As if skincare isn’t confusing enough now we see another trend; “alphabet creams.” BB, CC, and now DD creams first gained popularity in Korea, and have recently caught on in America. But what in the world do all those letters stand for, and what do these creams actually do? I chatted with Board Certified NYC dermatologist Dr. Kally Papantoniou who decodes it all.
How BB Creams Began
BB creams are short for beauty balms or blemish balms. They were first developed in Germany by a dermatologist who wanted a single cream that would protect skin and provide coverage after laser treatments. The all-in-one formulation became a sensation in South Korea and then spread throughout Asia. “The average woman in Asia goes through seven different steps taking care of her skin,” says Dr. Papantoniou.
The BB Boom
BB creams started hitting U.S. store shelves in the spring of 2011. Today, almost every major beauty company has a BB cream, from drugstore brands that cost under $10 to high-end department-store lines that may be as costly as $100 or more, as well as lines that are only sold at spas or in doctors’ offices. More are on the way. The NPD Group, a market research group, found that although only 2% of beauty shoppers have purchased a BB cream, nearly 4 in 5 of those who have, say they’ll buy the product again.
What BB Creams Do
Many BB creams offer effective sun protection, with broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher, the American Academy of Dermatology’s recommendation for daily use. What’s more, BB creams generally contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide, physical sun blocks that have some built-in water-resistant properties, Papantoniou says.
When it comes to skin treatment, you can find BB creams that contain:
- Anti-aging components, including peptides and antioxidants such as vitamins A, E, and C
- Moisturizing workhorses like hyaluronic acid and glycerin
- Ingredients such as licorice and arbutin that help even out skin tone
- Light-reflecting mica to give skin a luminous finish
- Silicone-based ingredients, such as dimethicone, that help smooth the skin, acting much like a foundation primer does
The Limitations of BB Creams
For all its benefits, if you expect a BB cream to be a miracle in a tube, you might be disappointed. Mineral based BB creams do a better job on skin pone to breakouts. The typical ones can be full of chemicals so be sure to read ingredients.
What is it? Packed to the gills with vitamins C and E, complexion corrector cream is similar to BB cream, but focuses on color correction.
What it does: Lighter than a BB cream, CC cream’s primary purpose is to correct color-related skin issues, such as sallowness or redness. Like BB cream, it has SPF as well (number varies by brand).
How to use it: If you’re acne-prone, have dull skin, dark spots or constant redness, CC cream is for you.
How it differs: Use CC cream to help with redness, acne, dark spots, sallowness and more. It’s also lighter than BB cream!
What are they? Another addition to the alphabet cream craze are the DD creams, or “dynamic do-all super cream.” They combine the power and benefits of both BB and CC creams. However, their primary focus is anti-aging.
What it does: The anti-aging specialty of the cream works to diminish wrinkles and fine lines throughout use. Additionally, DD cream will balance skin tone and protect the most sensitive areas of your skin.
How to use it: Improvements in your skin are known to come with continued use, so use often and incorporate it into your daily routine. After a month you should notice changes and others will too.
How it differs: DD cream’s strongest selling point is their anti-aging benefits. Ideally it’s for women who want to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and have an over all even, radiant skin tone.
What interesting to note is that each category overlaps to the point where the differentiation is almost non-existent. Seems like the logical thing to do would be to use a DD cream and get all the benefits.
The upside is they are all great products that can be very beneficial for the skin. The downside is sorting through the many varieties to determine which would work better for you. (This just in: We now have a “GG” cream.)
Where do you start?
If discoloration is your primary concern then start with CC creams, because that’s their claim to fame so you will more than likely find a product that contains skin-brightening ingredients such as arbutin or daisy flower extract.
If fine lines and wrinkles are the issue, then look for an alphabet cream full of ingredients like retinol, firming peptides or adenosine. If your skin is oily, then look for an alphabet cream that controls oil and has a lightweight texture.
There is an alphabet cream out there for you and at this rate; let’s just hope that brands don’t try to exhaust the entire alphabet.