Promising to give you the flawless look you've always wanted, beauty balms or blemish balms (also known as BB creams) are the "it" beauty product of summer. And as they are an alternative to often sticky, greasy foundations, it's easy to see why.
BB creams are infused with skin-nourishing vitamins and antioxidants and are marketed as the perfect way to mask facial imperfections and rejuvenate dull, lifeless skin.
So, what exactly is a BB cream?
Created by German dermatologist Christine Schrammek in the 1960s, the first beauty balm was created as a way to help protect the skin after a laser procedure or surgery. With a formula chock-full of antioxidants and moisturizers, BB creams not only soothed the skin but also acted as an anti-inflammatory agent.
It was not until the 1980s that BB creams gained a cult following among Korean actresses who began relying on the product to give their faces a smooth, porcelain quality. With their multitasking benefits (moisturizer, primer, foundation and sunblock in one), BB creams became a hit in the Asian market, with brands like Missha, Skin79 and Skinfood the popular choices.
It would take almost three decades for BB creams to reach the United States, but within the past year, BB creams have taken the Western market by storm. Ranging from drugstore brands like L'Oréal and Garnier to high-end brands like Smashbox and Origins, there are now more than a dozen BB creams out there. And before you try one, there are a few things you should know.
First off, one of the biggest differences you will find in the formulas sold in the United States is that they do not include a whitening agent like some of the formulas in Asia. Light skin is highly favored by many Asian consumers, so creams there are made to give users a lightened complexion. Second, not all BB creams are for everyone. Depending on the brand or the formula, some creams feature special benefits (such as oil control) that are targeted at specific skin types. Lastly, BB creams can be worn alone or under a traditional foundation to enhance your look.
So now that you have a little background, here's a roundup of some of the high-end and budget-friendly BB creams on the market.
Smashbox Camera Ready
Boasting a high SPF, Smashbox's BB cream does everything from prime your skin to control oil. It's supposed to give a glowing, ethereal look, and can also be worn under foundation. $39, Sephora (both freestanding stores and inside J.C. Penney).
First impression: It's available in three shades, and I chose medium to match my olive-toned skin. This formula is definitely not nearly as sheer as some other BB creams, but it does apply smoothly. Of all the BB creams I tried, I noticed Smashbox's formula was the only one that gave my face complete coverage and did not require any use of concealer (perfect if you have blemishes). This makes sense considering that one of its selling points is its ability to make you camera-ready, a promise fulfilled in the flawless finish it gives your face. One of my favorite things about the cream is the way it acts as a primer. Not only did it stay on my face all day, it also kept my blush looking as good as it did when I applied it in the morning. My only gripe is as someone who has an oily T-zone, I still had to apply a finishing powder.
Verdict: Perfect for achieving an almost Photoshop-quality look, this is the product that does everything you want a regular foundation to do and more. Is it pricey? Yes. But is it worth it? Double yes!
Origins A Perfect World
Infused with silver tip white tea and SPF 15, this beauty balm by Origins is meant to leave tired, ravaged skin looking healthier and younger. With a wear time of up to eight hours, this age-defense BB cream seems made for those with combination to dry skin. $35, Origins.
First impression: It's available in six shades, and I chose medium. The first thing that caught my attention when I applied the cream was how lightweight and sheer the formula was. Not only did it go on smoothly, it also gave my face a natural look, as if I were not wearing any makeup. However, the biggest selling point is the noticeable glow the product gave my complexion.
Verdict: The perfect BB cream to perk up your complexion, this is a great buy for those wanting a natural, flawless finish on a daily basis. With it's anti-aging benefits and ability to rejuvenate tired skin, this product suits the older customer who might be cautious of trying the latest beauty trends.
Maybelline Dream Fresh
Jam-packed with eight skin benefits, Maybelline's BB cream promises to blur facial imperfections while brightening and evening skin tone. It's perfect for normal skin types. $7.44, Wal-Mart.
First impression: Of the five shades available, I chose medium. When I smeared the cream on my hand, the shade looked dull in comparison to the more glowing formulas from Origins and Smashbox. As I applied it to my face, the cream went on smoothly and was sheer, just as the product's packaging promised. While the product did even out my skin tone nicely, I did not see any other significant changes, such as the "brightening effect" that is supposed to happen.
Verdict: After a full day of wear, I found that this BB cream is decent in quality, but falls short of being anything spectacular. However, as one of the most budget-friendly BB creams on the market, this product would be a great way to try out the trend without a major commitment.
CoverGirl CG Smoothers
A lightweight formula that blends effortlessly, CoverGirl's BB cream was designed to instantly enhance the look of skin with the help of 10 skin-friendly benefits. At under $7, this beauty balm would seem to be a great pick for your face and your wallet. $6.24, Target.
First impression: Of the three shades available, I chose medium. After applying it, I noticed that this product was not as sheer as the other BB creams I had tried. In fact, the consistency reminded me of a foundation. In my previous research of this beauty balm, I found several online reviews that questioned whether this product was just a repackaged version of one of CoverGirl's tinted moisturizers. Indeed, it does say tinted moisturizer on the product's packaging. Besides that, after 15 minutes of wear, this product gave my skin a light gray tint.
Verdict: If you're looking for an actual BB cream, and not a tinted moisturizer disguising itself as one, I'd stay away from this product.
L'Oréal Paris Magic Skin Beautifier
L'Oréal Paris' BB cream promises a natural finish. Made to hydrate, correct, even and perfect, it contains vitamins C and E, and helps keep your pores from clogging. $10.99, Ulta.
First impression: When I first squeezed the formula out of it's tube, I was taken aback. Despite choosing the shade medium (it's available in three other shades), the BB cream looked white with a gray tint. However, once I applied it to my face, it quickly blended in to match my skin tone perfectly. Within seconds of application, I noticed a very vibrant glow to my suddenly even complexion. The product is very sheer, giving users an effortless, natural look. However, because of the sheer formula, those with blemishes might still need to use concealer.
Verdict: As far as drugstore BB creams go, L'Oréal Paris' offering is a cut above the rest. Not only did it give me most of the benefits of a high-end product, it also cost about a third of the price.