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What Is BB Cream? Your Complete Guide to the Skin-Smoothing Essential

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Photo by Boyloso/Getty Images

When it comes to smoothing out the complexion with makeup there's a baffling amount of options to choose from. Liquid foundation, powder foundation, tinted moisturizer, BB cream, CC cream...it's enough to make your head spin. 

In recent years though, one multitasking option has become a clear crowd favorite: BB cream. BB cream’s ability to conceal, hydrate, smooth, and provide personalized skincare benefits has made this Korean makeup essential a must-have for many.  

Whether you've been a BB cream believer since you first heard about the product or you're just catching up to the buzz now, one thing's for certain: This magical product isn't leaving makeup shelves anytime soon. 

But what exactly is BB cream, anyway? Who can benefit from using it and what makes it different from tinted moisturizer and CC cream? We answer these questions and more in our ultimate guide to all things BB cream. Just keep reading!

What Is BB Cream?

BB cream (short for "beauty balm" or "blemish balm") is a makeup product designed to act as a primer, moisturizer, and light coverage foundation all in one. The multitasking product originated in South Korea to suit Korean women's growing preference for makeup that doubles as skincare. 

Nowadays, there are a million different formulations of BB cream with a variety of different skincare benefits. While most still stick to the original all-in-one appeal of primer, moisturizer, and coverage in one product, some brands have branched out to include other skincare and color-correcting ingredients. 

Some of the most popular formulations are BB creams with SPF for sun protection, antioxidants for anti-aging properties, and specialized ingredients, salicylic acid for acne-prone skin, or hyaluronic acid for dry skin. No matter which BB cream you choose, there's a formula for every skin tone, skin type, and skincare concern.

BB Cream vs. Other Complexion-Smoothing Favorites

With so many different skin-perfecting products out there, how do you know which one to choose? Here's how BB cream compares to a few other foundation favorites:

  • BB cream vs. CC cream: CC cream (short for "color correcting" cream) differs from traditional BB cream in that it's specifically formulated to correct skin pigmentation issues like redness, dark spots, and discoloration. CC cream also generally offers more coverage than BB cream while still being lighter than foundation. Similar to BB cream, many modern CC creams are made with additional skincare benefits to suit specific skin concerns.

  • BB cream vs. tinted moisturizer: Tinted moisturizer is a moisturizer mixed with a little bit of foundation for just the slightest hint of hydrating coverage. However, certain formulas may also have added skincare benefits, similar to BB cream. Most tinted moisturizers are designed to provide a light, dewy coverage and a barely-there makeup look. Think of this product as hydrating with a touch of coverage, whereas BB cream is a more balanced version of both these things.

  • BB cream vs. skin tint: Skin tints are even more sheer than tinted moisturizers in terms of the coverage they provide. This beauty product is extremely light on the skin with many feeling almost serum-like. They can be a great pick for oily skin types who find that tinted moisturizers or foundations tend to make their complexion even oilier. 

  • BB cream vs. foundation: Usually, the primary purpose of liquid foundation or powder foundation is to provide medium to full coverage. If you want a super smooth complexion that's going to last all day and give you an airbrushed look, a full-coverage foundation is likely going to be the best move. However, while BB creams usually offer less coverage, they do offer more skincare benefits.

BB Cream Benefits for Skin

Need a little more info on what makes BB cream so great? Here are a few of our favorite benefits. 

1. It's a major timesaver. 

If your morning routine tends to get slowed down by having to layer on serums, moisturizers, primers, and foundation, this multitasker can essentially act as all of the above, saving you time and leaving a weightless feel to the skin. 

2. It can act as a leveled-up primer. 

Not ready to ditch foundation just yet? BB cream can still be useful for those looking for full coverage. Try using BB cream in place of your primer. As it has built-in priming capabilities, it can still prime and will smooth out your complexion before you apply foundation. After the foundation is applied, you just may experience the smoothest skin you've ever had. 

3. It's a great pick for acne-prone skin types. 

BB cream is more lightweight than foundation and it often features antioxidants and skin-clearing ingredients like salicylic acid, keeping blemish-prone skin happy and irritation-free. 

4. It's the perfect summer solution.

It can often be super tricky to find a skin-smoothing makeup product that works during the warmer months when your normal foundation would likely melt right off. BB cream's lightweight texture makes it a perfect summer-proof alternative. Plus, the addition of SPF helps to keep you protected from that strong summer sun.

How to Use BB Cream

Step 1: Squeeze out about a dime-sized dollop of BB cream onto the back of your hand. Using the other hand, dip a fingertip into the BB Cream and dot the cream evenly across your face. 

Step 2: With the BB cream evenly distributed, blend the product onto your skin. Because BB cream is so lightweight, you can either blend it with your fingers (like you would a tinted moisturizer) or with a makeup sponge for more of an airbrushed finish. 

When blending, always begin in the center of your face—where you want the most coverage—and work outwards. If you're using your fingers, make sure to blend using a circular motion to ensure even coverage, especially around your hairline and your jaw. 

Step 3: After the BB cream is fully blended, use your favorite concealer to add additional coverage to any areas that you feel could use a little extra love. 

Step 4: As an optional final step, apply a translucent setting powder to preserve your look. If you want a dewier look, feel free to skip this step. Most BB creams contain primer so you won't have to worry about your makeup slipping and sliding all over your face.

4 BB Creams We Love

Now that you're up to speed on what BB cream is and how to use it, it's time to find the perfect formula for you. Here are a few of the best BB creams for all different skin types and skin concerns.

1. The Best BB Cream for Acne-Prone Skin: DR. JART+ Black Label Detox BB Beauty Balm SPF 30

DR. JART+ Black Label Detox BB Beauty Balm SPF 30
Courtesy of DR. JART+

This iconic formula from Korean skincare brand DR. JART+ was one of the first to introduce the US to the magic of BB creams. This particular formula smooths uneven skin tones and imperfections while also protecting against UV damage. It also contains a blend of botanical actives which can calm irritated, blemish-prone skin, making it a great pick for those who deal with regular or occasional bouts of acne. 

2. The Best BB Cream for Oily Skin: TARTE Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Sunscreen

TARTE Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Sunscreen
Courtesy of TARTE

Master the no-makeup makeup look with this oil-free formula. The BB cream's hero ingredient, Amazonian clay, offers major benefits for oil-prone skin types as it can help to regulate oil production and blur the look of large pores. An added bonus: Amazonian clay also helps to provide longer, truer wear, ensuring that touch-ups are few and far between. 

3. The Best Drugstore BB Cream: MAYBELLINE Dream Fresh BB Cream 8-In-1 Skin Perfector

MAYBELLINE Dream Fresh BB Cream 8-In-1 Skin Perfector
Courtesy of MAYBELLINE

This cult-favorite drugstore BB cream is the ultimate overachiever. It hydrates, provides sun protection, brightens, blurs, smooths, enhances, and keeps the skin clear with its non-comedogenic formula. With a natural finish, it's no wonder this is one of the top-selling BB creams on the market.

4. The Best Brightening BB Cream:  PURLISSE Beauty Perfect Glow BB Cream SPF 30

PURLISSE Beauty Perfect Glow BB Cream SPF 30

This oil-free BB cream offers not one but two additional skincare benefits: SPF protection and a brightening boost. To add a noticeable touch of radiance to the skin, this formula uses skin-friendly ingredients like antioxidant-packed goji berry. With a natural skin finish, it's a great go-to for all skin types, sensitive skin included.

Want to try the perfect BB cream for your skin type? Discover your next BB cream fave with an IPSY Glam Bag. Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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Article Last Updated August 30, 2021 12:00 AM