Meet The Founder

Everything you need to know about THE INKEY LIST’s hair care line

THE INKEY LIST’s aim is simple: break through beauty jargon to deliver a straightforward take on the most-wanted ingredients in {skin care} and {hair care} too! A succinct collection of hero products formulated by a crack team of experts and scientists, this range incorporates all the industry heavy-hitters – from {salicylic acid} to {hyaluronic acid} – and allows you to customise your regime to suit your skin and hair’s ever-changing needs. The products contain as few ingredients as possible, all of the highest quality and at ‘give-it-a-go’ prices. Advanced products for the price of a couple of coffees? Who could refuse…

The latest formula to join the length-loving ranks is the all-new {PCA Hair Bond Treatment}: a lightweight spray that actually helps to rebuild and strengthen damaged strands. On a mission to promote healthier-looking, smooth lengths, this potent blend harnesses a medley of forward-thinking complexes – from the likes of Granrepair Powerbond and Crodasone to Aquarich – to strengthen the hair shaft, reduce frizz and split ends, as well as boosting glossiness. Cue hair flip!

Want to meet the rest of the range? We spoke to the brand’s founders – Mark Curry and Colette Laxton – who gave us the inside scoop on innovative new ingredients, the rise of hair care and the importance of {scalp health}…

{Cult Beauty} First things first, can you tell us a little bit about the brand’s beginnings? What’s THE INKEY LIST’s story so far?

Wow, it’s been a whirlwind! We burst onto the scene (and Cult Beauty) just 18 months ago with one mission – to give everyone the knowledge they need to empower themselves to make better decisions for their skin. By providing high-grade ingredients, made simple and affordable, we wanted efficacious skin care to be available and digestible for everyone!

{CB} Amazing! So, what prompted you to create a hair care line too?

Ingredients are not just powerful for the face! The scalp was the natural next step for us – and our hair and scalp knowledge is even further behind skin, so boy do we have a role to play! Right now there is even more of a spotlight on skin and hair as people have to time to invest whilst at home – so providing affordable yet premium ingredient treatments whilst supporting customers through their learning journey is the perfect timing.

{CB} Our attitudes to hair care are evolving, with shampoos, conditioners, treatments and serums becoming increasingly ‘skinified’. Were you conscious of this when developing the line?

Absolutely – and we have had many a chat with Cult Beauty’s co-founder, Lex, who was so ahead of this with the ‘Skinification of Hair’ trend. It makes total sense…we want to fuel peoples curiosity in hair care through better knowledge and better toys to curate their own personalised hair treatments, no matter your hair type, scalp health or style goals.

{CB} And where does THE INKEY LIST ‘fit’ within the ever-growing skintellectual hair movement? What makes it so unique?

We want to break it down – remove the scary salon feeling and the derogatory undertones of the heritage brands. We want to help customers enter this awesome category without feeling overwhelmed, intimidated or confused. We’re doing that with single-ingredient, powerful treatments that work on every type of hair, for every budget and enable people to play their way to better hair and scalp health.

{CB} We’re hearing a lot about scalp health (until now, it’s been oft-neglected). How important is scalp health to healthy hair, and how do you address that?

All of us, without even realising it, may harm our scalps in different ways (using the wrong products, over-using the right products, under-brushing/over-brushing the hair and scalp like our skin is ever a fine balance (homeostasis).

The scalp, like our normal skin, contains important layers of cells that protect our bodies and encase the root (or bulb) of each of the hairs on our heads. It’s also even more delicate than the skin on the rest of our body and therefore needs even more protection. When it comes to choosing the steps to protect it, we’d recommend starting by washing your hair/scalp as often as necessary depending on your scalp needs.

If you suffer from dry, itchy and flaky scalps, this is most likely caused by overproduction of oils by the sebaceous glands in your scalp. We have created a scalp treatment {Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Treatment} to help exfoliate and remove build-up, but also to help balance the oil production. Ensuring your scalp is clean and healthy ultimately impacts the health of your hair too. Keeping your hair follicles (the point where the hair grows on your scalp) clean by removing any build-up (dead skin, flakiness and excess oil), will ensure that the hair can grow normally and no infections can happen. Last but not least, as much as we advise people to protect their skin from UV rays by using an SPF, we’d recommend people protect their scalps from prolonged sun exposure by wearing hats/caps or using {SPF}, depending on their scalp as well.

