BB cream is a relatively recent trend in the beauty market, but it’s really been around since its invention in the 1960s by German dermatologist Dr. Christine Schrammek. BB cream’s original use was to protect Schrammek’s patients’ skin after facial peels and surgery, but after further developments were made by Korea cosmetics companies in the 1980s, BB cream has emerged as an all-in-one staple product in the beauty routine.
BB cream stands for blemish balm or beauty balm, and is promoted as an all-in-one facial cosmetic product that can be used to replace concealer, moisturizer, primer, foundation and sunblock. It can be worn alone as a tinted moisturizer, over serum and moisturizer as a regular foundation, and under makeup.
Instead of offering multiple shades for different skin colors, Korean BB creams are designed to oxidize to match the user's skin tone, though the skin-whitening properties of the cream as sold in the Asian market are an important element in its popularity. However, since Western cosmetics companies began to launch BB creams in the Western market in 2012, more variations of color have been offered, and certain BB creams have been tailored for Western markets: Estée Lauder, for example, has not included the whitening properties in their formulation for North America. Some of these creams have been criticized for lacking the skin-caring functions that BB creams normally have, and for being no more than tinted moisturizer.
Korean women mostly use BB cream as an alternative to Western foundation, which tends to have very heavy consistency. The coverage is often mineral-based, and is intended to both cover and treat blemishes such as acne, sun spots and age spots. BB cream is also formulated to have anti-wrinkle, anti-inflammatory properties and soothing effects. Some popular ingredients in BB cream are hyaluronic acid, such as the Acymer Brightening BB cream, Vitamin C and mineral oils such as jojoba oil.
To test out a BB cream, swipe the BB cream on the inside of your wrist—your natural skin tone—and see if it matches. Try out a bunch on the same wrist and select the one that most resembles your skin tone. To apply BB cream, squeeze a small amount onto your fingers and apply to the face in a gentle circular motion, starting from the centre and working your way outwards. This allows you to blend the cream into the skin for an even coverage. Apply a thin layer and wait until it absorbs into the skin, then add another layer if necessary. BB cream can be focused on areas of the face that need concealing (e.g. dark circles, acne), and can substitute for both a concealer and sunscreen, as most BB creams now come with an SPF level of at least 15.
Overall, if you’re looking to find an absolute “essential” product to incorporate into your beauty routine, BB cream is just that. Make sure to read the ingredients’ list carefully and test out the BB cream before purchasing, and stay away from those Western brands that only market BB cream as a tinted moisturizer and nothing else!