The Best BB Cream

Buildable, blendable, and not too good to be true

The 30-Second Review

BB cream is subjective — what one devotee swears by, the next one will hate. But we wanted our top picks to work for most people, so we sifted through 106 options to find which ones skip pore-clogging ingredients, slip on smoothly, and build coverage beautifully. Your mission: seeing if our top picks have your shade. Turns out, most beauty companies still haven't figured out they need more than a couple skin tones.

106
BB Creams
2
Top Picks
Best Overall

A BB cream, ahem creme, with a cult-following for a reason: deeper pigmentation that dries to a nice dewiness in 10 seconds, and tons of moisturizing ingredients.

Best Drugstore BB Cream

Affordable, but no less buildable or even. Plus, its super-sheer formula has SPF 30, aloe, and an antioxidant-rich pomegranate extract.

Typically marketed as an all-in-one moisturizer, primer, makeup, sunscreen, and more, BB creams make big promises. Yet, even the most avid fans of the stuff aren’t quite sure how to define it. Is it makeup? Is it skin care? Something else entirely? Even the name is confusing — BB can stand for beauty balm, blemish balm, and blemish base, all three of which reveal it doesn’t really matter.

The short answer: It’s makeup. Despite their claims as wunderkind multitaskers able to do it all, we found the best way to think of BB cream is as a tinted moisturizer, with benefits. Expect lighter coverage than a traditional foundation, along with good-for-your-skin extras like SPF and, in many cases, nourishing active ingredients like vitamins and antioxidants too. But even the best BB cream, like our top picks, Dior's Diorskin Nude and Maybelline's Dream Fresh, won’t replace your sunscreen or allow you to ditch your moisturizer or give up washing your face. More on that later.

Though BB cream seemed to appear on US shelves out of nowhere five years ago, it’s been around since the ‘60s. The product is widely attributed to Dr. Christine Schrammek, a dermatologist in Germany who wanted to offer an all-in-one product that her patients could use after laser treatments and surgery. BB cream quickly caught on in South Korea and expanded into other Asian markets. Now, almost every major makeup brand offers one or more — we’re talking a full beauty aisle takeover.

Our Picks for the Best BB Cream

Best Overall

Dior Diorskin Nude BB Creme A cult following for a reason: it’s ultra-lightweight with mega staying power.

This BB cream has a cult following among magazine editors and makeup artists and for good reason. It’s got more pigment than the average BB, so it’ll cover up and even out more imperfections, but it still goes on relatively sheer, allowing natural skin to show through. If you’re looking for lightweight, medium coverage from your makeup, the Diorskin will be up your alley. But, you could also pile it on for fuller coverage. No makeup-face look with this BB either way.

It dries within 10 seconds, which means you’ve got to work fast, and then it stays put. The finish is, as advertised, just the slightest bit dewy (without ever feeling sticky). We’ll call it a “natural glow.”

“I love the Dior BB Creme because it goes on smooth and has tons of moisture.”

There are a few key ingredients in the moisture-focused formulation that are great for dry skin, including antioxidants and anti-inflammatories like mallow extract and linseed extract. It’s also got hydrolyzed flower water with extracts from plants like hibiscus, which, as a natural source of alpha-hydroxy acids, gently and naturally exfoliates the skin and helps to prevent breakouts. While none of these are going to replace your skincare regimen, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have them in your makeup.

The downside to Diorskin is that it only comes in four shades, all of which are on the light side. The range starts with a pale, peachy “light” and also includes a sand-hued “fair,” a golden tan “medium,” and a similarly medium shade just called “025” with pink undertones. Unfortunately, this means that if you have darker skin, you’ll have a hard time finding a match. It’s also worth noting that this BB cream only has an SPF of 10, so you should definitely add that supplementary layer of sunscreen. And if you’re highly sensitive to scent, be sure to give it a whiff before buying — there’s a light parfum included in the ingredients.

Best Drugstore BB Cream

Maybelline Dream Fresh BB 8-in-1 Beauty Balm Skin Protector Light to medium coverage that’s sheer and blendable. Plus, it’s got SPF 30!

The big buzzword with BB creams is “buildable” and the Maybelline Dream Fresh BB is just that. It goes on sheer and feels lightweight, but can easily be built up to a fuller coverage. (That said, if you’re looking to cover up blemishes or get a fuller coverage, skip this one. You can layer it on, but only to a point. While it is buildable, it still doesn’t have the amount of pigment found in heavier BBs, or the amount you’d find in a concealer or traditional foundation. An especially pesky blemish will need extra help in the cover-up department.)

A lot of thick makeup products can feel heavy — sticky or uncomfortably “noticeable” on the skin — but even several layers of the Maybelline feel like nothing. And it’s durable too. Other BBs started to inexplicably dissipate or rub off, but Maybelline’s Dream Fresh lasted without reapplication on a 12-plus-hour day.

