Wait, have you guys heard about this new thing called BB cream??? HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH, of course you have! We all have! Even my mom asked me, “What’s going on with BB cream? Should I get one?”—and that was like, four months ago. And now CC creams are coming in, fast and furious, and before we know it, we’ll all be DD/EE/FF creaming ourselves to death. At ITG, we've been a little wary of the whole BB cream craze. There is just something a little fad-y, a little Emperor’s New Clothes about a cleverly named all-in-one, skin-perfecting formula, for our taste. Was there any real difference between BB's and tinted moisturizers? If so, what was it? What was it going to do to us?
No one could tell us anything that made any sense: most descriptions relied on word pairings like "increased radiance" and "heightened luminosity." Commenters would write in asking for recommendations and we'd assure some of them that a review was in the pipeline: "Hold that thought! Coming soon!" (And I’m sorry guys, because it’s coming now, and now is definitely not “soon,” in that respect). Meanwhile, different models and makes piled up in stacks on our shelves, largely left alone. Admittedly, we were a little afraid of them. “Who wants to try this BB cream?” one of us would say, and everyone would sort of shift in their seats and start talking about how weirdly hot our office is (fun fact: lately it’s been weirdly cold! Will wonders never cease?). Fast forward a few months, and I have six BB creams in my possession. At my home. And now I am oh-so-very-well-versed in the world of BB creams, which are, I'll have you know, defined as products designed to replace serum, moisturizer, primer, foundation, and sunblock. Their aim is to dynamite your skincare regimen and leave one man standing. (Also: The Daily Mail called BB "The Swiss Army Knife of the Beauty Industry" and, in terms of history, the original idea for a so-called 'blemish balm' was apparently that of a German dermatologist, who developed a formula to soothe her clientele's post-surgery skin; the concept took off in South Korea in the '80s and landed with a vengeance on our shores in 2012.) But for me, there would be only one real gateway BB cream, and that’s the one we’re talking about today: Shiseido’s Perfect Hydrating BB Cream ($33). Why did it and I come together? Well, dear reader, FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK!
While in the trenches reporting on anti-aging and skincare tips and tricks and the best sunscreens for one’s face—because you should be wearing one every damn day, remember—I felt like the SPF in my Somme Institute Daily Defense wasn’t really going to cut it. “You should really be above [SPF] 30,” one of the many dermatologists I spoke to (and I’m sorry, I don’t remember which) said—at this point, I had yet to discover the Elta line—and what do I find on a shelf at the Gloffice but this slippery, silver wizard of a tube: "Broad Spectrum/SPF 35," it read, "Shiseido Perfect Hydrating BB Cream." Well, why not, right? I love all those words, even "BB." Like "BB gun" or someone mispronouncing “baby” in French (“bébé”). So, I brought it home and tried it on and, friends, I never looked back. Shiseido’s BB cream is oil-free, fast-absorbing, smooth, not greasy, with a hint of color that leaves your face feeling evenly glowy, not "made up" or cloaked. (By the way, what makes it a “BB cream"? According to Shiseido, that would be the fact that it's "formulated with Rose Apple Leaf Extract and Thiotaurine to protect skin from environmental aggressors." I don't know why that's different than a tinted moisturizer, and frankly, I wouldn't care if they called it "face-colored goop." I like it.) I kept the rest of my skincare regimen going strong, but use the Shiseido as a last step. It blends well with my skin—I wear Medium—and lasts all day. (I don’t wear foundation but I’m fairly confident that you could use it as one, because the coverage is, while sheer, pretty crazy good.) The first time I wore it, my colleague Elizabeth turned to me and said, “Well, aren’t you looking radiant today!” which is pretty much the best compliment you can get from someone who’s surrounded by beauty products/pictures of models and, often, actual models all day. I have since been flirting with a few other brands (Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer with SPF, Bobbi Brown’s BB Cream, Stila’s Stay All Day 10-in-1 BB Cream, Diorskin Nude BB Creme) but I keep coming back to the Shiseido. She’s the one that I want (Oooh oooh ooh, honey)!
As for Pantene Pro-V's Ultimate 10 BB Crème—and the latter side of the High/Low spectrum, (it’s 5.99$ at most drugstores)—I learned about it through the wünderbar hairstylist and Pantene ambassador Danilo, who smoothed it into my dry locks during our pre-Academy Awards styling session and called it his latest miracle baby. “We’re the first to do a BB for hair,” he told me, explaining the product was born “out of this practice women normally have of buying five different products to achieve one goal. Now we put all of them—and more—in one bottle. You can use it wet or dry; it's the type of thing that you put in your hands and rub into your hair, and it takes it to a whole new level." He continued, "You’ve got a lot of hair,” he noted, “which can be a problem, but this has heat protection, so it stops split ends, it holds, it starts to sleek it up and it leaves it all ‘Woohoo!’” And he wasn’t kidding. I think that, if my hair could talk, it would have probably said something close to "Woohoo!", if not "Woohoo!" exactly.
But back to the product at/in hand: Pantene’s BB Crème is a 10-in-1 styling cream that vows to repair rough hair, strengthen, add silkiness/shine/manageability, smooth and moisturize, control frizz, protect against heat and fight (fight!? battle?) flyaways. I supposed they're calling it a "BB cream" for hair because it's a multi-use product, which is, I guess, what 'BB' now has come to mean (rather than the innocuously vague 'beauty balm'). Frankly, to me, the best part is that Danilo said I could rub it in to dry hair and sleep with it as an overnight treatment—and unlike any other leave-in I’ve tried, it left no greasy residue or stains on my pillowcase. Plus, it smells great. Generally, I've taken to smoothing it on towel-dried hair before blow drying (an aside: can someone teach me how to blow-dry my hair? I just bend at the waist, flip my hair, and blast it ‘til it’s dry enough so I can walk outside without getting cold), and I've seen softer, sleeker...more ‘finished’ results. The idea of "heat-protection" is also kind of thrilling, like you're dressing your hair in some sort of impervious armor. So, a resounding "Woohoo!" all around, for a pair of BBs that are keeping me going strong and proving me—somewhat, since I'm not totally willing to buy into the BB philosophy, but hey, if it works, it works—wrong.
Illustration by Karleigh Sherman.