The Best BB and CC Creams: The Differences Between Them, How to Use Them and My Favorites

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I'm clueless about what "BB" cream is, and what "CC" cream is... and how you use them, and when you use them. I'm a makeup fanatic- which is why I like your website. I, too, could easily spend hours on makeup everyday, even when I'm just sitting at home on a random Saturday and no one else is around. But, I have 7 kids (my oldest turns 11 on Tuesday) and I work full-time from home, so I usually have to reserve my makeup binging for weekends.

I'd like to know if you're supposed to use a "BB" or a "CC" everyday? Under or over foundation? Dry or oily skin? Certain time of year only? Is this something you can scrimp on? I'm a cosmetic freak and I could fill my home with products from Sephora, but love the idea of saving where I can (e.g., E.L.F) Or, is this something you should really spend good money on?
Thanks much, awesome site.

I agree with Lindsey, the whole BB/CC/DD Cream thing can get confusing enough, and yes... EE creams are coming too! I explained the difference between all of them a bit in my Multi-Tasking Products post over on Babble, but here's the nitty gritty.

BB Creams
Everything started with BB Creams (Beauty Balms) when they made their way from Asia to the US a few years ago. Basically, they are souped up tinted moisturizers. They should have some coverage, typically more than a traditional tinted moisturizer, but less than a foundation. There should be some anti-aging ingredients, often brightening ingredients to fight hyperpigmentation and usually they have sunscreen.

Because they came from Asia, initially there was a pretty limited shade selection and you'll still find that to be the case for products that haven't been updated recently. Usually those initial shades were a bit... grey? I believe this was meant to be a bit of a color correction for under foundations, but newer formulations are more skin toned.

So, a more pigmented version of a tinted moisturizer, but with added benefits.

CC Creams
CC Creams (Color Correcting) are largely the same as BB Creams, but with ingredients to help treat any causes of discoloration such as redness or sallow skin. The coverage is usually a bit lighter than with a BB Cream.

DD Creams
There are a few ways to translate DD Creams, but really... DD was next. These are meant to pack a bit more of an antiaging punch, though there are any of them on the market currently.

How to Use BB/CC/DD Creams
I think they're mostly meant to be used in the place of a daily moisturizer. I use mine immediately after washing my face, and depending on the day I may or may not put a little foundation on over it. Honestly, it depends on what I'm doing and how I think my rosacea looks at that time. About 90% of the time my daily BB Cream has enough coverage for me with just a bit of added concealer.

the best bb and cc creams

1. Kiehl's BB Cream $37

I'm such a huge Kiehl's fan that it should shock no one that I'm a big fan of the Kiehl's BB Cream (check out my Kiehl's BB Cream review). What I really like about this BB Cream is the super high level of UV protection, that's SPF 50+ people! But... yes, alas, it doesn't cover the full UV spectrum. It is still much more protection that other lotions and BB Creams.

The product offers light to medium coverage, blends easily and does help fight aging with a pretty stable form of Vitamin C (learn more about how Vitamin C works in skin care). The formula also includes Adenosine. (I have a post around here somewhere on how that helps, and it does, it's just hiding from me. I'll link to it when I find it!)

Note that due to the presence of ethylhexyl salicylate I think this BB Cream is one to avoid if you're pregnant.

2. Pond's Luminous Finish BB+ Cream $10-12 depending upon the store, available at drugstores and big box stores.

This is the BB Cream that I reach for most of the time. It offers a bit more coverage and the light shade is a good match for me. I somehow still haven't written about it in it's own post, but if you've been reading my blog for a while you've probably noticed me mentioning it over and over!

The formula does contain some things that are great for your skin: Full UV spectrum coverage with SPF 15, Niacinamide (info on how Niacinamide works in skin care is included in my StriVectin post), Allantoin, and Vitamin E. This one is fine for use during pregnancy.


3. Too Faced BB Cream $39

While I liked this BB cream back when I reviewed it (see my Too Faced BB Cream review), I've since learned a few extra tricks that make it easier to use (and yes, it now lasts about 12-14 hours!). I probably should update my post...

Anyways, I do think that the solid form of this BB Cream makes it more suite for use over a regular lotion. I use this like a light foundation. I use a round brush (my Urban Decay Optical Blur) to pick up the product in the jar and apply to areas. I buff in little circles and then stipple with a Beauty Blender sponge which gives a flawless finish. I swear just making those small changes to my application have helped the staying power, I wonder if I'm just less likely to wipe it off of my face?

This product has SPF 20, though I don't think I apply enough of it to really get the full effect. Consider this SPF a "bonus" and rely on whatever you're wearing underneath to protect you from the sun. Otherwise this formula contains Vitamin E and is pregnancy safe.