Dream Fresh goes on smooth and quickly dries down to be mostly matte, with just the tiniest hint of sheen, which looks and feels pretty natural. The oil-free and fragrance-free formulation means it’s non-irritating (though in truth it has the tiniest bit of makeup-y scent). It also offers SPF 30 sun protection from a titanium dioxide physical sunscreen, and while you’ll likely never slather on enough for dermatologist-approved sun safety, it’s a good bonus to your daily SPF application. Plus, it has antioxidant-rich pomegranate extract to help prevent future skin damage and aloe leaf extract to soothe and moisturize.

The product comes in five shades, from a very pale “light” to a much darker shade called “deep” — all with golden or neutral undertones, as opposed to more pink hues. And while five shades isn’t the widest selection, the Dream Fresh lineup at least encompasses a wider variety of skin tones than other brands that cater only to middle-of-the-range skin colors.

Other BB Creams to Consider

Biggest Shade Range

bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream A huge number of options (16!) that's unmatched by any other BB cream.

With 16 options, this BB cream is untouchable when it comes to shade range. (The next closest shade count was 10 from Cover FX.) Plus, bareMinerals actually tries to make finding a shade match less a guessing game by providing incredibly helpful descriptors for which skin color and undertone each shade is best suited for. Options range from Opal 01, described as for “the fairest porcelain skin with cool undertones” to Sienna 10 “for deep skin with neutral tones.” These descriptors helped our tester to find her ideal color, Birch 1.5, for “fair to light skin and neutral tones.” What’s extra great about this is that bareMinerals offers options for neutral undertones, unlike other brands that have only golden or pink hues (bareMinerals has those, too).

The bareMinerals BB didn’t take our overall prize because it’s an ultra-sheer formulation — there’s very little pigment in the product. The upside is that the gel cream formula feels light, cooling, and moisture-packed on the skin; the downside is that it really doesn’t offer a lot of coverage. Unlike the Maybelline or Dior, our tester had trouble building this BB cream up to fuller coverage even with layered applications, and she found that it could dry slightly streaky. Try using a sponge to help with this.

Best Texture

AmorePacific Color Control Cushion Compact Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ The beauty blender in this cushion compact gave us the most even application of any BB cream.

The award for unique applicator definitely goes to this AmorePacific BB cream. The product comes in a cushion compact with a beauty blender sponge for application — no sticky fingers here. This method unquestionably created the most natural look on our tester’s face. There were never streaks or patches and the product never dried down in spots before it could be blended. And while the $60 price tag may be off-putting, the product actually comes with a second BB cream-filled cushion for when your first runs dry, meaning you’re getting two in one.

AmorePacific does have a strong perfumed scent. The fragrance starts to dissipate once the product hits the skin, but it’s far from ideal for the sensitive-nosed and -skinned. (If that’s you, consider the 3Lab Perfect BB SPF 40, which comes in a tube with a roller-sponge that’s similar to the AmorePacific sponge in its even application.

The 3Lab was actually one of our tester’s top picks (she loved the light, barely there feeling on her skin, the medium coverage level of pigment, and the fact that shade #02 was a perfect match for her skin tone), but with only three very light shades and a $100 price tag, it was too limiting to win an overall best.

Best Fuller Coverage

Clarins BB Skin Perfecting Cream Great pigment without sacrificing that light, airy BB finish.

Sure, BB cream isn’t foundation. It’s not designed to cover up every single imperfection and create porcelain doll skin. However, if you’re looking for a BB cream that’ll come as close as possible to standing in for your foundation, try the Clarins Skin Perfecting Cream. It comes in four fairly varied shades — from a porcelain 00 Fair to a fairly deep 03 Warm — and has more pigment than any of the other BB creams we chose. How do we know? The Clarins BB Cream nearly covered up a mole on our tester’s face, which the other BB creams left unmasked. Even with all that pigment, the Clarins still dries light and doesn’t feel thick or sticky. Most of the Clarins shades fall on the warmer side of the spectrum, so keep that in mind if you have very cool undertones.

Hydroxatone Anti-Aging BB Cream, Perfekt Per-fekt Skin Perfection + Broad Spectrum SPF 30, tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen, Kiehl’s Skin Tone Correcting & Beautifying BB Cream, Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50, Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream, Hydroxatone Online Only Skin Perfecting Air Cushion Compact with Refill

Did You Know?

BB creams are makeup, so you still have to wash them off at night.

You’ll find plenty of BB creams with good-for-you goodies like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and delicious antioxidant cocktails. However, according to pretty much every expert we spoke to, BB creams are first and foremost makeup and, as such, they need to be removed at the end of every day.

“Just like a foundation or tinted moisturizer, BB creams can clog the pores, resulting in breakouts,” says dermatology practitioner Lauren Abramowitz. “Removing them at the end of the day is a must!” While we cut any BB creams with specifically pore-clogging ingredients, leaving just the pigmented makeup on your skin overnight can block your pores, trapping oil and bacteria inside and leading to breakouts and irritation. Bummer.

