BB Cream Versus CC Cream: Let's Get To The Bottom Of The Coverage Debate

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Swatch of Tinted Moisturizer

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In the quest for dewy skin, there's no shortage of buttery, skin-care-meets-makeup formulas. Enter, your BB and CC creams, meant to give your skin that effortless, woke-up-with-no-blemishes glow. While both can cover up acne and discoloration, there are slight (emphasis on slight) nuances to the two that mind a little beauty lesson. That said, let's dive into the makeup alphabet, starting with BB versus CC creams, plus which one you should use.

What is a BB cream?

To put it simply, BB stands for "blemish balm" or "beauty balm," and these creams tend to have some skin care properties (think SPF, hyaluronic acid, or antioxidants).

"They typically contain skin care ingredients to keep the skin's natural glow," explains Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care. So if you're looking for a lightweight base that straddles both skin care and makeup, BB cream is your go-to. 

For even more of a skin care boost, makeup artist Alexandra Compton, product development manager at clean beauty retailer Credo, suggests mixing your BB cream with your moisturizer or face oil. If you're hoping to resemble a dewdrop (or a crystal pane of glass, perhaps?), consider this makeup artist hack: "It will change the finish from dewy to dewiest," she says. 

Try these products:

jane iredale bb cream
1

jane iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream


jane iredale $50
lily lolo bb cream
2

Lily Lolo BB Cream


Credo $22
COOLA Rōsilliance Organic BB+ Cream SPF 30
3

COOLA Rōsilliance Organic BB+ Cream SPF 30


Sephora $52
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What is a CC cream?

CC creams also give you that coverage, but their emphasis is more on evening out skin tone. CC stands for "color correcting," and these creams typically have a more whipped, creamy consistency than your average BB. 

While brands may incorporate SPF into the formula (see our recs, below), that's usually where they draw the line in terms of skin care benefits. CC creams don't have as many hydrating ingredients as a trusty BB cream: "They might have a few luminizing properties, but they're mostly about the mix of pigments to even out skin tone," says makeup artist Jenny Patinkin. So if you're noticing any hyperpigmentation or redness, a CC cream may be just what you need.

That said, reach for the CC cream if you're looking to treat and conceal any imperfections, and stick to a BB cream for sheer coverage. "You can focus the creams on areas of concern, like darkness under the eyes or redness around the nose and cheeks," Compton explains. "Or you can easily apply all over like you would a face cream." The ball is in your court, here. 

Try these products:

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30
1

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30


NakedPoppy $39
erborian cc cream
2

Erborian CC Color Correcting & Redness Reducing Broad Spectrum SPF 25

Sephora $44
By Terry Brightening CC Serum
3

By Terry Brightening CC Serum


Verishop $91

What about foundation?

You're probably thinking, If BB and CC creams provide coverage, aren't they essentially the same as foundation?

BB and CC creams are, at their core, foundations. But think of "foundation" as a big umbrella term with varying amounts of coverage—that's where your BB and CC creams come into play. You can even layer your BB or CC creams if you're looking for some more coverage, says Compton, or use them as primers before laying on the concealer: "If you want a very natural skin finish but are struggling with areas of discoloration from sun damage or scarring, apply a BB or CC cream on the entire face and focus a concealer on areas of concern." 

That's not to say a proper foundation doesn't have its advantages; foundations can have a spectrum of coverage options themselves (from extra-light to heavy), as well as a wide range of shades. And despite the heavier coverage, there are a multitude of ways to apply them without looking too cakey.

Try these products:

Kosas Tinted Face Oil Foundation
1

Kosas Tinted Face Oil Foundation

Sephora $42
antonym baked foundation
2

Antonym Baked Foundation

NakedPoppy $38
RMS Beauty "Un" Cover Up Cream Foundation
3

RMS Beauty "Un" Cover Up Cream Foundation

Credo $52
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What about tinted moisturizers? 

A tinted moisturizer is usually the lightest of the bunch, providing only a wash of coverage. (Although, you can find fairly pigmented options.) At its core it's, well, a moisturizer—sometimes incorporating SPF with just a touch of pigment to give you an incredibly natural-looking glow. Think of BB and CC creams as just a step or two heavier, says Patinkin; the difference isn't much, admittedly, but sometimes that extra step is just what you need for a pesky blemish to remain hidden.

Try these products:

beautycounter foundation
1

Beautycounter Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer

Beautycounter $45
Tarte tinted moisturizer
2

Tarte Maracuja Tinted Moisturizer

Ulta $29
w3ll people tinted moisturizer
3

W3LL PEOPLE Bio Tint Multi-Action Moisturizer


Credo $30

The bottom line. 

If there were a hierarchy in terms of coverage, it would go as follows: tinted moisturizer, BB cream, CC cream, then finally foundation. While BB and CC creams have slightly skewed benefits (treatment-oriented ingredients versus evening out skin tone), both are great options for those who want to mask any blemishes without the feel of a heavy foundation. Whether you're partial to the bounce-and-swipe of a beauty blender or using your (clean!) fingers, you can rely on BB and CC creams to elevate your dewy look, all while letting your natural skin texture live on. 

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