Some things really are too good to be true. In the beauty industry, this happens a fair bit. Partly because brands aren't completely, let's say, straightforward with their claims. But partly also 'cause we're not groomed to be very knowledgeable about the things we buy. Sure, many of us know what products to put where and so on, but when it comes to the science behind a given brand's declarations, more often than not we're less Bill Nye and more, 'Uh, could you repeat that, please?'

Then we're also bombarded with a lot of conflicting information. Is citric acid good for your skin or not? Is coconut oil manna from heaven, or is it your pores' worst nightmare? Who knows? Not you, probably. And not me, either. All of this contributes to what Fashion called an 'air of hopeless allure'. Yes, we want good skin. Duh, we want great hair. But we're never sure how the hell to go about getting these. So, instead of living in this hellish limbo of cognitive dissonance, it's WAY easier to shrug off a critical stance and just believe in a brand's innocence until proven guilty. 

the buy

It was with this well-practiced muscle of suppression that I bought The Body Shop's All-In-One BB Cream. You see, I was on the prowl for a sheer tint to go with my new, (sort of, sometimes) acne-free complexion. Ready to say goodbye to cakeface and embrace the life of a Glossier model - the younger, less-racist imitation of the Constantia Mom Genus. 'Ooh, it adapts to your skin colour', I cooed at G. He frowned. Possibly because it was difficult for him to imagine getting that exited about anything that wasn't a hard-drive. 'How?', he asked. I replied with an 'I don't know' that trailed off vaguely and was meant to warn G that he was dangerously close to being asked to 'rather meet me in Pick n Pay' when I was done being fabulously, hopelessly allured. 


the burn

I squeezed a bit of BB cream on my hand and rubbed. The liquid turned from white to a pinky-orange, which I took as a cue that 1) the product worked, and 2) that even though the cream wasn't currently a perfect match, it would soon be so. It adapts, after all. R250 later I was the proud owner of a product that promised me it would later 'transform' to 'suit' my skin tone. But it didn't. I tried the cream a few times and found it too light for my colour, no matter how much I blended. I cut my losses. 

the why

Then one day I was trawling The Beauty Brains'* old episodes and saw one titled 'How does colour-changing makeup work?' I looked to my makeup organiser and at the failed purchase of BB cream within it. By now I had become ultra-suspicious of this chameleon mechanism, and the podcast title kinda threw me off. 'Oh! It does work! Maybe I just haven't given it a proper go'. I pressed play, ready to embrace all my wrongness. 

But I was only half wrong. Turns out, colour-changing products do actually work. Just not at all like brands would like us to think they do. Instead of adapting to your skin tone, these products work by either changing their chemistry as they come in contact with moisture, or through little pockets of colour suspended in a cream. When these pockets burst, as they would with application, the white cream is dyed and the liquid looks as if it's adapting to your skin tone. Now, The Body Shop straight up says it works with the latter method to create the All-In-One BB cream. But look at the wording: 

Our new All-In-One BB cream transforms from a white cream to suit your skin tone. Pigment-filled capsules burst when applied to the skin, releasing the colour inside. Just blend for a perfect match and an even, undetectable finish.

A little misleading, right? And if you're not sold on that, a friendly reminder that if all that The Body Shop wanted to do was make a BB cream, it could've done so without the gimmicks. There is no other reason to carefully suspend the product's colour other than to allow the change from white to whatever shade you've bought. And since the colour within doesn't react with your personal chemistry to make a shade that suits you best, this BB cream is kinda just your average BB cream, only it takes longer for you to get a good match with your skin. Which might mean more time in the store, or buying the wrong shade. Boo. Hoo.

All of this doesn't mean that the All-In-One is a bad product. We're not into witch hunts, and we're VERY into The Body Shop. It's just that the cream you get is not the one you're being (tacitly or not so tacitly) sold. Like what The Beauty Brains have said about these kind of cosmetics, if you like the coverage and colour, go for it! Shop away, my babes. But don't be hooked on carefully-worded non-promises. Mic drop. 

*The Beauty Brains is a monthly beauty podcast run by Randy and Perry, two cosmetic scientists who answer beauty questions from their listeners. They're a fact-based platform, and I trust their opinion. For more, please send me an email at, or contact The Beauty Brains