In the beauty industry, there's always room to launch one more product. This year, BB creams have broken out of Asia and stormed the western skincare market. But do we really need them, and what are they?
Korean celebrities with flawless skin touted BBs as "miracle creams" in the 1980s. Since then their popularity has spread to Japan and China, and now the West. More than a dozen have been launched in the west in the past year.
BB stands for Blemish Balm - developed in the 1950s in Germany.
"BB creams are really 'makeup meets skincare'," says Dr Katherine Armour, consultant dermatologist for L'Oreal Paris. "They appeal to the busy, multi-tasking woman for their efficiency in delivering sun protection and a more even and luminous complexion, while working in the long-term to target anti-ageing concerns."
They seem to do it all. Dr Armour says they can also even out skin tone and provide a healthy-looking, light coverage if you wear them alone or serve as a primer to wear under foundation for extra coverage.
But beware, not all BB creams are the same. I felt like Goldilocks when I tried Clinique's (too thick), L'Oreal's (colour too patchy) and Garnier's (just right), so trial them before you buy.
They seem like tinted moisturiser to me, with added skincare ingredients. A good place to start for authentic BB creams is Missha. Apparently, the western versions aren't a patch on the originals.
Most have a one-skin-fits-all approach but Korean skincare giant Dr Jart+ has BB creams in four versions; one with extracts of snail secretions.
BB creams can contain moisturiser, primer, sunscreen, foundation and anti-ageing creams. In choosing, Gaelle Calves, of L'Oreal, says to decide what it is you need - UV protection, the active ingredients or the anti-ageing. If you want an anti-ageing BB cream look for vitamin A, alpha-hydroxy acids, vitamins B3 and C in the ingredients list.
The other eastern skincare trend catching on in the west are brighteners and whiteners, which have been big sellers in Japan for decades.
Brands such as Kiehl's have launched whitening ranges such as the Dermatologist Solutions Clearly Corrective White Collection.
There's also the decadent Dior Snow line using birch sap and hibiscus along with water imported from Iceland, or La Prairie's White Caviar range, as well as more affordable ranges, such as Garnier's recently launched Dark Spot Corrector. Organic skincare brand La Mav has also just launched Rumex Advanced Lightening Day Creme.
The main difference between Asian and western whiteners seems to be the marketing.
In Asia lighter complexions are promoted, while in the west, the same products are touted as fading spots and brightening complexions because of the huge range in skin tones.
I'm no beauty junkie, but the BBs and whiteners I tried made a difference - probably not to others - but to how I see myself, which is just as important.