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The Real Deal About Body BB Creams

BB. CC. DD. WTF are these body alphabet creams, and why are they flying off shelves?
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Major, Full-Body Coverage
Karora CC Cream for Face and Body, $35
Good for: correcting medium skin tones with heavy coverage for a special event

Our take: Karora's 3.38-ounce CC cream is formulated for your face and bod, but it seems way better suited to the former. The coverage is surprisingly thick and opaque — like a light foundation on your limbs. It's also marketed as being appropriate for all skin tones, which seems like a stretch; it looked streaky and brown on my super-light legs and the color transferred onto the edge of my black leather desk chair. Too deep for the pale-faced, too light for the dark-complexioned, this product is very clearly for women with a medium skin tone.

That said, my coworker Hayley, a prolific self-tanner whose skin tone matched the cream's shade, fell in love. Her gams looked oddly perfect after she smoothed this on, making any bruises or imperfections virtually disappear while giving that luminous, even-toned appearance. So if you bump into a lot of coffee tables or get a lot of shaving nicks, Karora's CC could very well be your holy grail product. Also, with its intense pigmentation, this can easily be diluted with body lotion to get sheerer coverage -- just don't wear a white dress.

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Shimmer and Shine
Urban Decay Naked Body Beauty Balm, $32
Good for: perking up sallow skin tone and reversing damage

Our take: It's July in Los Angeles, which means I have about a month before I start coming into work schvitzing like a World Cup athlete. In the meantime, it's still pretty damn hot here in L.A., and the idea of applying a thick, shimmery moisturizer when it's 85 degrees outside is not appealing. As it turns out, Urban Decay's body BB is perfect for summer: It moisturizes admirably but dries quickly, the minty scent is refreshing and it even has a mild cooling effect. Housed in a glamorous tube, it comes out as a bronze-y shade that initially seemed too dark for my lily-white skin. But it's much sheerer than it looks; flecks of mica give it a golden glow that's subtle enough for any skin tone, and bruises or blemishes seem to fade. Of all the BBs and CCs I tested, this had the best staying power. It stuck around through multiple hand-washings and didn't rub off onto my white shirt.

Since this BB is more of a light-reflecting, blurring lotion than a lightly tinted body lotion, it would be more accurate to call it a CC cream. I'll just have to go on faith that it's improving my skin, but of all the creams I tried, its skin-care benefits seem the most advanced -- among other features, it's got antioxidant vitamin E and green tea, watermelon extract to prevent damage, and the futuristic-sounding Matrixyl 3000 to prevent wrinkles. It was perfect to layer on over my daily body lotion with sunscreen — although a little built-in SPF sure would have been nice.

At about $32 for five ounces, this costs a lot of dough for a product that would go pretty quickly if used every day. Nevertheless, I'll be using this 'til the last beautiful, bronze-y drop.

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Sunscreen With Benefits
Avon Skin So Soft DD Cream, $12
Good for: easy, barely-there sun protection

Our take: So many people hate the texture of sunscreen but regularly apply body lotion, which makes me wonder why more beauty brands won't invest in developing a light sunscreen that feels just as great as an everyday moisturizer. Enter: Avon's DD Cream. With broad-spectrum SPF 15 and costing less than $1.50 per ounce, this is inexpensive and light enough to consider wearing daily. Its mild, clean scent won't overpower other fragrances and wears well throughout the day. Its benefits sound pretty similar to Urban Decay's BB: firming, tightening, wrinkle-reducing, etc., with fancy-pants ingredients like algae extract and caffeine and hydrators like sweet almond and olive oils.

There are two major cons of this DD. Two of its active ingredients are avobenzone and oxybenzone, controversial chemical sunscreens that are suspected to have some of the highest health risks. Still, most dermatologists say that wearing any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all -- and picking a product that you can stick with is the key. So get your DD on, girl. Also, be careful to apply the cream in a thin layer; if you smooth on too much, the product tends to pill.

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Smooth Skin Tone and Texture
Osmotics Cosmeceuticals Cellulite Control Body Glow CC Cream, $75

Good for: correcting mildly lackluster skin tone and tightening wobbly bits

Our take: The six-ounce Osmotics CC Cream has to be one of the most expensive body products I've ever used. That said, its coverage is almost perfect, with a touch of sheer color that made my pale legs a little less ghostly; it also blends well on darker skin. Its light-reflecting pigments are subtler and more neutral in color than the Urban Decay body BB, whose gilded shimmer is pretty but looks more obvious in sunlight. It also includes caffeine, a proven, if temporary, cellulite-smoothing ingredient. Vitamin B-5 and grapeseed and sweet almond oils provide some benefits. Plus, it contains no artificial colors, parabens or fragrances, and it's not tested in animals -- major selling points for vegans and allergy sufferers.

The cons? The scent is mildly musty, and gets a little funkier as the day wears on. A light floral or green note would be a welcome addition and help balance out the odd scent. And, of course, there's the price, which would take a big bite out of most women's beauty budgets.

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Get a Glow on a Budget
Jergens BB Body Perfecting Skin Cream, $12.99
Good for: subtle brightening and everyday hydration

I naïvely expected Jergens' body BB, like Urban Decay's, to contain slightly more coverage a la a facial BB cream. I was still hoping this would be a good, less-messy replacement for my tinted moisturizer-with-lotion trick. Apples to apples, this is more like a CC cream since its primary benefits are optical brightening and blurring, not improving skin tone by adding pigment. It's got a tiny bit of color -- that would be the purported "self-adjusting tone technology" -- but it's hardly noticeable.

As a body lotion, it's super: It makes skin feel instantly hydrated, smooth and plump thanks to shea, mango seed and cocoa butters, vitamin B-5, aloe, coconut water, collagen and elastin. I also never got tired of the light, slightly musky fragrance. I didn't notice a significant difference between this product and Osmotics Cosmeceuticals' CC Cream, which goes for $60 more, making this (like the Avon DD) a stellar value. The only bummer is its lack of staying power -- after a few hours, my skin still felt supple and smelled awesome, but my glow had faded. (Guess I better wipe down that desk chair again.)

This body BB was my second-favorite alphabet cream after Urban Decay's product for its solid function and affordability. Would I pay $34.99 to score it on eBay? Nah. But I'm still using it. And I haven't ruled out the possibility that, once those skin-perfecting benefits kick in, I'll be more porcelain than pasty.

I'm not sure why I didn't take notice when Jergens' breakthrough BB Body Perfecting Skin Cream came out last year -- when women were paying three times the retail price on eBay/selling their first-born children to get the stuff. I guess I was too busy smearing diluted tinted moisturizer on my legs. (It's just for special occasions! Don't judge me!) Suffice it to say when word of this body BB cream came my way, I was intrigued. I've spent so many cumulative hours trying to elevate this mug of mine from "blotchy Northern European pale-face" to "Christina Hendricks alabaster" that taking a few seconds to apply a tone-enhancing, skin-perfecting product on my body seemed completely appropriate. On that note, I dug into the BB body creams that have recently hit the market -- plus the body CC and DD creams that are following in their wake. Do you really need a body alphabet cream? Here's what I found out.
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