Imagine waking up every morning with zero red spots and a perfectly even complexion. What would it feel like to have the look of a full base of makeup, every day, without ever buying a Beautyblender again? Think of how much time it would save to roll out of bed with foundation already on. Hell, think about how much money it could save over time. That’s the promise of BB Glo, a microneedling procedure that inserts semi-permanent BB cream into the skin for coverage that lasts six months to a year.
First of all, what is semi-permanent BB cream?
Aishe Balic, a co-founder at Glo Skin & Laser in New York City, started performing BB Glo earlier this year. To me, the treatment sounded like either a game-changer or a Botched episode, with little room for gray area in between. But according to Balic, it only takes two treatments to smooth over imperfections and leave your skin looking like you’re wearing a full-but-lightweight face of makeup. “This is perfect for people who love the whole ‘My skin but better’ look,” the spa’s website reads.
Balic sought out semi-permanent foundation after a day at microblading school. After all, she thought, if we can put pigment into someone’s eyebrows, why not into skin? “I just started Googling permanent foundation, and I came across this,” she tells Allure.
What does the treatment entail?
The process is the same as microneedling, which works by rolling tiny needles across the skin. The microneedling device may sound like a form of medieval torture, but it’s actually a highly effective way to increase the skin’s production of collagen and elastin. The teeny pinpricks force the skin to heal and build up stronger than before, while the device also deposits serum deeper into the skin. Here, instead of injecting the skin with a vitamin C or line-smoothing serum, Balic inserts makeup one-millimeter deep into the skin. Think of it like a pigment tattoo for your entire face. The entire treatment, including an hour of numbing, takes about three hours.
It’s so new that it’s not yet approved by the FDA.
Sounds great, but the treatment is so experimental that pigment isn’t yet formulated in the United States. For now, Balic is using a product called BB Ideal Skin out of Moscow. The formula has a few cons — like the lack of Food and Drug Administration regulation and the fact that Russian demographics mean there are no pigments for dark skin. For customers who range from super fair to moderately tan, Balic will choose from the three possible shades and blend them in a bowl the same way a makeup artist blends a custom foundation.
The results, Balic explains, look just as though you’ve woken up with a perfectly blended face of BB cream. “It’s going to even out the skin tone, eliminate hyperpigmentation, and hide minor defects and flaws in the skin,” she says. “It’s especially phenomenal for people with red skin, to eliminate rosacea, redness, and broken capillaries.”
And unlike regular makeup, it won’t wash off with a workout or in the shower. “It’s not going to clump like makeup or dissolve in a few hours or get dry because you have dry skin that day,” Balic says. “It just looks like your face.” She charges $400 for two treatments.
Because of this, experts are wary of the treatment.
For me and my acne-prone skin, BB Glo sounded like the beauty innovation of my hyperpigmented dreams. However, Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entiére Dermatology in New York City, advised me to skip the procedure. (Actually, she wanted me to do it on a potato instead. Seventh grade science fairs, hit me up.)
“Microneedling with insertion of skin-colored pigments can cause many potential unknown complications,” says Levin. “There are many unknowns about how these inks and particles will interact with the skin.” There are already risks involved in typical microneedling — “swelling, redness, scarring, pain, discoloration, infection, bruising, and pain,” says Levin.
Adding in the semi-permanent BB factor could cause an allergic reaction, or “itching, bumps, rashes, delayed rashes or inflammatory reactions to the pigment years later, skin infection, or a type of scar called granulomas.” Levin especially wants patients with a history of keloidal scars, eczema, and psoriasis to check with their dermatologist before attempting a semi-permanent BB procedure.
Cosmetic dermatological surgeon Howard Sobel notes the benefits of semi-permanent BB, as well as the risks (he echos all of Levin’s concerns). “It can temporarily even-out the skin tone, which is perfect for people with discolorations from melasma or redness from healed pimples,” he says. “One of the ingredients in the BB cream is a light-reflecting element such as a silica, which makes light bounce off of the skin, thereby making the skin appear more radiant.”
Sobel also warns that many of his patients get their daily SPF from a BB cream, and microneedling the BB directly into the skin will lose the added benefit of sun protection.
Balic agrees that side effects are a consideration, and she tells Allure that not everyone is eligible for the treatment. “I wouldn’t recommend this procedure on anyone with any sort of inflammatory skin condition like eczema, psoriasis, active acneic skin or cystic acne, anyone taking hormonal medication, pregnant, or breast feeding,” she says. As for side effects, clients typically experience a few days of redness and some dryness. It may soothe wary customers to note that Balic herself has gotten the treatment done — twice.
That said, proceed with caution.
As with any new treatment, semi-permanent BB cream still feels “experimental” for now. Because there is virtually no data behind the treatment and it hasn’t been approved by the FDA, experts (along with Allure editors) are unclear of the long-term effects of the procedure and urge those interested to tread with extreme caution.
Still, Balic stays optimistic that this could be the next big thing. “When microblading first came out, people were leery,” says Balic. “Now that everyone knows someone who’s done it, it’s become mainstream.”