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After spending several years in social services, Nicole has finally followed her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer. In addition to her work for The Hudsucker, Nicole is also a staff writer for Womanista. An avid comic book fan, BBQ aficionado, professional makeup artist and first-time mom, Nicole can be found exploring Kansas City rich history when she's not blogging about suburban life at Suburban Flamingo.

The Pretty Files: Alphabet Soup – Skincare, Makeup, and BB Cream

Once upon a time makeup was easy.  Well, maybe not easy but a little more streamlined.  To have a basic look all I needed was foundation, powder, blush, and whatever I wanted to put on my eyes–usually eyeliner and mascara.  When I started working in cosmetics, both as a consultant for Clinique and as a makeup artist, much of that streamlined simplicity disappeared in a world of colorful eyeshadow, bronzers, and highlighting liquid but there were two truths that I could still count on in a pinch: skincare was skincare and foundation was, as the name implied, the foundation of my every look.

That has changed.

Sure, you can still find foundation out there in the makeup aisle of drugstores and on the shelves of prestige cosmetics lines, but foundation isn’t alone anymore.  Now customers are greeted with a new kid on the block, the alphabet soup of creams that combine skincare elements with basic makeup elements, all of them promising to perform miracles for your face.  BB, CC, and yes, even DD creams are the hottest thing in cosmetics these days, but with so many letters and brands and promises out there it’s really hard to determine what these creams do…and don’t do.  That’s what I’m here for.  I’m here to be your guide through the confusing alphabet soup of on-trend makeup products.

Image Credit: imabeautygeek.com

Before we dive into this article’s focus, BB creams, here are the basics that you need to keep in mind: BB, CC, and DD creams are all, at heart, high-tech hybrids of skincare and makeup that address different yet similar, concerns.  They should not be slept in (sleeping in your makeup is one of the worst things you can do for your skin outside of not wearing sunscreen.  I do skin and makeup professionally.  Trust me on this.) and generally require you to use some form of makeup removing wash or solvent to remove them fully.  Regular soap, even the kind designed for face, will not take your makeup off.  The creams are also not intended to substitute other skincare needs, such as a moisturizer or a treatment serum.  BB and CC creams can be worn alone or as a makeup primer (which means you can put foundation on over them, more on that as we go along) while DD cream appears to be leaning towards being more makeup than skincare and should be worn alone.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the first of these amazing “miracle” makeup creams to hit shelves: the BB cream.  BB creams have a popular history in Asia where the legend goes that they were created by a plastic surgeon as a protective cream for laser resurfacing patients.  The cream made the patients skin look so perfect that they kept asking for more even after their skin had healed and thus BB cream was born.  BB creams are largely designed to correct texture concerns and give one a “flawless” complexion.  The “BB” doesn’t have a set thing that the letters stand for, but it is usually something along the lines of blemish or beauty balm in reference to the need to smooth out imperfections in the skin.  Asian-origin BBs tend to be thicker and heavier and are often worn as foundation replacements.  When the trend hopped the ocean and came to the US it got a Western makeover, making the creams a little thinner in consistency and marketed to be much more versatile.  BB creams also have limited shade selections, which is great for those of us who could wear glue for makeup (just call me Casper!) but not so hot for the gorgeous ladies with darker skins.  Even if someone darker than pale manages to find a good match in the shade department with a BB cream there is still the risk that the creams will leave an ashy appearance to the skin.  This is due largely in part to the types of SPF blended into the creams.  High SPF is one of the major selling features of BB cream.  My first BB cream, Clinique’s, has an SPF of 30 which was why I bought it.  Many drugstore brands have comparable SPF protection, though I have seen higher.  Dior’s Diorsnow BB has an SPF of 50 (and it’s glorious.  If money were no object this cream would be my constant companion.)  I’m all for a high SPF, but the problem comes in because SPF comes in two types: physical and chemical.  Both types protect from the sun, but they just do it through different mechanisms.  Both have merits, but some people are allergic to chemical sunscreens which makes physical sunscreens a good alternative.  The catch is that physical sunscreens, which usually contain zinc oxide, have a very “white” color to them that results in an ashy effect on the skin.  This is good if you’re the color of chalk, like me.  It’s bad if you’re glorious and golden.

So who should use a BB cream?  They are truly appropriate for anyone.  As long as you are washing it off at night and not sleeping in it using a BB cream isn’t going to hurt you.  However, people looking for textural correction of their skin will get the most benefit.  Most BB creams do wonders for people with slightly enlarged pores, acne scarring, or in my case a pesky injury scar.  The texture of the BB cream “blurs” the lines a bit and creates a very smooth appearance.  I would also suggest a BB cream to anyone who is very fair both because the color line is more light-centric and also because of the higher SPFs.  BB creams are also appropriate for dryer skins because most of them contain either hyaluronic acid or glycerin—moisturizing powerhouses.

Want to give a BB cream a try?  Great!  Here are my general suggestions for finding one that works for you.  My best tip is to always establish your budget and stick with selections in that range.  You can find good ones in any range so don’t feel you have to splurge on the expensive stuff.  In fact my favorite one only costs $16.  Once you’ve established your budget and your options look first for one with the features you like such as the higher SPF or advertised vitamin content.  Again using myself as an example, I really looked for one that had mineral elements to it.  Then, lastly, you should consider shade and whether or not you plan to wear it alone or as a primer.  When wearing it alone you may want to go a slight bit darker than you would as a primer, but always stay in your natural skin tone range.  That’s all it boils down to: budget, features, and shade and if you keep those things in mind you should end up with a product you are happy with.

Next week we’ll dig into the middle sibling of the alphabet family, the CC cream.  Have questions, either on BB creams or CC creams that you’d like to see answered?  Be sure to leave a comment!

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2 Comments on “The Pretty Files: Alphabet Soup – Skincare, Makeup, and BB Cream”

  1. Alyshea Surani August 28, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    Lovely products!

  2. Must Have Boxes August 28, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    Great beauty picks!

    – KW

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