And even though they have SPF, you’ll probably still need to apply sunscreen.

If you’ve ever talked to a dermatologist, you probably know that the number one rule of skincare (and of life!) is: “Wear sunscreen!” According to the American Association of Dermatologists, that sunscreen should be SPF 30. Anything less than that cannot be guaranteed to protect your skin from damage.

Unfortunately, a lot of the BB creams on the market offer lower protection like SPF 10, 20, or even 28 (because those extra two SPF points were really beyond reach). We’re not going to tell you not to wear a BB cream with low SPF, but given the very small amount of BB cream you’ll use to get the pigmentation you’re after, experts recommend adding an additional layer of sun protection under your BB cream each day to ensure your skin isn’t damaged.

The common recommendation from dermatologists (like in this article published by the Skin Cancer Foundation) is that you need to apply at least a nickel-sized dollop of sunscreen to your face every day for it to be safe from harm. You’d have to apply a whole lot of BB cream to equal one nickel-sized dollop of straight-up sunscreen.

Don’t give up your moisturizer either.

Again, the primary goal of BB creams is to cover up blemishes and even out skin tone. So, while BB creams do boast some moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and aloe vera, they’re not a replacement for a good old singularly focused oil, serum or cream. “BB creams are not as effective at moisturizing as a plain old moisturizer,” says dermatologist Dr. Debbie Palmer. “This is because they aren’t formulated with the same concentrated percentage of moisturizing ingredients as your normal day or night moisturizer.” Multitasking isn’t as effective as we all wish it were, though we still swear we did a better job on our homework when the TV was on.

For best results, treat your BB cream like a light tint, applying it after you’ve cleansed, toned, moisturized, applied sunscreen, and done whatever else you need to do. Supplement your routine; don’t replace it.

A BB cream isn't a CC cream isn't a DD cream...

There are so many different alphabet creams and tinted moisturizers out there. Don’t worry; we’ve got you. Here they are from simplest to most intense:

  • Tinted Moisturizer: This is the simplest of all the various makeup-slash-skincare products. It’s just a moisturizer with some pigment in it. The color is usually pretty sheer. Lately, tinted moisturizers have been creeping into BB cream territory, adding all kinds of other ingredients including SPF too, so they’re more and more interchangeable.
  • BB Cream: The idea behind BB cream is that it’s an all-in-one moisturizer, SPF, primer, and foundation, with skincare benefits. And though realistically it doesn’t replace your SPF or skincare steps, it’s this multi-faceted formulation that sets it apart marketing-wise from straight-up tinted moisturizers. It’s much lighter than foundation and can easily replace that thicker makeup for everyday use because it’s meant to work with your natural skin, instead of covering it up completely.
  • CC Cream: The CC stands for “complexion corrector” and these products typically focus on targeted color correction. The main difference, at least in theory, is that they include a skin-brightening primer in them (whereas BB creams typically have a normal, non-brightening primer). They’re particularly helpful for acne-scarring, pigmentation problems, or constant redness.
  • DD Cream: In the seemingly endless exploration of alphabet creams, DD stands for “dynamic do-all” cream (really). It ostensibly combines the skincare benefits of BB creams and the color-correcting abilities of CC cream for an all-in-one super cream. These also typically have targeted anti-aging ingredients in them.
  • Foundation: And then, of course, there is still foundation. Many people prefer it for the wide range of shades most brands offer and the fuller coverage that can be achieved. Makeup artists told us that they often use BB cream or tinted moisturizer as a first layer (aka a primer) on the skin, adding foundation on top for extra coverage.

Take Action

Know your undertones. Are you light with cool undertones? Dark with neutral undertones? Take online quizzes; read up; and spend a good long time looking in the mirror. The general consensus is that if you tan more often than you burn, you most likely have warm, or golden, undertones and if you burn more than you tan, you are likely to have less melanin in your skin and therefore have cool undertones. Another trick people use is to look at the veins on their wrists. If they appear blue or purple, you’re probably on the cool side of the spectrum; if they’re greenish, you’re more warm-toned. If you have neutral undertones, you’ll have a harder time discerning. Note: Our tester found that her veins looked blue, but she has neutral to warm undertones, so it’s not an exact science! These tricks can’t guarantee a perfect match, but they’ll get you closer.

Best Overall

Dior Diorskin Nude BB Creme Lightweight, medium coverage that builds without getting bulky.

Test it on your own skin. We spent hours trying to match skin color to online swatches and swipes and to make intelligent guesses at the shade based on other brands that were a good match. Some of this worked, but some of it definitely did not. To get a good match, you’re going to have to test each brand on your own skin. Pro tip: Be sure to go outside into some natural light before making your final decision. Some bad purchases were made based on matches found under misleading Sephora lights.

Buy a few and try them out. Sometimes a quick test isn’t enough to really know if you love a product. Luckily, many beauty supply stores including Sephora and Rite Aid have very liberal beauty product return policies. Save your receipts and take back anything that just isn’t working for you.