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What Are BB Creams?

The buzz behind beauty balms.

The Limitations of BB Creams continued...

"I like to say that BB creams are like any jack-of-all-trades -- they're master of none," Wilson says. "They do SPF very well and they can often [provide] good color coverage, but they're not as effective at moisturizing. Also, it's very difficult to load all that functionality into a single product and end up with a light texture. Women will find that BB creams tend to be a bit thicker than their tinted moisturizers."

Finding a BB cream that matches the color of your skin perfectly can also be a challenge. BB creams tend to come in a small range of shades -- usually three to five fair to medium-dark hues -- or in a single shade that blends with all skin tones.

Some women may find these shades too light. "The darkest shades in a BB cream are like the medium shades in most of our foundation lines," Wilson says.

Another limitation is that you won't find a BB cream -- or, for that matter, a tinted sunscreen -- that has acne-fighting ingredients. "FDA regulations don't allow acne ingredients and SPF to be combined in a single product," Wilson says. "If you have skin care issues that you're addressing with a targeted treatment product, you can't expect to get the same results by replacing that with a BB cream."

The best candidates for BB creams, Wilson says, are people with normal to oily skin and light to medium skin tone, and who don't need heavy moisturizers or anti-acne products.

BB Creams and Your Beauty Regimen

If BB creams won't replace every product in your skin care regimen, they can help those products work more effectively.

"I love BB creams," says Wu, who uses one herself under her lightweight foundation to help conceal acne scars.

"I'm devoted to my foundation," she says, "and there are a lot of women out there like me who wouldn't think of giving up the foundation that works perfectly for their skin. A BB cream can help you achieve fuller coverage without having to move up to a heavier foundation that feels like a mask."

By itself, a pea-sized dab of BB cream (that's all you need) can provide just the right amount of coverage for a casual day. "We're all in a hurry and BB creams are fantastic time-savers," says aesthetician Veronica Barton-Schwartz, owner of a Malibu, Calif., skin care studio, who counts locals Olivia Newton-John, Suzanne Somers, and Cher among her clients. "The formulations keep getting better and better."

If you're after a low-key look, that BB cream might indeed be all you need to tote for your skin care and beauty needs. It's also a good solution, Wu says, "for someone who's very natural and doesn't like the idea of wearing makeup, but wants to protect her skin and cover up some imperfections."

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