BB creams are suddenly everywhere. A version is now available from L’Oréal, Dior, Stila, La Roche-Posay, Clinique, Shu Uemura, Smashbox, The Body Shop and the list goes on. But what are they, exactly, and do they really work well enough to merit being the next big thing? We grilled star dermatologists Noelle Sherber and Howard Murad for this A-to-Z (okay, B-to-B) crash course.
What are BB creams, and where did they come from?
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.”
They promise a lot, but do they really work?
“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.
Can I use a BB cream if I have 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.
With so many BB cream options, which one should I try?
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 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.
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 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.
For oily skin: "Look for mattifiers and salicylic acid to keep pores clear," Sherber says. Try: Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream Oil Free (launching in early 2013), 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."
Have you tried out a BB cream?