6 years ago, BB creams burst onto the makeup scene with gusto, and before we knew it everyone was selling them. CC creams followed suit soon after, and eventually DD creams started showing up. But really, what is the difference between BB, CC, and DD creams? What makes them different from regular foundations? And the hardest question, always: which are the best BB, CC, and DD creams on the market?
Before we start, I want to tell you a makeup artist secret: we see makeup in its simplest terms, as paints with different textures. The names don’t matter too much. Keep this in mind as you read on – the individual product reviews matter a lot more than the titles marketing teams give their products. View the names of products as loose guidelines, and look more closely at the ingredients and the reviews.
BB Creams a.k.a. Beauty Balms or Blemish Balms
Suitable for dry to normal skin types, BB creams are the OG. Originally popularized in South Korea, they were touted as the replacement for everything from serum to sunscreen to face primer. A lot of companies were quick to advertise them as “5-in-one” or “10-in-one”.
Falling somewhere in between a tinted moisturizer and a foundation (heavier than the former and lighter than the latter), BB creams are perfect for women with smooth skin that just need SPF protection and a subtle coverage of tint to even out their complexion.
Asian BB creams normally have a light-medium coverage, while Western BB creams are closer to light. Normally the color selection is lower than you would find for foundations, leaving out those who are extremely pale as well as most people of color.
However, since a big part of their draw is their benefits to the skin (moisturizing, SPF, anti-aging), BB creams could be used as face primers or face brighteners, before foundation is applied. Depending on the BB cream, you may find some mattify the skin, while others brighten and hydrate; you may see anti-aging or anti-acne ingredients.
Word of warning – it takes a ¼ of a teaspoon of product to get full sun protection. With a makeup product that has SPF, that could mean a messy application that looks cakey and is difficult to blend. Often times it’s better to rely on a sunscreen for the sun protection, and just apply the BB cream on top of it.
Since BB creams have been around for a while, some companies have had enough time to really perfect their formulas. These are the best BB creams of the best:
1. Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer 20 SPF
Tarte covered all its bases, by christening this product as both a BB cream and a tinted moisturizer. Available at Sephora, it’s a miracle product for hundreds of people, with an oil-free formula that is still incredibly creamy, moisturizing, and super flattering.
The coverage is light, but buildable, and with 10 shades most people should be able to find a match for their skin tones. The finish is dewy, and it doesn’t settle into lines or catch on dry spots.
Lastly, it features very respectable amounts of skin healing antioxidants Vitamin E and A, as well as oil controlling Amazonian Clay, making it a respectable skin treatment. Another sign of this product’s greatness is the fact that Tarte never bothered releasing a CC or DD cream (although they do have a CC under-eye concealer) – why mess with perfection?
Dry and normal skin types might prefer to wear it along with a moisturizer, but for oily skin types it’s definitely not mandatory.
2. Clinique Acne Solutions BB Cream SPF 40
Clinique has two BB creams, but the one for oily skin (available at Sephora) definitely comes out the winner. It has a medium coverage, which is unusually high for a BB cream, but is often necessary for those with acne-prone skin. The 40 SPF is nothing to scoff at, either.
Its texture is thin and easy to blend, which is important because it becomes matte very quickly. Speaking off, the matte finish makes it very long-wearing, even without a setting powder, and yet you barely feel the product on your skin!
It is probably the best BB cream for oily and acne-prone skin. The only downside? It’s only available in five colors.
3. Bobbi Brown BB Cream SPF 35
Another winning entry in the BB world! This BB cream is creamy and luxurious, and once applied it looks totally natural. The coverage is quite sheer, so you may need a concealer for blemishes or under the eyes.
The finish is a satiny semi-matte, which makes it really ideal for anyone whose skin doesn’t veer too dramatically towards dry or towards matte. Its skincare benefits are impressive, with an anti-aging formula that boasts hydrating sodium hyaluronate and Argireline, a skin-firming peptide. There are 9 shades available that you can purchase from Nordstrom.
4. Lumene Vitamin C+ Illuminating Anti-Age BB Cream SPF 20
With this BB cream, Lumene managed to prove that trying to make the very best product for everyone is a fool’s errand, whereas making the best BB cream for a specific skin type with specific concerns is totally doable.
This BB cream is perfect for oilier skin types – especially those with oily skin who want an anti-aging product. This BB cream is loaded with skin brightening vitamin C, which is excellent for preventing premature aging as well as for minimizing acne scars.
