It wasn’t long after my 30th birthday when BB creams began to make their way from Korea to the U.S. marketplace. Given that they were supposed to provide anti-aging benefits, sun protection and flawless coverage all in one—and that they bore a coveted seal of approval from the most skin-obsessed culture on the planet—I was all over the trend. I happily sampled dozens of formulations that landed on my desk, including a few bona fide Korean formulations, which a coworker brought back after visiting family there.
Whether a “blemish balm” or a “beauty balm” (or whatever else—I saw a few variations) I never found any one BB cream to differ too much from the next. The vast majority felt little different than a heavy tinted moisturizer, with the Korean formulations giving off a distinct greyish cast. But since brighter, clearer, prettier skin was promised, my trials persisted.
Fast forward to now, and you’ll find not a single BB cream in my makeup bag, purse or medicine cabinet. Listen, I don’t care if it’s a BB cream, a CC cream or a PP cream. (Are those out yet?) I just can’t endorse this genre of makeup, and here’s why.
1. They’re inherently contradictory.
One thing about BB creams that makes zero sense? They serve to combine several steps in a woman’s beauty routine—performing the tasks of a moisturizer, a sunscreen, a pigmentation fighter, a foundation, et cetera—yet they find their roots in Korea’s storied beauty culture. You know, the culture that happens to be famous for its 12-step skin care routine. Just let that sink in for a second.
2. Lack of adequate protection.
Your foundation, or BB cream, or ZZ cream, or tinted moisturizer, or any variation thereof, does not provide adequate sun protection. In other words, there’s one “task” it’s not really performing up to par. As a point of reference, my friend and esthetician Sophia Phan, who works on a ton of high profile clients in Beverly Hills, recently urged me to ditch my regular facial sunscreen in favor of something that contains at least 9% zinc oxide in addition to chemical blockers. I went with Obagi Sun Shield (10.5% zinc oxide!) and I use it daily underneath my makeup. Morning application is not a big deal, and, according to Sophia, it’s critical considering the anti-aging ingredients I use at night. I have yet to see a makeup-type product—BB cream or otherwise—with an application even remotely described as “nice” offer this level of physical protection.
3. Absorption is key
Similar story for skin care treatments. Treatments—like serums, oils, and creams—are only as good as your skin’s ability to absorb them. This is why we apply them on clean, bare skin, usually at night before bed. Mixing powerful ingredients with makeup? That not only dilutes their power, but diminishes the skin’s ability to receive them. The bottom line? Your BB cream isn’t going to fade your dark spots or erase your wrinkles. It just isn’t.
4. It’s all about natural, flawless skin
Face makeup with blatant coverage is not chic right now. I know: My 20-year old self, face shellacked in MAC Studio Fix, would never have believed it, either. But Glossier, the brainchild of Into the Gloss founder Emily Weiss, introduced something called Perfecting Skin Tint when they unveilved their four-product launch last fall. Backstage at the Armani Prive couture show last month, Giorgio Armani’s lead makeup artist used Crema Nuda, a “nude glow treatment,” on the models in lieu of foundation. What these products share in common is an easily spreadable, water-based consistency housed in foolproof shades that are so sheer, they need not be a perfect color match for your skin. Likewise, neither claims to cover imperfections like pores or freckles—the idea is that they give your skin the boost it needs to look radiant, but naturally radiant. Given that this new kind of makeup is coming both from the beauty industry’s reigning cool girl and what many makeup artists would agree is the world’s premier maker of foundations, I think it’s safe to say we’ve got a trend here. Unlike another throwback to BB creams’ emergence—nail art—this one is actually flattering for an aging demographic. There is something truly liberating about caring for your skin well enough so that you don’t need to cover it up.