BB and CC Creams: What's the Difference?


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If you've been reading fashion magazines, beauty blogs, or shopping for cosmetics lately you have most likely heard or seen something about a new group of products referred to as BB, CC, or even DD creams. It's a veritable alphabet soup of new products, all with enticing claims.

What Are BB Creams?

BB Creams were originally developed in Germany and used for skin care following a cosmetic surgical procedure. "BB" stood for "Blemish Balm" (blemish referring to any skin imperfection, not just breakouts). They caught on big in Korea, and then became must-have beauty products in most of East Asia. When these products hit the U.S. market, they were renamed as Beauty Balms.

Regardless of the country, the main selling point of all BB creams is that for the most part they provide some amount of coverage akin to a sheer foundation along with some extra perks, like sun protection, skin lightening, and anti-aging ingredients—a type of all-in-one product for daytime.

A caveat to be aware of: BB creams from Asian and Western companies are not the same. Asian BB creams tend to be thicker, with higher levels of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for more opaque sun protection and foundation-like coverage. In a nod to cultural preference, Asian BBs are also expected to produce a whiter appearance on skin. In contrast, most Western BB creams are closer to a lightweight tinted moisturizer with a natural, sheer appearance and the sunscreen base may or may not contain mineral actives.

What about the extra benefits BB creams are said to have? That depends largely on the individual formula. While some do contain a great mix of antioxidants and sunscreen, there are also some to avoid. A few our favorite BB Creams include Ulta Flawless Finish BB Cream SPF 30 ($15), Revlon PhotoReady BB Cream Skin Perfector SPF 30 ($8.49), and Too Faced Tinted Beauty Balm SPF 20 ($34). Of course, you can also consider a tinted moisturizer to use as a BB cream. A product like Paula's Choice Barely There Sheer Matte Tint SPF 30 ($14.95)may not be labeled "BB cream" but offers the same benefit as the best Western-style BBs out there.

What Are CC Creams?

CC Creams are a variation on the BB creams some companies are launching to separate their products from the glut of options out there. The CC initials typically stand for "color" and "correct." These products generally provide more coverage than BB creams but not always, and are pitched as being formulas that can cover flaws as well as provide skin benefits (like reducing redness or dark spots), but they don't always do that.

The truth? Any great liquid or cream foundation should provide the same color correction and many foundations have skin beneficial ingredients, too! But if curiosity leads you to check out CC creams, a couple of the better ones are Olay Total Effects CC Cream 7-in-1 Tone Correcting UV Moisturizer SPF 15 ($22.99) and Smashbox Camera Ready CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Dark Spot Correcting ($42). But again, any great foundation with sunscreen negates the need for a CC cream.

Wait… Now There Are DD Creams, Too?

DD Creams are the latest hybrid skin care/makeup products to hit the market, and there aren't a lot of them out there… yet! "DD" stands either for "Daily Defense" or "Dynamic Do-All," depending on which company is selling the product. DD creams are supposed to provide more coverage than BB creams, but with more anti-aging benefits than CC creams. So far only one company in the U.S. is selling a DD cream, though there are companies in the U.K. that are also using this meaningless acronym.

Are BB, CC, or DD Creams Must-Have Products?

The simplest answer to this question is "no." The best of them can be convenient products for people looking for all-in-one sun protection, hydration, and complexion camouflage but the reality is that there's nothing particularly revolutionary or special about them. Most Western-style BB creams are tinted moisturizers or, in the case of CC creams, lightweight foundations dressed up with a new name.

The best BB creams and CC creams do add some impressive beneficial ingredients but that certainly isn't the case for all regardless of their labeling. These can be worth checking out, but remember to look at them with a critical eye and not be seduced by those tempting claims!

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! See Paula's Choice Makeup.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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