What We're Now Putting on Our Skin and Why


Missha M BB Cream, one of the more well-known brands now marketed in the States


BB Cream: This is a buzz phrase you're probably hearing more and more. When I first heard it, I thought it was a brand. It's actually a new type of makeup, a hybrid of foundation, SPF, and treatments. It stands for "blemish balm" or "beauty balm" and originated in Germany. It became widely popular in Asia, where skin free of marks and blemishes is held in high regard, and is now gaining popularity in the States. Most BB creams are pricey, retailing for around $40. Do I think it sounds gimmicky? Yes. You can accomplish what a BB cream does by sticking to a common sense skincare routine, wearing SPF, and using a less expensive foundation.

Primer: We got through most of the last century without primers, and suddenly they're marketed as a critical step in makeup application. Primers are touted for performing all sorts of functions, from filling in fine lines to counteracting skin discolorations to simply smoothing the skin so the makeup applies easier. Many contain silicone, which has a lubricant quality and makes foundation spread easier. I've read about women with breakout prone or oily skin saying the primer is making their skin worse, yet they continue to use it, convinced it's a necessary step in their makeup routine. It's not. Primers may work wonders for some, but they aren't necessary and they're an added expense. As foundation formulas improve, the need for another product to make them apply more evenly is decreasing. A simple moisturizer will accomplish many of the same benefits.

Setting sprays: These are especially popular during the warmer seasons, when women worry about their makeup sweating off. The first setting spray I heard of was Model in a Bottle, but now most high-end makeup brands have their own version. Some well known versions include MAC's Fix+ and Urban Decay's All Nighter. They contain alcohol as one of the major ingredients, which works to deliver ingredients into the skin and may also be used to absorb oils. Many also contain Polyhydroxystearic Acid, a suspending agent that stabilizes ingredients. These products do increase the longevity of your makeup, but don't put unrealistic expectations on them: Your skin will still sweat, and makeup will still eventually show the signs of heat and humidity.

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