The BB Buzz


A new buzzword in the skincare world, multitasking BB creams are a blend of sunscreen, moisturizer, and foundation. After gaining popularity in Asia (where BB stands for “blemish balm,” due to its corrective and sometimes whitening properties), a new incarnation of the product, most commonly referred to in the U.S. as a more general beauty balm, has been on the rise in North America. Now, everyone from mass market brands like Clinique and Garnier and in-demand overseas brands like Dr. Jart to smaller professional lines are jumping on the BB bandwagon.

These makeup-moisture hybrids originated in part to hydrate the skin after laser treatments—the idea was first conceived by a German dermatologist—making them ideal for spa clientele. Like a tinted moisturizer with added benefits, BB creams are geared toward those who want to streamline their skincare regimens and achieve a natural-
looking glow. “The biggest benefit is the convenience of having everything combined into one step,” says dermatologist Lisa Rhodes, M.D., of Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery (Austin, TX). “BB creams are best suited to patients with busy schedules who have difficulty with compliance or who don’t like to apply multiple products.”

What’s behind the hype? “It’s really a phenomenon that the beauty industry has not seen in a long time,” says Mary Houghton, director of marketing and sales for skincare brand B.Kamins, which launched its Morning Glow BB Cream in September and is releasing its Morning Glow SPF 15 next month. “There’s been such an onslaught of advertising; it’s that hero item every cosmetics company has been leading with.” Unlike tinted moisturizers that replaced the cakey makeup of years past, BB creams feature anti-aging skincare properties and protection. “We’re using pharmaceutical-grade ingredients at a cosmetic level that are proven to be effective,” says Liga Upeslacis of B.Kamins research and development. The anticipated result, she states, is reducing fine lines and evening the skintone after six weeks of everyday use.

Now, popular spa products like Prana SpaCeuticals’s Reflect SPF45, a nourishing moisturizer and makeup base with similar properties to a BB cream thanks to anti-inflammatory ingredients like grapeseed extract, micronized zinc, and mineral mica, are re-branding themselves as unofficial BB creams to meet demand. “I’ve had the product for a couple of years, and it has been one of our hottest products,” says Cherie Dobbs, president of parent company Dermastart. “I’ve been letting [spa professionals] know—because it’s a new word or trend in the market—it’s already in their spa.” According to her, Reflect SPF45 remains one of the brand’s top sellers. Says Dobbs, “We’re in such a fast-paced society, we’re looking for that easy, quick, and healthy glow.”

Omaha, NE-based dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, M.D., founder of retail skincare site, began offering BB creams in 2010 and has seen them continue to improve in visibility and popularity. “Women with mild to moderate sun damage appreciate these creams and benefit from them greatly,” he says, noting it’s important to read the label for both moisturizers and sun protection ingredients. Two of his favorites are Jane Iredale—The Skin Care Makeup’s Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream and Dr. Brandt’s Signature Flexitone BB Cream.

The success of the Iredale product, for example, stems from a formulation of ingredients like aloe, apple, citrus, and green tea in six different shades for a spectrum of skintones. “With skin-brightening ingredients that treat dark spots and formulations that minimize texture, you can really see the difference on the skin,” says Shawn Towne, global educator for Jane Iredale. “Consumers have gone through a dramatic transformation in the past decade, as they’ve realized that makeup doesn’t have to be bad for the skin anymore. Therapeutic makeup has found its proper place in the industry. SPF, antioxidants, hydration, and skin brightening are all in demand.”

While BB creams can be viewed, sometimes incorrectly, as a catch-all for every skincare type, the challenge for consumers is to find the best fit for their particular needs. Some BB creams are lightly pigmented to provide luminosity, while others offer heavier coverage. Some are better for dry skin, others more effective on oily skin. “Every BB cream is different; you have to look at the ingredients,” says New York City-based esthetician Cecilia Wong, who oversees an eponymous skincare line and skincare salon. According to her, it all depends on what people are looking to achieve. For some, it’s hydration, for others, it could be the treatment of hyperpigmentation. If the product doesn’t have the appropriate ingredients, people won’t get the results they want. 

