Skip to main content

Hyper Growth Across Skin Care’s Alphabet City

Brands are racing down the alphabet to launch multifunctional products, which tend to sound more like bond ratings than beauty offerings.

Brands are racing down the alphabet to launch multifunctional skin-care products, which tend to sound more like bond ratings than beauty offerings.

The Asia-born BB creams, or beauty balms, kicked off the alphabet-cream trend by first appearing on U.S. soil in 2011. Led by mass-market brands including Garnier, Maybelline, L’Oréal Paris and Revlon, the segment has since fueled explosive growth. It reached $36 million in 2012, up from a scant $2 million in the prior year, according to The NPD Group. This figure does not included CC creams, or color-correction creams, which began hitting the market in late 2012. And, yes, now at least one DD cream is on the horizon. In May, the nail-care brand Julep plans to launch DD Crème and DD Concealer, said to “do all” and “disguise and diminish,” respectively.

Related Galleries

You May Also Like

RELATED STORY: Clinique Expands on Skin Care With CC Cream >>

The segment is riding the growth wave of the overall skin-care category, which gained 10 percent to $3.4 billion in the prestige channel in 2012, said Karen Grant, vice president and global beauty industry analyst at NPD. She noted that while alphabet creams account for a small portion of the category, “they have a big opportunity in terms of reach. The consumer is still discovering these products.”

The creams’ multifunctional formulas, designed to offer immediate coverage as well as long-term skin benefits, are driving their popularity with consumers.

“It’s the promise of all in one,” said Candace Corlett, president at WSL Strategic Retail. “No one has time to open three jars anymore. We are a multitasking society.”

In consumers’ eyes, the creams meld skin care and makeup into one tube.

Priya Venkatesh, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of skin care for Sephora, said, “BBs and CCs are making the skin-color segmentation more blurry. Our clients want natural glowing skin with fewer steps. Brands are now compelled to combine strong treatments and cosmetic benefits in one step. BBs and CCs save time. They combine simplicity with five-in-one benefits.” She noted that in late 2010, she met with a Korean brand called Dr. Jart. “The brand told us about BBs, and we loved the concept and the product,” Venkatesh said, adding that Smashbox, Dr. Jart and Urban Decay are some of the retailer’s top sellers.

As new alphabet creams continue to roll out, the latest incarnations are designed to treat specific skin types and areas of the face — or in Pantene’s case, hair — and deliver effects such as brightening or bronzing. “That’s how it goes. First there’s a product for the eye [area], then the neck, and then all of a sudden we’re back to needing three products again,” said Corlett.

That may be precisely the point, as these hybrid skin-care products, like BB creams, seem to be growing at the expense of some other, more traditional skin-care and makeup categories.

Grant said NPD has found that 68 percent of BB cream users report they are forgoing additional facial makeup or a skin-care product when using beauty balms, underscoring a caveat for beauty brands playing in the hybrid space.

Euromonitor International figures paint a similar picture: In the U.S., retail sales across traditional skin-care segments, including masks, facial cleansers and toners, have been declining since 2007, while hybrid products, such as primers, oil absorbers and now BB and CC creams, have grown significantly. The hybrid skin-care segment grew to $46.6 million in 2011, up from $28 million in 2007, and continues to gain steadily this year, according to Euromonitor.

“The introduction of BB creams took our department by storm,” said Debbi Hartley-Triesch, national merchandise manager at Nordstrom. Skin care has been growing at a double-digit rate year-over-year at Nordstrom, but the BB creams have become such a defining force at the chain that the creams carved out their own category within the store’s hierarchy. Since the first creams arrived at Nordstrom in late 2011, they have appealed to different kinds of customers, Hartley-Triesch said, noting that even the most diligent and devoted skin-care user might want “an easy product for the weekend.” She added that the new multitasking creams also may be drawing young people to counters. Different people may be drawn to one product or another — BB or CC creams — for different reasons, depending on differences in lifestyles. Nordstrom just launched the Smashbox BB cream and is planning to introduce the Clinique CC product. “We will have to see what becomes of these two new multitaskers,” Hartley-Triesch noted, adding that it will be interesting to see what kind of following the products attract.

