Skin Report: The A to Z of BBs

5 Nov

BB BuzzHow to use the new BB Creams

The latest fad in face creams aims to solve all your skin woes with one tiny tube. But what do BBs actually deliver?



In case you snuck aboard the Mars Curiosity rover and still think a BB is a kind of harmless firearm, listen up. A BB cream is a tinted moisturizer that also protects the skin. It’s also a sunscreen that smooths wrinkles. And a foundation that gets rid of age spots. And a primer with antioxidants. The pint is, it kind of does everything. OK, almost everything: In a weird twist of irony, BBs (a.k.a. blemish balms or beauty balms) aren’t so great for acne–they don’t contain salicylic acid or other skin-clearing ingredients and can be a little heavy for acne-prone skin. Like every single other thing in the world, there are good versions and bad version. Here, everything else you need to know about BBs.

Do you apply a BB cream on top of moisturizer, or instead of it?

Short answer: It depends on your skin type. Longer answer: If your skin is anywhere close to dry, put on your moisturizer before your BB. Most BBs (and yes, the more your say “BB,” the funnier it starts to sound) are loaded with silicones-silky, slippery materials that soften the skin and retain moisture –but they’re also loaded with pigments and sunscreen, which can be drying, says Ni’Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist. So you’ve got a battle between the slick parts and the drying ones, and it basically comes down to which particular BB you’re using (some are more moisturizing, some less so). But according to Jessica Wu, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California, prepping the skin first with lotion may help a BB go on more smoothly and possibly even work better, providing some actual moisture for the silicones to lock in. Short answer redux: It can’t hurt to moisturize first.

What about my daily sunscreen?

Sill need it. For the most part, dermatologists want us all to wear burkas, stay indoors, and draw the blackout shades. Or, at the very least, apply a thick layer of SPF30 every day and reapply every to hours. “Look at a BB the same way you would any other makeup with SPF,” says Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “You’re using too little of it to get the true SPF value on the label, you’re not putting it everywhere you need protection, and you’re not reapplying throughout the day.” If you feel like you just got yelled at, don’t despair. Those who spend most of the day indoors and who use a BB with SPF30 or higher at this time of year should be fine. See more sunlight in your life? Apply your regular sunscreen before your BB (just give it a few minutes to sink in).

Well, what will it replace?

A BB will certainly replace your primer and usually your foundation (occasionally, even your concealer). But think about the bigger picture here: The question you should be asking is, how often do you actually apply a full two ounces of sunscreen, rub in your moisturizer, dab a few drops of a treatment product around your eyes, then work in a primer and finish with foundation? Unless you’re an anchor at Fox News, you probably take a few shortcuts. And we’re not  judging. The appeal of BBs is that they pack five benefits into one little tube. Does one little tube work as effectively as five separate steps? No. But on the days that you’re rushing to get out of the door, are you grateful for one step instead of five? You’re welcome.

OK, got it. So what the heck are CC Creams?

It was bound to happen. BB creams are already being one-upped by newer initials: CC creams. Standing for Color and Care or Color and Correct, these formulas strive to offer even more–more coverage, more moisture, more lasting benefits. Chanel launched one in China earlier this year. Now, Olay is bringing one of the first CCs to the U.S. with Olay Total Effects 7 in One CC Tone Correcting UV Moisturizer. To keep their CC lightweight and easy to layer, Olay added only an SPF15. The question is, with a vast selection of BB creams already delivering a multitude of immediate and long-term benefits, how much better can a CC actually be? “CCs, as a category, are supposed to hydrate better than BBs and focus more on correcting the complexion,” says Wilson. “But since so few exist, their performance remains to be seen.” In the meantime, we look forward to a future in which we all have double Ds.



Question One:  Antioxidants, peptides, niacinamide–BB creams seems to offer some pretty impressive ingredients. Will they replace my current anti-ager?

Think of the anti-aging qualities of a BB like a white-wine spritzer (seriously, stay with us here): If you’re looking for a stiff drink, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you want a glass of fizzy water with a nice kick, you’ll be thrilled. In other words, a BB will do a lot more for your skin than a plain old tinted moisturizer, but a prescription-strength retinol it is not. A BB with antioxidants or peptides is perfect for you fresh-faced twentysomethings, butif you’re old enough to remember the first President Bush, the first Iraq war, or just have a lot of sun damage, use your BB by day and keep your retinol around for bedtime. Although BBs packed in high amounts of antioxidants, peptides, and niacinamides, the key ingredients may not sink in as fast or as effectively as they would in a serum, because “they’re generally entrapped in film-forming ingredients that can impede penetration,” says Wilson. The rate of release varies from brand to brand. If you layer, make sure your treatment product is absorbed completely before your apply your BB.

Question Two:  BB creams come in only a few shades (sometimes just one). How can they possibly match my complexion?

Say you’re a Creamy Natural at one counter, but you’re a True Sand at another and a Warm Beige at a third. It can make you feel a little Shell Shocked at all of them. In the world of BBs, there are usually only a few shades to choose from because some (especially those that only come in one shade) contain “self-adjusting” or “tone-blending” ingredients, meaning the pigments change slightly to match your skin tone. To make sure you select the right shade, let foundation be a (rough) guide. Makeup artist Troy Surratt suggests first visiting a cosmetic counter to see where you fit on the foundation-shade spectrum. Look for a brand that offers 12 to 16 colors: “The display will usually be organized from lightest to darkest,” he says. Divide the range into groupings of three or four. If you fall within the first group, you’re likely to wear a fair or light BB (with the former being the lighter of the two). If you’re in the second section, you’re medium. Third, dark or deep; and fourth, extra deep. If you fall on the very fair or the very dark end of the skin-color spectrum, look for a BB from a company that offers at least four shades.



BEAUTY TIP 1: If you fall on the very fair or very dark end of the skin-color spectrum, look for a BB from a company that offers at least four shades.


BEAUTY TIP 2: Prep the skin with lotion to help the BB go on more smoothly–and possibly even work better.


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