What exactly is a BB cream? I am glad you asked!!! I have seen BB creams around for YEARS, especially in Asia, where they have risen to cult status. They are essentially tinted moisturizers with added goodies like anti-aging skincare, primer and SPF. The “BB” stands for "blemish balm" or "beauty balm."
These super-hybrid multitasker creams (I love a good multitasker!!) were originally used to speed healing after laser treatments. The craze really took off in Korea when actresses attributed their flawless skin to the product. In short, BB creams help to even out the skin, camouflage pores and wrinkles, moisturize, reduce redness, even out skin tone, keep oil in check, offer anti-aging benefits, and shield skin from the sun. That’s a lot for just one little tube, right?? What’s not to love?
Now available stateside (and from many drugstore brands) ... this product is a phenomenon but not without faults, most notably lack of shade range. Now ... there are other products that are similar to beauty balms, like my current favorite, NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer. This wonder cream isn’t being marketed as a BB cream, BUT it definitely has the extra goodies (like advanced SPF, brighteners, etc.) and shade range that women with fair to dark skin will love. You can always add a bit of primer and turn it into a BB cream if you want. Like I said before, the biggest issue is shade range.
So ... what’s a girl to do if you are a fair- or dark-skinned beauty? (or anywhere in between)?? If you are fair-skinned, be wary of the light/medium versions. I would look for a FAIR option instead (I listed some below that will work). Now onto the topic of shade range, for the most part ... most of the mass-marketed BB creams I have tried and tested do only come in one shade: Light/Medium. Through my research, I have read many a comment/story from fair-skinned ladies that most of the light/medium options were just too dark. Alternatively, I have read some misinformation for darker-skinned girls, telling them to use the light/medium options anyway and add their foundation on top. Make no mistake, ladies, if you are a woman with ANY kind of yellow, orange or red undertones in your skin or have tan/olive skin, these light/medium options will look GRAY on you and will be made worse by the addition of your foundation on top (there are actually a few videos on YouTube like this showcasing exactly what I am talking about), so I wouldn’t bother with them AT ALL. To that end, there are several brands that are making more of a shade range; most of the ones that have made true strides are located in Europe.
Below are a list of BB creams available stateside that I have tested that are available in more shades.
Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector B.B. Cream SPF 15 -- A great drugstore option, this comes in Light/Medium and Medium/Dark. Both are fine for most complexions. (Note: The medium/dark still isn’t REALLY all that dark).
Clinique Age Defense BB Cream SPF 30 -- A great option for FAIR skin –- they have recently added another shade, 03, that is supposed to be for dark skin, but sadly it’s not even dark enough for me.
Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35 -- FANTASTIC BB cream with shade options from Fair to Dark and several in between (this is the best option so far for just about everyone).,/p>
Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream SPF 30 -- Nice drugstore option with a good amount of SPF and available from Light to Deep. This option works for most that are medium- to medium-deep skintones.
Dr. Jart Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45 PA+++ -- This BB cream comes in one shade only. It’s kind of nude-ish sheer, so this one I would mix with your own foundation to achieve the shade you want (only for light to medium skintones -- for darker I would not recommend).
If you have tried any or all of these and you are still on the fence, the best solution is for you to make your own BB cream (this goes for fair-skinned girls, too). I have been making versions of them using tinted moisturizer for years by mixing in the palm of my hand. You can do the same thing in a small jar. This is a great way for you to make a custom batch of your own BB cream to use over a specific amount of time. Take your favorite tinted moisturizer (best if it already has SPF) and add small amounts of primer, luminizer and a bit of your favorite skincare serum. You will have your own custom-made BB cream that will work for YOU.
Have you had a BB cream disaster? If you try the homemade option, let me know what you think in the comments!