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How To Find An A-List BB Cream

By now, you’ve likely heard the term “BB Cream” more often than “Linsanity” or even “Obamacare.” But what exactly is a BB cream? And what does it accomplish? Well, think of a BB cream as a makeup and skincare hybrid, offering lightweight coverage for your complexion thanks to mineral pigments, while also protecting the skin from UV rays via a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and delivering nutrients and antioxidants that help to moisturize and soothe skin, diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, smooth the complexion, control oil production, even skin tone, and boost overall luminosity. In the summer heat, when heavy foundations seem so cumbersome, BB creams (or beauty balms, as they’re also known) constitute a fantastic alternative, giving you natural-looking coverage while also increasing that lit-from-within glow we all covet and perfecting the surface area of the skin.

While beauty balms are often touted as multi-tasking, do-it-all products, they shouldn’t be used in lieu of daily moisturizers nor should they be expected to deliver the same level of coverage yielded by liquid or cream foundations. What they will do is revitalize your skin appear, making you appear more alert and full of life, while tricking onlookers into thinking you’re wearing no makeup at all.

But, of course, not all BB creams are created equal — some offer better coverage, others work better on dry skin, and so forth. Having tried over a dozen different beauty balms, here’s a list of my favorites and the pros and cons of each one.

1. Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35

This might just be the reigning queen of BB Creams (read my full review here). Available in five shades, the Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35 ($39 at Sephora.com and Smashbox.com) has set the bar rather high for any competitor’s releases. Here’s why:

PROS: Cucumber extract and wheat germ extract cool and soothe skin, reducing redness, while glycerin and barley extract work to moisturize the skin and strengthen its natural barrier. Alpha hydroxy acid-rich apple extract, meanwhile, gently exfoliates the skin while promoting cellular regeneration and collagen production; and caffeine extract tightens the skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The mineral pigments in the formula, meanwhile, add a fair amount of coverage while small light-reflecting particles give the skin a dewy finish.

CONS: Hard to think of any… Short of doing my laundry for me, this BB cream pretty much does it all.

2. Dr. Jart+ Premium BB Beauty Balm SPF 45

Aside from the Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream, the Sephora.com ($39 at Sephora.com is my favorite beauty balm on the market — mainly due to its anti-aging benefits and brightening properties. Here’s the scoop:

PROS: The formula contains: arbutin, which helps to brighten the skin and tackle hyperpigmentation for a more even skin tone; adenosine, a yeast derivative said to increase collagen and elastin production, thereby firming the skin; soybean oil, which contains vitamin E and linoleic acid, helping to moisturize the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles; and a Bio-Peptide Complex that promotes collagen synthesis.

CONS: Though the coverage offered is lovely, it will only work for a limited number of women in the light-to-medium skin tone range. If this product were released in a broader range of shades, it would surely expand its fan base even further.

3. Dior Hydra Life BB Creme SPF 30

 Dior was among the first luxury skin care brands to hop onto the BB cream bandwagon with the launch of its Dior Hydra Life BB Creme SPF 30 ($56 at Sephora.com). Here are the pluses and minuses about this product:

PROS: If you have normal to dry skin, you’ll benefit from the continuous hydration yielded by the incorporation of jisten, a plant from Uzbekistan believed to improve water circulation. I’ve  never heard of jisten, and all my attempts to research the plant have resulted in frustration, with Google yielding Justin Bieber-related search results, so I can’t attest to the validity of any claims made regarding this botanical’s beauty benefits. I can acknowledge, however, that I loved how comfortable my skin felt when I wore the Dior BB Creme. Other  botanical ingredients in the formula include black rose from France, believed to boost the skin’s immune system and help it better combat free radicals, and centella from Madagascar, an herb that functions as an anti-inflammatory and which is said to stimulate collagen production. I appreciate this BB cream because it works wonders in terms of evening the skin’s surface, leaving it as smooth as a canvas, and it does keep skin feeling hydrate throughout the day.

 CONS:  Considering its price tag, this BB cream should be worthy every penny and, while it’s a decent product, it doesn’t deliver applause-worthy results on all fronts. For one, the mineral pigments and correcting powders used in the formula yield a shade that’s a bit too yellowish so that, depending on your natural skin tone and how well you blend the product, you run the risk of looking almost jaundiced. Second, it’s thicker than most BB creams which defeats its purpose to some degree — after all, BB creams are meant to feel lightweight and effortless. And third, it’s significantly pricier than its peers.

