All hail the BB cream.

This story first appeared in the May 11, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The NPD Group reports that the Asian beauty phenomenon known as BB Cream has hit American shores hard, generating nearly $9 million from March 2011 to March 2012.

“This is a category to watch,” said Karen Grant, vice president and senior global industry analyst for NPD. “BB Creams have only been on the [U.S.] market for about a year and they have made an impact so quickly.”

Short for beauty or blemish balms, BB creams are designed to heal problematic skin and create a smooth canvas for makeup. The numerous benefits of a BB cream — it acts as a moisturizer, primer, foundation, highlighter, antiager and skin protector in one — may be what draw many women to the category, but Grant warns it could also be what makes the product an Achilles heel for beauty companies. “Brands have to be careful as they incorporate these products in their portfolio. They have to let consumers know its an enhancement product and not a replacement product,” said Grant, who said that 70 percent of users say they are forgoing a makeup or a skin care product when using a BB cream. To avoid cannibalization, Grant said brands should educate their consumers to use the product side-by-side with their other product offerings.

Grant also said consumers are just as likely to pick up a tube from mass or prestige channels, perhaps because consumers may still be confused about the product and are looking for an entry price point to experiment.

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Although BB cream purchasers currently account for only 2 percent of the overall beauty market, 77 percent of that group has expressed that they are extremely or very satisfied with the product. In addition, four out of 10 beauty shoppers say that they would consider buying one in the near future. “There is shift towards improving the complexion as opposed to [just focusing on] lines and wrinkles,” said Grant. “It’s now more about tone and texture and the overall health of the skin.” NPD also reports that eight in 10 beauty shoppers today seek products with multiple benefits; and that figure rises to nine in 10 for BB cream purchasers. The top five benefits consumers expect from BB creams, according to NPD, are (respectively) natural looking coverage, hydration, skin treatment, SPF protection and improved texture.

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