BB creams are still having a major moment in the beauty world...and for good reason! All the big make-up brands have their own versions, including L’Oréal, Dior, Stila, La Roche-Posay, Clinique, and Maybelline. Despite their popularity though, BB creams still remain somewhat of a mystery; what are they and do they really work? We went right to the source to get the skinny from the skin experts, dermatologists Noelle Sherber and Howard Murad, who helped us out with the lowdown on all things BB.
Where did BB creams come from and what are they used for?
The initials in BB cream stand for Beauty Balm. And just like the name implies, they seek to take care of all your beauty needs in one product. Most promise to replace your moisturizer, primer, foundation, sunscreen, mattifier, zit zapper and anti-aging treatment in just one tube. “The trend took off in Asia, where most BB creams have heavy foundation coverage plus botanical ingredients that offer long-term skin-lightening properties,” Murad says. “In the U.S., BBs tend to have lighter coverage and are used as a makeup primer or tinted moisturizer. Instead of lightening skin, they focus on hydration, blemishes and anti-aging.”
Do BB creams really live up to what they promise?
“The active ingredients in BB creams are at a lower concentration than they would be in a targeted treatment product, so the effects are more gradual,” Sherber says. So although separate lotions, potions and serums may give you more dramatic results, the catch is that you have to remember to apply them all. BB creams don’t have quite as much oomph, but are an easy way to simplify your routine and treat multiple issues at once.
Are there BB creams that will work with my sensitive skin?
Yes. But since chemical sunscreens can be irritating, pick a BB cream that uses a mineral sunscreen instead. “Also, look for formulas that infuse skin-soothing ingredients like chamomile and vitamin E,” Sherber says. She suggests trying Too Faced Tinted Beauty Balm, which is free of chemical sunscreens (offering sun protection through titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) and contains soothing plant extracts. People with sensitive skin should always do a patch test before trying any new product. Apply the cream to your inner wrist. If you have no redness or irritation after 24 hours, you’re all clear.
I don’t know which BB cream is right for me, which one should I use?
Most BB creams offer some level of tint and SPF. They can vary beyond those guarantees. So the steps to finding the best BB cream for you is to first identify your most important skin issue and to then find a formula containing the ingredients to address it. Below are some key ingredients and products to try out based on varying skin types.
For oily skin: "Look for mattifiers and salicylic acid to keep pores clear," Sherber says. Try:Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream Oil Free, which contains oil-absorbing ingredients.
For combination skin: Sherber advocates checking out an oil-free, hydrating formulation. "Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream is oil-free and has a lightweight feel," she says, "and incorporates hydrating glycerin high up on the ingredients list."
For fine lines: Sherber suggests looking for peptides, since they help stimulate collagen production. Bobbi Brown BB Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 35 contains Argireline, a peptide that she says shows promise in smoothing fine lines.
To repair sun damage: "You want antioxidants like vitamin C and green tea extract," she explains. Try:L'Oréal Youth Code BB Cream Illuminator, which has vitamin CG (a slow-release, stable form of vitamin C) and niacinamide to help make skin tone more even over time.
For uneven pigmentation: "Look for brands that include arbutin or licorice extract, which promote a more even skin tone,” Sherber says. Dr. Jart+ Premium BB Beauty Balm SPF 45 contains arbutin to even out the complexion.
Do you use BB creams? Let us know in the comments if you use them and how they work for you.
Photo: Maybelline New York