Bergdorf Goodman has highly sophisticated skin-care customers, but that doesn’t mean they are not drawn to the corner-cutting creams. “It’s a nice additional layer,” said Pat Saxby, vice president and divisional merchandise manager. She said the store has done well with the BB creams and is continuing the CC generation, including the new Clinique product. Bergdorf customers see the BB brands as a casual add-on to their serious daily routine, said Saxby, who noted that the store is pursuing high-tech brands, such as serums designed to be used continuously in a four-week treatment. Hair-growth regimens make up an exploding trend, and eyelash products are still hot, she added.

Among the legions of brands entering the alphabet derby is Lancôme, which phased in its Bien Fait Teinté BB cream last fall. In July the brand will introduce another hybrid product, a Teint Visionnaire foundation with ingredients of a correcting serum. Next fall the brand will follow through with a trio of serums targeting skin spots.

The alphabet trend is spilling into other categories as well, including hair care, which increasingly shares ingredients with skin care. Procter & Gamble Co. introduced Pantene Pro-V Ultimate 10 BB Crème in February, and Alterna plans to launch its Caviar CC Cream 10-in-1 Complete Correction Leave-In Hair Perfector at Sephora in May.

The creams come on the heels of consumers’ long-standing preoccupation with antiaging formulas, arguably AA creams.

“For a long time antiaging was the main [sales] driver,” said Grant. “We’re seeing growth across beauty and seeing more attention to products that target prevention and not just correction. Now it’s a about caring for skin early on. It’s opened up the arena to look at skin care in a broader context.”

NEXT: Do-It-All Creams on Deck >>



• Boscia B.B. Cream Light and B.B. Cream Bronze, both with SPF 27, for $38 each, are designed to address lighter skin tones and consumers seeking a golden glow.

• Vichy Laboratoires’ Neovadiol Lumiere BB Cream, $42, is said to combat the side effects of hormonal aging with mother of pearl and mineral pigments to strengthen and illuminate the skin.

• Lorac’s CC Color Correcting Cream, available in three shades for $28 each, is designed to provide six benefits, including minimizing redness, brightening and priming skin.

• Peter Thomas Roth’s CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $48, which contains an Amazonian superfruit called camu camu, is said to have 30 times the vitamin C of an orange.

• Clinique Moisture Surge CC Cream utilizes light-scattering color-corrective optics to make skin tone appear more uniform and promises 24 hours of hydration.


• REN’s Satin Perfection BB Cream Sunscreen, $38, is said to convert ultraviolet light into elastin-producing red light.

• Dior’s Nude Tan BB Crème, $44, contains a natural bronzing agent designed to illuminate the skin.

• Ole Henriksen’s Perfect Truth CC Crème SPF 30, $36, is said to reduce discoloration, and Perfect Truth CC Eye Crème SPF 15 is designed to hide dark circles and infuse skin with antioxidants. Both are formulated with five sources of vitamin C to boost collagen and reduce fine lines.

• IT Cosmetics’ CC+ Color Correcting Full Coverage Cream Anti-Aging Hydrating Serum SPF 50+, $38, is comprised of hyaluronic acid, hydrolyzed collagen, peptides, vitamins A, C, B and E, and extracts of licorice root and grapefruit.

• Alterna’s Caviar CC Cream 10-in-1 Complete Correction Leave-In Hair Perfector, $25, is a hair styling treatment product that utilizes caviar extract, marine botanicals and an enzyme therapy said to aid in keratin production.

• Julep’s DD Crème Dynamic Do-all Makeup, available in four shades for $36 each, is said to prime, perfect and protect, and is launching alongside a DD Concealer Disguise & Diminish for $32, which is meant to diminish dark spots and blemishes and deliver antiaging antioxidants.

More launches…
In July, Dr. Dennis Gross will launch Daily Essentials CC Cream SPF 18, $36, designed to prevent collagen breakdown with vitamins C and E while plumping skin with hyaluronic acid. StriVectin’s Complexion Corrector Multi-Benefit Face Tint SPF 30, $49, due in December, features the brand’s proprietary NIA-114 molecule, designed to rebuild the skin barrier while balancing tonal unevenness.