Product Smackdown: BB Creams! Part Deux

Last spring, when beauty balms were tenderly inching their way into the U.S. market, we conducted a Product Smackdown to see if those early BB cream pioneers did the trick. Since then, what feels like a literal deluge of alphabet-heavy creams have hit the market, from prestige to all-natural and right on down to drugstore. Along with these new creams came an ever-increasing clamor for us to re-do our test, this time focusing on these new balms. Ask and you shall receive, gentle readers.
Being the BB-cream obsessives that we are, we couldn't let this new wave of skin perfectors go untested, so we asked five intrepid staffers to take these brand new BB's for a spin. We photographed close-ups of each tester's skin, first with zero makeup on (yeah, none of them were too psyched about that) and then again after the cream had been applied. Read on to learn how this new crop of creams, which include a compact BB and the first-ever BB for women of color, stacked up — and to get the DL from each girl on if they'll be adding these creams to their regular beauty rotation.
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Who: Kate Hyatt, producer
The Contender: Revlon PhotoReady BB Cream
"My daily face routine is quite simple and quick. I use the Korres Quercetin & Oak Age-Reversing Primer and Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Bisque. Because I have a lot of moles, SPF is a must for me every day, which is why I like a tinted moisturizer with at least SPF 20. Sometimes, particularly in the summer, I will add the Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder.
"I've been rocking the crow's feet since I was a tween, so wrinkles are a big concern for me — especially now that I'm not in my twenties anymore! My skin tends to be dry and sometimes reddish, so I like a moisturizing product that evens me out. The benefits of a BB cream appeal to me since my beauty routine is pretty low-maintenance — I like to hit the snooze button multiple times in the mornings, so I don't spend a lot of time dressing my face. The only BB cream I have ever used before is the Dior Hydra Life BB Cream. It really played the one-stop-shop role of a concealer, moisturizer, and foundation, so my expectations in the BB cream department were set quite high.
"I was excited to test out a drugstore brand for comparison. While the Revlon BB cream was easy to blend and spread, it felt greasy on my skin upon application and took a while to dry. It matched my skin tone well, though, and once it dried it felt clean and light on my skin. The coverage, however, is more reminiscent of a regular tinted moisturizer; it didn't act as a concealer as I had hoped. My skin did feel soft and hydrated, and the cream stayed on all day. The product came off easily when I washed my face in the evening and my skin felt normal after I used my daily moisturizer."
The Result: "I would not replace my regular skin regimen with this BB cream, but I was impressed by its quality and thought the consistency was really nice. I would recommend it as an intro to a BB cream or for someone looking for an alternative to a tinted moisturizer without wanting to make a financial commitment. I don't think it rivals the high-end BB creams I have used in the past, though."
Revlon PhotoReady BB Cream, $8.49, available at Target.
Who: Christina de la Cruz, design director
The Contender: Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer
"I'm a fan of Tarte since it's a socially conscious brand and it doesn't use petrochemicals in its products. I don't wear makeup, but I'm always open to trying new things. Sleep isn't really my jam — I'm a night owl and an early bird. Not having used BB cream before, I was curious to see how it dealt with my undereye circles. After looking at the shade selection, I wasn't sure if any of the ones in the line would match. Medium was too light, yet Tan was too dark. I ended up blending the two shades to create the correct tint.
"The coverage was nice — it didn't feel sticky or tacky. It had a smooth, light texture, which felt like I had applied nothing to my face. My only complaint about this is an issue I have regarding foundation and tinted moisturizer in general, which is that it gets everywhere and is easy to rub off. However, once I removed the cream with a non-alcohol makeup remover, my skin was left hydrated, matte, and very soft."
The Result: "If I wore makeup and Tarte created a shade between Medium and Tan, I would probably use this product again. I appreciate the fact that it has SPF 30 in it, so I wouldn't have to worry about applying an additional sunscreen on top. I really enjoyed how light and non-drying this product is. It also evened out my skin tone and hid my dark circles quite well."
Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer, $34, available at Sephora.
Who: Amanda Keiser, commerce editor
The Contender: MAC Prep + Prime BB Beauty Balm Compact SPF 30
"Foundations and powders tend to look very unnatural on me — blame it on the fair skin and freckles! — so the most I've ever worn on my face is tinted moisturizer. I'd been pretty happy with my regimen until I finally found out what BB creams were (did anyone else have no clue what this product was?) and tried Dr. Jart+'s Beauty Balm. First time was a charm — the formula is super-lightweight and lets your natural complexion shine through, while also adding even tone and a noticeable glow. Needless to say, I was addicted after my first application.
"Even though I'm obviously a fan of Dr. Jart+, I was eager to try out a different brand to see if I'd like it as much or if there would be significant differences. I was hoping that the MAC Prep + Prime Beauty Balm would serve the same purpose as my stand-by and just provide some luminosity and minimal coverage. I've always been hyper-conscious of my undereye circles, though, and I'm starting to get those delightful fine lines around my eyes as well. So, I was interested to see if this BB cream could camouflage those problem areas without looking cakey.