The coverage is medium, so it’s an excellent foundation-replacement, and the finish has been described as “matte but luminous at the same time”, so you can get that coveted dewy finish without ever looking greasy. Retailing at Ulta, unfortunately it’s only available in 2 shades: light and medium.
5. Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45
This BB cream is loved by those with sensitive skin – especially those who have a chemical sunscreen sensitivity. The SPF 45 here is derived from ultra-gentle titanium dioixde and zinc oxide, which are excellent even for people suffering from rosacea. It’s also packed with skin firming and brightening ingredients like arbutin and adenosine.
Since the coverage is quite light, you might find yourself willing to use enough to gain the full benefit of the SPF. The finish is dewy, so it’s definitely better for dry-leaning skin types. This BB cream is available in two shades and can be purchased from Sephora.
6. Guerlain Lingerie de Peau BB Cream Multi-Perfecting Makeup SPF 30
This BB cream has a perfect “my skin but better” effect. It has excellent coverage, almost like a foundation, but it blends into the skin very naturally.
This BB cream is well loved by both oily and dry skin types, because it somehow manages to stay put for ages, without accentuating large pores or dry patches.
The amazing, anti-aging formula comes with a hefty price tag, but be well assured – with this BB cream a little goes a long way, so a single tube will last ages. Guerlain made three shades for you to choose from that you can discover at Nordstrom.
CC Creams a.k.a. Color Correctors
The big differentiator between BB creams and CC creams is just one thing – color correction, which means CC creams are used as moisturizers, foundations, primers, SPF and anti-aging creams that comes to cover redness, sallowness, dark spots and acne scars. Otherwise, it’s hard to make a rule about things like coverage and finish.
Perfect for oily skin types, CC creams often have a lighter coverage than BB creams, but I’ve used CC creams that had medium-full coverage so obviously that is not universally true.
Now, when brands say color correction, do they mean temporarily, as a makeup, or over time the way skincare would?
Usually, it’s both. When it comes to the former – isn’t that what all foundations, tinted moisturizers, and colored primers are meant to do? I find this claim a little silly. However, a big focus is on light reflecting minerals that give a blurring effect – and some CC creams really deliver on this claim!
As for the latter, I have a different gripe with it. When we use a serum or lotion, the active ingredients are supposed to penetrate into the skin where they can make a difference. With a CC cream, in order for it to give coverage it’s not supposed to penetrate too much!
Even if a CC cream contained the best active ingredients, it couldn’t be a replacement to a Vitamin C serum for skin brightening, or a Green Tea serum for treating redness. However, it could still make a great replacement for moisturizer, primer, and foundation, which is a great feat.
And these are some of the best CC creams you can consider trying:
1. It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream SPF 50
The focus with this CC cream, available at Ulta, was to create a product that could radically improve skin texture, as well as brighten and hydrate. The anti-aging ingredients chosen are very robust, and include niacin, peptides, hyaluronic acid, and a ton of antioxidants.
The coverage is on the heavier side of medium, but it still manages to blend into the skin beautifully, and last a long while. It is recommended for dry skin, as the finish is very dewy.
Another remarkable thing about this CC cream is that most of the 5 shades available lean towards warm, which isn’t true for most other alphabet creams.
2. Bourjois 123 Perfect Colour Correcting Cream SPF 15
Available at Look Fantastic, this liquidy CC cream has a coverage that is surprisingly light-medium, and very buildable. The finish isn’t too dewy or too matte – just perfectly luminous, especially for normal and combination oily or combination dry skin types.
Here, when they call it color correcting, the focus is on the mixture of pigments that neutralize redness and sallowness, and aside from a touch of green tea extract, there aren’t any great skincare ingredients here.
This is definitely closer to being makeup than skincare; however, it’s great makeup. There are 4 shades available.
3. Chanel CC Cream Complete Correction SPF 50
When crafting this CC cream, Chanel definitely had it in mind as a skincare product first, and makeup second. One of the best CC creams, it’s targeted towards mature skin, so there is hyaluronic acid in the formula to keep the skin looking plump and hydrated throughout the day, and antioxidant-rich peach complex to act as a wrinkle fighter.
Once applied, this lovely cream is extremely natural, even though it has a medium coverage. It’s a favorite in wintertime, thanks to a lovely dewy finish and excellent longevity.
