I first encountered BB creams, short for Blemish or Beauty Balm, when keying an Asian gangster film a couple years ago. One of our shoot locations was a real Korean grocery store in Toronto. It had a second level balcony that served as the beauty section, offering Asian skincare and cosmetics. Of course I checked it out! While I couldn't decipher much from the product labels, those two letters kept shouting out at me in bold print on the front of various tubes and bottles. BB everywhere!
On the same shoot, at a different location, I had a bevy of Asian beauties to prep for a scene. There was about 12 of them, 1 of me, and about 2 hours to accomplish make-up fit for a high end night club on all of them. Fortunately many of them came with great skin and even complexions, making my job that much easier. Of course I asked what skincare products they used, and several mentioned this mysterious BB cream. I went home, did some Googling and ordered a couple BB products from my now favourite site for Asian beauty goodies, SaSa.com.
The craze has apparently caught on!
Now for 2012, over a dozen Canadian and US brands have launched their own version of the BB cream for the North American market. From luxury to drug store brands, including: SMASH BOX Camera Ready BB Cream, CLINIQUE Age Defense BB Cream, TOO FACED Tinted Beauty Balm, DIOR Hydra Life BB Crème, STILA Stay All Day 10-In-1 HD Beauty Balm, DR. BRANDT Felxitone BB Cream, GARNIER Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream, MARCELLE BB Cream, and more!
They all make claims of being the one product a gal needs to moisturize, protect, fight aging, even skin tone, hide imperfections, and end world hunger (I jest!). Don't for a minute think they're the holy grail of beauty products, but they may be right for you.
It's safest to think of the mighty BB cream as a tinted moisturizer with an SPF, as that is their main function. You'll be hard pressed to find many without an SPF. Marcelle's BB Cream is the only one I know of. This makes them good for personal use but not super fantastic as an addition to your make-up kit, especially if you do a lot of photographic work. One of the ways SPF protects the skin from sun damage is by reflecting the light off the skin, which doesn't bode well for flash photography. This can cause the skin to appear lighter than the rest of the body or shiny.
The coverage will be sheer, so anyone looking for medium to full coverage will still need to stick with a regular foundation. I personally layer my BB under my foundation on days I want to look extra flawless, almost like a primer. You can find Asian BB's with fuller coverage, but finding a good colour match might be tricky. The shade selection is very minimal, if any at all, with Asian BB's. They also often contain a whitening ingredient like arbutin or are tinted slightly grey to help achieve a paler skin tone.
If you're not seeking a porcelain doll look, or you're not Asian, stick with the North American market when dabbling in BB's. It will be much easier to find a colour match for you. These are great for aging skin and great for gals who don't need much in the way of coverage.
But do not ditch your regular skincare routine! While BB cream's make some serious multi-tasking claims, they are not a replacement for good skincare and you should never sleep with them on. For those with sensitive eyes, I recommend using a concealer around your eyes so that you can keep your BB cream well away from them. SPF and anti-aging ingredients can irritate sensitive eyes.
For those curious, I occasionally use BRTC's Whitening & Repairing BB Cream SPF 37, usually just on my cheeks and nose under my Make Up For Ever HD Foundation 115.