BB creams are the multi-taskers of the cosmetics industry, offering several different products in one tube. But can these combination formulas -– increasingly marketed as anti-aging skin care wonders -- help your aging skin look younger?
The beauty history behind BB creams: Developed in 1967 by German dermatologist Christine Schrammek, the first “blemish balm” was designed as an anti-inflammatory agent to help heal and conceal redness in skin irritated by peel treatments. The pharmaceutical firm Dr. med. Christine Schrammek Kosmetik continues to manufacture variations of the original BB cream today.
Perhaps thanks to Korean nurses working in Germany, BB creams made their way to Asia, where they’d become quite popular by the mid-80s. Many formulations also included a component to whiten skin.
Since then, testimonials from celebrities in Korea and Japan helped fuel the exploding BB cream market. The craze has spread to Europe, the United Kingdom and North America, where reformulations by the major cosmetics companies have created "beauty balm" creams marketed as treatments for aging skin.
What’s in them? Most BB creams contain sunscreen, moisturizer, and pigments. They can vary in texture, finish (matte or dewy), degree of coverage (light to heavy), range of color, and sun protection.
While they’re usually marketed as a one-stop product, you may still need your favorite moisturizer underneath if your skin is particularly dry. In addition, since sunscreen is most effective when it’s evenly – and generously -- applied to your entire face, you might want to use a suncreen with a high SPF factor before applying the BB cream.
Some of the BB creams on the market are pitched as primers as well, which means they create a smooth base for foundation.
Anti-aging, or marketing hype? Like any good foundation, BB creams might make your aging skin appear smoother and help even out its tone, thanks to moisturizers and pigments. Manufacturers must publish the ingredients, but not their formulations, so it is difficult to compare one cream to another.
BB creams will not eliminate wrinkles, though they may improve the look of your skin. For example, they do not contain the Vitamin A derivative tretinoin, one of the few topical ingredients proven to reverse photoaging, since tretinoin is only available through a prescription. The over-the-counter, weaker additive retinol, does convert to tretinoin in the skin, but at a much lower concentration.
Ingredients like alpha-hydroxy or beta-hydroxy acids (like salicylic or glycolic acid) will help increase cell turnover, which can improve skin texture and color.
Since most BB creams contain sunscreen, they can definitely help prevent skin aging, as long as you apply enough.
Perhaps BB creams’ greatest strength lies in convenience, allowing you to use one product in the morning, instead of several different ones.
Dr. med. Christine Schrammek Kosmetik. History of Christine Shrammek's development of the first BB cream formulation. Correspondence with Claudia Dellenbusch, company representative. July 16, 2012.
Siddharth Mukherjee, Abhijit Date, Vandana Patravale, Hans Christian Korting, Alexander Roeder, and Günther Weindl. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging. 2006 December; 1(4): 327–348
Zussman, Jamie; Ahdout, Jennifer; Kim, Jenny. “Vitamins and Photoaging: Do Scientific Data Support Their Use? Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, ISSN 0190-9622, 2010, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp. 507 - 525.