4. Dr. Jart Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45 $39

This was one of the first BB Creams that I tried, and it is one of those ones with the "greyish" tint to it. It currently comes in only 1 shade, which works for me, so it is pretty light. You can see my Dr. Jart Premium Beauty Balm review. This one feels lightweight and offers more medium coverage.

The product contains Vitamin E, Adenosine, and Peptides to help fight aging. You'll find broad spectrum UV coverage at SPF 45 as well. It is pregnancy safe.


5. L'Oreal Magic Skin Beautifier BB Cream

This one is a bit different, and it took me a while to decide if I like it or not. It has less coverage than other BB Creams, and this is one with that "grey" cast to it (which actually helps my skin quite a bit when my rosacea is acting up). I use it instead of a daily moisturizer, and while it isn't exactly color correcting for the red in my skin, it seems to smooth things out and then I can add a light foundation over it. This BB Cream is really meant to act as more of a primer than as a combination lotion/light foundation (hence, it does have a lot of silicones in the formulation).

The formula contains vitamins C and E and is pregnancy safe.

6. Maybelline Dream Fresh BB $8.99

This is my other drugstore pick, and it is even more coverage than the Pond's BB Cream. There aren't really any active ingredients other than the sunscreen, so I think of it as a more pigmented tinted moisturizer. SPF 30

7. Cargo Picture Perfect HD CC Cream $39

The Cargo CC Cream isn't exactly what I expected when it arrived on my doorstep (see my Cargo Picture Perfect HD CC Cream review). This is one of those products that comes out looking like vanilla bean ice cream and changes color to match my skin tone. It works great for me in the summer, but isn't quite light enough for me in the winter, so I don't recommend this if you're super pale.

It contains Vitamins C and E in addition to offering SPF 20. It is pregnancy friendly.


8. Stila Stay All Day 10 in 1 HD Beauty Balm $38

This is the Beauty Balm with absolutely no coverage. It offers quite a few benefits such as hydration, sunscreen if you want it (there are 2 versions, 1 with SPF 30 and 1 without), it works as a primer and has a lot of anti-aging ingredients. But no coverage, so it works for me and for celeb makeup artist Brandy Gomez-Duplessis, who mentioned it among her favorite products.

This product is somewhat hydrating, is a great primer (there are a lot of silicones to help makeup glide on to your skin), peptides and algae extract (which has anti-oxidants) to help fight aging and you can opt for SPF 30. Overall, pretty good! It is pregnancy friendly.


9. Too Faced Tinted Beauty Balm $34

This BB cream from Too Faced is the one I reach for when I'm feeling a bit under the weather. It has light-medium coverage, and more light diffusion than the Pond's Luminous, so it helps make me glow when I'm not looking so great! It is a bit too moisturizing for use as my every day BB cream (I have combination skin), but on days that I feel lack luster and dry, this is perfect.

The formulation does contain silicones to help it spread nicely on the skin, and it works great as a primer if you decide you need a bit more coverage and put foundation over it (though it is enough for me for casual days). You find Vitamins A and C (that Vitamin A makes it not pregnancy safe, FYI), in addition to some minerals like Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium and Zinc. There's even Chamomile to help soothe your skin! It is SPF 20.


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Paula Kemp said...

What a brilliant and thorough post. I have always wondered what the difference between the BB and CC creams, now I know and also which one's give the best coverage in terms of UV coverage.

Have you tried MAC's BB cream?

Paula at Beauty Lover XX

Christine Mikesell said...

I haven't tried theirs! I want to try the Smashbox one too, I've heard it's really good!

Pam Pettee said...

Thanks Christine! What a comprehensive post about these creams. I actually was going to ask you what was cc cream, did not even know there was a DD cream. As always you provide the best info and practical information. Pamela. Pettee

Anonymous said...

Love your blog and look forward to reading your posts every day! I have been using EltaMD tinted sunscreen like a BB and it is a great match for my fair skin with an SPF 41. On days I don't have anything important I don't have to use foundation but this acts like a primer when I do. You may want to give it a try.

Jennifer said...

loved this informative post! I especially love your sunscreen charts because I'm also fanatical about sun protection. I might have to try the Maybelline one if it has more coverage than the Ponds (which is my current fave OVER all my Korean ones!).

Cassandra Eastman said...

Thank you so much, this post was so helpful! I've tried the Loreal & Tarte and while they did feel really nice it really made my dry skin stand out. I'll have to try the Maybelline and see if I like that one! My skin is so dry the only thing I can find that works is the Covergirl BB Cream but i'd like something with a little more coverage.

Jessica said...

