Although I was intrigued by the idea of a German chemist inventing the product in a lab somewhere, I next sought out a dermatologist. I prefer talking to derms about makeup because they tend to be a little more dour and unimpressed by new crazes in beauty but Debra Jaliman, author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist, also gave our mythic wonder cream a solid endorsement. She likes BB because it puts an SPF on women who might not ordinarily prioritize sun protection. She said:
They are multipurpose products. You find a moisturizer, foundation, sunblock, and primer all in one product. Some have an anti-aging ingredients (Clinique includes antioxidants) or brighteners (Garnier). The reason many people like them is that in this fast paced world, when people are so busy, instead of layering multiple products they can use just one. They generally give good coverage. I like a specific sunscreen with the best sun protective ingredients, so for me I prefer separate products. But for others it’s a good way to get people who wouldn’t always wear a sunscreen to actually wear one and have their skin look good in the process.
Okay, so BB is a multi-tasker; liked by makeup artists because you don’t have to layer on moisturizer/primer/foundation, and liked by derms who just want women to wear an SPF. We’re almost somewhere!
I was actually having a hard time finding anyone who’d say anything bad about BB, until I found Sebastien Tardif, a power-makeup artist who’s worked with some of the best models in the business: Naomi Campbell, Jessica Stam, Helen Christensen, Carmen Kass. He told me that he’s been working in Korea (and around Asia) since 2001, so BB is old news to him. Although he understands why women are curious about it given all the hype, his concern is that many BB Creams come in only one shade yet purport to adapt to any skintone: ”The limited color range ‘one shade fits all’ approach is misleading, [it leaves] skin ashy and made up looking; in my opinion, BB Creams fail to meet customers’ personalized needs.” Tardif is launching Veil Cosmetics this month, which he says was inspired by the Asian emphasis on beautiful skin, but his equivalent product comes in 12 shades.
Similarly unsatisfied with the one shade approach was Bobbi Brown, a brand that has always specialized in faces (foundation, bronzer, blush, etc). They’d been tinkering away on a formula for some time before releasing their version. I spoke with Gabrielle Nevin, Executive Director of Product Development at Bobbi Brown and Alicia Sontag, SVP, Global Marketing about their BB Cream: ”Skin has to look like skin–texture and color–[so it's] imperative to have multiple shade offerings,” said Nevin, however it’s “sometimes difficult to obtain darker shades in higher SPF formulas.” Bobbi Brown now offers BBs in five shades (and a higher-than-average SPF 35).
Sontag chimes in to further praise the cream’s versatility, “It can be used as a combination product to save on steps of SPF, coverage, anti-aging and brightening and bring all into one. Different women can use it in many different ways to fit their needs. For a minimalist – it can be “all in one”. For a makeup junkie, it is the perfect step after their skin care routine and before their foundation/makeup routine.”
I was beginning to better understand the differences between your garden variety foundation or tinted moisturizer and BB Cream, although my natural skepticism hadn’t quite been abated–BB still sounded like a spruced up version of either, albiet with some good benefits.
So I went to the source.