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A new anti-aging drugstore foundation aims to balance oily and dry complexions with its formula, and you'll never guess the key ingredient. Also, there's a tiny glitch.
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covergirl revitalist elixir spf 20 foundation_review

Covergirl Vitalist Elixir SPF 20 is a medium-to-full coverage oil-free foundation with a mission: make skin look as radiant and healthy at the end of the day as it did at the start. Not an unusual objective for a foundation, and for the most part, Vitalist Elixir is successful. How? It relies on an old favourite: glycerin.

You know glycerin. It's a proven and trusted humectant used in skincare and makeup to lure water from our environment and bind it to the surface of our skin. It also draws water from beneath the epidermis to the surface stratum corneum, so in theory we're sandwiching the top layer of skin in moisture (as long as we've got barrier ingredients to trap it in place).

Unfortunately though, glycerin on its own is fly-paper sticky, so it's cosmetic-chemistry standard practice to use only a small amount (unless you're Consonant HydrExtreme, in which it's one of only two natural ingredients) in order to maintain a pleasing texture.

covergirl vitalist elixir and glycerin

But let's back up a second. Covergirl Vitalist Elixir ($17.99 CAD at drugstores and $11.99 USD at promises a morning-to-evening fresh finish as well as hydration. For the most part* it delivers by managing the skin-texture changes that can occur under makeup during the day as a result of steady transepidermal water loss – that's water from inside the body that eventually evaporates through the stratum corneum – and pesky shine.

According to Dr. Victoria Fraser, chemist and director of scientific communication for CoverGirl, those "micro texture" changes lead to faltering satisfaction with our complexion's appearance by 3pm. Sure, we can powder repeatedly to mattify, but without anything to counteract dehydration, we perceive the result as less radiant, less healthy-looking.

The proposed solution? On the surface (literally) a foundation that offers a long-lasting finish that is neither too matte nor too shiny. Deeper than that, the concept is to maintain radiance by increasing skin hydration enough to regulate oil production and minimize the need for radiance-killing mattifying powder (+ layers of highlighting powder to fake a glow back in).

"Vitalist Elixir has roughly double the level of glycerin and skin-conditioning emollients of our typical foundations," says Dr. Fraser. "The ingredients attract and hold onto moisture, and pull it into the skin over the course of the day – that's what maintains that optimal fresh, healthy look." 

Covergirl Vitalist Elixir SPF 20 Foundation

Covergirl Vitalist Elixir SPF 20 Foundation

Right now you should be thinking a lot of glycerin in a foundation is weird – #flypaper – and obvi, you're not wrong. "It's unusual to see this level of glycerin because you can often get tackiness and only short-term wear," confirms Dr. Fraser. "But we've managed to find a way optimize it so you don't get the stickiness and you do get the long wear.

"Basically you have a fixed amount of formula space to make up 100%. If you dial up one area, you then have to trade off in another. It's the skill of the formulator to really make sure you get the right balance of molecules, ingredients and textures to give you the best of all worlds."

Gotta tell ya: my dehydrated combination-but-prone-to-sensitivity skin feels really good in this stuff, comfortable and calm. *I do need a couple of minor powder applications to maintain a radiant-not-greasy effect, but when I wear it, for sure my oily areas are less-so thanks to the hydration kick.

covergirl vitalist elixir spf

Broad spectrum SPF 20 photo-damage protection in Vitalist Elixir comes via a chemical sunscreen called ensulizole, known in cosmetic-chemistry circles for its lightweight, non-greasy texture.

When my skin's sensitive, I tend to avoid chemical UV filters, but I haven't had an issue with the SPF 20 in CoverGirl Vitalist Elixir. Could be because the formula boosts hydration so effectively, which calms my complexion...

Would I prefer a higher SPF? Sure, but SPF 20 filters out more than 93% of UV and my exposure is usually limited to hopping into an Uber and hopping out at a destination door. So really, I'm good. Plus, loading in a higher-than-20 SPF would likely have broken the formula.

covergirl vitalist elixir coverage

I'm wearing Covergirl Vitalist Elixir SPF 20 in all these photos

I'm wearing Covergirl Vitalist Elixir SPF 20 in all these photos

The TV ads plug Vitalist Elixir as a full-coverage formula, but don't think you'll get 100% opacity on the first dab. This is a buildable foundation. You can achieve a medium, natural finish, or apply thin layer by thin layer to get to fuller coverage that still looks like skin. (I get compliments on my complexion whenever I wear it.)

covergirl vitalist elixir glitch

Yep, unfortunately there's a glitch: You might need a shade lighter than you usually wear. In Covergirl shades, my light/medium complexion usually goes for Creamy Natural. But that shade in Vitalist Elixir seems a touch too dark. I'll switch when scarf-season starts – I don't mind a little bronzer on my neck to match my face in the summer, but in winter, a clean neck protects cosy fabric from makeup stains.

Honestly, that shade hiccup isn't the worst issue ever – it's totally overcome-able in my opinion because the benefits of the Vitalist Elixir formula – anti-aging, hydrating, long-wearing, good coverage, wide accessibility, drugstore price – outweigh the wee con. So I say try it. It's good, and worth a go for sure if you have dry or dehydrated skin. (I don't have to point out that the older we get, the more dehydrated our skin gets, do I? #thisis48)

"The tagline that I think sums up the look best is 'your 8am face at your 3pm meeting,'" adds Dr. Fraser.

Well who doesn't want that?

Have you tried CoverGirl Vitalist Elixir Foundation yet? Do you have thoughts? And here's what a couple of my industry colleagues think...

shoppity shop-shop

COVERGIRL VITALIST ELIXIR FOUNDATION active ingredient: ensulizole 3.0%. Inactive ingredients: Water / Eau, Cyclopentasiloxane, Propylene Glycol, Talc, Dimethicone, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Sodium Chloride, PEG / PPG-18 / 18 Dimethicone, PVP, Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylene / Methacrylate Copolymer, Trihydroxystearin, Arachidyl Behenate, Methicone, Silica, Sodium Benzoate, Synthetic Wax, Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate, Hexyl Laurate, Cetyl PEG / PPG-10 / 1 Dimethicone, Ethylene Brassylate, Behenic Acid, Polyethylene. May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides.