BB and CC Creams Confusion: What’s the Difference?

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Cosmetics Cop Paula Begoun and the Paula’s Choice Research Team reveal the truth (and a little history) behind this latest makeup craze.

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Can they do everything they claim, from fading dark spots and healing breakouts to fighting wrinkles, lightening dark circles, and brightening skin tone?

If you’ve been reading fashion magazines 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. BB, CC, and DD creams are being launched rapid fire by cosmetics companies trying to take advantage of this new fad. Not surprisingly, consumers are curious to find out if the claims being made about them are true. Can they do everything they claim, from fading dark spots and healing breakouts to fighting wrinkles, lightening dark circles, and brightening skin tone?

So just what is a BB, CC, or DD cream anyway? What’s the difference among them and can any of them, regardless of their initials, have benefit for skin? Cosmetics Cop Paula Begoun and the Paula’s Choice Research Team reveal the truth (and a little history) behind this latest makeup craze.

  •     BB Creams were originally developed in Germany and “BB” stood for “Blemish Balm.” They caught fire first in Korea, then became must-have beauty products over much of Asia. When these products began being produced for the U.S. market they were renamed as Beauty Balms. The main selling point of all BB creams is that they provide some amount of coverage akin to a sheer foundation along with some extra perks, like sun protection and anti-aging ingredients—a type of all-in-one product for daytime.

According to Begoun, who travels regularly to Asia in her role as The Cosmetics Cop, “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. They’re 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? Begoun says, “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).

  •     CC Creams are a variation on the BB creams some companies are launching to separate their products from the herd. The CC initials typically stands for “color” and “correct.” These products generally provide more coverage than BB creams but not always, and are highlighted as formulas that can cover flaws as well as provide skin benefits (like reducing redness or dark spots).

The truth? Any great liquid or cream foundation should provide the same color correction and many foundations have skin beneficial ingredients, too. If curiosity leads to checking out CC creams anyway, some 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).

  •     DD Creams are the latest hybrid 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 and more skin benefits than CC creams (specifically anti-aging benefits).
  •     Are BB, CC, or DD creams must-have products? The most direct answer is “no.” The best of them can be convenient products for people looking for all-in-one skin care and complexion camouflage but the reality is that there’s nothing particularly revolutionary or special about them. Most are tinted moisturizers or lightweight foundations dressed up with a new name designed to get more people to buy them. The best ones do add some impressive beneficial ingredients but that certainly isn’t the case for all regardless of their initials. These can be worth checking out, but remember to look at them with a critical eye and not be seduced by those tempting claims.

Check out our list of Best Tinted Moisturizers for the latest BB creams (and tinted moisturizers) that we recommend!

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Led by best-selling author and beauty expert Paula Begoun, the Paula’s Choice Research Team evaluates and reviews hundreds of skin-care and makeup products, in books such as Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me as well as online at CosmeticsCop.com. Combining cosmetics industry knowledge and expertise, Paula and her team have developed the Paula’s Choice line of state-of-the-art formulations based on reliable, published skin-care research. Products include skin-care, makeup, body and hair-care products, beauty tools, and accessories. All products are fragrance-free, cruelty free, and environmentally friendly.

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