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The Hot Beauty Product You Never Heard Of

If you don’t know what a “beauty balm” or “blemish balm” is yet, chances are you will soon.

Woamn applying cream
Daniel Bosler | Getty
Woamn applying cream

Sales of the products, which are also known as BB creams, have grown significantly in the past several months, according to a new report from market researcher NPD Group. And it’s no wonder, as the creams blend together the benefits of several beauty products all in one — a plus for time-pressed women. Most combine the functionality of primers, sunscreen and moisturizers, along with the anti-aging benefits of skin serums.

The relatively new product is catching on quickly among a small segment of U.S. women, NPD said. About 2 percent of women who buy beauty products are purchasing them. But the growth has been quick. In the 12 months ending March 2012, BB creams sold in U.S. department stores generated close to $9 million in sales, NPD said.

Many different brands are selling products in this category, including Estee Lauder , L'Oreal's Garnier, Stila, Boscia, Christian Dior, and Clinque.

But it is possible that these products could cause a shift among consumers, who might shake up their beauty routine.

“About half of all beauty shoppers are sitting on the fence, saying they may or may not buy BB creams in the future,” said Karen Grant, vice president and senior global industry analyst at NPD Group, in a press release. “Why does that matter? Almost seven in 10 BB cream purchasers have replaced either a makeup or skincare product with a BB cream. Even though usage is low right now, as more brands enter the market and the category grows, cannibalization could become a much larger challenge.”

If cosmetics companies want to avoid having BB creams cannibalize sales of primers and concealers, Grant suggests they distinguish the benefits of BB creams versus other products to help these items coexist.

“Figuring that out could make the difference in whether BB creams gain traction more broadly or not,” Grant said.

About eight in 10 beauty shoppers like products that offer multiple benefits, according to NPD’s research, and the response is even higher for those who have already purchased BB creams, with nine out of 10 saying they like multi-functional products.

According to NPD’s research, about four in 10 beauty shoppers would consider buying the product in the future.

Blemish Balm was first introduced to the market by a German dermatologist as a product that could soothe sensitive skin after laser treatments or chemical peels. It basically was a tinted moisturizer with skin care ingredients and sunscreen built in. Decades later, the product became popular in the Korean market, and then spread throughout Asia.

Although BB creams seem very versatile, there are still a limited number of shades available, which means women with darker skin may have trouble finding product that matches their skin tone. And younger women may have trouble with the product’s anti-aging agents, which may lead to break outs. The cream also tends to feel heavier than foundation, and some women may not like that.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Christina Cheddar Berk on Twitter @ccheddarberk.

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