{CB} What about your potent yet budget-friendly ingredients? How did you go about selecting the hair care line’s hero ingredients and where do you source them?

The same as our skin care. We take a famous ingredient or heritage hair ingredient and give them a modern technology twist to meet the dynamic needs of truly everyone’s scalp and every hair type. Formulated for all, but best for certain types and conditions.

Depending on the concern we are trying to solve, the ingredients might exist already, but we work with our raw material suppliers to combine different ingredients to create a compound that we know works for ALL (as inclusivity is really key for us) and delivers results, unconditionally. Other times instead, an ingredient might not exist, or we may not know about it, and this is where our constant search for like-minded raw material suppliers across the world who want to provide innovative solutions and make them available to all comes in.

When it comes to our new hair and scalp care line, we are really proud to say that we have been one of the first brands to bring to the market a very innovative ingredient called Darkenylä and made it affordable. This phenomenal ingredient helps to reactivate and stimulate the pigment in the hair follicle, prevent gray hairs from developing by helping to reactivate the production of melanin and by controlling the levels of free radicals impacting hair pigmentation. The other ingredient that needs calling out within this context is VCIP. We have been one of the first to use this ingredient (a derivative form of {Vitamin C}) in the hair care market. VCIP works to treat dull, lacklustre hair by helping to restore the hair from being hydrophilic (damaged) back to hydrophobic (healthy) through lipid deposition and helps to rebuild the hair’s natural barrier and smoothing the cortex surface, resulting in glossy, shinier hair instantly.

{CB} The results from THE INKEY LIST’s hair care clinical trials boast really innovative results. Can you share the results you were most surprised to find?

Absolutely! We are so proud to have worked with such great raw material suppliers who have done fantastic research and clinical trials on the key ingredients we have used in our range and in all honesty, they all show fantastic results and that’s why we have included them in our range.

Possibly, the ones that have surprised us the most, not in terms of the actual benefits coming from the ingredients, but mostly for how effective the results turned out, are our {Peptide Volumizing Hair Treatment} and our {Amino Acid Anti-Gray Scalp Treatment}.

The clinical tests have been carried out on the raw material ingredients used in our products.

In the case of our Peptide Volumizing Hair Treatment, the key ingredient used is called Keranutri™ – it’s a natural active compound made of peptides and amino acids which boosts multiple benefits for hair. It works in the hair cuticle to plump the cortex and increases the fibre diameter of each hair strand. The result? A significant hair volume increase through the appearance of 10,000 more hairs after just one use! The same ingredient also works to protect the hair from external aggressors and by binding to the hair fibre, it creates a protective layer that locks moisture in.

The other fantastic results have come from the main ingredient used in our Amino Acid Anti-Gray Scalp Treatment, called Darkenyl™. This ingredient works on many levels to stimulate the recovery of hair pigmentation by stimulating the melatonin production in white hair and it helps to activate antioxidant defences (where oxidative stress is the main cause of hair ageing). The clinical tests carried out on Darkenyl™ across men from the age of 18 and above showed the proportion of white hair visibly reduced, up to 56% (after 4 months, used daily).

{CB} For those brand new to the range, is there a ‘hero’ product guaranteed to trigger an addiction?

This is a brilliant question and yet very hard to answer. The reason being we think there will be a few! If we were to pick, we would probably say our Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Treatment and our Peptide Volumizing Hair Treatment.

Salicylic acid is an ingredient we use in our skin care range and it’s so loved by our community that it even has its own nickname (Sally!) – it’s a multitasking ingredient which works, all the time. We have used it in our scalp care range to help all those people who suffer from itchy, flaky and oily scalps and we can’t wait for this to fill people’s showers and baths and help them with their daily scalp fights!

