BB cream is short for "blemish balm" or "beauty balm," and it kind of does everything—or at least attempts to (more on that later). It provides coverage for your face, hydrates your skin, protects against UV rays, and is jam-packed with anti-agers like peptides and antioxidants.
Who is BB right for?
Short answer: everyone. A few years ago you could only buy BBs that were created for one skin type, and you'd be lucky if it came in two shades. Thankfully, you can now choose from an array of colors and formulas at any cosmetics counter or drugstore.
Do you still need to apply a moisturizer beforehand?
It depends. "Most BBs contain silicones, which soften the skin and retain moisture, but they're also loaded with pigments and sunscreen, which can be drying," says cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson. So if your skin is on the dry side to begin with, apply your daily moisturizer first.
What does a BB cream replace?
It definitely replaces primer and, most of the time, foundation. It doesn't replace sunscreen. If you have blemishes or dark circles, you'll likely still want concealer. And regardless of the impressive ingredient list on the label, a separate anti-ager that contains retinol is a good idea for night.
If it has SPF, why can't a BB count as sunscreen?
Because you should be applying half a teaspoon of sunscreen on your face and reapplying every two hours to get total protection. One exception: If you're sitting inside most of the day, a BB with SPF 30 or higher should be fine (plus, every little bit of sunscreen helps). If you're at the beach, going on a hike, or doing some kind of outdoor activity, apply regular sunscreen first and be diligent about reapplying.
How do you find a BB cream that matches your complexion?
According to makeup artist Troy Surratt, you should first figure out where you land on a foundation-shade spectrum from a brand that offers at least 12 colors. Then split up the range into groups of three or four, from lightest to darkest. If your skin color falls under the first group, you're light; second, medium; third, dark; and fourth, extra dark.