Well Being

What Is Beauty Balm? A Guide To This (Deservedly) Trendy Combo Cosmetic

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BBCreamsLike most cosmetic-related things in my life, it started with Birchbox. In a recent month's box I received a sample of Dr. Jart's Beauty Balm, which not only boasted an SPF 25 but also felt wonderfully smooth on my skin and provided really nice, even coverage. I assumed “beauty balm” was just a cutesy name for that particular product. I was wrong.

Suddenly, the word beauty balm seems to be everywhere. And by “everywhere” I mean the websites and blogs I kept having to look at in order to compile holiday gift guides. Nonetheless: There it was, like ‘oxblood,' popping up where other words meaning the exact same thing had been used before. Trend alert? Of course (even drug store brands are getting in on the game). But if beauty balm is the new trendy name for a certain type of product, we might as well understand what it means.

Basically, beauty balm is an all-in-one facial cosmetic that combines the functions of other facial skin-care and makeup — primer, anti-aging serum, moisturizer, foundation, sunblock. Sena King, general North America manager for Dr. Jart, told Refinery 29:

“Tinted moisturizers are too basic – they provide simple moisture and low-level sunscreen, with a few vitamins or extracts thrown in. They work best on perfect skin that doesn't need much love. BB creams are the next generation of product because they contain high-performance treatments like anti-agers, antioxidants, brighteners, and botanical actives combined with high-level sunscreen, coverage, and moisture.”

According to Mai Wang at Birchbox, beauty balm — also known as blemish balm or BB cream — was invented in the 1950s by a German dermatologist named Christine Schrammek.

“It wasn’t until decades later that BB creams resurfaced on a different continent. In 2005, Korean brands such as Dr. Jart brought the concept to the Asian market and they quickly spread to other countries.”

Dr. Jart makes a few different BB formulas these days; the one I liked so much is called “Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm SPF 25,” made from “a combination of glacier water, deep ocean water, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, sebum-regulating ingredients and portulaca oleracea extract.” It acts as a moisturizer, sunblock, “treatment serum” and light, lightly-tinted foundation.  Disappointingly, though, it contains things like methylparaben and butylparaben.

The Refinery 29 ladies liked Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35, Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45 PA+++ and Clinique Age Defense BB Cream. Christina Han at New York Magazine recommends Dr. Jart's “Black Label Detox BB” or, if you're looking for one under $15, Garnier BB Cream Miracle Skin Perfector. “Makeup geek” Marlena likes Too Faced Tinted Beauty Balm. And the folks at Fashionista.com dig MAC Prep + Prime Beauty Balm, Boscia B.B. Cream SPF 27, 3Lab Perfect BB Cream SPF 40 and Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35.

Photo: Birchbox