The fashion media seems to be obsessed and I mean obsessed with this new type of product category called BB (Blemish or Beauty Balm) Creams. In fact, you can’t flip through any ‘zine or visit any site without running into a mention of one or more of these puppies. And it’s no wonder; these multi-faceted moisturizers of Asian descent purport to do everything under the sun. They can act as a makeup primer, tinted moisturizer, anti-aging serum and/or blemish blaster all at the same time. So how could you not get all sorts of excited about one small product capable of solving all of these beauty concerns? The idea was definitely blowing my skirts up. So I put three popular brands to the test.
Dr. Jart Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45, $39
Claim to fame: A moisturizer, sunscreen, treatment serum with “natural-look” coverage that minimizes the appearance of imperfections and evens skin tone, while restoring firmness and elasticity.
I love that this product has an SPF45 and it feels really nice, like it’s wholesome and good for your skin. It also does a good job of blotting out imperfections and evening out skin tone. However this balm also sucks up any naturally occurring radiance and rosiness in the process. The result is ghastly. Seriously. I am pretty sure this phenomenon is due to the copious amounts of zinc and titanium dioxide the product is formulated with ( 6.35% and 9.015% respectively.) Another minus? When you blow your nose, this tinted balm rubs off on your tissue. Yes, that is as revolting as it sounds.
So I headed back into the Sephora at Union Square in San Francisco, where I had bought the balm, hoping to inject a little life into my corpse-like complexion. The lighting in all Sephora stores is so deplorable that I looked even worse there than I did in my sunny apartment. And trust me, I looked horrifying there. So I was feeling really, really good about myself…not! But Zoe, a simply adorable and knowledgeable sales associate, took pity on my intense pallor and was somehow not surprised that Dr. Jart was the root cause. She set to work swirling Nars Laguna bronzing powder across my cheekbones, the bridge of my nose, forehead and neck. Next, came the blush in Amour, a pretty, deep rose. Considering I had just bought Oasis blush the week before I was not happy; the Amour looked way better. So wonderful Zoe said I could return Oasis for a full refund even though I had already used it and thrown out the box. How much do we love Zoe?
After Zoe worked her magic, I really did look lovely. But it seems like a whole lot of work to make this product, um, work. I never wear bronzer—ever—and this beauty balm demands it. So, in total, I not only shelled out $39 for the Beauty Balm, but also $28 for the blush and $34 for the bronzer—all for the privilege of using a multi-purpose product. And despite the tissue incident, this balm is a total bitch to remove at night—it positively adheres to the skin when you try to take it off. Go figure.
Garnier B.B. Cream Skin Renew Moisture Skin Perfector Light/Medium, $12.99
Claim to fame: “Immediately and effectively fulfills your skincare expectations with just one multi-benefit product that combines intense moisturizing skincare + immediate skin-perfecting coverage for skin that looks naturally more even, radiant and smooth.”
The drill: This SPF 15 product is lightweight, moisturizes nicely and has a pretty natural-looking tint. It does soften splotches but not in a truly meaningful way. But maybe that’s a good thing, since it also doesn’t rob your complexion completely of all signs of life. I’m assuming that’s because it gets most of its sun protection from a chemical source and doesn’t contain zinc oxide, just titanium dioxide(percentages are not listed on the label). Even so, it still required Zoe’s two-step dance of bronzer and blusher to help prevent people from asking me if I were “OK”—always such a confidence-booster.
The verdict: I really wanted to like this item. (I love it when I love drugstore products.) But I just can’t seem to work up a head of steam over it. First off, I find SPF 15 way too wimpy for every day use, and secondly, this balm doesn’t seem to do anything more than what an average drugstore tinted moisturizer can do, which costs on average a buck less and doesn’t require bronzer and blush. Garnier’s formulation also flunked the tissue test, but it was easier to remove at night than Dr. Jart’s version.
Clinique Age Defense BB Cream SPF 30 (Shade 02), $37
Claim to fame: “This instant morning routine gives skin just about everything it needs for a quick start. SPF protection, antioxidants for prevention, plus enough coverage to banish imperfections. “
The drill: Available in three light tints, this balm is geared toward people with fair complexions. The shade range didn’t quite grab me, though: 01 was too light and too pink; 02 was a tad too dark and a hair too yellow. (Zoe told me me my complexion is “neutral” so I need to find shades that contain the right balance of pink and of gold; this balm did not, at least for me.) But it did a pretty decent job of blurring redness and pigmentation splotches without totally obliterating my complexion’s vital signs, and I only needed a dusting of blush on top versus the bronzer/blush combo the other two products required. It is formulated with 3.5% zinc oxide and 1.10% titanium dioxide and thus is far less complexion-dulling than Dr. Jart’s product.
The verdict: All in all, the Clinique balm wins out in this dubious product category contest. An SPF 30 is great for daily use, the formula was comfortably moisturizing and it left the most life in my face of the three entries. Still, it did not quite pass the tissue test and was also incredibly difficult to completely remove come bedtime. This paradox is killing me. Why do these balms come off so readily when I sneeze, yet cling so tenaciously when I cleanse?
So not to pee on anybody’s parade, but Notorious just can’t jump on the Beauty Balm bandwagon. A tinted moisturizer (and you know I’m on the fence about most of those) or foundation with effective skincare ingredients seem to deliver better results without imparting that disturbing preternatural paleness. This is one beauty obsession you can let pass you by. Call me old fashioned, but I’ll stick with my tried and true Bobbi Brown Extra SPF 25 Tinted Moisturizing Balm (a foundation/moisturizer hybrid that leaves a dewy finish). It’s not a trendy “beauty balm” per se and it’s been around for several years, but it is the bomb. The reason? It actually makes me look better instead of worse when I wear it. Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.