The Five Most Ridiculous Claims People Make About BB Creams


You guys, we need to talk about BB creams for a minute. BB creams are not magic and I am sick of people claiming that they are.


I know you want to believe in magic. I want to believe in magic too! I was also a slightly disappointed 11-year-old when I did not receive a Hogwarts letter. I didn’t believe in Harry Potter, but, you know… maybe. And I know that feeling easily translates to skincare and makeup products as well. This product probably won’t make you an ageless paragon of beauty with microscopic pores. But, you know… maybe.

I’ll just sit here in my Harry Potter costume and wait.

Still, we have to be realistic. Without further ado, here are the most ridiculous claims that I have heard people make about BB creams:

1. “This product oxidizes to perfectly match your skin tone.” 

The only explanation I can come up with for this excuse is that people really want to justify why their favorite BB cream is totally going to work for literally every single person. Although this is a claim I frequently hear from consumers, companies do their best to promote this idea by advertising their product as a “universal shade” or as “self-adjusting”. This can get very ridiculous very quickly, and you end up with what are essentially one-shade full-coverage foundations pretending that they can match all skin tones (I’m looking at you, Dr. Jart+. You know you’re lying. We know you’re lying. Just stop.) I can only assume that these companies are hoping that only medium-light skinned women who aren’t looking very closely purchase their product.


The fact is that there is no feasible mechanism that a BB cream could use to actually adjust itself to fit your skin color. By claiming that the makeup is oxidizing to match your skin, these people are suggesting, at its very most basic, that one can involve skin melanin in an oxidation reaction in your makeup. That’s simply not technology that we have, and no other current chemical or nanotechnology mechanisms would be sufficient to change a foundation’s color to match your skin. (Furthermore, I would by far rather just have a product that matches my skin!)

If you are actually purchasing a BB cream, you should have the same expectations of color matching that you have with any tinted moisturizer or foundation. A mask-like face isn’t any more haute if your makeup was imported from Asia.

2. “The whitening products are just about fixing hyperpigmentation. It doesn’t actually lighten your skin. Furthermore, there are no racial implications of using a skin whitening product.”

Skin whitening products inhibit melanin. That is how they work. Although my splotchy face would welcome a product that could selectively find all the awkwardly colored parts and permanently fix them, arbutin and hydroquinone are not capable of such action. They are not selective. They will lighten all of your skin, period. That is how skin whitening works.


I also find it exceedingly troubling that white skin is being held up as an ideal beauty standard. On this very blog, commenters have asserted that skin lightening is meant to be a sign of high socioeconomic status and that is has nothing to do with race. However, the mere association between between high socioeconomic status and light skin is, on its own, troubling. No one is saying that you cannot use these products, but it is unwise to completely discount the issue of skin whitening. Understanding issues in the humanities is just as important for being a critical mind as being science literate.

3. “American BB creams are just tinted moisturizers with
sunscreen, but Asian BB creams are something truly spectacular and
amazing and will mysteriously fix all of your problems.” 

For reasons that I cannot figure out, people who cautiously and
carefully investigate American beauty products claims start drooling out
their ears when someone tells them that a product is Korean. The fact is that people in Asia do not have magic products that are missing in the west. You should be just as skeptical of extraordinary claims on Asian products as you are on Western products. Anything else is modern day orientalism.


The reason this claim irks me so much is because yes, Western BB creams are just tinted moisturizers with sunscreen… BUT SO ARE ASIAN BB CREAMS. They are simply twists on foundation and tinted moisturizer. They are not a unique or a revolutionary product, no matter what the blogosphere tries to tell you.

Asian BB creams are more likely to have medium-to-full coverage, but, like all things, it is the individual product that makes the real difference. For example, my MAC BB cream (Western) has far more coverage than my Skinfood BB cream (Asian). Does that mean that the Skinfood version isn’t a real BB cream? Of course not. They both qualify as BB creams. BB creams are not a special, exclusive club because, again, they are not magic.

4. “BB creams will fix your acne/wrinkles/scarring/pore size/excessive oil production/hideous boils/need to floss/hairiness/lack of being a centaur!” 

It’s all in the BB cream.

Unfortunately, we simply do not have the necessary tools to fulfill all the claims listed on BB creams. Anti-aging claims are hopelessly optimistic at best and downright deceitful at worst. No matter what you do, you will have pores. You just will (and you want them! They are there for a reason!). There are are no terrific ways to combat these aesthetic imperfections. If there were, we wouldn’t have these problems anymore. I am not sure why these incredible claims are suddenly seen as credible when they are in the form of a tinted facial product.