Those with sensitive skin love the formula of this CC cream, because it is very gentle and does an excellent job covering redness. Unfortunately, this gorgeous anti-aging product is only offered in three shades that you can find at Nordstrom.
4. Giorgio Armani Beauty Luminessence CC Color Control Bright Moisturizer SPF 35
Available at Sephora, this CC cream is more of a tinted sunscreen. It has a very light coverage, with a natural looking finish, that is neither dewy nor matte. It boasts a liquid mirror technology that diffuses imperfections in the skin, so despite the light coverage it still makes the skin tone much brighter and more even.
Like many other CC creams, it is generally better for mature, dry skin types, since it contains many excellent anti-aging ingredients. There are 6 shades available, which is a lot of variety for CC creams.
5. Supergoop! CC Cream Daily Correct SPF 35
This is another alphabet cream with winning mineral-based sunscreen ingredients that you can get from Sephora! The aptly named Supergoop! decided to make this CC cream fragrance free, making it ideal for anyone who finds scents irritating.
It has a smooth feel on the skin, with a very natural, light coverage, and a pore and wrinkle blurring effect. Because of its silicone base, it also acts as a wonderful face primer for other makeup, which makes me very willing to forgive the small selection of 3 shades.
6. AmorePacific Color Control Cushion Compact SPF 50
This CC cream comes in a cushion compact – another new innovation out of South Korea. The cushion makes the already light formula extra weightless, and it’s very convenient to carry around and reapply.
The CC cream itself has a light yet buildable coverage, and a dewy finish. Bamboo sap, polysaccharides, and green tea extract are used liberally in the formula, making for a very moisturizing, anti-aging treatment. This CC cream is available in 5 colors at Sephora.
DD Creams a.k.a. Daily Defense or Dynamic Do-All
Boasting brightening and anti-aging properties, DD creams are lighten in texture than BB and CC creams and are suitable for dry and mature skin. The first DD cream seems to have been Julep’s, which came out in 2013. According to Julep, a DD cream is supposed to combine the skin protective properties of a BB cream with the color correcting properties of a CC cream.
Honestly? I don’t get the difference, and I don’t really see a radical formula that shows a large departure from previous products. Whereas previously I only told you about the best of the best, here I’m listing all of the DD creams I was able to find, with not always favorable reviews.
As you can see, it’s been 3 years, and most cosmetic companies decided that the idea of going further up the alphabet was… well, too much. As for the Julep DD cream? They’re not making it anymore – no surprise there.
1. Pur Cosmetics Rescue Squad DD Creme SPF 25
This is the best-reviewed DD cream on the market, available at Ulta. It’s not too surprising, since it’s not trying to sell you on its 1,238,723-in-one properties. Unlike other products, this doesn’t have a tint and won’t function as a foundation.
Instead, it’s more of a moisturizer/primer with SPF, with a lovely texture and blurring effect, which was somehow achieved without using silicones. There are plenty of anti-irritating and anti-aging ingredients here, including key amino acids, Marixyl Synthe’6, and eperua falcate bark extract.
2. Marcelle DD Cream Daily Defense SPF 25
Marcelle’s BB and CC cream selections are robust and respectable, so it’s no surprise that they’ve also launched a DD cream. It’s difficult to tell what makes their DD cream different from their other alphabet creams, but that’s okay, since the important thing is that it’s a great product.
This is a sheer formula that gives the skin a matte finish. It’s ideal for oily and sensitive skin types, since it’s loaded with anti-inflammatory extracts and pore-tightening ingredients. It’s offered in two neutral shades and is available for purchase at Paula’s Choice.
3. DERMADoctor Dermatologically Defining BB Cream SPF 30
Is it a BB cream? Is it a CC cream? I don’t even know anymore. What I do know is that this product gets mixed responses.
This DD cream comes out of the tube whitish-grey, and then supposedly adjusts to your own skin tone. In reality, it usually comes out as medium and warm-toned, but many unfortunate pale ladies were tricked into purchasing it.
The coverage is light-medium, with a shiny finish that some people find leans towards greasy, although dry skin types seem to adore it. It is available at Nordstrom.
Do you have a favorite alphabet cream? Let us know in the comments!
Photos courtesy of @liza_lash, Tarte, Viva Luxury Blog
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