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Once and for All: What’s the Difference Between BB Cream and CC Cream?

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Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

A few years back, BB cream—aka beauty balm or blemish balm—shook up the beauty world, making foundation users everywhere question everything they ever knew. For a few months we were all happily living in our BB world when, all of a sudden, CC cream (that’s color-correction cream, ICYMI) entered the picture. As we wondered what complexion products were really the right ones for us, we (and our makeup bags) had a bit of an identity crisis. If this sounds like you too, you’ve come to the right place.

“Both of these categories include products that span a range of coverage and ingredients based on individual needs,” explains celebrity makeup artist Meredith Baraf. We, with Baraf’s expert help, are here to break down just what defines a BB cream and a CC cream, which one you should be using, and a few product recommendations for each.


About the Expert:

Meredith Baraf is a Los Angeles-based celebrity makeup artist who has worked with the likes of Kim Kardashian West, Laís Ribeiro, and Lea Michele.

Is a BB cream or CC cream right for you?

First, a little explainer on each product: “Both BB and CC creams are foundation-skincare hybrids, typically with sun protection,” explains Baraf. “BB cream is a beauty balm that offers light-to-medium coverage, along with skincare and anti-aging benefits and protection.” So far, so good. “CC cream is a color-correcting focused base that helps disguise discoloration without looking like heavy coverage,” says the makeup artist. Still with us? Here’s where things get a bit confusing: “CC creams also offer some fine line and texture blurring and skincare benefits,” she says.

The truth is, if you were looking at a venn diagram of the two products, there would be a lot of overlap. However, it’s their differences that will help you choose the one that best suits your skin type. “If you are looking to even your skin tone and cover blemishes while nourishing and protecting your skin, then BB cream is for you,” explains Baraf. “If your main concern is redness, sallowness, or dullness along with skincare benefits, then it’s CC cream for you.”

When to use a BB or CC cream or a foundation

If you’re wondering which product to reach for on your vanity, it all comes down to two things: ingredients and coverage. BB and CC creams are ideal for everyday wear, thanks to their lighter coverage and skincare properties (such as added hydration, antioxidant protection, and/or sunscreen). And if you’re a longtime tinted moisturizer fan and looking for some added oomph, making the switch to BB or CC cream could be a natural transition.

But if you’re looking for full coverage, foundation will likely still be your go-to, especially for those “dressy” occasions where you want to get extra glam and BB or CC cream is too translucent. “Using traditional foundation is always a good option,” says Baraf. “Especially if you have allergies to the active ingredients in the BB or CC creams, and vice versa.” And here’s a pro tip from Baraf, if you don’t want to miss out on a little extra skincare: “I have mixed serums and oils into my foundations for years,” says the makeup pro. “There is something special about the way skin-loving ingredients pair with foundation and how that connects with the skin.”

Can you wear BB or CC cream alone?

Thanks to their built-in priming properties, BB and CC creams can be used on their own, or as a substitute for primer underneath a heavier base. “Both can be used alone or as a layer of foundation depending on your desired finish,” says Baraf. And while both complexion formulas are known for their added skincare ingredients, you shouldn’t skip your morning routine altogether. “I would recommend layering them on top of your skincare unless your skin says differently.” For example, if you have dry skin, you’ll probably want to apply your regular skincare products, followed by your BB or CC cream; but if you have oily skin, you may be able to get away without moisturizer (but don’t forget the sunscreen—even if your formula contains SPF!).

Products we love

Shop these BB creams and CC creams, all of which earned rave reviews from past Glam Bags.

PURLISSE BEAUTY Radiant Glow Illuminating BB Cream SPF 30

1. PURLISSE BEAUTY Radiant Glow Illuminating BB Cream SPF 30

This antioxidant-infused BB cream doesn’t just hydrate—it also has light-reflecting pigments that leave a luminous finish. Ipsters say it “blended flawlessly” and “gives a nice soft glow from within even to skin on [the] dullest of days.”

YADAH Silky Fit Concealer BB Power Brightening

2. YADAH Silky Fit Concealer BB Power Brightening

Talk about multipurpose: On days you want a little more coverage, you can use this BB cream as a primer. Going for a “no-makeup” look instead? You can use this all-in-one formula as both your full face product and as a concealer. “Love this concealer for dark circles, imperfections, and priming for my eyeshadow!” said one reviewer.

PURLISSE BEAUTY Youth Glow Vitamin C CC Cream SPF 50

3. PURLISSE BEAUTY Youth Glow Vitamin C CC Cream SPF 50

A mega dose of 15% vitamin C brightens your skin, while SPF 50 protects you against the sun’s rays. And if that weren’t enough to make you perk up, this fave also offers brilliant color correction. “I’m a new fan of CC Cream!” said one reviewer. “I love the way this makes my skin feel. It covers redness, and improves my skin texture over time.”

HEY HONEY Trick & Treat CC² Cream

4. HEY HONEY Trick & Treat CC² Cream

This brand has built a cult following thanks to its signature ingredients, honey and bee propolis, which soothe and moisturize skin. Raved one Ipster, “I usually have to use a primer and a color corrector. I don’t need it with this product!” Said another, “My new favorite for daily use. Love love love this brand!” Anything that makes your life easier = a win in our book.

IT COSMETICS CC+ Cream with SPF 50+

5. IT COSMETICS CC+ Cream with SPF 50+

Hydrating hyaluronic acid gives your skin that dewy, bouncy look, while broad-spectrum SPF 50 protects as it covers. Best of all, this beloved formula comes in 12 ultra-blendable shades—among the most we’ve seen for a CC cream. “I use this for my under eye and brows and it matches my skin tone so well,” said one fan of the product, while another said it offers the “perfect amount of coverage.”

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About the author
lindy-segal-headshot
Lindy Segal
Lindy is a contributor at IPSY, a beauty and lifestyle writer, and Real Housewives aficionado. She was an editor at People and Glamour, and her freelance work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Who What Wear, and Cosmopolitan, among other publications.
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Article Last Updated December 2, 2020 12:00 AM