Let’s begin with the most rudimentary information about BB: that those letters stand for Blemish Balm, Beauty Balm, Blemish Base or–perhaps most delightful to say–Beblesh Balm, depending on who you ask. Most blogs tell the story of it becoming wildly popular in Asia–where the beauty emphasis tends to fall on flawless, even complexion–when several Korean actresses endorsed it as their “secret weapon.” Song Hye Kyo was supposedly the first; her brand of choice is Skin79.
A few years ago, I saw my first BB Creams popping up in the little beauty sections of Asian grocery stores (which I troll constantly because they have the best snacks). Not long after, the product arrived in full force stateside because the beauty industry is forever roaming the earth like a ghost with unfinished business, looking for ways to innovate and capitalize. Once beauty heavy hitters like Garnier (owned by L’Oreal) and Clinique (owned by Estée Lauder) launched homegrown versions, other brands went scrambling. Before we knew it, luxury houses like Dior and Chanel–who called it CC Cream, preciously–were on it, too.
Which brings us to big, hyperbole-laden floor displays at Sephora:
So, in addition to finding out what BB Cream was exactly–rather, if there was an appreciable difference between BB and a light foundation or tinted moisturizer/sunscreen–I wanted to know if it was worth all this hype. Of course, the answer to that is “nothing ever is” but I was still going to try my best or else I’d have to come up with 2000 words about, I don’t know, dry shampoo. Dry shampoo. I’m not a fucking scientist.
Since BB is hawked as a skincare product as much as a beauty tool (er, ALL! IN! ONE! WONDER! CREAM!) I began my quest to discover its wiles by talking to someone with a foot in both industries: Proactiv‘s resident beauty expert Amy Nadine, who’s served as makeup artist to stars like Kate Bosworth, Rachel Bilson and George Clooney. She counts herself a longtime fan of BB and was quick to explain that it offers multiple benefits (see those caps above). Nadine said, “I like that it’s a one-stop shop: evening out skin tone, has anti-aging components, SPF, moisturizes and covers.” She’s glad for the sudden explosion of popularity, too, because it means more options: “It’s come a long way since a chemist in Germany developed it in one shade that we used to have to follow with foundation. Now there are many brands at different price points that have come out with more shades so it can and should be worn alone.”
So it was Korean but actually German (maybe).