The other one that we think people in need of turned up volume and their hair will adore, is our Peptide Volumizing Hair Treatment. We have done consumer testing on top of seeing results from clinical trials and spoken with the hair experts we have been working with to support the range, and they have all admired this product. Perhaps our community will find a nickname for it too?

{CB} So, which products are your personal favourites? Are there any you’re particularly proud of?

{Mark} As someone that is lazy but suffers from dandruff, the Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Treatment is perfect – we’ve made the products to use alone or to boost within your shampoo – so I literally use this when washing my hair. Simple and it works!

{Colette} For me it’s the {Shea Oil Nourishing Hair Treatment}. It was a real surprise for me as my hair is dry (from bleaching) but very thin so I worry about anything heavy or greasy. This product is a new type of Shea technology which is nourishing yet light enough to work on so many hair types. It’s amazing.

{CB} How have you seen the hair industry change in the last five years?

We actually planned to do hair before skin… but The INKEY LIST skin care concept just caught fire. We see hair about to do the same thing.

Five years ago … skin care was still mainly older, global brands hypnotising people to buy, but the internet accelerates people’s curiosity to know and understand more and indie brands (mainly) answered the call and today the market is a brilliantly buoyant, rich place. 

Haircare, we think, is about to explode in the same way. Rather than be bashed-up about how bad your hair is from a heritage brand or pigeon-holed into certain products due to certain hair types or need and worlds apart from shampoos and conditioners that promise the world and deliver little… The World of hair is about to change.

The INKEY LIST will hopefully open up the playground of hair and scalp products through the vehicles of products that speak to how ingredients can work with you and together to curate your hair recipes personal to you, your scalp and your hair.

And the newest consumers (Gen Z) are raising the bar on standards… demanding {sustainability}, products with purposes, innovation as well as creating emotional connections and fun, experiences for them. It’s safe to say, hair will be in for a wild ride in the next few years and we are thrilled to be in the front seats!

{CB} What are the most common misconceptions about hair and hair health?

Like skin care … there are loads! The most? People commonly and mistakenly think that if they experience a flaky and itchy scalp it’s because they have a dry scalp. However, in almost all cases, a dry, flaky scalp is caused by the overproduction of oil by the sebaceous gland located near the hair follicles. Overproduction of oil causes build-up of dead skin and sebum on the scalp, resulting in dry and flaking skin. Exfoliating the scalp is just as important as exfoliating the face because removing dead skin and product build-up gives the roots the chance to thrive and lift versus being weighed down. So salicylic acid both exfoliates and supports oil control stopping it at the source.

Also, shea products are not just for curly and kinky hair. Our modern twist shea oil is a weightless, scentless dry oil that provides the must-have nourishment for the curly and the coily whilst providing an oasis of hydration for the thinnest and straightest hair.

The INKEY LIST is proud to NOT define people by hair type, but liberate people through products that can be played with no matter your biology. Just up-your-knowledge and come and play!

{CB} Is it possible to heal years of abuse? What five steps would you take?

Heat and bleach almost always have a harsh impact on hair and will always require special TLC!

It would depend on what type of abuse, however, let’s assume that a person has been bleaching and dying hair for years and possibly used heat products for styling and lives in a polluted city. In this case, the hair will most likely need help against brittleness, pollution, hair damage and lack of hydration. I would recommend using ingredients such as our {Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Hair Treatment} to help with brittleness but also help protect against pollution, and our {Vitamin C Brightening Hair Treatment}, which specifically uses the VCIP derivative to repair damaged hair and increases shine as a result. We have some stellar ideas coming to lean more into this area if the Cult Beauties love our first little foray into hair…

{CB} Finally, what does ‘cult’ mean to you, and how does this apply to THE INKEY LIST?

Cult means GIVE IT TO ME NOW! Exciting innovation and incredible formulations that you want in your basket and reach for every day. We aim to deliver both the latest technology and tried and tested ingredients…that are easy to understand, simple to use…and WORK!


Cult Beauty

Cult Beauty

Writer and expert