A little over a month ago I walked into Sephora looking to replace my SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50. I had been using a sample I received a while ago as a sun-protection/primer and I was almost out and wanted more. I couldn’t find it so I asked a sales associate to help me. Come to find out they don’t carry the brand, but then she asked, “have you considered a BB cream?” Truthfully I had no idea what a BB cream was. I had seen a commercial for one on TV, but was clueless about them. It’s no wonder. They are confusing.
So what is a BB Cream and why do they seem to be everywhere now?
Actually BB originally stood for ‘blemish balm’ and was formulated in Germany in the 50’s to protect skin after laser procedures and surgery, while also providing light coverage. Then in the 80’s these multi-tasking beauty creams (moisturizer, primer, foundation and sunblock) became popular in Asia have been called “the secret of Korean actresses” and has been heavily endorsed by Korean celebrities. In South Korea, BB creams make up 13% of the cosmetics market! By 2011, they moved West and are now known as “Beauty Balms” in this country and every beauty company is rushing to release at least one. Trust me, if your favorite cosmetic company doesn’t have one yet, they will be releasing one in 2013! Anyway, some BB creams whiten the skin, some fight-aging, some come in various hues, while others only come in one. All BB Creams should moisturize, protect and correct. BB is your moisturizer, sunscreen and treatment serum. It should also hide uneven skin tone so well you don’t need much or any foundation or concealer. Your skin should look smooth and natural. Are you even more confused? Well hold on to your seat because now people are starting to talk about CC (Color Control) creams which is basically BB Creams 2.0! It’s a cruel joke I know, but we will save those for another time. For now we will help you navigate through the myriad of BB Creams on the market today.
I had no idea when I set out on this task that I was going to be up to my eyeballs in creams (23 in total) and it took me forever to try them all! So I am going to rate them on a star scale of 1-5. Five being the best. Now understand that because BB Creams have different properties, what appeals to me may not appeal to you. Just because I may not have given your favorite a top rating does NOT mean it isn’t fantastic…just not for me. I tend to prefer BB Creams with a higher SPF and a lot of coverage so I don’t need to add some foundation to get the look I want, which is obviously perfection. If you are looking for more of a tinted moisturizer in coverage some of the products I didn’t like as well may be perfect for you.
LUXURY BB Creams (pictured above)
1. Lancome Renergie Eclat Multi Lift SPF 20, $75
This version is more of a lightweight tinted moisturizer that addresses signs of aging. It protects, moisturizes, lifts, illuminates, and evens skintone. Created with lifting and color-correcting Multi-Tension technology designed to target upper layers of the skin, this multi-action formula helps skin feel firmer and denser, as if lifted. Wrinkles appear reduced, and skin’s texture feels smoother. Renergie Eclat is available in four shades for all skintones, from fair to deep: Fair/rosy skin – Shade 1 tones down redness; Fair/beige skin – Shade 2 neutralizes yellowing; Golden/beige skin – Shade 3 illuminates olive tones; Golden/dark skin – Shade 4 awakens gray tones. For me I found a little went a long way which is great since it is fairly pricey. However, in the summer I prefer a cream that is a little less moisturizing. My skin felt greasy after a couple of hours. This would be better for me in the winter and I will save it for then. (3 out of 5 Stars)
2. Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35, $39
Smashbox’s multitasking tinted cream formula with SPF 35 moisturizes, primes, perfects, controls oil, and protects for flawless skin ‘on set’ and in every day life. Available in 5 shades, it’s formulated with emollients and optical pearl pigments, this BB Cream gives skin a glowing, ethereal look and provides a hydrating veil for the complexion. It instantly re-texturizes to create a smooth canvas. Especially when worn under foundation, it enhances the wear of makeup. Ideal even for oily complexions, this expert formula with UVA/UVB protection helps inhibit oil to prevent the complexion from getting shiny throughout the day without the typical chalky matte finish. This was one of my favorites and it has a very high SPF which is a bonus. (5 out of 5 Stars)
3. Clinique Age Defense BB Cream SPF 30, $37
I used to wear Clinique religiously in my teens and young 20’s as I find it geared for oily and acne prone skin. As I got older I found it a bit drying. So maybe that’s why I love this BB Cream for summer. This all-in-one provides SPF protection, antioxidants for prevention, plus enough coverage to banish imperfections. Or if you want more coverage you can use it as a primer, too. This formula had some of the best coverage of any of them and I found myself reaching for it on days when I wanted less coverage than my foundation. It comes in 3 shades so one should work for you. (5 out of 5 Stars).
