Almost everyone asks me, “What’s a BB Cream? Do I need a BB cream? Is a BB cream good for my skin?” So let’s dive in to answering those questions…
What is a BB Cream and why all the buzz?
In 2011 I had my first exposure to BB cream from a brand that brought their formula over from Korea where the trend started. This brand, which I will call “Brand X”, was one of the first – if not THE first – on the U.S. scene with this “revolutionary”, multi-purpose product. Brand X dolled out heaps of money to a powerful New York PR firm that placed them in every major magazine and behind the runways at Fashion Week, where I was one of the makeup artists paid to apply this cream to all the models backstage.
The marketing machine took full effect calling BB Creams the newest must-have. Since magazines always needs a new hook to write about, beauty editors were all too willing to oblige. Thus, a beauty trend was born.
The origins of BB cream started back in the 1960’s in Germany for patients of laser treatments. Then in the mid-1980’s the Korean market grabbed hold of this idea and tweaked it to cater to Asian (primarily Korean) women as an all-in one, multi-tasking skin cream.
BB actually stands for “Blemish Balm” and was made popular mainly by Korean actresses as a blemish fighting primer with SPF and tinted coverage to even out and lighten skin tone. A “true” BB cream has very white cast to appeal to the desire of Asian women to achieve idyllic alabaster skin.
Once the first Korean company decided to launch its cream in the U.S. the BB acronym got switched to “Beauty Balm” and is now being marketed for just about any purpose under the sun.
Around one year after Brand X showed up on the scene, every major cosmetic company jumped on the bandwagon to capitalize on the newest craze in beauty. So much time, energy and research must have been taken by each brand to ensure that their cream was truly the best…[are you catching my sarcasm here?]. I must raise an eyebrow about how quickly every company ran to formulate their own “revolutionary” BB cream and introduce it into their line and now I dare to speak my truth and say the thing no one else seems to be saying…
The vast majority of BB creams fall very short of their lofty claims. Women are being sold on more on hype than true product performance.
Why most BB Creams don’t live up to their hype
The short answer is most BB creams don’t deliver on their promises.
Westernized BB creams are touted as the ultimate, multi-function product to replace every other skin care item in the cabinet doing everything that a serum, moisturizer, primer, foundation, and sunblock would do if worn separately.
Mostly I think they are glorified tinted moisturizers that cost a lot more. Didn’t we already have tinted moisturizers that have SPF, antioxidants with anti-aging benefits and makeup coverage to even out skin?
Newcomers to the U.S. marketplace have created BB creams that offer texture and colors more suitable to a variety of skin tones and types to appease the tastes/needs of the American consumer – not a bad thing in theory.
However, in the spirit of American formulations, these new brands are adding in loads more chemicals and significantly deviating from what real BB creams were meant to be.
Why BB Creams Aren’t Worth the Money and Aren’t Good for your Skin
Prices for BB creams range from $18 to $90 a tube, but it’s not necessarily because the consumer is getting more for her money. Most makeup companies are notorious for skimping on expensive ingredients in their formulas to save on cost, since they don’t have to disclose the amount they are using.
It’s impossible to tell how much of the active ingredients one is actually getting in a formula. Most likely the amount is so small of anything that would work to benefit the skin that the results would be negligible.
In a cosmetic formula the more ingredients which are added to have “active properties,” such as “skin repairing” functions, the more ingredients need to be added to stabilize all those chemicals which are mixing around together.
The more ingredients that have to be stuffed into a product, the higher the chance of reactivity with your skin.
Not to mention, many traditional beauty brands have BB creams filled with harsh chemicals I consider to be unsafe and/or toxic; including and especially the departure from using a safe SPF (such as titanium or zinc dioxide) in favor of harmful chemical sunblock which can damage skin.
I know we are a society of instant results and a “make it faster, quicker now!” mentality, but are we really in that much of a hurry that we can’t be bothered to use a couple of products separately for maximum results and efficacy?
BB Cream is not a one-size-fits-all solution
As a makeup artist, I pay close attention to how a product wears on a variety of faces before I make an assessment about it. Whenever I’ve seen someone wearing a BB cream or when I have applied it on models, regular folks and myself, a few of the problems I’ve observed include: an ashy/lavender or pink/white cast, which looks un-natural; a chalky looking effect on dry skin; separation after a few hours on oily skin.
Depending on the day, your all-in-one product may not be all you need.
If your skin is drier in the winter, then you’ll need to add more moisture to a BB cream that may have performed great during more humid months of the year. If you don’t make proper adjustments, you could end up with very flaky looking skin that looks less luminous, and renders you looking dull and possibly older than you are, rather than glowing and youthful.
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In my opinion, it is a much better plan to control the dose of each high-quality skin care product that works for the specific thing you need it to do, and use the right shade of foundation to match your skin tone, rather than mush everything all together into one premium-priced bottle with mediocre results.
The Evolution of BB Cream
Allure Magazine and I both covered this topic simultaneously back in November, 2012. I was pleasantly surprised to see that various dermatologists, experts and the writer of the Allure article confessed BB creams aren’t the wonder product they claim to be.
Of course their conclusions about each point always ends on an upbeat note, but I was thrilled to see honest statements that you’d probably still need a moisturizer, you won’t be super impressed by the results since the ingredients are “having a battle with each other”, most BB creams aren’t good for acne-prone skin, and you still need to add sunscreen to ensure proper daily protection.
Have things changed since 2012? Absolutely. Companies have had to significantly pivot their ingredient profiles to accommodate more skin tones and types. But while they’re still calling these products “BB and CC creams” they’re nothing like what those were originally intended to be.
A matter of preference
From consumers to makeup artists there will be differing opinions about BB creams. Over the past years I’ve found a few that I’ve come to like, but for the most part wouldn’t suggest using them daily.
My honest -albeit controversial- conclusion is that I’m not sold on the “wonders” of BB creams.
For me, BB cream is much like a tinted moisturizer with SPF to quickly slap on before going out in the sun to run errands.
When I use a BB cream it’s without expectation that it’s going to cover or look as good as a foundation, and I don’t expect it to perform like my skin care products do.
That said, it’s ultimately a matter of preference. If you want to try out a BB cream, then go for it!
So have you found a BB cream that works for your skin? Leave a comment below with your favorite brands below!