"The MAC product is different right off the bat because it comes in a compact form along with an application pad — that would normally be a red flag for me since I shy away from 'foundation-like' products, but, hey this is BB cream, right? When I started putting it on, it was smooth and easy to apply, but I also noticed that it was washing me out a bit (a common problem I have with foundations). I used the Extra Light shade, which matched the back of my hand when I tested it, but I feel like it covered up a little too much. It seemed obvious I was wearing something on my face…and it felt like it, too — my skin seemed almost wet to the touch for the first twenty minutes or so. The upside was that it noticeably helped with my undereye circles and spots, though I still felt like I would want to use concealer.
"By the end of the day, the coverage was still kicking, which I appreciated since my usual Dr. Jart+ tends to look great in the morning and not-so-great by the evening. However, the product looked like it settled into my fine lines and made them a bit more noticeable. I washed my face per usual with just warm water and Cetaphil, and the BB cream came off easily and didn't leave my skin feeling dry at all."
The Result: "All in all, I don't think I'm a convert. I think the MAC version would be a better fit for someone who was looking for a little bit more coverage, maybe someone wanting to transition from a traditional foundation to a BB cream. I might try the next darker shade to see if that solves the 'washing-out' issue — it might be a good option for a night out or an event where I want to wear a little bit more makeup, especially since it comes in that super-convenient compact case. But, on an everyday basis, I have to stick with Dr. Jart+ — it's my jam!"
MAC Prep + Prime BB Beauty Balm Compact SPF 30, $30, available at MAC.
Who: Guia Golden, director of event marketing
The Contender: Iman Skin Tone Evener BB Cream SPF 15
"Before this Smackdown, I have never even heard of a BB cream. I am not much of a makeup girl on a daily basis — a little lipgloss and maybe some mascara and I am good to go. However, I do have those days (as a result of those nights) when I need a little something under my eyes to help with the dark circles and even out my dehydrated skin. I was hoping maybe BB cream would be a solution for that.
"When I applied the Iman BB cream, I was pleasantly surprised by how light it was. I don't like the idea of foundation or any kind of makeup all over my face that I can 'feel,' so I like that my skin absorbed it like a light moisturizer. I really couldn't see a major difference in my appearance after using the cream, but maybe that's the point. The changes were pretty subtle — a few of the dark spots were evened out, but it wasn't a dramatic difference. I did feel like my skin looked a bit more dewy, which is nice when I'm going for that fresh romantic look but not necessarily something I aspire for everyday."
The Result: "I do like that this cream has SPF 15 — something I think is important that people with darker skin often overlook! I think I'll keep the Iman BB cream in my makeup arsenal and use it on days I want to put a little more effort in and achieve the dewy look."
Iman Skin Tone Evener BB Cream SPF 15, $20, available at
Who: Gina Marinelli, assistant editor
The Contender: Urban Decay Naked Skin Beauty Balm SPF 20
"When it comes to face makeup, I am a minimalist. I use an undereye brightener, concealer for occasional blemishes, and then just a bit of bronzer for some color. You'll hardly ever catch me with a full face of foundation. While I had not tried a BB cream before, I was really excited to give it a go. Having read so many rave reviews, I had very high expectations that this product could do it all. Admittedly, I came to learn this is not the case. But, I wasn't disappointed either.
"The Urban Decay Naked Skin applied super-smoothly. The formula is so soft and has an almost powder-like consistency once blended in. I immediately noticed that the product did reduce a bit of my redness. It did not, however, coverup a blemish that, any other week, would have been hidden from the camera with concealer. Despite my initial bit of frustration, I continued to use the BB cream for the next couple days. I applied it in the morning in place of my moisturizer — since the BB cream took care of that and the SPF and the added bonus that my complexion looked even — followed by my regular makeup routine. While I almost wrote BB off for failing to cover a little bit of a breakout on my first try, I really like the glow that it gave me. My skin never felt like it had product caked on, the formula never flaked or settled into any creases, and unlike other products, it did not leave my skin feeling dry once it was removed."
The Result: "Blame it on the lazy girl in me who expected BB cream to be a miracle product that turned my makeup routine into a one-step program (mascara and lipstick included — hey, a girl can dream), but now that I've gotten a chance to give it a spin, I'm actually pleasantly surprised. It's not a magical cover-all, but rather an easy prep that creates a smooth, even, sun-protected canvas that lasts all day long. And as for the possibility of using the Urban Decay product again, well, I'll let the emptying tube of BB cream speak for itself.
Urban Decay Naked Skin Beauty Balm SPF 20, $34, available at Urban Decay.

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