4. Dr Jart+ Water Fuse BB Beauty Balm SPF 25

Though it’s not as richly pigmented as the Dr Jart+ Premium BB Cream, the Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse BB Beauty Balm SPF 25 ($32 at Sephora.com) provides a more pleasant sensation when applied to the skin. When I first tried it, I raved about how soothing and cooling it felt, how the sensation was even more enjoyable than that of a mist of water being spritzed onto the skin. Here’s how it stacks up when compared to other BB creams:

PROS: This BB cream is designed for women with normal to dry skin, and its hydration powers are rather unmatched. The formula relies on hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin and enhance its moisture retention capabilities, with these HA spheres acting as cushioning agents for collagen molecules which, in turn, contribute to firmness and elasticity. Mineral-rich sea water, meanwhile, effectively increases cellular metabolism, allowing skin to regenerate with greater frequency. Lastly, aloe leaf juice and Portulaca oleracea  calm any topical irritations. When you smooth the Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse BB Beauty Balm onto your face, you’ll feel like you’re giving your complexion a treat, making you crave the application process rather see it as a chore. Another major perk: this particular BB cream gives one of the most alluring dewy finishes, a beautiful glistening glow. If my skin is looking nice and clear, I’ll gravitate to this beauty balm as opposed to one of the heavier, more richly pigmented options.

CONS: This BB cream is so lightweight that it can feel more like a serum or gel than a cream-based product. Not surprisingly, then, it offers a very moderate amount of coverage so that it won’t conceal dark circles, breakouts, redness, scars, bruises, or any other “imperfections” as effectively as some of its peers. Still, it’s worth it to mix this BB cream with a tinted moisturizer or even another BB cream (like the Dr Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm) if only to benefit from its illuminating capabilities.

5. Dr. Brandt Flexitone BB Cream

The claim to fame for the Dr. Brandt Flexitone BB Cream ($39 at Sephora.com) is its self-adjusting Flexitone shade technology thanks to which the cream adapts to complement the warmth or depth in skin tone of the person wearing it, yielding a “custom” shade.

PROS: When I read an editor from O Magazine’s rave review of this BB cream, in which she touted its ability to complement her olive skin tone, I was both curious to try the product and a bit befuddled — after all, how could one cream manage to suit women with deep brown, medium olive, golden tan, and fair skin alike? To my surprise, the Dr. Brandt Flexitone BB Cream looked gave me a moderate amount of coverage and the match-up of shades was pretty believable — not 100% accurate since the shade was a bit too dark for me and seemed to have grayish undertones but, once I diffused and softened the color, it was pretty close to my natural tonality. Pearl powder enhanced with amino acids, proteins, polysaccharides and minerals, meanwhile, keeps skin hydrated while boosting radiance.

CONS: Whenever I applied this BB cream, I noticed that it felt somewhat grainy, as if the powder particles were tiny grains meant to exfoliate the skin. Since my skin is both dry and fairly sensitive, I found that exfoliation-like sensation rather unpleasant. Also, I noticed that this BB cream can leave skin looking a bit greasy, so it’s important to use sparingly.

6. Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream

Though L’Oreal and Maybelline recently unveiled their own BB creams, Garnier was the first drugstore brand with a BB on the market. Here’s how the Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream ($12.99 at mass food and drug retailers) stands up against the pricier options:

PROS: Unlike other BB creams available in one single shade, this one comes in two varieties: Light/Medium and Medium/Dark. It’s one of the thicker beauty balms I’ve tried to date, which could perhaps be construed as a negative, but I’d argue that, since it doens’t feel cake-y or heavy, its creamier consistency simply works to provide greater coverage.

CONS: While your complexion will appear smoother thanks to the firming effects of the caffeine in the formula and brighter thanks to the incorporation of vitamin C, you won’t get that luminous, dewy, glistening effect you’d get from other BB creams. Also, this formula does contain such ingredients as limonene which, while normally safe,  can have adverse effects on those with truly sensitive skin.

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