Trends in Alphabet Creams

Author’s note: Datamonitor will participate in this year’s trends presentations at the 2014 in-cosmetics in Hamburg, Germany, and will offer more information on this topic. in-cosmetics 2014 takes place April 1–3, 2014, and further information can be found at

  • The success of BB creams is undeniable, and it has launched an alphabet-heavy trend, with skin care and hair care offering products bearing CC, DD and EE names.
  • Convenience, ease of use, portability and value are some of key attributes BB creams use to appeal to consumers—all benefits beyond the beauty effects that have developed to address.
  • Although the BB trend is getting stretched (as it can be applied to products that really don’t qualify under the traditional BB cream products’ parameters), the strong, quality multifunctional products with an alphabet label will still likely stand the test of time.

In recent years, BB creams have been one of the biggest trends to hit the skin care market, and it was a trend that also took many companies by surprise. Initially regarded as a niche sector limited to parts of Asia, it wasn’t long before multinational brands caught wind of the trend and began introducing their own versions adapted to Western tastes. Soon, the next generation of multifunctional creams were launched under the guise of CC creams, which set the ball rolling for limitless possibilities through the alphabet.

Perhaps the beauty industry shouldn’t be so surprised by the success of BB creams, which have actually taken 50 years to reach mass-market consciousness. The first BB cream was developed by dermatologist Christine Schrammek as a protective and nurturing salve for skin left vulnerable after skin procedures such as chemical peels. From there, the concept evolved into multifunctional hybrid products in Asia with a focus on treating, as well as covering, blemishes and imperfections.

Beauty on the Move

Today, BB and CC creams have struck a chord with people leading modern, time-pressed lifestyles. “Convenience within all aspects of their personal care regime is a key driver for the alphabet craze,” explains Jamie Mills, associate analyst with Datamonitor. She also notes that the appeal of alphabet creams is that, instead of having to use several products to target multiple concerns, consumers have the ability to use a single product that can address multiple issues in a single formula.

Information from 2013 Datamonitor reports back up this view, showing that 48% of global skin care shoppers found it important or very important to minimize the number of products used in their health and beauty regime. “The convenience aspect also extends to the on-the-go lifestyle many consumers now have,” points out Mills. “A multifunctional skin care solution in a single bottle is much more portable than having to carry several products to address each skin care need, making alphabet creams ideal for consumers constantly on the move.”

Budgetary Concerns

Price is another important factor in the recent success of alphabet creams. The economic downturn still has lingering effects, and it has made people far more cost conscious. Consumers now look for greater value for their money from their skin care choices. Alphabet creams allow them to lower their spend, replacing several individual skin care products with a single, all-in-one product.

Additionally, Mills notes that many alphabet creams feature cross category benefits—acting as foundations or primers, for example—so consumers are able to save on personal care products beyond skin care.

Far Beyond BB

The term BB cream has become a catch-all phrase for an all-in-one treatment, moisturizer, makeup hybrid designed to soothe and nourish the skin while providing light-tinted, sheer-looking coverage for dark spots, acne and other facial blemishes. A high SPF also is fast becoming mandatory, and many of these products also provide anti-aging and anti-inflammatory ingredients to help skin look younger. While some formulations target problem skin, others offer skin brightening benefits or shimmer for an instant glow.

Recent examples of premium BB creams include Elizabeth Arden’s Visible Difference Multi-Targeted BB Cream Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30, which claims to hydrate, brighten, prime and protect in one. The formulation contains a vitamin C derivative to fight free radicals and brighten the skin, an antioxidant biomimetic peptide to help protect from oxidative stress, licorice extract to brighten the look of skin, hyaluronic acid for superlative moisturization, and allantoin to soothe the skin.

Another recent launch, the Clarins BB Skin Perfecting Cream SPF 25 product is described as “makeup that behaves like skin care” in a barely there, veil-like formulation containing organic kiwi extract, which has antioxidant and anti-fatigue benefits; katafray bark extract to help stimulate the skin’s natural hydration process and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

BB’s next-generation, CC creams, or color/complexion correctors, could be called refined BB creams. Clinique’s Moisture Surge CC Cream Hydrating Colour Corrector SPF 30 uses dual-layered color correcting optics to scatter light multi-dimensionally, which is designed to visibly correct a range of complexion concerns.

According to the company, dull, ashy skin appears luminous and bright, yellow skin regains a peachy glow while blotchy redness is neutralized. Ida Wong, executive director of global product development, treatment for Clinique, comments that the tendency is to compare CC with BB creams because both trends started in Asia and are multifunctional hybrid products. “Clinique’s formulas are very different and are for different consumers,” she clarifies.

Further, Datamonitor has seen the continuing development of the alphabet trend with examples of DD and EE creams, and Mills surmises that a key strength of these creams is greater innovation in different benefit combinations. In a product in which DD stands for “Dynamic Do-all,” Julep’s DD Crème is designed to moisturize, prime, perfect and protect both instantly and over time. It features patented anti-aging ingredients to decrease the appearance of pores and fine lines.

Hungarian brand Omorovicz goes the EE route with its Elemental Emulsion, which is formulated to deliver long-lasting moisture while controlling shine on the surface of the skin. Key benefits include improving the skin’s healing capacity and correcting and brightening skin tone.

Marching Down the Alphabet

Now, it would appear that some of the latest alphabet creams are merely slight variations on what has gone before, making it unlikely that a product bearing the letters DD, EE or so on will achieve as much success as the original BB creams. Mills believes consumers may suspect that each individual benefit may be diluted compared with single-benefit items, especially when five or 10 different benefits are claimed in a single product. “Nevertheless, I believe that this trend will have definite longevity within the skin care and personal care space,” she affirms. “These products address several key consumer demands in terms of fitting in with a convenience-based, on-the-go lifestyle—with their multifunctional features a key driver for consumer consumption, as well as offering greater value for money.”

Proving its longevity and adaptability, the BB trend isn’t just for skin care any more either. BB creams are appearing in hair care—for example, the Ultimate 10 BB Crème by Pantene and KeratinPerfect’s 3-in-1 Multi-Action Hair Beauty Balm. “Innovation opportunities for multifunctional creams will exist within personal care as a whole, rather than just being confined to the skin care space,” says Mills.

As with any trend, the initial buzz will likely decline as the hype dies down, but the best alphabet products will stand the test of time.

Imogen Matthews is a consultant to in-cosmetics. For more information, contact

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