I decided to put my full-coverage foundations to the side for a few months and swap in lightweight alternatives — BB, CC and DD creams. These lightweight foundation-alternatives promise to do the job of five or more products in one. They pump skin with moisture, many formulas contain sun protection, act as primers, concealers and coverage — all while actually treating skin to heal breakouts, discoloration, uneven skin, fine lines and smooth out overall tone and texture for brighter, healthier looking skin. Most of them include anti-aging, skin care ingredients like Vitamin A, E and C, as well as moisturizing elements like hyaluronic acid and glycerin.
It’s a lot to take in, and even after extensive research we’re not convinced there’s a real, marked difference between all three. Still, every product offers different benefits—and we figure any multitasker that can streamline our beauty routines is worth a go. Here, we break down each category and offer some of our favorite picks.
BB Cream stands for “Blemish Balm” and also hydrates with a tint of color. BB creams also have optical diffusers, which is basically a real life filter for your skin. They blur imperfections such as acne and redness (don’t ask me how) and give your skin a youthful glow, with shimmer. They have more skin care ingredients than a basic moisturizer, so overtime they help improve the look of your skin. Most also have SPF.
Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35 | $39
Provides very sheer to light coverage with a natural-looking matte finish; the drier formula is a good pick for those with normal or combination skin. Those with really light skin will find a couple of shades to choose from; the darkest of the five offered (“dark”) would work on medium-dark complexions.
Too Faced Tinted Beauty Balm SPF 20 | $34
A great option for dry skin that tints, primes, nourishes, and protects. It has a smooth texture that’s easy to apply, and has a dewy, sheer finish. There are five shades, the darkest of which,”Nude Glow,” would work best on medium complexions.
Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream | $7.50
A budget pick that’s super blendable and includes SPF30? Sign us up. It’s oil-free so there’s no greasy feel, and each of the five shades is designed to adjust to your skin tone to blur imperfections.
CC cream stands for “Color Correction.” They hydrate and also blur imperfections. CC creams have all the same benefits as a BB cream, but the biggest difference is the color correction. CC creams have more pigment. I would say they are the perfect in between of a tinted moisturizer and a foundation. The coverage is slightly more sheer than a foundation and (for me) doesn’t last as long as a long-wearing foundation. But they are a softer, more glowing look than a foundation, with skin care benefits. They are better for skin with fine lines and wrinkles.
Clinique Moisture Surge CC Cream | $35
This one is fragrance-free, provides broad-spectrum sun protection, and has a wide range of color options—nine to be exact. The thick and creamy texture gives a nice amount of moisture (thanks to the aloe barbadensis, leaf water, and hyaluronic acid) as it evens out skin tone and reduces redness. As CCs go, it’s on the sheerer side, and great for dry skin.
Yes To Grapefruit CC Cream | $16
The formula’s sheer coverage helps even out redness and Evodia fruit, known to brighten skin, gives a matte finish with a bit of brightness. The product is also designed to fight wrinkles over time, and has SPF 18 broad spectrum protection built in. The only downer is that it comes in just two shades: light and light-medium.
Cover FX CC Cream Time Release Tinted Treatment | $45
This new product from the pro-favorite Cover FX has retinoid-like ingredients that help reduce fine lines and wrinkles. It also does the trick is without parabens, sulfates, phthalate, mineral oil, fragrance, talc, or gluten. If you want something that gives good coverage that lasts, this one is worth the splurge. Bonus: nine shades to choose from, all totally vegan.
It Cosmetics Your Skin but Better CC Cream with SPF 50 Plus
DDs (“dynamic do-all” or “dynamic do-it-all”)
Designed to diffuse light, a DD’s strongest asset is its arsenal of anti-agers—usually some combination of botanical oils, hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, and peptides. They’re best for aging skin, and those who want to focus on improving tone and diminishing wrinkles over time. The best DDs are ideal for covering up wrinkles, blemishes, and dark spots, and also work to actually battle all three while you wear them.
OFRA DD Cream | $30
The coverage is similar to a tinted moisturizer, but it builds really well so that you can get the effect you want. The standouts here are the pearlised pigment, which gives you an instant glow, and the variety of shades (ten in all, all along the spectrum). But there’s no SPF, so remember to layer your own underneath!
AJ Crimson BB+D Cream | $34
Okay, we cheated a little, as AJ Crimson decided to combine the “BB” with the “D,” but we had to include it in this category for the range of shades. The 11 offered range from truly light to truly dark, with an option for every subtle variation in between. It’s lightweight, moisturizing, and natural-looking, but provides near-full coverage. Layer it over a primer or moisturizer with sun protection, as there’s no SPF.