Started in the 1960's by a German dermatologist and later introduced in Japan and Korea in the 1980's, BB cream is one of the latest cosmetic rages. BB stands for Beauty Balm, Blemish Balm, Beblesh Balm or Blemish Base (the Koreans apparently have a trademark on "blemish balm"). In Germany, it was used on patients post skin surgery to help soothe and regenerate the skin.
Asian v. Western BB Creams
In Asia, BB Cream is first and foremost a skin care product with cosmetic properties. It is a 5 in one product: moisturizer, primer, serum, foundation, and sunblock. Asian BB creams are also usually formulated to include skin-whitening properties as flawless glowing porcelain skin is highly prized in Asia. Most Asian BB creams are limited in the number of shades available to match your skin - the reason being Asian BB creams are formulated to oxidize to match the user's skin. This is why I don't concern myself with the grayish tint/cast of the cream itself as it later oxidizes to match my skin tone.
Western brands of BB creams tend to function as a cosmetic product with skin care properties (opposite of Asian bb creams). A few brands I've taken note of due to their healthier ingredients are Smashbox's Camera Ready, Boscia, and Tarte.
This all-in-one product can be used alone like a tinted moisturizer or as a base for foundation. To increase its staying power, apply powder to set the cream.
I tested a lot of BB creams, both Western and Asian brands. I enjoyed using Dr. Jart's Black Label Detox BB Beauty Balm the instant I applied it to my skin. I found this BB cream to have the most coverage out of all the BB Creams I tried. I stippled extra product onto my problem skin areas to conceal my blemishes. Unlike the Missha and Skin79 BB creams, Dr Jart's BB cream does not have a grey tint or cast that requires oxidation. However, because this BB cream comes in only one color, it isn't ideal for darker skin tones. I am one who always has to set my foundation with powder (the joys of having combination skin!). However, I would be ok with just applying this BB cream without setting it with a powder.
As for the skin benefits, I noticed a difference in my pores once the BB cream set: my pores shrank, my skin tone evened out, my skin appeared "brighter", and the formula had a satin finish. It was hydrating (the only skin product I used prior to applying this cream was toner) without leaving my skin greasy.
This product definitely functions as a BB cream should: provide skin benefits with some cosmetic properties. I was surprised to learn that Dr. Jart, despite its name, is actually a Korean bb cream.
Coming in second to Dr. Jart's Black Label Detox BB cream is Missha. I'd wear Missha alone and set with a powder. Skin79 is another popular line of BB creams. I may be the odd man out but I was unimpressed with this line's staying power (and I tried the pink, gold, and diamond lines). However, the Skin79 BB creams functioned fantastically as a primer and kept my foundation beautifully matte and long lasting.
Missha BB Cream in #23
Skin 79 BB Cream line
I was most disappointed with Smashbox's Camera Ready BB Cream. While the line boasts of a range of colors to suit all skin tones out there, it really just functioned as a tinted moisturizer with some skin benefits. This alone wouldn't be a problem BUT the point is to function as a bb cream. When using that standard, Smashbox falls short. It also couldn't match the staying power of Dr. Jart and Missha.
With all of that said, I'd like to issue a disclaimer: my reviews are based upon how these products worked for ME. Obviously, everybody is different. Plenty of my friends adore and love the Skin79 bb creams. Smashbox's BB cream is also highly rated and raved by other makeup artists. It all depends on what you want from a BB cream - do you prefer one with skin benefits over cosmetic benefits or vice versa? Also, the BB creams themselves may also be inherently limiting for users - some only come in one color, which excludes a number of skin tones. The point of this post is to just give you a bit of insight and overview of BB creams so that you are armed with information to use to select the best bb cream for you.
Which BB Cream(s) have you tried and which BB Cream is your holy grail?