Great post! Now I know what I want to try out and that is the stila one. It seems like a great product to try out.

Jannike said...

I use a cc cream after my moisturizer and before a bit of mineral powder- that works really well :)

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised the Smashbox CC cream isn't listed here! I discovered this last year and swear by it.

It's a great colour match compared to the BB creams I'd tried which I found were slightly grey, has SPF protection 30 and is lightweight & non-greasy so great for oily skin types too. I use this daily & also build up coverage when I want a slightly heavier look. Def one that should be mentioned!

KP said...

The IT Cosmetics has an amazing, full coverage CC cream, Your Skin But Better. I use it as my foundation, and it's awesome. I have oily, acne prone skin, and it provides full coverage, yet I feel like my skin still looks nice and dewey.

Lynda said...

this is a great post! thanks for all the information. i also like missha (korean brand)'s bb cream - it's decent for combo/oily skin.

Fab! said...

Thanks for this post! They should indicate on labels if a product is safe for pregnancy. What ingredients should we avoid while pregnant?

Jackie Briggs said...

Seconding KP!!! IT cosmetics CC is hands down the best BB/CC/DD/XYZ product on the market. The shades run a bit light compared to other product lines, the Fair is truly porcelain and one of the only things that match me in both lightness and coloring (runs very neutral).

As for DD creams the only ones I know of on the market are by Julep ( the nail company), dermadoctor, and a moisturizer by PUR minerals that isn't actually makeup, just a moisturizer with spf!

Anonymous said...

There are a couple of people who mentioned IT cc cream. I have to be a third person to mention this one - it is fantastic, but as the other person mentioned, they do run on the light side of the color chart - fair is the fairest of fair, light is for skin a little warmer, medium is pretty forgiving and is good for light-medium and medium. If on the dark side of medium the tan might work better. This is a 10 in one (moisturizes, primes, serum, spf 50, treats lines/wrinkles, brightens, etc.) It provides pretty close to a full coverage (just a little consealer if you have a few really dark spots). I had to comment because this product was a life changer for me. Traditional liquid/cream foundations break my skin out horribly, and as I got older powder foundation settles in lines and wrinkles and makes me look older. It is $38 for 1 ounce (very little is needed) and you can purchase at QVC, Ulta, or Another great one is from Kate Somerville called Illumikate CC cream. It also has an spf 50, great for your skin ingredients, and provides excellent coverage. I think it is $48 for one ounce and also very little is needed. The illumikate can be purchased on QVC or Both of these cc creams are good for anyone, but especially for women with fine lines/wrinkles/aging skin. I am 40 and love both of these products. I would think the IT cc cream would be my pick for women with dryer skin as it is a little more hydrating than the Illumikate. The Illumikate also has a faster dry down time. The Illumikate shades in my opinion run a little darker than the IT. I have very light skin and wear light in the IT and fair in Illumikate. Sorry for such a long post I am just very passionate about both of these wonderful products!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it has taken this long to finally get a chance to thank you for answering my question(s)! Thanks for the thorough post... very helpful!!! I feel a lot more confident now. EE cream though? ! I'm oddly curious!! Tx again!! Lindsey

Christine Mikesell said...

I'm oddly curious too! I admit that when using the creams, they all seem to be the same to me, just different degrees of coverage.

Jessica said...

Sounds like CC is next to useless. They aren't really strong enough to reduce pigmentation issues that much. That's what a good dark spot corrector or skin ligthening cream is for. Everything else can be handled by a BB cream or other products.

Moobz said...

Really great post! I personally can't get enough of Korean/Asian bb creams like these. Since I'm super pale, they match my skin tone and blend so wonderfully!

Brittany Stephens said...

Also, what are your thoughts on mineral make-up? Safe in powdered form? I've heard some debates about inhaling some of the minerals could not be safe? Thank you!!

Christine said...

Under ideal conditions, <1% of an aerosolized medication (such as Albuterol) actually reaches all the way down into the lungs. The likelihood that you'd get a mineral makeup that far down is probably much lower. If you really managed to get a dust cloud going with the makeup, you could get some inhaled, but the body has a lot of built in defenses such as nose hair, the direction your airways go in, mucus, etc that the makeup would get stuck in. I would hope no one is applying the makeup this way! So, I doubt that you could really get makeup down in there enough to make a big difference, you might make yourself sneeze for example.
One that that would be different would be something that is truly aerosolized, such as a spray sunscreen. The mist is very fine, and you definitely could get it down in to your lungs. We have a lot more concerns about that than mineral makeup. It is one of the reasons the FDA has mentioned no longer allowing spray on sunscreens in the US, in addition to not really knowing how much sunscreen to apply to get the correct SPF.

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