BB creams are the biggest thing in beauty right now, and no wonder: They make your skin look flawless while delivering amazing skincare benefits, too.
But these moisturizer/foundation/SPF hybrids, with their laundry lists of features, can also be incredibly confusing. Are they the same as tinted moisturizers? Do they work for every skin tone? We tested a full lineup of BB creams to uncover the answers, and compiled everything you need to know about these new It-creams.
4 Key Facts About BB Creams
What is a BB cream? Unfortunately, there’s no single answer. BB creams originated in Germany and exploded in Korea, where they were first used by laser treatment patients to ease post-procedure redness. But now that beauty consumers have embraced BBs, new formulas span a range of shades, textures and skincare benefits.
They’re NOT one shade fits all. Despite what some packages claim, we found a wide range of colors and they don’t all work with every skin tone. You may need to test a few formulas before you find a match.
BBs are best applied with a brush. Just like any complexion makeup, the key to making these tinted balms work is to blend, blend and blend some more. A foundation brush does the job better than fingers.
Layering brings the best results. Though some BB creams aim to replace your entire arsenal of face products, that’s not always realistic. If your skin is extra dry, you’ll want to prep with moisturizer so your BB’s pigment doesn’t stick to dry spots. Also, since most BBs have light to medium coverage, you’ll probably still need concealer for under-eye circles, blemishes, and other discolorations.
Which BB Cream is Right For You
Olay Total Effects 7-in-One Tone Correcting UV Moisturizer SPF 15 ($21.99, soap.com); in Fair-to-Light (pictured), Light-to-Medium or Medium-to-Deep
Olay calls this product a CC cream, the “color correction”-focused sequel to BBs, but the idea is the same. The swirled, dual-phase formula is ultra-light, so it might not replace your foundation. It does give skin a subtle, luminous glow with sheer coverage, and the neutral-toned Fair-to-Light shade was a favorite among our pale-skinned testers who found other BBs too dark.
Best For Pale Skin:
Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm SPF 25 PA++ ($34, sephora.com); one shade
This cream comes from Korea, where BB is a big deal. Its corrective tone counteracts redness, making it ideal for fair complexions with pinkish undertones. The water-based formula soothes skin with a cooling effect and leaves a pretty, dewy finish.
Best For Dark Skin (and Medium and Light):
Maybelline Dream Fresh BB 8-in-1 Beauty Balm Skin Perfector SPF 30 ($7.44, maybelline.com); in Light, Light/Medium, Medium, Medium/Deep, Deep (pictured)
This sheer fluid has a smooth texture that makes blending easy, and the line features one of the darkest BB creams of any we tried. The Deep shade has a warm, caramel tint that helps counteract gray or sallow tones on darker complexions. And with five shades spanning the color range, light to medium skin tones will find a match, too.
Garnier BB Cream Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector SPF 15 ($12.99, drugstore.com); in Light/Medium and Medium/Deep (pictured)
The first drugstore BB to launch in the U.S., Garnier’s version has enough coverage to stand in for foundation, and its slightly peachy tone makes skin look sun-kissed. But the biggest draw is its silky-smooth texture that blends flawlessly and blurs away pores.
Best For Uneven Complexions:
Vichy ProEVEN mineral BB Cream ($32.50, vichyusa.com); in Light or Medium (pictured)
Not only does Vichy’s new BB cream cover dark spots short term with its medium coverage formula, the company’s study showed it helps even out skin tone in four weeks.
Best For Full Coverage:
Dior Hydra Life BB Crème SPF 30 – PA +++ ($56, sephora.com); one shade
Dior’s BB cream was the most pigmented of any we sampled and the closest stand-in for full coverage foundation. Medium skin tones seeking to add warmth to their complexions will do the best with this one; our fair-skinned testers found it too orange on a pale face.
Best Matte Finish:
Bobbi Brown BB Cream SPF 35 ($42, bobbibrowncosmetics.com); in Extra Light, Light, Fair (pictured), Medium and Medium to Dark
As far as our tester was concerned, this BB cream was just right—not too thick, not too sheer, and with a refined finish that wasn’t overly dewy.
Most Intriguing Active Ingredient:
Rodial BB Venom Skin Tint SPF 15 Beauty Balm ($44, nordstrom.com), in Capri, Hamptons and St. Barts
While we found the shade names confusing (Capri just doesn’t convey color like “ivory” or “beige”), one feature made this BB stand out: Each tube is infused with the company’s signature ingredient, Syn-ake, an anti-aging compound made with synthetic snake venom. And no, it doesn’t sting.
Too Faced Tinted Beauty Balm SPF 20 ($32, sephora.com); in Vanilla Glow, Cream Glow (pictured), Nude Glow, Beach Glow
This BB’s lightweight formula feels amazing on the skin, but you’ll need concealer if you crave coverage. Its super-dewy finish leaves skin looking youthful and glowy.
Best For Oily Skin:
L’Oréal Paris Studio Secrets Magic Skin Beautifier B.B. Cream ($10.95, lorealparisusa.com); in Fair, Light, Medium and Deep (pictured)
This BB cream is colorless until you blend it into skin, causing its pigment beads to burst (fun to watch!). If you have oily skin and can get past the beads’ initial grainy texture, you’ll love the way this primer-like balm gives a smooth, matte finish.
Have you tried BB creams? Which one is your favorite?
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to BB Creams, Part 2