4. Boscia BB Cream SPF 27, $38
Right out of the gate this was one of my absolute favorites. This oil-free BB Cream is amazing, even for the most sensitive of skins. The gentle botanical formula creates a lustrous, flawless finish as it hydrates, firms, and soothes the skin. It helps to diminish the appearance of pores, fine lines, and uneven skintone while providing long-wearing, natural coverage that conceals imperfections.I love that it comes in one universal shade that is self-adjusting. How do it know? Designed to repair damage and protect skin from future damage without irritation, it’s packed with antioxidants and physical sunscreens that provide broad-spectrum sun protection rated to SPF 27 and PA++. The PA system is a grade of UVA protection that provides superior defense against the rays that cause collagen damage and photo-aging of the skin. (5 out of 5 Stars)
5. Too Faced Tinted Beauty Balm SPF 20, $32
This one-step makeup offers antiaging, multi-mineral complex that promotes cell health, strengthens skin’s elasticity, and enhances luminosity in a oil-free tinted skin perfector. It also protects the skin with a chemical-free SPF 20 UVA/UVB broad-spectrum sunscreen. Wear any of the 4 shades alone or under foundation. I found the coverage almost bronzing and luminous for me meant oily-looking after a few hours. (3 out of 5 Stars).
6. Dior Hydra Life BB Cream SPF 30, $56
HydraLife BB Crème combines the moisturizing and protective powers of a skincare product with the immediate complexion-enhancing and even-toning properties of a foundation. The complexion is left moisturized, smooth and velvety soft. Great as an anti-aging BB Cream if that is your main focus. It was a little too moisturizing for me. Then again the ‘hydra’ was a giveaway. It also goes on a little dark and only comes in one shade (4 out of 5 Stars).
7. Stila Stay All Day 10-in-1HD Beauty Balm,$38
I LOVE Stila’s HD products so I was excited to try this one. It’s a priming, all-in-one beauty balm is oil-free formula, yet reduced the appearance of wrinkles. It also helps reduce pore size, provides oil and blemish control and covers really well. I just wish one of the 10 things it does for skin included sun protection. If it had sun protection it would be a prefect 10. It also smells a bit strong, but I do really like this one…less the SPF missing. (4 out of 5 Stars)
8. Estee Lauder Daywear BB Anti-Oxidant Beauty Benefit Creme SPF 35, $38
This BB Cream is an oil-free all-in-one. They say the creme is lightweight, but I found it rather thick. For me that was actually a plus. I love that the SPF is high and that it’s a Super Anti-Oxidant Complex. It goes on rather matte and held oil at bay all day! Now the only problem is that it only comes in two shades which could be a problem for many. (4 out of 5 Stars)
9. Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage BB Cream SPF 22, $48
Jane Iredale’s Glow Time BB Cream covers blemishes, minimizes pores, disguises wrinkles and smooths and brightens skin. It’s a mineral-based formula that also nourishes your complexion and helps protect skin from UV and free radical damage. Since it comes in 6 shades there should be one for you. Unfortunately none really worked for my skin tone so I only tried this under makeup. Grapefruit extract promotes luminosity and skin radiance, minimizes appearance of pores and wrinkles, and may help to fade uneven pigmentation. As with all Jane Iredale products it’s non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, sensitivity tested, clinically tested and dermatologist tested. (3 out of 5 Stars).
