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What Are BB Creams?

The buzz behind beauty balms.

What BB Creams Do

Can one beauty product really do it all? Maybe.

Many BB creams offer effective sun protection, with broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher, the American Academy of Dermatology's recommendation for daily use. What's more, BB creams generally contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide, physical sunblocks that have some built-in water-resistant properties, Wu says.

When it comes to skin treatment, you can find BB creams that contain:

  • Anti-aging components, including peptides and antioxidants such as vitamins A, E, and C
  • Moisturizing workhorses like hyaluronic acid and glycerin
  • Ingredients such as licorice and arbutin that help even out skin tone
  • Light-reflecting mica to give skin a luminous finish
  • Silicone-based ingredients, such as dimethicone, that help smooth the skin, acting much like a foundation primer does

 

The Limitations of BB Creams

For all its benefits, if you expect a BB cream to be a miracle in a tube, you might be disappointed.

"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.

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