Anyone who’s whiled away a few hours in a Sephora trying to find the perfect face product knows that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Blame the no-makeup makeup movement or the influx of YouTube tutorials, but they’ve made shopping for face makeup totally overwhelming. There’s coverage amount to consider, plus finish, feel, ingredients, and not to mention price. For the overwhelmed, here’s a Cliff’s Notes breakdown of the difference between BB, CC creams, cushion compacts, and foundation.
If you’re foundation-phobic, tinted moisturizers, BB creams, and CC creams are great alternatives to regular foundation and CC cushions. But what really make a CC cream different from a liquid foundation? The truth is that all of these options will give you a nice face, and it oftentimes comes down to the specific issues you’re trying to cover and treat. Let’s break it down for you.
The one that started it all, the BB cream became one of the stand-out products that put Asian beauty on the Western beauty map. It’s the perfect Goldilocks solution between a tinted moisturizer and a foundation. Originating in Asia, the BB stands for “beauty balm” (though sometimes blemish balm, beauty base, or beblesh balm). BB creams offer skin care benefits along with coverage—which is their whole selling point. You get sun protection, hydration, and various skin-nourishing ingredients (it can differ by product but it’s usually in the department of antioxidants) all in dewy sheer-medium coverage. You can find these in a tube or a cushion compact.
We love the Erborian BB Creme. Along with leaving a nice matte finish, the cream is enriched with ginseng, an anti-aging ingredient that reduces the appearance of dark spots and under-eye circles.
A step above the BB cream, the CC cream is like the deluxe version of its predecessor. CC generally means “color correcting” and focuses on addressing redness or sallowness in the skin along with offering similar skin care benefits and protection that a BB cream would offer. Whether in cushion form or in a tube, you can find CC creams that look like actual color-correcting products in pastel lavender or green and ones that look just like your complexion shade (hence the confusion). There are also the wildcard CC creams that appear to be a colorless cream but contain color-correcting microspheres that break down as you apply it to your face and disperse a veil of color. Honestly, the finished result of your BB or CC cream can look pretty identical, so it’s really up to whether you’re looking for color correction or not.
The It Cosmetics CC Cream is a cult favorite among beauty junkies because it offers full coverage along with stellar color correcting abilities. On top of that, it’s packed with SPF 50 so it’s offering you great protection.
As the name implies, this is your makeup base. They come in varying levels of coverage—from sheer to full—and the goal is for it to look like your actual skin tone. Lots of modern foundations offer SPF and boast skin care benefiting ingredients (perhaps to keep up with the popularity of BB and CC creams or maybe just the demanding and competitive makeup market now). Foundation tends to offer way more shades than BB or CC creams though—which is where they have them beat. BB and CC creams tragically tend to come in very limited shades (since they are often made by Korean brands).
If you’re looking for a unique take on foundation, check out the Son & Park Glow Ring Foundation. It’s super handy since it comes in a dual-sided stick package. One side contains the foundation and the other has a brush to seamlessly blend in the creamy formula.
Not a specific cosmetic so much as the vehicle it comes in, a cushion compact is a way to tote around liquid foundation, CC cream, or BB cream mess-free. The whole point is that they offer a different way of applying product. The liquid makeup is kept in a sponge (or cushion) housed in a compact with an accompanying sponge applicator. You just press the applicator into the cushion and tap, tap, tap to blend onto your face. It makes the BB cream, CC cream, or foundation super easy to apply and blend without getting makeup all over your hands. People love compact cushions for the weightless application they provide. They’re a K-beauty original innovation but you’ve probably been seeing a bunch of mainstream mass and prestige beauty brands following suit and offering a cushion compact of their own.
We love the Missha M Magic Cushion because it works to absorb sweat and it has SPF 50 so it does double duty.
DD, EE, FF Creams…
This is where marketing jargon tends to take over and the actual function can get a bit lost. Beauty brands are always trying to come up with innovative unique products to make them stand out from the crowd but sometimes it turns out to be one big hoax. Just remember — when in doubt, you can always consult product reviews!