10. LaBelle BB Plus Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF30 Beige, $42
This universal balm was designed to restore radiance, moisture and health to blemish-prone, shiny, uneven skin types. Feather-light balm glides onto skin, reducing visible oiliness and naturally concealing acne and hyperpigmentation and can be worn with or without makeup. Botanical extracts tomato and cranberry extract soothe and heal troubled skin while shea butter delivers hydration and boosts penetration of active ingredients. Mineral barriers support broad-spectrum UV protection. It’s gentle enough to be used after any peel or procedure and the perfect everyday necessity to erase discoloration, undereye circles and uneven skintone. It comes in two formulas. One for Normal & Dry Skin and one for Oily & Problem Skin and in tow shades; beige and light. I found it to be really heavy and since the tone didn’t blend with my skintone I looked a little ghostly. However, if you are looking for heavy coverage, this could be the one for you. (4 out of 5 Stars)
11. Dr. Jart+ Renewalist BB Beauty Balm SPF 40, $36
Dr. Jart was one of the first to bring BB Creams stateside and believes your Beauty Balm “BB” should be your skincare regimen in one tube, so he created four variations to cover every skin need. The Renewlaist BB Cream is ideal for dry skin. Free of artificial fragrances and artificial colors, it is suitable for even the most hypersensitive skins. Babassu butter and Olive oil provide moisturizing and skin luster and sebum control powder makes skin bright and matte. This all-in-one miracle cream helps protect and maintain skin’s healthy and radiant glow by perfecting fine lines and defend against harmful elements. This will be my go-to this winter. (5 out of 5 Stars)
12. Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm SPF 25 PA++, $34
This oil-free version by Dr. Jart has been one of my favorites this summer. Made with 50 percent water, Dr. Jart’s Advanced Water Bead Technology helps hydrate and maintain healthy moisture for a dewy, fresh look. It’s a moisturizer, sunscreen, and treatment serum, that also hides imperfections. It also contains nothing that would irritate skin. For me it was almost too light. (4 out of 5 Stars)
13. Dr. Jart+ Black Label Detox BB Beauty Balm SPF 25, $36
Initially I was afraid to try this one since it is for acne prone skin. However, I’m glad I did becuase it happens to be one of my favorites yet! This triple-action formula naturally covers blemishes and uneven skintone, and contains botanical actives to purify and calm blemish-prone or irritated skin. Arbutin works to erase unwanted dark spots, while caviar extract and antioxidants protect skin from inner and outer pollutants for an enhanced radiance. Lightweight with sunscreen protection, it’s also free of artificial fragrances,artificial colors, and is suitable for even the most hypersensitive skins. It keeps my skin matte yet soft all day and has excellent coverage. It goes on a little white, but blends down. (5 out of 5 Stars)
14. Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45 PA+++, $39
This formula I found to be a little more lightweight. Perfect for underneath foundation as a primer. This Beauty Balm contains antioxidant bio-peptides and adenosine which work to protect skin from harsh environmental factors, while restoring skin back to firm, supple elasticity. Think, for those wanting more anti-aging properties. A moisturizer, sunscreen and treatment serum, this all-in-one product also includes advanced brightening properties. (4 out of 5 Stars)
15. MAC Prep + Prime Beauty Balm SPF 35, $30
Believe it or not, I was actually using this one alternately with my SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50. I had received a sample from MAC and was using it as a primer. I had no idea it was a BB Cream. So much for reading labels. I just knew it contained sunscreen and had some tint. Now I have learned Prep + Prime Beauty Balm also re-texturizes and excels at being a face primer with high everyday UVA/UVB SPF 35 defense. So clearly I love it, but as a primer. I would not wear this alone. (4 out of 5 Stars)
16. Dior ‘Diorsnow UV Shield’ White Reveal BB Crème SPF 50, $50
This is what you would call a pure whitening balm. Diorsnow is a brightening-treatment collection that evens the complexion, diminishes the appearance of dark spots and increases radiance. Powered by Icelandic glacial water and Dior’s exclusive transparency-enhancing complex, the new formulas counteract skin acidity and target all five features of a radiant complexion (evenness, luminosity, moisture, texture and plumpness) for even faster and more effective brightening results. I found it to go on rather heavy and at first I was horrified at the white pastiness on my face. But if you wait a few minutes it dries down into a not so scary hue. It was not one of my favorites, but could work for someone who really wants to whiten and brighten. (2 out of 5 Stars).
