• Apr 04, 2015 02:25 PM EDT

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Feel like you’ve been hearing a series of letters rather than actual descriptions attached to the newest skincare products? You’re not crazy: You’ve just been caught up in the swarm of “alphabet creams.”

BB, CC, and now DD creams first gained popularity in Korea, and have made similar waves stateside. But what do all those letters stand for, and what do these creams actually do?

“BB, CC, or any alphabet soup creams can be excellent all in one products for some women, but for many companies, the labels are just marketing,” revealed Dr. Rebecca Baxt, a board certified NYC dermatologist. 

“Check the active ingredients. Does it have a sunscreen? What is the SPF? Is it at least a 20 or 30 SPF? If your BB, CC, or any other over the counter cream is not working for you, seek help with a dermatologist to solve your skin issues. They may be more complicated than just the ABC’s!” 

 

We chatted with Dr. Baxt and got the 411 on how these trendy creams came to be:

So Dr. Baxt, how did BB creams begin?

BB creams are short for beauty balms or blemish balms. They were first developed in Germany by a dermatologist who wanted a single cream that would protect skin and provide coverage after laser treatments.

The all-in-one formulation became a sensation in South Korea and then spread throughout Asia. The average woman in Asia goes through seven different steps taking care of her skin.

What exactly do BB creams do?

Many BB creams offer effective sun protection, with broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher, the American Academy of Dermatology’s recommendation for daily use. What’s more, BB creams generally contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide, physical sun blocks that have some built-in water-resistant properties.

And that’s just the start of the alphabet! Check back tomorrow for more BB cream secrets and the best ways to use this formula as well as a couple others. 

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