Felicia Walker Benson, editor of popular ThisThatBeauty blog, offers top winter beauty advice

Felicia Walker Benson’s popular blog ThisThatBeauty helps teach women how to get gorgeous. Founded in 2005, her online platform has propelled the makeup aficionado and style writer into realms far beyond the Internet. Having been featured on the Today show and in the pages of Ebony magazine among many outlets, Benson is a sought out lifestyle expert whose star is continuing to rise in the competitive world of beauty blogging. She took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to offer us her top winter beauty advice, weigh in on the new craze in beauty balm — or “BB” — creams, plus give her take on an ongoing question: do black women really wear makeup?

theGrio: Tell us about your popular blog, ThisThatBeauty. What made you decide to found a blog amid a sea of beauty blog competitors?

Felicia Walker Benson: When I started ThisThatBeauty in 2005, there weren’t a ton of blogs out there. I had a few blogs that I read daily, but there wasn’t blog world domination like we have now. There certainly weren’t as many opportunities for bloggers to expand their brands like there are today. Now the focus has shifted from purely blogging, reviewing and swatching product to being more of an online influencer.

It began as a place to exercise my obsession. My blog tagline is, and has always been, “Benefit From My Obsession.” I was always that girl in the office that people would come to for makeup and fashion advice. Sometimes I would spend some of my time at work responding to emails to friends about “how to clear up this [issue,” or] “what’s a good cleanser, what’s a good mascara.” In the back of my mind I thought, “wow I should really start a magazine one day.”

And then it struck me start a blog.

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What is your number one, never fail beauty tip for all women?

You know this is a really good question. Throughout my years of writing about beauty, I have often interacted with many kinds of women. The number one concern that I see from women of all races is the desire for clear, even, luminous skin. It used to be that lines and wrinkles were the definitive markers of aging. Now bright, clear, luminous skin is everything. Having said that, my number one never fail beauty tip for all women is sunscreen. A daily sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection of 30 SPF is necessary. That’s certainly what the American Cancer Society recommends.

I think you if you’re on the darker side like myself you can get away with a 15 or 20, but for most women I really recommend a 30. Sunscreen is something that many people don’t think of as a beauty product. They think of it as something that they slather on for the beach. But the sun is the number one cause of aging. The sun prematurely ages the skin. It causes lots of fine lines and wrinkles before your time. You can protect against that with sunscreen.

Also to my earlier point –wanting even, clear skin: sunscreen will help with that. Sunscreen blocks the sun’s rays from damaging your skin and creating an uneven complexion. If you have dark spots or uneven-toned skin — like most of us do — the sun will only exacerbate that. To prevent that from happening wearing an SPF 30 UVA/UVB blocking sunscreen daily can help to even out your skin tone. I give this advice constantly. It is my number one beauty nonnegotiable. I really do credit that as the reason for my relatively even tone.

BB (or “beauty balm”) creams are all the rage this season. Can you explain what they are, and how they are beneficial beyond regular tinted moisturizer or foundation? Would you recommend them?

You’re right they really are all the rage this season. Everyone’s getting in on the action. A little background on BB creams: they were originally created in Germany and they were meant as a post-surgery, post-procedure treatment. It would give the patient some sort of coverage, to conceal, but also these treatment benefits as well. BB creams first rose to popularity in Asia and became very, very hot there amongst women. True BB creams, or the original BB creams, really come in just one or two shades. And even in Asia those shades don’t necessarily match the skintone perfectly. But that’s basically how it goes.

Now in America and the Western world BB creams have certainly picked up momentum. You have lots of brands, from high-end to drugstore, getting in on the game. I think the benefit for many women is that you can combine five steps in one with a BB cream. Most provide primer, have some kind of skin treatment benefit, it’s a foundation, it’s a concealer and they have SPF. So for many women they see this as a way to combine all these steps. Naturally all women are interested in this.

I think most women struggle to find a BB cream to suit their complexion because the range is generally very limited; however in the last year I’ve seen brands like Smashbox, Origins and Maybelline come out with BB creams with a wider range to suit a bigger segment of the population. And I hear that Iman is also coming out with a BB cream soon.

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I have never been one to get my skin care from a single cosmetic product. If my foundation has SPF that’s a bonus, but I always make sure that I apply a separate SPF product prior to my foundation. The same goes with skin treatments. I personally will not look to a cosmetic product like a foundation to give me treatment benefits for my skin. I’m going to apply my treatment serums separately from my foundation — and again if it’s in the foundation, it’s a bonus. I am very diligent about my skin care.

Having said all that, I do recognize that I am not the average woman. I totally understand that many women like the convenience of these products, so for that reason I think they’re pretty cool.

What are your top recommendations for incorporating this season’s fall and winter beauty trends into one’s daily regimen?

Let’s start with skin before getting into color cosmetics. I think the best way to complement this trend is with pristine skin. For fall and winter, we really need to make sure that we are moisturizing for skin that looks supple and soft. Crocodile skin is not going to look good under any kind of makeup. So I definitely recommend increasing your moisture for day. If you were using a lighter-weight day cream for summer, now is the time to boost your moisture with a richer cream for winter. Also make sure you are using a really rich cream in the evening when your skin is repairing.