Furthermore, some of these claims are simply contradictory. For example, FDA regulations prohibit any single product from containing both SPF and acne-clearing ingredients. It’s not because they have a weird desire for sub-par BB creams. Rather, it is because going out in the sun covered in acne products can fuck your skin up.

5. “It means you can use far fewer products and get the same result.” 

Combining too many functions into one single product creates sub-par results. Even though you almost certainly are aware of two-in-one shampoo and conditioners, you likely buy them separately because you know that they are more effective that way. BB creams do not have the lasting ability of a primer, the coverage of a foundation, or the hydrating properties of a moisturizer. They do them all, but not as well as the individual products.


It is certainly possible for BB creams to be good products. For many, they cut down on makeup time and provide lovely results. I have several and am wearing one as I write this. However, expecting miracles from any cosmetic product is a recipe for disaster.


  1. Alexis Stewart

    I love when you post often, I am guilty of checking your blog two or three times during my American History class, hoping for a new post… It’s only an hour and a half long class, lol.

    I have one BB cream that I bought, and a few samples from sample boxes. I’ve also tried a few from Sephora, and I really think the Asian brands perform better, the American brands are so thin. They just don’t work for what I want to use them for. My favorite is Hanskin, it’s a bit gray at first, but it actually does blend well. Granted, I have really light skin. On the other hand, I got a Dr. Brandt one from Sample Society, and I looked like I rubbed dirt on my face..

    I use mine mainly under airbrush to provide a smoother canvas, or to extend the uses of my liquid foundation. I look at it like a foundation enhancer.. if it benefits my skin, cool, but I don’t really expect it to. I couldn’t care less about whitening, and I don’t really see a problem with it in general. If someone wants to lighten their skin, go for it. It’s not any different to me than tanning, or using bronzer.. just opposite.

  2. Connü

    Sure BB Creams aren´t magic. But there is one big difference that makes me order mine from asia rather than buying them in drugstores just around the corner: the colour. idk about your country, but here in Germany the drugstore BB creams are claiming to match every skintone when they are either super yellowey or insanely peach-coloured.
    With asian BBs I find that the 7 ones that I got my hands on so far were all rather greyish which makes them actually fit more skintones (pink like mine or slightly yellow or olive tones).

    Also the lightness of the tone is always a down for me regarding the western versions. Though most of them say they are for fair skinned people they are not and even when they seem to be they oxidize as hell and after an hour you get a shock because it´s 10times too dark for your acutal skin tone.

    I wonder if that´s just a european thing though…


    I’m in the US. Both the Asian ones and the US ones are pretty consistently too dark for me…

  4. Katey

    I’ve tried a few BB Creams. One Asian one and two American ones. I hate the American ones and love the Asian one. I will absolutely admit that this is because the brands that made the American ones do not consistently make high-quality products. You’re right, it depends on the brand how much coverage a BB Cream offers, whether it will match your skin tone, how moisturizing it will be, and all of the rest of the qualities you might look for in any kind of face makeup. I think the bias toward Korean BB Creams is partially because they invented the product. Of course, that could rightfully be a bias toward the first brand to come out with one, and I dont’ even know what brand that is. You said you’ve yet to find a BB Cream light enough for you. If you’re interested, try Holika Holika.


    BB creams were actually released in Germany before they were released in Korea, although Korea is where they are most popular.

  6. Rabia Ali

    I love this blog. I read it regularly and I find it so refreshing and honest. I myself am constantly thinking about whether products are really beneficial or not, and it really dismays me to see people fall for stuff so easily without doing their research! I love the way you explain things without being condescending. You make everything easy to understand, your reviews are honest, and you are adorable! Keep it up girl!!!!


    Thank you!

  8. LabMuffin

    I see skin whitening as the Asian equivalent of tanning products in Western countries – both are perhaps subtle indications of socioeconomic status, but they’re mainly culturally ingrained, popular conceptions of what “beauty” is, and using either whitening nor tanning products is any real comment on racial superiority. Although wanting to change the colour of one’s skin/eyes/hair could in itself be seen as problematic, I think the widespread knee-jerk reaction to casting skin-whitening (but not tanning) in a race-relations context is giving a bit too much credit to the influence of Western culture on non-Western countries 🙂

    Western BB creams have come a long way in the last year or so – for a while Garnier’s watery, unpigmented mess of a BB cream was the only widely available one in Australia (and there were only about 3 widely available in the US), and almost all the BB creams rated above 4.0 on Makeupalley were Korean (partly because 100x more of them existed). Now that every Western brand and their disappointing stepkid has a BB, the scene’s changed a lot and the claim is dated, but there’s historical context to it.

