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The Sephora Girls are Making Me Feel Bad

And I still don’t even know what BB cream is

Jennie Young
Mar 25, 2018 · 6 min read

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Jessica, a beautiful, twenty-something cosmetics salesgirl, greets me when I walk in and asks if she can help me find anything.

“Well,” I say, “ I’m looking for something that’s a moisturizer, but also matte, and also tinted, and also has SPF. I want one product that does all face-things; I just don’t want to do a bunch of steps.”

“So like a BB cream,” she says, as though it were stupidly obvious, as though I’d walked in and said, “So, I’m looking for, like, a very tall animal, and, like, one that’s from Africa, and also that has, like, a SUPER long neck for eating from trees, and that’s, like, brown and yellow spotted?” and put her in the position of having to say, “So like a giraffe.”

“Sure, a BB cream,” I say, whatever that might be.

“It stands for Beauty Balm,” she says. “Beauty. Balm,” she repeats again, pointing to the words “Beauty” and “Balm” on a tube as she snags it from a nearby shelf.

I then repeat the words aloud too, so that Jessica knows I’m with her.

“What’s your skin care regimen?” she asks [unjustifiably, I mentally accuse her of thinking it’s spelled “regime”].

“Umm, I . . . wash?” I say.

“But I mean, like, what’s your regimen?” she repeats, enunciating the word “regimen.” “I mean, what products do you use? And in what order? What’s your routine?” she tries (in case I didn’t understand “regimen,” I guess).

“Soap,” I say. “I wash my face with soap, and then I’m done. After the soap I don’t do anything else. That is the end of my routine. After the soap part, I go to work.” This conversation is getting weird and uncomfortable, but I feel like she’s set the tone that we need to be very precise.

“Hmm. Well, maybe you could, like, have a little routine,” she says. “Maybe you could moisturize in the morning because one thing we find with, umm, aging skin, umm, is that the BB cream tends to, like, sit on top of it. It creases in the lines and doesn’t look like skin. Maybe what you really want is something that highlights, like a CC cream.”

This is what my skin will look like if I keep recklessly insisting upon a matte appearance. There is a lot at stake here.

What I really want is to point out that the BB cream was her suggestion in the first place, but I bite my tongue. I still don’t even know what BB cream is.

“Okay, well, then a CC cream, I guess,” I say.

“Is your skin oily, dry, or combination?” she asks.

“Definitely oily,” I say. “It gets really shiny.”

“Hmm. I think it’s dry,” she says.

“No, it’s really pretty oily,” I say. “It always has been.”

She then offers the theory that I just *think* my face is oily because, without a skin care routine that involves the correct combination of multiple products, my skin is “confused” and therefore overproducing oil to guard against dryness.

Jessica and I seem to be at an impasse.

This theory sounds very confusing and unscientific to me, and I’m trying to unpack it when I notice from Jessica’s expression that she’s afraid she’s losing me and her commission.

She then makes an impressively rapid and strategic decision to cover the left half of my face with a BB cream (for oily skin) and the right half with a CC cream (for dry skin). First, though, she applies a moisturizer under the BB cream (to combat the previously-referenced “aging skin” problem) and a “mattifier” underneath the CC cream, to cut down on shine (CC creams “highlight” the skin, but that can sometimes manifest as shine). We seem to be caught in some sort of weird, cosmetics-application catch-22.

I suggest to Jessica that, since my skin is oily anyway, howsabout we just skip the moisturizer and go right to the BB cream, thus satisfying my goals of an all-in-one application, as I stated initially.

“I just think that for someone your age a CC cream is more appropriate,” Jessica explains, without further elaboration.

I study Jessica as she proceeds to apply multiple layers of multiple products using multiple tools to each side of my face. She has perfect teeth, and they are so white that I think that they must be the actual color of “Go toward the light!” white; they are that pure. Her bright white teeth make her look like a tiny wolf.

At this point I reiterate that what I was really hoping for was ONE product that I could just put on my face in the morning and be done with it. (Right now, we have moisturizer, followed by mattifier, followed by either BB or CC cream, followed by mattifying powder). Jessica ignores my question about getting down to one product; it seems to her a ridiculous notion and one unworthy of her consideration. She continues dabbing (“you want to dab, not wipe”) at my nose with her makeup brush.

“I don’t usually use makeup brushes,” I say. “I’ll just use my fingers.”

“Oh, you can’t use your fingers,” Jessica says. “If you use your fingers it’s just like using only half the makeup you need. It’s wasteful.”

What? I’m completely confused. While she adds yet another product (a shimmer cream!!) to my cheekbones, I try to make sense of all this. Within a few seconds I think I’ve got it: “Oh, you mean because the makeup soaks into my fingers instead of going on my face?”

“No, our brushes are anti-microbial!!” she says brightly. What what?? I wonder to myself if Jessica knows what a non-sequitur is and consider whether that’s something we could talk through, but I decide to let it go, because I’m getting increasingly concerned about how much all this is going to cost.

I try again, in an attempt to put Jessica’s last two nonsensical statements into some sort of coherent pairing: “So, if I use my fingers instead of the brush I’ll get microbes from my fingers onto my face?” (And isn’t that likely to happen somehow anyway? Do I even have all these microbes on my fingers?)

This is going nowhere, and Jessica doesn’t even try to respond.

“So how much does the brush cost?” I ask Jessica.

“It’s $39.00,” she says. “And it lasts eight years,” she adds.

I agree with Jessica that $39.00 does seem like a fantastic deal for something that is small and plastic and unnecessary.

She finally finishes both halves of my face, and she hands me a mirror. To be honest, she’s worked a miracle. I don’t look like a cover model, but I DO look like someone who has really great skin (which is not the case). I can’t tell the difference between the right half and the left half, but I assume that’s because the mattifier is counteracting any shiny effect caused by the CC cream, and the moisturizer is counteracting any dry effect caused by the BB cream. I think there is powder on both sides.

I’m still confused, but it doesn’t really seem to matter; the bottom line is that in order to achieve this effect, I will need to purchase either a moisturizer AND a BB cream or a mattifier AND a CC cream, PLUS powder, PLUS the shimmer cream, PLUS the brush, PLUS the little bottle of spray that is used to keep the brush anti-microbial for the next eight years.

At Jessica’s urging, I opt for the CC cream combo. She smiles at her masterpiece, satisfied, and piles up the goods into my hands, which total approximately $150.00.

I thank her and meander around for a few minutes until she turns her back, at which point I chuck the entire collection and grab an eight dollar tube of Maybelline foundation on my way home.

I try it on when I get home and it looks awful — it’s orange and pasty, and it does sit in the lines of my aging skin. Damn that little Jessica.

Written by

English professor and humor writer based in Green Bay. McSweeney’s, Points in Case, HuffPost, Slackjaw, Little Old Lady Comedy, Human Parts, others.

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