• Thu, Aug 30 2012

What Is BB Cream? (And Why Should You Care?)

I spoke with Claudia Dellenbusch, a rep for Dr. Christine Schrammek Kosmetik; Schrammek is our our German scientist from the ’50s and the woman who invented BB. According to the brand’s website, she “spent many years working in a skin clinic as well as in her own surgery, dealing with the skin problems of hundreds of patients.” According to Dellenbusch, blemish balm originated about 53 years ago, when Schrammek was developing an herbal peel (now a range of products dubbed Green Peel). She needed something gentle for sensitive skin post-peel and ended up using a cream “she produced herself in her own small laboratory.” Then things got interesting.

Blemish balm was introduced to the German market in 1967. Per the Schrammek mythology, the smooth, flawless complexion it offered made the product popular with Korean nurses working in Germany, who in turn brought it back with them to Korea. Though Blemish balm wasn’t specifically created with the Asian market mind, it swiftly gained ground there: ”There has been a company representative in Korea since the 1980s,” Dellenbusch said, “When Dr. Schrammek accepted the invitation of a cosmetic representative to travel to Korea in 1985, blemish balm had already become quite popular there. Not only in Korea, but also in Japan there was a breakthrough.” Since the 1990s, blemish balm had been “referred to in Asian markets as ‘BB cream,’ and so the name of an entire product category was born. The ‘hype’ started there and came now back to the rest of the world.”

As far as Dellenbusch and the team at Schrammek Kosmetik are concerned, all the rest are imitators: “There are a lot of products on the market which call themselves Blemish Balm or just BB cream.” The biggest difference is primarily in “the range of application.” Their formula boasts “an anti-inflammatory, regenerative and soothing effect. Blemish balm not only conceals impurities, but also helps regulate dysfunctional skin processes and alleviate skin problems.” The original blemish balm, essentially, is all about skincare, while “[other] ’BB creams’ are more created as a tinted, light make-up.”

Basically, BB creams are an offshoot of this blemish balm, a lab-developed cure-all for a variety of skin conditions: ”emergency help for pimples and blackheads, “an anti-itch treatment for insect bites, alleviating the “pain of lip blisters,” healing ”mild burns and slight wounds,” concealing “impurities, redness, enlarged pores and hyperpigmentation,” with an all-around “anti-inflammatory and soothing effect [that] supports the regeneration process after a laser treatment.”

Which brings us back to our original question!

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  • Renee

    Question: If I ingest one tube/container of each brand of BB cream available, will I develop super powers?

    Ack, there is no time! I’m just going to do it anyways.

    • Ashley Cardiff

      I think it depends. For a supposed “ALL! IN! ONE! WONDER! CREAM!” the amount you have to ingest to develop cool powers is, unfortunately, disappointing.

    • Lemona

      Don’t ingest them –just put them all on your skin, all over. Then your super power will be that just looking at your WONDER RADIANCE will heal people. You will actually be a walking balm.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Since applying BB cream, everything I have touched has turned to platinum. I am living in a nightmare world and wearing opera length gloves. (Also, true story, I found some of them kind of drying, but I have sensitive skin.)

    • Amy

      Since applying BB cream, unicorns come to me in my dreams and rainbows speak to me in a language only I can understand. I have also started to levitate.

      But it did make my skin oily and a bit ‘grey’.

  • Kit

    Thank you for illuminating the fact there is not much to illuminate. I know that sounds backhanded but I’m being genuine: I too was upset by the whole “It’s different and better!” party line offered by every makeup store employee I asked about it. It’s nice to know that the answer is, “they’re all pretty different.”

  • Lindsey

    “but there are no hard and fats rules”

    STOP BEING SIZEST, GOD.

    • Ashley Cardiff

      lol

    • Ashley Cardiff

      That was really close to a “Typo… but I’m keeping it.”

    • Ashley Cardiff

      Also, this comment should be the textbook example of how to point out minor typographical errors without being a dick.

