Promising to give you the flawless look you’ve always wanted, beauty balms or blemish balms (also known as BB creams) are among today’s “it” beauty products. And as an alternative to often sticky, greasy foundations, it’s easy to see why.
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BB creams are infused with skin-nourishing vitamins and antioxidants and are marketed as the perfect way to mask facial imperfections and rejuvenate dull, lifeless skin.
So, what exactly is a BB cream?
Created by German dermatologist Christine Schrammek in the 1960s, the first beauty balm was created as a way to help protect the skin after a laser procedure or surgery. With a formula chock-full of antioxidants and moisturizers, BB creams not only soothed the skin but also acted as an anti-inflammatory agent.
It was not until the 1980s that BB creams gained a cult following among Korean actresses who began relying on the product to give their faces a smooth, porcelain quality. With their multitasking benefits (moisturizer, primer, foundation, and sunblock in one), BB creams became a hit in the Asian market, with brands Missha, Skin79, and Skinfood the popular choices.
It would take almost three decades for BB creams to reach the United States, but within the past year, BB creams have taken the Western market by storm.
Toledo area makeup artist Patrice White said her clients have been asking about the creams for several months. Their sheerness and easy application are appealing to women who want a natural look.
“For years, millions of women have been layering foundation over a moisturizer and sunscreen. With this, it’s all right there,” Mrs. White said. “It won’t give you coverage, because that’s not what it’s for. You can add concealer for coverage, but you don’t have to wear foundation hairline to hairline.”
Application is usually as simple as blending the cream into the skin using your fingers. For longer wear, it can be set with powder or mixed with foundation or concealer for additional coverage.
“It’s about the easiest product you’ll ever use,” Mrs. White said. “It’s the next step in ease as far as application.”
While the ease and airy feel of BB creams may be appealing, Mrs. White suggests checking out the products a little further, to avoid skin mishaps.
“It’s not for everybody. It’s certainly not for someone looking for coverage, because it won’t give you any,” Mrs. White said. “But the moisturizers in these creams can cause breakouts if you’re not careful.”
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Ranging from drugstore brands like L’Oréal and Garnier to high-end brands like Smashbox and Origins, there are now more than a dozen BB creams out there. And before you try one, there are a few things you should know.
First, one of the biggest differences you will find in the formulas sold in the United States is that they do not include a whitening agent like some of the formulas in Asia. Light skin is highly favored by many Asian consumers, so creams there are made to give users a lightened complexion. Second, not all BB creams are for everyone. Depending on the brand or the formula, some creams feature special benefits (such as oil control) that are targeted at specific skin types. Lastly, BB creams can be worn alone or under a traditional foundation to enhance your look.
So now that you have a little background, here’s a roundup of some of the high-end and budget-friendly BB creams on the market.
Boasting a high SPF, Smashbox’s BB cream does everything from prime your skin to control oil. It’s supposed to give a glowing, ethereal look, and can also be worn under foundation. It’s available in three shades. $39, Sephora (both freestanding stores and inside J.C. Penney).
Infused with silver tip white tea and SPF 15, the beauty balm by Origins is meant to leave tired, ravaged skin looking healthier and younger. With a wear time of up to eight hours, this age-defense BB cream seems made for those with combination to dry skin. Available in six shades. $35, Origins.
Jam-packed with eight skin benefits, Maybelline’s BB cream promises to blur facial imperfections while brightening and evening skin tone. It’s perfect for normal skin types. Available in five shades. $7.44, Wal-Mart.
CoverGirl CG Smoothers
A lightweight formula that blends effortlessly, CoverGirl’s BB cream was designed to instantly enhance the look of skin with the help of 10 skin-friendly benefits. At under $7, this beauty balm would seem to be a great pick for your face and your wallet. Available in three shades. $6.24, Target.
L’Oréal Paris’ BB cream promises a natural finish. Made to hydrate, correct, even, and perfect, it contains vitamins C and E, and helps keep your pores from clogging. Available in four shades. $10.99, Ulta.
Blade staff writer RoNeisha Mullen contributed to this story.