    *end wannabe arts major essay*


    I don’t attribute the problem to Western influences, but I still do see it as a problem. And I do think promoting any skin color as the path to beauty (tan or white) is an issue, but I don’t think they are equal for reasons of historical context, especially in the United States.

  10. Alexis Stewart

    Is your issue with whitening products really a reaction to the injustices of slavery and the treatment of African Americans? That’s a bit far fetched. I think American brands add lightening properties just because the Asian ones do, and they want to compete in all markets. You don’t like changing skin color for beauty, but changing the rest of your face with make up is different? Everyone has their own idea of beauty, and want products to help them get that look. If someone wants lighter or darker skin, longer lashes, straight or curly hair, redder lips, rounder or more elongated eyes, etc. why shouldn’t they use whatever products they want to make them feel good, or pretty?


    I have no problem with anyone using any products that they want and have never said otherwise. I merely think it is wise to be cautious about what values we are promoting with our standards of beauty.

  12. dewybaby

    Hi, just wanted to point out that Chinese people seek fairer skin not to ‘be white’ but because in the past, poor Chinese folks had to work in the farms under the sun (hence dark) whereas the rich could afford to not work/ do less menial work (hence the fairness!). So imo it would be more accurate to describe the pursuit of fair skin as an issue of socioeconomic class rather than one of race, although I agree that these stereotype are now anachronistic as skin colour is no longer a worthwhile indication of class:)

  13. You’re Wrong

    It’s simply incorrect to assert that all Asian BB creams are just tinted moisturizers in the way that many western BB creams are. BB creams were originally used by patients after surgery and are meant to be a combination of moisturizer, sunscreen, base, and skin treatment. SOME, not all BB creams, contain whitening ingredients.

    Tinted moisturizers are essentially foundations but with more emollient ingredients and less pigment. Some come with sunscreen as well. A true BB Cream usually contains silicons and healing agents as well as SPF and emollient ingredients. The silicons are so that the BB cream can act as a primer. A tinted moisturizer does not. It’s true there are many companies that have jumped aboard the BB cream bandwagon and simply relabeling their old tinted moisturizers as BB Creams. But that does NOT mean all BB creams are the same thing.


    BB creams are not magic and they are not a new product. That’s essentially the argument that I am trying to debunk here. Plenty of foundations and tinted moisturizers have silicones (not silicons) in them. Also, “healing agents” are not a meaningful class of ingredients.

    Thus, if we acknowledge the reality that silicones are common tinted moisturizer ingredients and accept that “healing agents” aren’t real things, we’re left with BB creams being distinct because they have SPF and because they are moisturizers… making them a tinted moisturizer with SPF.

  15. obsoleteisland

    Have you watched frmheadtotoe’s video where she does a mass review of a bunch of BB creams? She and her fairer skinned friend swatches the BB creams at the video and does another swatch at the end. The swatches look really different – if it isn’t the product oxidizing, what can we attribute the significant color difference to?

    I’ve been waiting for you to do a beauty bullshit article/to tackle Asian BB Creams. I enjoyed reading this!

  16. Helena

    Pigments DO oxidize, but they’re not going to oxidize a certain level based on your skintone.


    Helena is exactly right!

  18. SkinCareTV’s Andrew Scoular

    It always cracks me up the way some people can become sooooo invested (emotionally) in the marketing hype from money-grabbing cosmetic corporations….as if the company will award them a special place in heaven to thank them for their support 🙂 Your scientific, factual, no bullshit approach is refreshingly supportive of people who have more than 30-second-sound-bite attention spans….and thus I like referencing your blog in mine as it’s great to be able to say ‘you see…someone else out there thinks the same way as I do…’.

    Thank you for all the work you do regarding these blogs…keep them coming!


    People being emotionally invested in marketing hype… that’s a great way of putting it!

  20. LT

    Thank you for writing this! I actually am an advertising lawyer and I never understood the vitriol towards American BB creams v. Asian creams. Many of the differences are simply differences in marketing claims. American companies are far more cautious than Asian companies about the claims they make – they HAVE to be.


    That’s a wonderful point that I had not considered! Thank you!

  22. Steve Devis

    Hi, Thanks for sharing nice post.I had been searching for many times about this.But this post stopped my searching.Thanks again.
    Spray Tan in New York City

  23. mandarin-girl

    i made bb cream from my non comedogenic moisture cream combined with my foundation based on mineral water no need for the other chemicals and other 20$ spent put them together and give me those 20$ 😀