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What the Hell Is BB Cream?

10/17/2013 11:40 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

I had seen one too many times the mysterious "BB Cream" advertised in glossy magazines and decided to get into action and lift the veil of secrecy. What the hell is BB Cream? Immediately, I had the only association that made sense, revealed my age and brought me right back to my teenage years: BB, Brigitte Bardot, the sex-kitten from France, so naughty, so pouty, so liberated, yet so indulgently childish like Lolita, was my idol. I desperately wanted to dress like her, ballerinas, tight sweater and all, and look like her. Especially, her beehive-hairdo had cast a spell on me since her ample bust was out of my reach, being a classic gamine a la Twiggy -- who would be the next in line 10 years later as my role model.

So Brigitte is back? Is what I wondered. No way, with the entire animal saving projects and feeding 16 homeless mutts in her country estate and writing poisonous crank letters to the French Government. She wouldn't have time dallying with BB Cream. Unless she needed money for an aging Horse-Hotel? (In which case we would have BB and her HH).

I called a few middle-aged girlfriends for an impromptu survey. "What is BB Cream? Have you heard of it?" Yes, they had, pondered the subject for a minute, suggested Bad Boy, Buster Brown, Bugs Bunny and Beautiful Bimbo Cream, but then ended the earth-shaking question with a more sensible response in the direction of "who the f---ck cares." OK. Maybe it was just a brand name; some Betsy Birkenmeier or Brett Bonneville revived an old, secret family potion, after all that is how Helena Rubinstein started. But finally -- a modern woman must be a bit of a cosmetics detective -- I'd had enough of my naiveté. I couldn't live in a world without knowing what BB Cream is without being judged as a silly old-timer who still talks about "Eight Hour Cream."

That you are getting old -- while remaining a prime target of the beauty industry for exactly that reason -- is most vividly felt when cruising glittering cosmetic kingdoms like "Sephora" (which I live very close to). But that's where I went in search of that annoying hype. The whole store seemed filled with BBs -- from Bobbi Brown (a clue?) and Dior to Lancôme and Clinique.

I marched straight to a BB counter, marked as such, and to make a long story appropriately short, it turned out that the celebrated BB Cream is "Beauty Balm" -- which again means that it is a hybrid of moisturizer and foundation with "natural coverage" (prized at a hefty 30 plus dollars). Which also means that it's something that I and most women I know are doing for 40 years by mixing make-up with a tiny dollop of moisturizer in the palm of our hands. I admit I was a little disappointed in this lack of magic of BB Cream and also felt cheated, because basically I could have invented and marketed it -- and therefore wouldn't have to trot through "Sephora" but could own the whole damn chain and put BB Cream over my whole body twice a day!

Still, the case was closed. It was good that the uncertain BB Cream days were over. I finally felt completely at ease, one with the world, in the know, not left out at all. Until the other day, again at "Sephora." There it was, jumping at me like a mad frog making my head spin: CC Cream! Before I looked, wondering what is it NOW? I checked with my inner beauty dictionary. Since I was already so off with Brigitte Bardot, it couldn't be the lovely Claudia Cardinale who suddenly decided to share some former Italian bombshell-beauty-advice, could it? And it certainly couldn't be just good ol' Cold Cream, or Cuticle Cream? Not at 35 bucks in that fancy tube! Citric Cream, Civic Cream, Cybil Cream, Cavalier Cream, Coco Cream, Crowfeet Cream, Cutesy Cream, Crazy Cream maybe? The curiosity was killing me again and I breathed hard -- while a very diminutive young sales man with pitch-black shiny hair and a pencil moustache (are they back?) was watching me slightly irritated -- as I closed in on a display that promised disclosure of this new secret cream that probably held magic by the overprized ounce.

I whipped out my glasses and read: CC -- Correction Cream! There it was, in a way perfect, a cream like a correction officer -- stern, unforgiving, a little bit brutal, even sadistic maybe -- a cream for naughty girls who need to be kept in line and punished when leaving the prison -- pardon, house -- without CC! What a concept! I could see the underlying notion -- like in most beauty products -- that the You in you is not good enough to face the world unvarnished. You, the pitiful project, need to be "lifted", restored and rejuvenated over and over again like an old building, ready to collapse without BBs and CCs. I left the cruel palace of beauty smiling because the pretty young salesgirl in black by the door said: "I just love your lipstick!" It wasn't theirs (for $35) but a cheap German brand for $1.99. So it's settled one more time: I'll stick to my own proven CC lifestyle -- which is Cheap Chic.