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BB cream is the latest thing to hit the market in North America, but did you know that it’s not such a new innovation? In fact, it’s been around since the 1950s. It’s being hailed as a miracle cream, promising to combine solutions to multiple skin issues in just one balm. The ads, the posters in the makeup stores, the prime display space in drug stores, and all of the press attention is thrusting BB creams into the spotlight and possibly into your shopping bag. But what is it and what does it do?
The “BB” in BB cream stands for “blemish balm,” but is also spun as “beauty balm” in North America. BB creams aren’t just an anti-acne treatment, though. Initially invented to protect skin after laser procedures and provide light coverage in the 1950s in Germany, the basic idea has expanded slightly over the years. Today’s creams promise to fight acne, reduce sun spots and other skin imperfections, provide light coverage, moisturize, and protect the skin from the sun. Basically, today’s BB creams are “a combination of tinted moisturizer, sunscreen, blemish healer, and skin whitener,” according to Macleans Magazine.
BB Creams have a huge following in Asia, which is what prompted skin care companies to bring it to North America in 2011. It was introduced to South Korea and Japan in the 1980s and quickly became a beauty staple. Many celebrities have endorsed it, and Best Health reports that South Korean actresses were early adopters of the product to keep their porcelain complexions bright. It’s so popular that many South Korean men have adopted it as part of their beauty routines.
The whitening aspect of BB cream may be one reason that it wasn’t introduced to North America earlier. Up until recently, self-tanners were the way to look as though you had healthy skin; now pale is becoming the new sought-after skin tone. Whitening properties are one of the main selling points of BB creams in Asia, though it does not seem to be as big a concern here. Estée Lauder doesn’t use whitening properties in its North American formula.
If you want to try a BB cream, there are some things to keep in mind when applying it. If you have dry skin, you will still need to apply moisturizer to adequately hydrate your skin no matter what the BB cream tube says (some brands have a consistency similar to primer, not a lotion). You can use your fingers to apply it; there’s no need for sponges. You can use it as a concealer to cover up dark under-eye circles or blemishes, and setting it with powder will help its staying power, but it still may not last all day. If you can’t find a cream in your skin shade, About.com recommends mixing some of your liquid foundation with it to get the right color.
Some BB creams are fairly expensive to experiment with, but you can try the craze out with an inexpensive version like Garnier’s Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream, which comes in at just under $13. Like with any cosmetic product, if at first you don’t succeed, try another brand. There are so many different varieties of BB cream with so many options, so think about what you need it for and choose accordingly.
So are BB creams really a miracle? Can they really do all of the amazing things the advertisements promise? Total Beauty has decided to categorize BB creams as “tinted moisturizers – but with benefits.” Dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi explains, "There's nothing magical about a BB cream – but if you're looking for a new tinted moisturizer, why not try one of these?" Sunscreen mixed with a tinted moisturizer and blemish healer sounds pretty great, even if it can’t do everything the bottle promises, so it may be worth trying if it fits the needs you’re already filling with multiple products.