Tuesday, October 15, 2013

BB vs. CC... what's with all the letter creams? How to figure out which one is for you.

Tinted Moisturizers are a thing of the past, or so it seems. They’ve pretty much been replaced with either a BB or CC cream (I say pretty much because you can still find some tinted moisturizers, but they’re harder to find!).

For lack of a better term, I’m going to refer to them as “letter creams”. These letter creams are amped-up tinted moisturizers. The letter creams still contain the tint + moisture but now they add a sunscreen and some extra skincare benefits. Depending on the cream, it could consist of anti-aging peptides or antioxidants or blemish reducing formulations.

BB creams (aka Beauty Balms or even Blemish Balms) originated in Asia where they were meant to be one product that does-it-all; treats, moisturizes, protects and covers. America caught on to this and companies ran with the idea. It’s become a free-for-all between brands re-defining what they think a letter cream is or does. Then CC cream was invented and is becoming just as popular as the BB. CC creams, aka Color Correcting Cream, are supposed to have more treatment benefits to correct pigmentation issues (think dark spots due to sun damage or acne staining) and they typically have more coverage than a BB cream- in some cases feeling more like a foundation.

This is where it gets tricky: every brand has their own interpretation of what a BB or CC cream is so they can often be dramatically different. For example, the Urban Decay Naked Skin BB is more of a treatment primer- so it goes on over a moisturizer and under a foundation. Basically this is the new marketing ploy and every company is getting in on the letter trend (even hair brands are getting in on it).

For the most part, you would apply these letter creams as you would your tinted moisturizer, maybe with your fingers or a foundation brush, and then continue with the rest of your routine. Ideally these are supposed to eliminate you from too many steps and make your life easier. But here are the cold, hard facts: There is no such thing as a miracle in a bottle. If you're not happy with your skin, chances are, you're going to need more than 1 product to fix that. So, if you've got acne, you still need an acne spot treatment, acne-fighting cleanser, oil-free moisturizer, gentle exfoliator, deep cleansing mask and an oil-free BB cream. And that doesn't even include makeup! Same goes for dry skin- you will still need to apply a moisturizer underneath the letter cream because it may not be hydrating enough on its own, especially in the winter months.
(more after the jump)

Now if you've always used a tinted moisturizer, chances are you'll love a BB cream. The coverage is lighter and people with oily/acne skin really love them because they are usually oil-free and have blemish reducing ingredients.

If you need more coverage than a tinted moisturizer then you may like a CC cream. CC creams have similar coverage to a light foundation and if your skin type is normal to dry than CC's are for you. There's usually light reflecting properties and anti-aging ingredients, making this ideal for mature skin.

Another important note is that BB's and CC's don't have the shade range that foundations typically have. Sometimes there's only one or two shades for all skin colors, leaving out a huge majority of really pale and really dark skin tones. Since the letter creams are becoming more popular, most brands will probably be expanding their shade options. In the interim, test out a letter cream before you buy it, or at least get it from a company with a good return policy.

So here are some popular BB and CC Creams, based on skin type.

Normal Skin/Combination Skin
My best friend is crazy about the Cover Girl BB cream. She says the coverage is good and it blends easily. Another great choice is the L'Oreal CC cream which also has firming and lifting properties.

Dry Skin
Garnier BB cream, Smashbox Camera Ready CC cream and Lancome Bienfait BB all contain hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin.
Oily/Acne Skin
DERMAdoctor's DD cream and Boscia's BB cream are both blemish reducing formulations.


IllumiKate CC Cream from Kate Somerville contains light reflecting pigments, blurring and treating fine lines and wrinkles. The Lorac CC cream has vitamins A, C and E with Green and White tea as antioxidants. Bobbi Brown's BB Cream is full of peptides and antioxidants to ward off lines.

Personally, I like the BB and CC creams because I already used a tinted moisturizer. I like a lighter coverage on a daily basis but I'm not fooled by their all-in-one greatness. I love to tell clients, "It takes a lot of products for me to look natural". I still use a serum, eye cream, little moisturizer (now that it's cooler weather) then apply the letter cream, then concealer, foundation powder, highlighter, contour, blush and so on and so on.

In the Summer I was switching between these two products: Ren BB cream and Dr. Brandt BB matte.

Both were fantastic at controlling my oil, but now that the weather is cooler I need more hydration. Currently I'm using the Dr. Dennis Gross CC cream (shown in the first picture) and I still put a light moisturizer underneath.

Still not sure what's right for you? Try these sets of BB creams. There's a nice variety for every skin type and you could use this kit year-round. Just swap out a BB cream every time the season's change!
via for $34
via for $25
I don't think there's anything wrong with putting more skincare benefits in a product. What I do have a problem with is people thinking they only need the one product. As I said before, if you like a heavier foundation don't expect to get that much coverage from the letter creams. But a heavier foundation wearer could use it before applying their foundation and maybe actually use less foundation in the process. That would be nice, right?

Have you tried a BB or CC cream? What products do you like?


  1. The BB and CC creams have confused me... until now! Thank you for posting this information. I just bought a BB cream but I think I might now need to switch to CC. We'll see.

    1. Maybe, maybe not. Which BB cream did you buy? You might be fine with that one.