Korean Cosmetics – The Incredible BB Cream

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Korean Actress Song Hye Kyo for Skin79

Through the spread of the Hallyu wave and Korean drama, more and more women around the world are intrigued about Korean actresses and their perfect skin. But how do they do it? As we had already seen in our Korean Beauty Series, Korean women are very serious about their looks and their skin-care regimen, which often includes 10 different creams, lotions and face masks each morning and evening. But they have one more trick up their sleeve… and their secret stands in two initials… BB.

BB Cream review, BB cream before and after

BB Cream - A Korean Makeup Bestseller

So what is that mysterious BB cream miracle that has the Hallyu fans talking all over the blogosphere? BB, or Blemish Balm cream actually originated from Germany. It was formulated by dermatologists as a makeup base suitable for post-laser cosmetic procedures patients. Its role is to cover-up redness and blemishes as well as to protect sensitive skin from environmental hazards such as U.V. rays. It is not a foundation or a tinted moisturizer and its skin-regenerating quality make it a unique product in the cosmetic market.

It gained in popularity when some Korean actresses admired for their skin revealed using BB cream. Jumping on the opportunity, Korean cosmetic companies created their own versions with an array of properties to choose from. From matte to dewy, light to high coverage and for dry to oily skin, their is a BB cream for each person’s preferences. Then there are add-ons such as moisturizing, anti-aging or whitening ingredients (against brown spots), different SPF levels, and some especially adapted to problem skins. Korean brands from low to high-end offer a few different versions in their stores and cosmetic shops have ails dedicated to the BB cream. It is so popular in Korea that many women simply won’t leave the house without it and now more and more men are also using it.

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The men's line at Etude House with Korean Actor Lee Min Ho, Famous for his Hit Show Boys Before Flowers

For Korean cosmetic companies such as Amore Pacific, Skin79, The Face Shop, Skin Food or Missha the interest that is growing for BB creams outside of Korea is a chance to reach out to new markets. Already in Seoul, cosmetic shops in the tourist favored areas have sales ladies fluent in Chinese, Japanese and Thai. In Myeongdong 명동 alone (the capital’s number one shopping destination for tourists) there are dozens of cosmetic shops, and a few from the same brand in close proximity. Yet, each location has a never ending line-up of foreign clients and most of them have at least one BB cream in their shopping bag. It is not rare to see someone with a long shopping-list of products for friends and relatives back home. In Asia, the craze for Korean cosmetics is further supported by its reputation of quality products at affordable prices and numerous celebrity endorsements such as singer Rain 비 for Nature Republic. Now many brands are expanding abroad. The Face Shop and Etude House have new locations opening in Asia on a regular basis yet on-line shopping is still limited with few good sites in English.

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Maybelline's BB Cream Exclusively Sold in Asia

For foreign cosmetic brands and established players there are numerous opportunities in the BB cream market. First off, many consumers complain about the lack of colors available for selection and how some products look too pale making them look grey. Most BB creams come in a one shade suits all color and sometimes in a whiter or more natural tint. Since most Westerners are not looking for products that will make them appear lighter skinned their is room for products that offer darker shades and for a variety of skin tones. Furthermore, in the North America and Europe it is only a small niche of consumers who are aware of Korean cosmetics. Whereas the average consumer would be interested in a new type of cosmetics product from their usual brands such as Lancôme, L’Oréal, or Olay. The market for skincare and foundations is already very fragmented with many brands and a multitude of lines available which often leaves consumers confused in front of the infinity of choices. BB cream is in a category of its own, creating an interesting opportunity for an established cosmetic company to offer BB creams in North America and Europe and become a first mover in those markets. On a side note, Maybelline has a pretty good BB cream in its mineral range, but it is only available in the Asian market.

Estee Lauder and Clinique have introduced their own BB Creams to the Asian market. Estee Lauder added a new product to it’s Cyber White line, which is exclusive to Asia, the “Cyber White EX Extra Intensive BB Cream Multi-Action Formula” with SPF 35. While Clinique launched “Age Defense BB Cream” with SPF 30, available at travel retail. Both products have a tint that is more fair and pink than most BB Creams, not always suitable to Asian skin-tones.


These new products from such beauty giants are sure to be popular with consumers and reviews are very positive, yet issues have been reported about the tint. These products seem to be created for white skin-tones, so it remains to be seen when these BB Creams will be launched in Western markets as well and not under the label of tinted moisturizer. The introduction of BB Creams in the West by established brands can also facilitate the entrance of Asian companies to the market.


I have tried out a few BB creams and was impressed with their natural finish giving an easy no-makeup look. Before knowing the BB cream, I would only dab a bit of concealer and stayed away from foundations; which require a perfect color match and some good blending. But with the BB cream I just apply it all over my face after my moisturizing routine. What I appreciate most is the unifying coverage and sun protection it provides. I recommend trying a few different BB creams, to get the best shade and finish to suit your taste.

Etude House, BB Cream, Precious Mineral, BB cream reviewMy favorite BB creams is “Precious Mineral: All Day Strong SPF30/PA++ Sheer Glowing Skin” from Etude House, 14,000Won (13$US). Its properties are: whitening, UV protection and anti-wrinkle. Its tint is great for my fair skin, living me matte yet with a healthy glow. It is a medium coverage so I add a little more to problem areas. The scent of the product is also nice and the pump packaging is practical. I also tried the BB cream from their new Moistfull Collagen line, 18,500Won (17$US), which offers more coverage and offers less of a glow. Next I want to try Hanskin, Skin79 and Laneige to try out different brands.


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Korean Cosmetics – The Incredible BB Cream — 1 Comment

  1. ok I’m buying my own BB cream on Sunday! but your right its just so hard to find the perfect match for one’s skin tone..we need more choices.. gotta try and try! :)