Don't think for a minute that BB creams can take the place of skincare

I was blowdrying my hair at the country club after tennis when I heard two women conversing about their makeup routines. One woman said, "You just really need BB cream. It's already sunscreen, moisturizer, primer, anti-aging, and foundation in one!" Her friend was obviously impressed by this and went on to ask about which BB creams are good to try. I wanted to butt in and give my feedback but I didn't know them and it might be weird, so instead I'm writing this post in the hopes of helping everybody out!

When BB creams became hugely popular around ten years ago, they came with the promise of being a "blemish balm" much loved by South Korean superstars. BB Cream was supposedly invented in Germany in the 1960s, however, as an after-procedure product to protect and cover up skin after peels or surgery. With this function, it was basically a skincare cream that offered some coverage to help disguise healing skin.

This was obviously a great idea. Who doesn't want skincare that also makes skin look good instantly with some pigment? K-Beauty brands ran away with it and created the modern BB cream as we know it - something with light to full coverage and had a heavy, moisturizer-like texture. Then US and European brands jumped into the fray and created more shades and more options for different  skin types. It was a frenzied time for BB creams. Consumers were in love with the idea of one product being sunscreen, moisturizer, primer, anti-aging cream, and foundation all at once.

But is a product like that really possible?


It's certainly possible to create a product that has the correct ingredients for all of the above. You can put titanium dioxide and that will already offer some sun protection. You can put water, shea butter, natural oils, gels, and that provides moisturizing properties. You can put absorbent powders like kaolin, silicones, and polymers and that give it priming properties; it can control oil, stick to the skin better. You can put retinol and hyaluronic acid and call it anti-aging. You can then add pigments to provide even coverage and hide blemishes or lines.

So yes, it's certainly possible for one product to do many things! But then the really important question is: how effective can it be in normal usage?

Sunscreen is actually classified as a drug. Typically you need at least a teaspoon of normal sunscreen for your skin to get the full published protection on the packaging. I don't think anyone will want to apply a full teaspoon of BB cream on their faces, and besides, SPF ratings are *generally* loosely regulated in cosmetics especially if its SPF20 or under. So while you may get some sun protection with say a pea-sized amount of BB cream it will not nearly be enough for what you need daily.

Some BB creams can be moisturizers but this is at the expense of balancing it out with pigments versus the texture and efficacy. The more moisturizing something is, the less it can be as opaque; the more opaque the coverage is, the more powder pigment is required, and this dries up the moisture-giving capacity of the product. 

A BB cream can be properly anti-aging but only if it can be used as a sunscreen, and if a high level of anti-aging actives are in the formula. It can get pretty expensive in this way, and again, you can't use too much of the product to truly get the full effect of the actives.

In other words, while it is certainly possible to create the ultimate working blemish balm cream, you still need to apply a certain amount to get its skincare promises. This is why separate products for separate concerns are still very much necessary in a beauty routine; they are optimally formulated in terms of texture, stability, and percentage of actives to give your skin what it needs in normal everyday usage. 

Most BB creams currently available in the market are just glorified foundation and/or primer. Nothing wrong with that, some BB creams are really good foundations in disguise! It's just that everybody needs to stop thinking of them as a miracle do-it-all product at this point. Don't think for a minute that the modern versions available now can replace your skincare routine.