic acid with other valuable actives and is superior in its formulation.

I’ll share some of my favorites with you in the following section.

Products I like more than a basic hyaluronic acid serum

Vichy Mineral 89

Vichy - hyaluronic acid serum alternative
The Vichy Mineral 89 is a super-serum infused with different weights of hyaluronic acid and with volcanic water rich in skin-loving minerals. I’ve found that my acne-prone skin really likes Vichy’s volcanic water – it helps the skin heal faster.

After testing TO and IL’s hyaluronic acid and giving the Vichy Mineral 89 a go, I’d definitely say that Vichy’s serum is much more potent and effective than the other two.

One of the things that particularly caught my attention was the size of the bottle.

It’s larger than both TO’s and IL’s and can last you for much longer – I personally used it for around 9 months with a daily routine.

It’s designed for all skin types and can even be used on sensitive skin. It can also help calm down irritated skin or skin that has been stripped down of its natural barrier as a result of over-exfoliation or other mishaps.

Vichy Mineral 89 is Available on SkinStore, DERMSTORE and Stylevana

Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner

Pyunkang Yul - hyaluronic acid serum alternative

The Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner is another product from my list of amazingly hydrating and plumping skincare gems. I love everything Pyunkang Yul <3

It’s a thick toner/essence that leaves your skin feeling baby smooth and deeply hydrated.

It contains betaine and minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory ingredients, and has nutrient-boosting qualities – a true powerhouse for the skin!

The essence has a light natural scent due to some of the ingredients in it. It’s not sticky, even if you layer multiple layers of the product (I do the 7-skin method).

The formula is pretty simple, with only seven ingredients, one of which is 99% Astragalus extract – a powerful healing ingredient with the ability to treat damaged skin. Perfect if you suffer from blemishes or have overused retinol or exfoliation.

This is another product that can be used by any skin type.

Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner is Available on Amazon and YesStyle and Stylevana.

ENature Birch Juice Hydro Essence Skin

ENature - hyaluronic acid serum alternative

Last but not least, one of my favorite discoveries and a great substitute for a simple hyaluronic acid serum is the ENature Birch Juice Hydro Essence Skin.

It’s a hydrating gel with anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. I would say it’s most appropriate for dry to normal skin types, as it can be slightly suffocating for the oilier people. But I, being oily-prone, am still loving it in winter, when the skin needs more hydration in general.

Instead of plain water, it uses 78% birch tree sap water, which has extremely powerful abilities to lock in moisture and prevent moisture loss. It regulates hydration and makes the skin feel soft, refreshed, and plump.

It helps to achieve that nice dewy, glass-skin look popular on Instagram and TikTok.

As a conclusion to the INKEY List vs The Ordinary hyaluronic acid, I’d say that between the two – The INKEY List is probably the product that most of you will love.

However, there is a multitude of other, equally as effective, and even more so, products with hyaluronic acid or other beneficial ingredients to look out for.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Share your stories in the comments section below and tell me more about what you liked and didn’t like, or perhaps suggest other products that you’ve discovered and fallen in love with.

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