  • Jenniwren

    I’ve never found a really satisfactory BB cream. And I don’t know anyone else who has, either. It comes back to that “one product does it all!” thing- the formulas are generally too broad to cater for those of us (lots of us) who have specific skin needs. I have oily skin, and most BB creams just sit there and then kind of slide slowly downwards and the day wears on. My sister has dry/sensitive skin and BBs don’t give her the moisture she needs. Some people have reactions to the ingredients.
    I think you could probably get a really good product if you were willing to pay enough (and the Bobbi Brown product looks amazeballs,) but frankly I’d rather spend more on good skincare that meant I wouldn’t have to wear a BB cream at all (otherwise known as the smug Frenchwoman’s philosophy).

    • Ashley Cardiff

      Oh, I agree totally. If I had to choose, I’d pay for a dermatologist before creams and powders, any day.

      Still, I think BBs can be excellent resources to many women, as they do fix minor issues like slight unevenness in skintone, etc.

    • A

      Ah – you said just what I was thinking. ‘One size fits all’ doesn’t work when you mix in skin care. I read blog from a skin care pro where she called BB Cremes ‘the Snuggie of skin care’.

  • Ellen W.

    I go to Asian grocery stores for the snack aisle too! I like the Durian-flavored candies best.

  • Anna

    LOVE this article. I just went through the same inner turmoil when I stumbled upon BB cream everywhere. I did my own research, after the same experience trying to ask what BB cream was, and found the same thing. I am a ginger with sensitive skin and my biggest fear for my skin is sun damage and skin cancer. The BB creams with 30+ spf are actually of interest to me and trying to find something that protects but doesn’t make me break out is difficult.

    I recommend doing the free samples AND reading reviews online. I found a review for Smashbox BB cream that informed me it oxidized and turned orange during the day.

  • lucygoosey74

    The original BB cream seems interesting, anti-inflamitory properties, skin healing, etc. All the others sound like blown up hype for a product that’s probably rather mediocre. Thanks for the article, it was very informative.

  • Elizabeth

    I tried to like BB creams, but I’m too attached to my neurotic multi-step regimen: cleanser, toner, anti-aging thingy, eye cream, moisturizer, broad-spectrum sunblock. I found the BB cream didn’t give enough info on its SPF properties, so I didn’t really trust it. And I’m really neurotic about sunblock, so I was going around outside jumping from shady spot to shady spot, convinced that the sun’s rays were aging me through my suspicious SPF. I just decided I couldn’t deal and took it back to the store. If I want the BB cream effect, I’ll just put a tinted moisturizer over my crazy-person regimen.

  • Lilac

    Tossing it out there alot of BB creams found in American have parabens and sulfates in them and are not as nice as the stuff from Korea or Japan. I’m trying some BB cream but I am ordering it from South Korea from an Ebay shop who explained which one would be best for my because I am Eurpoean decent.

    • Ashley Cardiff

      I’m personally biased toward the brands that don’t use things like that–Hourglass, NARS, Stila, Tarte–because I have sensitive skin. Still, I’m a beauty editor (and not everyone cares about nasty chemicals or has the money to) so I try to cover a broad spectrum of products, ingredient-wise, price point-wise.

  • PARKER STENE

    I LOVE it. Thank you for approaching this with a keen eye! One size may “fit” all, but rarely is it flattering (aka Snuggie);-)

  • Dani

    Isn’t this the same as Maybelline’s Anti-Aging eraser products? It has collagen, SPF, coverage and goji berries (for who knows what), but I love it. It goes on super easy and has slight coverage.

  • Glo

    One line. JANE IREDALE. I have used this makeup for 8 years. Just tried her version the other day at the derm. LOVE IT

  • Guest

    “Before we knew it, luxury houses like Dior and Chanel–who called it CC Cream, preciously–were on it, too.”

    Ah, but apparently CC cream is its own separate category! According to the Sephora website, “CC stands for color correct or color care. CCs are generally lighter in texture than BBs and provide a more natural coverage.”