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EWG's Sean Gray Investigates BB & CC Creams

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How did I spend my summer?

I hung around department store makeup aisles, looking for the much talked about “miracle” makeup, BB and CC creams. You should have seen the looks I got as I dabbed the testers on my arm – mind you, I’m a 40-year-old man wearing cargo shorts and a ratty T-shirt.

Some men get lost in the sports section.  Some get lost in tools.  I get lost in the makeup aisle.

As a senior analyst at EWG and one of the principle people working on our Skin Deep cosmetics database, I carefully follow trends in the cosmetic market.  By looking at the market, I know what products need to be in the database to help consumers make better choices.  So I’ve been getting lost in makeup departments since we launched Skin Deep in 2004.

This year, we decided to dig into the hype surrounding these BB and CC creams.  If you watch TV or flip through magazines, I’m sure you’ve seen the ads: “Miracle Skin,” “Super Skin,” “Instant Perfection,” “Look Flawless.” BB and CC cream advertisements have dominated the media. They promise users flawless skin and much more – by buying just one tube or jar. 

We decided to have a look.

I started with my usual rounds of the local makeup aisles and online retailers.  Unfortunately, many BB and CC creams are only available from high-end retailers. You can’t see a list of the ingredients until you buy the product.  In some the products are kept behind the counter.  In others, the ingredient list is hidden inside the cardboard box.

This is when my credit card took a hit.  $800.  I spent more than $800 at and to get the last 20 products for the database.

Now that we had a complete picture of the ingredients in BB and CC creams, I needed to learn how people are supposed to apply them.

This is when my YouTube recommendations took a hit.  I watched several hours of instructional videos on YouTube. Now when my kids want to watch funny puppy videos, YouTube suggests they see how the new beige BB cream covers acne scars!

With the database complete, what I found may surprise you as much as it did me:  Some of these products might be a reasonable choice – perhaps even living up to the hype.

We don’t say that very often.  But in this case, we concluded that some of these multi-taskers might be worth considering because:

  • Using one 1 product instead of three or four can reduce your exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals.
  • Some provide everyday protection from the sun’s dangerous rays, which cause aging and possibly cancer.
  • Many offer good value for the dollar. 

But consumers must do their homework – because some BB and CC creams contain oxybenzone, an ingredient linked to hormone disruption, vitamin A derivatives linked to skin cancer or other potentially hazardous ingredients.

Read the report.





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