1. Maybelline Dream Fresh BB SPF 30, $8.99 Comes in 5 shades.
I have to say, this is BB Cream offers a lot of smash for the cash. It was a little lightweight and dewy for me, but hey, for under $10 it’s pretty good. I needed a little more coverage so I used a tiny amount of foundation and a little powder to set it. This 8-in-1 Skin Perfector claims to blur imperfections, brighten, even skin tone, smooth, hydrate, protect and use no oils or heavy ingredients. I would say if you are looking for a light tinted moisturizer that doesn’t clog pores, offers good sun protection AND is under $10, try this. (3 out of 5 Stars).
2. Garnier BB Cream SPF 15, $11.99
If memory serves, this was the first BB Cream commercial I ever saw and I was still left wondering what it was! So I am glad I got to sample this one. I have to say it was not my favorite. In fact, I think it made me break out. I also wish it had a higher SPF. It also only comes in two shades, neither of which really worked with my skintone. It also made my skin really greasy which in the summer is not a good look on me. I have to say this was one of my least favorite. (2 out of 5 Stars)
3. L’Oreal Youth Code BB Cream Illuminator SPF 15, $14.99
This 5-in-1 BB Cream claims to even out skin tone, illuminate, prefect, moisturize and correct. I found it a little too moisturizing and a little too watery. If you are looking for sher coverage and minimal protection this may work for you. It comes in 2 shades. (2 out of 5 Stars).
4. L’Oreal Studio Secrets Magic BB Cream, $7.99
This cream contains encapsulated pigments infused in an ultra-light lotion with antioxidants Vitamin C & E. Not only did I find this formula too light in coverage, it had a sheen that made my skin look oilier than it was. I suppose it was supposed to look dewy, but in the summer that didn’t work for me. I had to keep reapplying powder and it melted off my face. (1 out of 5 Stars).
So in this last section I am going to tell you about a few additions. They are technically not BB Creams and they don’t pretend to be, but they still offer some of the same benefits and I feel deserve a mention.
1. Dermalogica Age Smart SkinPerfect Primer SPF30, $48
I love Dermalogica and this two-in-one product smooths, protects and conditions skin while correcting surface irregularities and creating a luminous finish. It’s really an excellent primer. If you really don’t want coverage, but a matte finish you could try this alone. However, under foundation it is really amazing. Natural earth minerals blend away discoloration, fine lines and wrinkles seem to vanish and it brightens, reduces pores, and extends the life of your foundation. Peptides and AGE Smart actives help firm and shield against MMP and free radical damage, as sunscreens shield against sun damage. I adore this product. (5 out of 5 Stars)
2. NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30, $42
This is a new lightweight oil-free tinted moisturizer that evens skintone and provides sun protection offered by NARS. It also helps reduce the appearance of discoloration and dark spots caused by hyper pigmentation for a clearer and brighter complexion in just four weeks. Oil-free and luxurious, it obscures the appearance of lines, wrinkles, pores and other imperfections. As far as tinted moisturizers go, this one is amazing. (5 out of 5 Stars)
3. Anthelios 50 Daily Anti-Aging Primer with Sunscreen SPF 50,$39.50
What can I say about Anthelios? It is some of the best sun protection available bar none. In fact, before you could by the SPF 50 in the US, I would have my mother get it for me in France. Now you can find it at the drugstore! It’s colorless, lightweight texture fills in and smooths fine lines, wrinkles and pores for an even complexion and an instantly younger-looking skin. It’s formula is enriched with absorbing powders to mattify skin and eliminate excess sebum in combination and oily skin. As a primer, you can’t beat it. It combines high UVA/UVB protection and powerful anti-oxidants to correct the signs of aging and daily prevention of skin aging. I found myself using this all summer at the beach and pool. It was always in my bag. (5 out of 5 Stars)
– Lauren Dimet Waters
Disclosure: Samples provided for review, but opinions are completely my own.