The claims manufacturers make about BB creams are astounding: some are miraculous, one nourishes your complexion and protects it from free-radical damage, while another contains ginkgo water and 50 kinds of botanical complexes to help make skin healthy. They one-up each other on the number of products they claim to replace as a five-in-one, all-in-one, or even eight-in-one “super-makeup”. If you believe the makeup manufacturers, it’s time to throw out all your skincare and cosmetics products and replace them with a one-step BB cream solution. However, do they really work as advertised, and which brands and models offer the best performance globally? MingJian, together with ICRT (International Consumer Research and Testing) consumer organization partners from 7 European countries, put manufacturers claims to the test with the most comprehensive test of BB and CC creams ever conducted.
Full range of product
For the test, 25 creams (21 BB and 4 CC creams) were tested from 21 brands and purchased in 7 countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. The experiment involved more than 600 test subjects, women between 24 and 65 years old, with at least 20 women testing each product. For 2 weeks each participant was asked to spread the substance twice a day, paying attention to not cover a specific untreated area with any skin care or other substances, important to allow a reference example during the collection of the data.
The best choice
In a three-way tie for best performer overall was the BB cream from La Rouch Posay and two creams from Nivea. All scored well for both hydration and sun protection. However, if you have sensitive skin, the BB cream from Nivea may not be your best option as it contains 10 allergens.
The top performing product for moisturizing was Spanish brand, expert in natural cosmetics, which also received the top score in use trials, however it fell short of our recommendation as its sun protection fails to live up to the SPF claim on the label. Four products failed to show any positive hydration effect, with Clinique Superdefense CC cream actually showing a reduction in skin hydration by using the product!
Nevertheless, the quality most frequently claimed by BB creams is their sun protection. Of course, people do not expect the same barrier that a sunscreen can offer, but a minimum SPF and UVA protection should be guaranteed. 7 of the products tested were misleading regarding their level of sun protection, with UVB protection substantially less than indicated by their SPF labels. The most egregious gap was Mabelline Dream Fresh BB cream, which claims an SPF 30 on its label yet tested at a level of less than SPF 5, a more than 80% shortfall from its claim. Additionally, when UV protection is claimed on a product, it should not be limited to UVB, but should also offer a minimum of UVA protection. While half of the products tested OK for UVA protection, 10 products failed to offer a minimum level of UVA protection compared to the SPF. The claim of anti-wrinkle effect is more coherent for products which ensure a good UVA protection as UVA-rays are responsible for premature skin ageing.
Endocrine disruptors, parabens and allergens
Another important aspect of the test put was for the presence of dangerous elements like endocrine disruptors (EDCs) and parabens as well as testing for allergens, which can affect people with sensitive skin. Endocrines in particular are elements that affect the hormone system. For this reason EDCs are dangerous for pregnant women because they can impact the development of the fetus. Secondly, parabens are common preservatives used mainly in cosmetics industry that can have allergic reaction, particularly connected with sun exposure. 13 creams were found to contain EDCs, four of which also contain harmful parabens including both creams from Olay (Olaz).
How we test
In this experiment four primary parameters were considered: hydration, sun protection including UVB SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and UVA, use test and labeling. For the first aspect the measurement has been carried out using a specific and expensive instrument: the corneometer. By using a capacitor it is able to measure accurately the hydration level of the epidermis, considering the ions presented on the skin. Then, for SPF and UVA protection assessment, irradiation and a Bentham spectrometer system have been used.
Finally, volunteers were assessed through a questionnaire for the panel test. This helped to investigate characteristics including quickness of absorption, non-sticking effect or others subjective perceptions. Finally, the presence of endocrine disruptors and allergens has been studied, too.
Before reading the following considerations, it is important to note that on the overall result, hydration weighed 40%, SFP and UV protection 30%, the use test covered 20% of the general result and labeling 10% .
Price vs. Quality
Our test found that you don’t need to spend a fortunate to purchase a quality BB or CC cream. In fact, the three worst performing products that received a Don’t Buy were among the most expensive products in our test.Meanwhile, of the four top performers, three are designated as Best Buy and are on average one third to half the price.
BB or CC cream
We tested both BB and CC creams from four brands: Clinique, L’Oreal, Olay (Olaz), and Nivea. The performance of the two types of creams was consistent across the tests and it is evident to conclude that there are no relevant differences between BB and CC creams. Having tested them together better demonstrated that diversification is essentially a marketing ploy to attract consumers.