I’m still pretty new to Asian cosmetics, and BB creams are one of the products that I’m most unfamiliar with. I’ve usually just used light-coverage tinted moisturizer for most of my life, simply because anything heavier tended to look weird on me. It’s been changing in recent years as cosmetic companies expand their ranges to include a wider variety of skintones, but most companies tended to create light shades of foundations with pink-undertoned people in mind. I have a definite olive/green/yellow mix, as well as a definite cool tone overall, so I always had a lot of trouble finding a match. I found that at least with lighter coverage products, I could cheat a bit and use something that was slightly off (too pink, or olive but warm) and not look jarring or overly pale/dark – however, anything with higher converage made the difference really obvious. It just became an ingrained habit to always buy tinted moisturizers instead of actual foundation, even after companies began offering more shades.
Now that I’m trying Asian cosmetics, I’m finding that I usually match the #2 shade (the slightly darker, yellow-y undertoned shade) in many concealers/BB samples. For example, I can wear the Sunkiller tinted sunscreen and have people believe that I don’t have anything on whatsoever, same with the Etude BB samples that I’ve received and my Holika Holika Naked concealer. So I’ve decided to try and find an Asian BB cream that offers higher coverage than my Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, because it seems that I fall into the ‘intended audience’ skintone for most Asian brands. I feel this gives me a good opportunity, since I believe that a lot of mid-range/drugstore Korean brands tend to deliver high quality for a fraction of the price that I’d have to pay for a similar product here in the States.
With all that in mind, I decided to try one of Holika Holika’s Petit BB Creams first. They’re small and cheap – around $5-6 per tube – which makes them a pretty good option for someone looking to try out multiple BBs. I selected the Essential version, because despite it not being explicity formulated for oily skin, I read reviews saying that it had yellow undertones, the best coverage of all the Petit BBs, and the highest SPF in the line as well. I figured I’d give it a shot, and if it clogged me I’d only be out a few bucks.
Official description from Holika Holika’s Canadian website:
Essential – the perfect elasticity and nutrition care with Caviar proponents! A smart BB that provides whitening, facelift and sunblock makes your skin clear and tight through perfect covering.
Read on to see how these promises panned out for me!
Here are the ingredients for the Essential variety:
Water,Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Cyclopentasiloxane,Titanium Dioxide,Methicone,Butylene Glycol,Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprate,Dimethicone,Glycerin,Cyclomethicone,Disteardimonium hectorite, Butylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Niacinamide,Hydrogenated Castor Oil Isostearate, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Sorbitan Olivate,Iron Oxides(CI 77492) & Mica & Methicone,Polymethyl Methacrylate, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, PEG-10 Dimethicone,Sodium Chloride, Tribehenin, Sorbitan Sesquioleate,Triethyl Citrate,Glyceryl Behenate,Polyglyceryl-6 Octastearate,Iron Oxides(CI 77491) & Mica & Methicone,Iron Oxides(CI 77499) & Mica & Methicone, Phonoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben,Fragrance,Adenosine,Collagen,Xanthan Gum,Polydecene,Caviar Extract
The Essential BB already has its own CosDNA page, you can view it here. As you can see, while a lot of the ingredients aren’t fully analyzed or filled-in, there doesn’t seem to be any huge warning signs. Most items are in the low-to-medium warning category, if at all. I was particularly heartened by the fact that there were no big acne/clog triggers, since that’s usually my big issue with foundations and the like (other than color matching, of course).
As you can see, the packaging is simple, cute, and hygienic – an opaque orange squeeze tube with a sweet cat cartoon illustration. Holika Holika has a magical/witchy aesthetic for a lot of their packaging, so I guess the kitty is supposed to be your witch’s familiar on your quest for magical makeup! Honestly, I like the packaging a lot. It’s cute, clean, and easily portable. No complaints here.
This was more than enough for my whole face and neck. Any more and the density of the BB cream would make me look like I had clown makeup on – especially since the grey tone becomes more obvious if you apply too much at once. I had to apply in light, patted-on layers to avoid a “grey mask” effect. However, when done with a light hand and in several stages, it looked natural and oxidized to my skintone.
You can see the thickness/density here on my hand. This is definitely of a higher coverage than I’m used to, so anyone like me who is used to tinted moisturizers – you’ll need to use far, far less product than usual. I overapplied it here in one go to show how it can look very, very grey if not applied and blended well.
