How safe are BB creams?

How Safe are BB creams?


BB creams, short for beauty balm, are all-in-one creams, used to cover blemishes, moisturise and protect the skin from the sun. Created by a German dermatologist who wanted to create a single cream for post-laser treatment, it became a sensation in South Korea. The popularity spreads across Asia, where there are now many brands of BB creams.

According to the consumer watchdog, the Environmental Working Group, you are better off with a BB cream if your skincare routine includes applying a foundation, a concealer and a moisturising sunscreen. The BB cream cuts your exposure to an average of 40 ingredients, compared to 70 ingredients if you were using all three products. There is less risk of skin allergies when your skin is exposed to fewer ingredients, said the American non-profit group.


What are the Ingredients to Avoid?

Watch out for harmful ingredients in the BB creams. One common ingredients to avoid is oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is an excellent UV-A and -B filter, which why it is a popular chemical sun filter. But it oxybenzone is a known skin irritant.  The American Contact Dermatitis Society listed the ingredient as the Number One cause of skin allergies among people who use sunscreen. Additionally, oxybenzone is harmful to coral reefs.

Another ingredient to avoid is retinal palmitate (a form of vitamin A). Retinal palmitate is rich in anti-oxidants, but the ingredient has been linked to skin tumour and lesion when it is applied on skin exposed to the sun.

Also, stay away from BB creams that list “fragrance” as an ingredient. It is a blanket term, used by manufacturers to avoid disclosing the specific chemicals in the product. EWG said the term “fragrance” covers as many as 3,163 ingredients. So if your BB cream has “fragrance” listed as an ingredient, you won’t know which of the 3,163 ingredients is in the product because the manufacturer won’t tell you.

The following are ingredients, disguised under the term of “fragrance,” that are toxic. The list is compiled by EWG.

  • Phthalates are potent hormone disruptors, linked to reproductive system birth defects in baby boys
  • Octoxynols and nonoxynols break down into persistent hormone disruptors
  • Citral, eugenol, coumarin and geraniol have been associated with allergies and contact dermatitis. The ingredients are banned in Europe.

Some 40 ingredients in a single BB cream is still a lot. If your job does not require you to stay outdoor, a BB cream of SPF 15 and a high PA rating (PA +++ or PA++++) would be adequate. A higher SPF value requires a higher percentage of chemical sun filters in the BB cream. The concern with sun filters is with the efficacy when other ingredients are added into the formula. It may reduce the photo-stability of these sun filters, and may cause them to break down, which increases the risk of free radicals and allergens.

You won’t need to wear as much make up when you are outdoor. Opt for a sunscreen instead. We prefer mineral sunscreens to chemical-based sunscreens because they require fewer ingredients, and the ingredients are natural.

Keep the skin protected when out in the sun. The rule of the thumb is to use as few ingredients as necessary. The risk of skin irritation decreases when there are fewer ingredients in the skincare products. Also drink plenty of water when you are outdoor and seek shade.


A Quick List:

Ingredients to Avoid BB cream
Oxybenzone skin irritant / harms coral reefs
Retinal palmitate skin tumour
Fragrance blanket term to hide chemicals in product



BB and CC creams: How safe are the ingredients in BB an CC creams? The Environmental Working Group.

The Problem with Vitamin A. The Environmental Working Group.

Vazirnia, Aria; Jacob, Sharon E. Review of ACDS’ Allergen of the Year 2000-2015. the Dermatol. 2014, November; 22 (1).

Downs, C.A.; Kramarsky-Winter, Esti; Segal, Roee et al. Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. 2015, October 20: 1-24.



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