The beauty obsessives over at Birchbox recently conducted a survey of their users, covering a wide variety of topics from favorite celebrity haircut to regional trends in foundation use (there’s an infograph here with some, but not all, of the data). When asked, “What beauty products baffle you?” 44% of users said “sheet masks” (fair; what the shit is that?) and right behind at 40% was… BB Cream. So, while BB Cream may be (very) old news to some of you, many are still confounded by this supposed “miracle product.” What’s more–although it’s so popular that Sephora now devotes large floor displays to different versions–no one seems able to fully explain what it is. Some cursory internet research revealed, quite helpfully, that BB Cream is 1) like foundation, but not; 2) like tinted moisturizer, but not, and 3) Korean… but actually German. Which, obviously, illuminates nothing.
Hoping to get a cogent answer, I ventured into the Sephora flagship on 34th Street. I found one of those bright BB floor displays–this one featuring Stila, Smashbox, Too Faced, Boscia, Clinique, Dior, Dr Jart–and started slathering product all over my hands and wrists. One of the employees’ noticed my fervor and cheerfully asked if I needed help.
I told her I wanted to know about BB Cream. She replied by telling me which ones were the most popular.
“Right,” I said, “But… what is it?”
“Okay.” I reassessed my strategy. “How is it not just a foundation with lighter coverage?”
“It’s better!” she said brightly.
“Okay. But why?”
“Well, it’s lighter and less heavy than foundation.”
“So… it’s like a tinted moisturizer?”
“No, it has better coverage.”
“So, it’s a tinted moisturizer with better coverage…?”
Her smile kind of hardened on her face. “No. It’s better!”
Look, I am not going to disparage this nice lady because she couldn’t answer my weirdly specific questions (and also because fucking with people is frequently one’s sole source of entertainment in retail). But! I can still be extremely frustrated by the sudden omnipresence of BB Cream without ever once being offered a viable explanation as to why it’s so great, other than big smiles and promises it is. I supposed, then, BB Cream was either the latest invention of a beauty industry that thrives on convincing women they need stuff they probably don’t… or a total miracle product that required no explanation because it was just that good.