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After 60 years in the makeup business, CoverGirl is expanding its global empire to include skin care. Whether you're a habitual browser of drugstore beauty aisles or a stockholder in Coty Inc., avian medicines who owns CoverGirl, this is major beauty news. It's not so much a pivot for the brand as an expansion — one that, naturally, still has makeup in mind even when expanding into a new category.

"The project was born because we wanted to see what the ideal canvas was for makeup," says Muriel Pujos, innovation ingredients director at Coty Inc., when I reached her via phone at CoverGirl's innovation lab in Monaco. "We wanted to have the skin super ready and prepared for makeup, and for that, you needed to create an ideal skin-care routine."

CoverGirl's version of the ideal skin-care routine is, as its customers have come to expect, cruelty-free, vegan, and affordable. The range, available now at covergirl.com and walmart.com, consists of five products nested under the label of Clean Fresh, making for quite a tongue twister when you read the list out loud: Clean Fresh Skincare Hydrating Cream Cleanser ($10), Clean Fresh Skincare Priming Glow Mist ($10), Clean Fresh Skincare Weightless Water Cream ($15), Clean Fresh Skincare Mattifying Oil Free Moisturizer ($15), and Clean Fresh Skincare Dry Skin Corrector Cream ($15). Together, the range makes up an almost-balanced skin-care routine (just add sunscreen).

"CoverGirl is an icon in the makeup aisle with a deep heritage in skin-forward products, so breaking into the skin-care category is a natural evolution for the brand," Andrew Stanleick, the executive vice president of Coty Inc. North America, said in a statement. "We know consumers are more skin-aware than ever and want ingredient-conscious products at an accessible price point."

Pujos's team spent two years researching the active ingredients they would use in the formulas, and two more years developing them into actual skin-care products. "The formulas are based on natural-origin ingredients," she says.

The most innovative of the bunch (which also includes usual skin-care suspects like hyaluronic acid and glycerin) is cactus water, sourced from the prickly pear cacti of the Mexican desert. All five products contain it. Aside from the hydrating properties of cactus water as a beverage (just ask Vanessa Hudgens, who keeps a fridge just for cactus water in her home), the water contains electrolytes that assist in hydration.

Marisa Garshick, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, approves of the budding electrolytes trend. "Because dehydration can result from a loss of water and electrolytes, by helping to replenish electrolytes, cactus water can help to restore hydration," she tells Allure. For now, she points out, there are no major clinical studies to back up the use of cactus water in skin care. Still, "cactus water is thought to have additional benefits on the skin as it also is rich in antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory," she adds.

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CoverGirl Clean Fresh Skincare Hydrating Cream Cleanser

I tried these products over a few days and considered them both as standalone skin-care products and as a base for makeup. First, I washed my face with the Hydrating Cream Cleanser, which Pujos described as "a gentle moisturizer that lightly tones the skin and helps remove makeup."

It's formulated with meadowfoam seed oil, intended to hydrate while it cleanses, and my skin did feel softer as well as fresher after use. It's scented with coconut and tangerine but smelled more like fresh laundry to my nose (an even more desirable scent to conjure in my opinion.) It did its job removing sleep mask remnants in the morning and light makeup in the evening, though I'd still recommend taking off eye makeup with micellar water before attempting to remove with this cleanser.

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CoverGirl Clean Fresh Skincare Priming Glow Mist

Next, I spritzed my face with about 10 pumps of the Priming Glow Mist. (You probably only need three, but I love to overdo it when it comes to a face mist.) It's designed to be sprayed anytime during the day, but especially as a canvas for makeup. I liked it best as a pick-me-up throughout the day, both for its invigorating properties and the rose scent.

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CoverGirl Clean Fresh Skincare Weightless Water Cream

If there's a hero product of the bunch, it's the Weightless Water Cream. "We're super proud of it, it has a unique texture," says Pujos. I didn't take that warning to heart and was expecting a smooth and silky water-based gel moisturizer along the lines of my beloved Belif True Cream Aqua Bomb. Instead, the texture is more along the lines of what Pujos termed "a sorbet." It's slightly thicker and more matte than a traditional gel-cream formula. It feels like the splash of water you toss onto your face in a restaurant bathroom when you need a moment to yourself.

That splash is important to me, physically and emotionally, and it's exhilarating to feel it recreated in this cooling cream. Cosmetic chemist Ginger King terms it "well-formulated" — a solid stamp of approval.

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CoverGirl Clean Fresh Skincare Dry Skin Corrector Cream

The final two products are fraternal twins: Dry Skin Corrector Cream and Mattifying Oil-Free Moisturizer. The former is richer, meant to nourish dry skin, and infused with heavy-hitting hydration ingredients like jojoba and shea butter. The latter serves as a correcting cream for oily skin, with a more lightweight formula and without those more intensely hydrating ingredients. 

Even from looking at the moisturizers, which come in two-ounce tubs, it's clear that the product is geared towards dry skin has a heavier formula. Since my own skin falls somewhere in between dry and oily, I was in a perfect position to test them both. I discovered that the mattifying version works best for me in the mornings under makeup, while the dry skin cream functions better as a night cream. Depending on your skin type, the reverse — or just one product — might be a better prescription for you.

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CoverGirl Clean Fresh Skincare Mattifying Oil Free Moisturizer

Of course, the ultimate test for a CoverGirl-branded skin-care line isn't just the products themselves — it's the products under makeup. Breaking my pandemic-induced fast from full-face foundation, I wore the mattifying moisturizer under my Shiseido foundation. It provided just enough slip to create a hydrated canvas, and kept me on the right side of the dewy-oily spectrum. Then I used the hydrating cleanser to wash it right off.

Next time you treat yourself to a Target run or find yourself roaming the aisles of a Walmart, take a moment and stop in the beauty aisle. Take a deep breath and appreciate this moment of beauty history. 

CoverGirl's Clean Fresh products are available now for $10 to $15 at walmart.com.

All products featured on Allure are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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