Do You Know Your BCDs?

With the glut of BB creams on the market, many women are confused

First there were BBs, then CCs, and now DDs. With claims of singularly treating, protecting and improving skin while offering natural-looking coverage, these wonder creams are having a moment. They’re available at all price points—from inexpensive drugstore brands to high-end lines sold in department stores or through spas and dermatologists—and they seem to be finding loyalists. According to the research by the marketing group NPD, though just 2 percent of beauty shoppers have purchased these creams, four out of five say they’d buy them again.
Who doesn’t love a product that saves you time and money while making you look great? But in order to get the most out of one, it’s important to know what they are and what purpose they serve.
BB, short for blemish balms or beauty balms, is the 1960s-era invention of German dermatologist Christine Schrammek who wanted a single product to provide protection and coverage for her patients who had undergone skin peels. She introduced it to Asian markets in the 1980s, where it really took off due in part to the promise of glowing porcelain skin and the step-saving benefits it offered Asian women whose beauty regime is typically time consuming.
Here in the U.S. BB creams debuted two years ago, and are touted as an innovative multi-tasker that’s part makeup, part skin treatment and part skin protector. They contain high levels of anti-aging properties like peptides and vitamin-based antioxidants; super moisturizers like glycerin and hyaluronic acid; and other effective ingredients to smooth skin and even tone. In addition, many BB creams provide full spectrum sun protection with an SPF of 30 or more.
“Originally BB creams were meant to conceal blemishes or other skin flaws while providing protection from UV rays and treating the skin with brightening ingredients,” says cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson of Catalyst Cosmetic Development. “As [they] evolved, the treatment aspect moved toward general anti-aging with many utilizing various forms of vitamin C. The idea is that after cleansing, a BB cream is all you need to treat, correct and protect skin. However, they lack strong moisturizing capabilities, so an additional moisturizer is typically used before a BB cream. Also, more mature skin may require additional anti-aging benefits from a serum. ”
The next wave of alphabet creams, CCs or color correctors, were originally developed in Korea to target skin discoloration. “CC creams are very similar to BB creams, but the focus is more on color correction and hydration,” Wilson says. The CC advantage: They’re more lightweight than BBs and offer a more natural-looking finish, but according to Wilson, “There is such a blurry line between BB and CC creams that it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two.”
The latest letters to enter the all-in-one skincare category just became available here this month. DD—dynamic do-all—cream from the company Julep is being marketed as a combination of the previous two, with more instant results and the promise of greatly improving skin over time.
We’re all for products that streamline makeup application, improve the condition of our skin, offer adequate sun protection and leave us glowing. Where we waver with BBs, CCs and DDs is with the limited range of shades they come in. After all, experience has taught us that a lot of general market makeup simply labeled light, medium and dark rarely addresses all of the variations in our complexions.
“That’s a big shortcoming,” Wilson says. “Unfortunately ‘dark’ doesn’t cut it for most black women. “Iman Cosmetics, Smashbox, Hydroxatone and Elizabeth Arden offer a wider selection of shades than most, but even then you have to consider the undertone of the cream—e.g., is it more red or yellow in tone—as well as that of your complexion just like you would when selecting foundations or tinted moisturizers. Texture, which can range from conventional cream to a lightweight mousse, is another consideration for skin that’s oily or dry.
Looking for an alphabet cream that works well for you? We recommend reading product labels, consulting experts at makeup counters or simply trying some out. Let us know what you find.

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