Another drawback besides the one-product-fits-all formula, Rhodes notes, is targeting patient-specific issues. “If you become irritated, it is difficult to determine what component of the cream caused it,” she says. Application is also an issue. Too little doesn’t provide enough coverage to reap the SPF and hydration benefits, while too much can clog pores. Although most BB Creams contain SPF, experts advise choosing a product with a minimum SPF 15. “SPF is diluted into the other ingredients, so it doesn’t make it as effective,” says Wong. To this end, Rhodes recommends layering another sunscreen on top if extended sun exposure is anticipated or using a separate moisturizer under the BB cream if hydration is a concern. “I think there’s a misconception out there between great makeup and skincare,” says Wong. Others, like makeup artist Kristen Arnett, also the founder and editor-in-chief of, point out that western BB creams here still have a ways to go before they stack up against their Asian counterparts. According to her, many include various chemicals that stray from what the original BB creams were all about.

While no product will be a miracle in a bottle for everyone, estheticians can help their clients choose the right BB cream for their needs. “It’s a great product to add on after a professional facial,” notes Houghton. “We are positioning it as that final step. It bridges the gap between skincare and makeup.” For now, the BB cream explosion shows no signs of slowing down—companies like Chanel and Olay have even introduced a skin-brightening sequel, CC Creams, for color correcting. In fact, the Clearly Beautiful BB CC Cream by Mindful Minerals is an all-in-one formula. “I believe there is great staying power because of the convenience factor,” says Rhodes. Adds Houghton, “I think the BB cream is here to stay. There will be a balancing out in a percentage of sales, but I think it will be an important product that will carry on.”—Brooke Showell


Want to introduce BB and CC creams to your clients? Check out one or more of the following multitaskers.


B.Kamins BB Cream: Providing all-day hydration, this eight-in-one multitasking beauty balm is packed with antioxidants, peptides, and vitamins.


Boscia B.B. Cream SPF 27: This hydrating cream helps firm and soothe the skin while diminishing the appearance of pores, fine lines, and uneven skintone.


CBI Laboratories Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Skin Perfecting Tinted Moisturizer: Available for private label in three blendable skin tones, the sheer tinted coverage also hydrates the skin and provides protection from free-radical damage.


Éminence Organic Skin Care Vanilla Latte Tinted Moisturizer SPF 25: This antioxidant-rich daily tinted moisturizer delivers sheer lightweight coverage with the added benefits of zinc for SPF 25 protection.


Dr. Brandt Skincare Flexitone BB Cream: Incorporating tone-blending technology to provide flawless coverage in just one shade, this anti-aging cream perfects, brightens, and hydrates with SPF 30 protection.


Jane Iredale—The Skin Care Makeup Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream: This multitasking dynamo combines foundation, concealer, sunscreen, and moisturizer to nourish the complexion and protect skin from UV and free-radical damage.


Juice Beauty The Ultimate Color Correcting CC Cream: Containing the company’s proprietary blend of fruit stem cells, vitamin C, and resveratrol-rich grapeseed base, this cream offers 12 benefits to the skin.


Dr. Jart The Original BB Cream Set: Designed to perfect and protect the skin, this set contains four formulas to help brighten, treat, and hydrate the skin.


Mindful Minerals Clearly Beautiful BB CC Cream: Packed with skin-nourishing Dead Sea minerals and peptides to target wrinkles, this powerful all-in-one formula also inhibits melanin production to produce a more even complexion.


Prana SpaCeuticals Reflect SPF45: Enhanced with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients, this silky tinted moisturizer nourishes, protects, and hydrates the most delicate skin.


Too Faced Tinted Beauty Balm Multi-Benefit Skin Care Makeup: This multi-mineral complex instantly achieves a healthy glow and improves skin’s overall appearance with light-diffusing pigments.


Vichy ProEVEN Mineral BB Cream: Helping to even out skintone, this cream can also be used to cover dark spots.