BB Creams, also known as Beauty Balms or Blemish Balms, have long been a staple in the Asian beauty market and are just now appearing on the North American radar

Part cosmetics, part skincare, BB Creams are multi-purpose products that act as your primer, foundation, sunblock and treatment, all in one.

BB Creams were first designed by a German dermatologist who was treating South Korean and Japanese actresses and wanted to give them a product that would heal and soothe their post-surgery skin, while beautifying the complexion. These creams, in addition to the healing and cosmetic properties, often had a "whitening” effect, which was desirable by actresses who sought the illusion of porcelain-perfect skin. They were so effective that Asian cosmetic companies quickly developed their own formulas and sold them on the mass market, where they’ve been top sellers for decades.

Asian brands of BB Creams such as Missha, Etude, SkinFood and Skin70 have been available in Canada in specialty Asian stores for some time. I’ve tried some of them and they’re truly fantastic. If you find the right shade and the right formula for you, they can blend seamlessly into your skin, hiding minor imperfections and hyperpigmentation, while leaving you glowy and near-flawless.

And finally, North American companies are about to release a torrent of BB Creams this year. A few are already out and interest is growing. While many women haven’t yet heard of BB Creams, I guarantee by the end of the year everybody will know what they are and will probably have at least one.

Tips for Choosing a BB Cream

  • Know your skin type. There will be a BB Cream to suit your skin’s needs whether it’s dry, sensitive, oily, combination or even menopausal.
  • Know your skin tone. Since this is also part makeup, you’ll need to do some research to find a good colour match. While BB Creams aren’t nearly as opaque as real foundation, you’ll still want to find the best colour to avoid any grey casts or odd undertones. BB Creams tend to have limited colour selections so you may have to test a few before you find one that works for your skin colour.
  • Know what benefits you want. Different brands will offer different benefits, so think about what’s important to your skin’s needs. Are you looking for anti-aging properties? Acne prevention? Anti-oxidant rich? No BB Cream will have absolutely everything, so prioritize your needs.
  • Know your sun care needs. Some, but not all, BB Creams will contain sunblock so make sure you understand what level of sun protection you’re getting. If you plan on replacing your regular sunblock with this, then you need to be particularly mindful of this element.

BB Creams in Canada – Finally!

So far, I’ve found that the North American versions of BB Creams definitely fall more into the “Beauty Balm” than the “Blemish Balm” camp.

The emphasis appears to be on enhancing the appearance of skin and giving it a glow, rather than on skin treatments to prevent breakouts or reduce hyperpigmentation. And there’s definitely not as much emphasis on sun protection, with some not having any at all, so do keep that in mind. More are being released every month, so if you don’t find one right now that’s quite the right fit, hang tight!

Marcelle BB Cream

This is the first Canadian brand to produce its own BB Cream, lauched earlier this year. The Marcelle Beauty Balm claims to be an 8 in 1 ultimate skin enhancer with self-adjusting pigments, powerful antioxidants, aloe and chamomile. It will:

  • Minimize the appearance of imperfections and pores
  • Even out skin tone
  • Provide an excellent makeup base and replaces primers
  • Mattify skin and control shine
  • Offer immediate and long-term hydrating benefits
  • Soothe and calm skin
  • Protect from premature aging and environmental stresses
  • Promote skin regeneration

For a drug store item, it’s a lovely product with elegant packaging and comes in an easy to use and hygienic pump dispenser. And it’s also at a great, accessible price point. However, despite the long list of benefits, this BB Cream doesn’t contain SPF and is available in only two shades. While I really liked the consistency and finish, the lightest shade was still too dark for me.

Like all other Marcelle products, this is hypo-allergenic and perfume-free. Suitable for all ages and skin types. Available at London Drugs and Shoppers Drug Mart; $22.95 for 45 ml.

Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector

Garnier’s BB product promises a lot in its name alone. This all-in-one BB Cream contains Vitamin C, caffeine and hyaluronic acid and claims to:

  • Hydrate for 24 hours
  • Correct wrinkles and imperfections
  • Even skin tone
  • Produce a healthy glow
  • Protect with SPF 15

Of all the BB Creams I’ve tried, this was the heaviest in feeling. I don’t normally wear foundation or even tinted moisturiser so I’m naturally adverse to anything weighing noticeably on my face. I also did find that even on my dry skin, this was very rich. I do appreciate that it has an SPF to it, which probably contributes to the heavier feel.

It comes in two shades and is available at London Drugs and Shoppers Drug Mart; $15.99 for 50 ml.

Lancôme Rénergie Éclat Multi-Lift

Rénergie Éclat Multi-Lift is Lancôme’s unofficial BB Cream. It clearly states it’s not a BB Cream, but that it’s "inspired by Asian BB bases." It’s a multi-benefit, treatment-packed tinted moisturizer and since it does pay credit to BB Creams, I thought I’d include it here, especially since it’s a really lovely product.

This makeup was recently launched within Lancôme’s Rénergie Skincare system, giving it a little bit more of a treatment focus than if it was "just" makeup.  Rénergie Éclat Multi-Lift claims to be a "tinted skin lifting and light enhancing treatment.” It will smooth and even out the skin so it appears firmer, denser and more elastic. It will also visibly reduce pigmentation spots and redness, leaving an even complexion that is fresh and luminous.

I did like this product very much and thought it performed really well. I like the packaging, which is similar to Marcelle’s – a tube with pump dispenser. It also provides really great coverage, perhaps more so than I’d expect from a tinted moisturizer. However, it doesn’t contain SPF.

It comes in four shades and is available at Lancôme counters and some drug stores. $90 for 40 ml.


Vichy Neovadiol Lumière BB Cream

Néovadiol Lumière is the first BB Cream specifically designed for mature skin. It was developed to address the specific needs of menopausal skin, including loss of skin density, structure and dullness. This hybrid product claims to provide advanced anti-aging efficacy and immediate skin perfecting coverage by:

  • Densifying
  • Sculpting
  • Nourishing
  • Smoothing
  • Evening skin tone
  • Illuminating

According to Vichy, the decrease in estrogen levels during menopause slows down the skin’s functioning, which of course includes the face. Skin is dryer, duller, more taut and the rosy glow is lost. There’s also a drop in collagen production resulting in loss of density and firmness.

While I don’t have menopausal skin, I did try it and thought the texture and finish were really nice – lightweight and comfortable on the skin. I only wish it had broad UV spectrum protection added.

The colour: There is only one and I won’t lie, it’s a startling shade of apricot-peach. But don’t let that deter you! I only mention this to forewarn you so you don’t shun it on appearance alone. I asked Vichy about the colour and this is what they said, “We agree, the orange colour of the Neovadiol Lumière BB Cream is a bit surprising, but it melts into the skin perfectly to illuminate and even out the complexion. It’s a colour that will adapt to all skin tones. The colour really is a mixture of the rosy coloured pigments with the mother of pearl. This colour gives the face a natural, radiant and healthy-looking glow.”

Neovadiol Lumière is suitable for all skin types from sensitive, to normal and combination, through to dry to very dry skin types. It’s hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic and is paraben-free.

Available at London Drugs and Shoppers Drug Mart; $44 for 40 ml.