BB creams have taken the beauty world by storm over the last two years. Are the consumers demanding what they want from the industry? Or is this marketing people cunningly foisting a trend on an easily led public? There is certainly a lot of interest in them as this graph from Google Trends shows. Nobody was searching for BB creams until early in 2008. Since then interest has steadily grown. In 2012 interest really started to pick up and shows no sign of having peaked yet.
But despite all this excitement, I think that a lot of people still either haven’t heard of them or haven’t quite worked out what they are about. So what are BB creams? The BB cream started in Korea, where they have been around for a long time apparently – I am not sure how long. They are a combination of a foundation with a moisturiser. If that sounds to you like what we used to call a tinted moisturiser, well that is basically what they are. There is nothing wrong with that of course. Tinted moisturisers can, but usually don’t, also contain a sunscreen. BB creams don’t have to, but usually do contain a sunscreen. So basically the innovation is making a virtue of being multifunctional. When I first started seeing BB creams the three functions were just that, foundation, moisturising and sun protection.
As they have grown in popularity the big brands have engaged in a typical arms race to add further functions. Now most of them offer 5 or sometimes 6 benefits. One even offers to make your skin look both satin and matte at the same time. The world adjective shortage is beginning to bite. Reviewers tend to concentrate on the skin tones and the covering power. Obviously there are a lot of skin colours and types out there so offering a couple of shade variations makes sense. The inclusion of some moisturising and a bit of SPF is a bonus, and potentially a money saver if cash is a bit tight.
So the BB cream seems like a sensible enough proposition that would fit into the portfolio of people who take their skin seriously. But how do we explain the enormous level of interest? It doesn’t seem that the products can possibly justify the hysteria.
I think the answer is simply that the beauty business has become a huge self referencing feedback loop. Journalists, bloggers, retailers and product development teams in the big companies are all looking out for the next big thing. They all go to the same shows and obsessively follow what each other is doing. If a couple of players bring out a BB cream then everyone wants one. The products then get reviewed and start appearing on shelves, with all the usual promotional activity. Before long you can’t open a magazine or log onto Twitter without finding somebody talking about BB creams.
It gets out of hand of course. My friends over at the Beauty Brains spotted a BB Creme for the hair. No, I don’t understand how that works either. And inevitably, some companies brought out CC creams. These have heavier pigment loads and even longer lists of hard to put your finger on claimed benefits. I have just looked at one that makes a point of being a 12 in 1 multi-tasker product. I only counted 11 on the list below, and they were getting tenuous. I am not sure I know what the difference is between giving an even skin tone and giving a balanced skin tone.
CC creams haven’t got anywhere near the interest of BB creams yet, but again looking at Google they seem to be on an upward trend. I still haven’t worked out what a CC cream is yet, but I need to get a move on because DD creams are already on their way. The only question is whether the next stage will be strictly alphabetical giving us EE creams, or if the trend is restricted to consonants and we have to go on to FF creams.
Where will it all end? Even if my guess is right and vowels are excluded we still have a lot of alphabet left. Our bathroom cabinets will soon begin to look like exceptionally bad Scrabble hands. I can also imagine panic buying of thesauruses as marketing departments try to fill ever longer lists of benefits. Meanwhile, I am trying to imagine what the reaction will be when somebody comes up with something really innovative. If this is what a new name for a tinted moisturiser can do I can’t imagine what effect something really new would have.
There is a Wikipedia entry on BB Creams.Buy my Kindle mini-book on cosmetic ingredients