Let’s test the coverage! I used a red lip color (Tarte LipSurgence Lip Luster in Achiote) to portray the redness that a lot of us want to cover up, and Tarte SmolderEyes Waterproof Amazonian Clay Eyeliner in Brown to represent any dark hyperpigmentation (and just to give a really hard test off the BB’s coverage abilities since it’s so dark).
As you can see, the BB did a perfect job of disguising the reddish-pink lip color. You can also see that when applied with a lighter touch and blended, the color looks much less like grey zombie makeup and is much closer to my actual skintone (while obviously not being a perfect match for me personally, but you can at least see the difference between application techniques, right?). While it couldn’t cover the eyeliner, it did lighten it considerably. So it’s a medium coverage effect, to me, that would be adequate for minor/medium redness, blemishes, and hyperpigmentation, but might not be enough for serious blemishes or imperfections.
I do really like the finish and texture of this BB, though! It looks very smooth, perfect, and creamy on my skin. I mixed it with my tinted Sunkiller SPF and the color was just about perfect for me, and it retained the same smooth/creamy feel and better coverage that the BB cream has on its own while giving the color a more life-like shade.
It also easily rinses clean using my Skinfood Black Sugar Oil Cleanser, which is very important – no residue!
Unfortunately, there is a BIG problem with this BB cream for me personally, something that not even the great texture/coverage and successful shade mixing can overshadow…
It really, really irritates my skin.
Here is my bare forehead after three uses of the BB cream. I never break out on my forehead unless it’s from a product, and you can see that it’s not so much pimples as it is a sort of rashlike series of red bumps and inflammation. This is my classic response to irritation. When I say that a product “inflamed” or “irritates” my skin, this is the kind of reaction that I mean. Prolonged use of a product after this kind of reaction can result in them turning into inflamed pimples, however.
Also, important to note: the white bump is not a pimple or blemish, it’s just a natural birth-mark/mole kind of thing that I’ve had since I was born. You should be focusing on the red patches.
Since I know that it’s hard to see in the above picture because of my camera being the suck, I’ve edited this photo to make the red, rashlike patterns on my cheek stand out. My skin is obviously not naturally this zombie-esque shade, haha, but you can really see the irritation and raised, hot, inflamed skin this way.
So, with that shown, obviously this is not a product that I can continue to use as it really inflames my poor skin. I’ve heard from other people at /r/AsianBeauty that they’ve experienced minor irritation like watering eyes from this variety while being able to use the other Petit BBs with no problem, so it’s probably just one specific ingredient in the Essential type that is giving me a reaction, and likely the same ingredient causing irritation in others. Unfortunately, I’m not sure yet what this specific ingredient is – I’ll just have to note the ingredient list and compare it to anything else that creates a similar reaction with my skin.
So, in summary:
- Nice and creamy texture that is easy to apply
- Gives a medium-coverage, smooth finish that can disguise redness and some dark pigmentation
- Washes off easily with my cleansing oil; no residue
- Cheap and very affordable at ~$5-6 USD per 40ml tube
- Cute, fuss-free, hygienic packaging that is easily portable and not messy
- SPF 30 and PA++, though you will probably not be able to use enough to actually achieve that due to the BB’s dense texture
- Blends well and is easily buildable when applied with a light hand
- Didn’t suit my skin tone exactly – I had to mix it with another product to make it match my skin
- As stated above, you most likely will not receive the advertised SPF rating just by virtue of this product being too dense for anyone to apply enough product for the SPF 30 without looking absurdly grey and mask-like
- Something in the formula can be irritation-inducing for some people – it ranges from minor watering eyes to some people to full-on rashlike inflammation all over the face for me personally
In summary, my Holika Holika Petit BB Cream Review of the Essential SPF 30/PA++ type is one of disappointment because it has such promise but the negative effects are too much for me to ignore. Obviously, I won’t repurchase this because despite its benefits, I don’t want to damage my skin by using a product that delivers such an inflamed reaction. However, I get the feeling from reading other reviews and the lack of any major triggers on CosDNA that this is a highly ‘YMMV’ experience so it may be totally fine for other people. Additionally, it’s important to note that this was an irritation reaction, not a clogged-pore breakout. So I think that this could be okay for oily skinned people as long as you’re not sensitive to the Mystery Ingredient X that’s causing problems for some people.
I purchased my bottle for $5.99 from eBay seller love-youl. I am not affiliated with this seller, I used my own money for this purchase.
However, there are affiliate links present in this post – please read the site’s disclaimer for more information. As always, thank you if you use the links to purchase anything – it’s really appreciated!