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Makeup artists share when to use BB creams vs. CC creams — plus 19 options to shop

Take a break from your heavier foundation with these hydrating formulas.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

A flawless complexion is always the goal when you're applying makeup, but sometimes heavier foundations lack key ingredients that can benefit your skin. That's when BB and CC creams come in handy.

These creams are multitaskers in the way that they provide hydration and a lightweight texture — which is always a plus in our book. Instead of hiding your blemishes under cakey-looking makeup, BB and CC creams offer an even tone with skin-friendly benefits thanks to their all-in-one formulas.

We asked makeup artists to break down the building blocks of BB and CC creams, along with what makes them different from each other. Read on or use the links below for more information, or jump directly to our top 19 recommendations below.

BB cream and CC cream | What is a tinted moisturizer? | Benefits of BB cream | Benefits of CC cream | How to apply BB and CC cream | Best BB creams | Best CC creams | FAQs, answered | Meet our experts

What's the difference between BB cream and CC cream?

The main difference between both formulas lies in their coverage intensity and texture. BB creams are beauty balms that correct blemishes; CC creams are color correctors with lighter coverage than the former.

"BB cream is more hydrating and can provide a beautiful radiance to the skin, [which] is ideal for dry skin types. [Meanwhile], CC cream is lighter in coverage and is great for oily skin as it often comes in a matte formula," shares celebrity makeup artist Nydia Figueroa, who's based in Cedar Grove, New Jersey.

While BB and CC creams offer lighter, sheerer coverage compared with foundation, they can be easily paired with other beauty products to give your skin a smoother, even consistency.

For example, "concealers are great to pair with a BB cream or CC cream because you can target areas on the face that need more coverage," recommends Figueroa.

What is a tinted moisturizer?

Many retailers use the term "tinted moisturizer" interchangeably with BB creams and CC creams, which may get confusing. But while BB and CC creams offer some coverage, tinted moisturizers typically offer sheer to no coverage while providing hydration and a bit of sun protection. In other words, it's like adding a dose of pigment to your face that has a very light formulation. Tinted moisturizers are helpful if you want to give your face an easy summer glow without a cakey feeling.

What are the benefits of BB cream?

Aside from delivering additional hydration and radiance to your skin, BB creams work as a "multifunctional product that serves as a moisturizer, primer and foundation. This is a great option for someone who wants a quick and easy way to even out their complexion with minimal effort," says Figueroa.

In addition to its skinimalism-friendly properties, many BB creams contain antioxidants and offer some level of SPF that protects your skin from the sun and other environmental stressors. (Skinimalism, a portmanteau of "skin" and "minimalism," refers to a scaled-back approach to skin care that Pinterest highlighted as a major beauty trend this year.) However, BB creams should be used alongside your favorite sunscreen because BB formulas typically contain lower SPF values that range from 10 to 45.

What are the benefits of CC cream?

CC creams are most commonly used for their undertones, which lend themselves to color-correcting. They're especially great if you're looking to combat hyperpigmentation and redness. Aside from neutralizing blemishes and under-eye circles, CC creams are often formulated with skin-friendly, anti-aging agents that decrease the appearance of spots and wrinkles.

For celebrity makeup artist Jeannia Robinette, who's based in Los Angeles, CC creams offer a more natural, matte finish to a barely-there makeup look, which is ideal for those who have oily or acne-prone skin.

"I love how natural it is and evens out your skin tone plus is a multitasker," she says. "The CC creams have a little bit more pigment than the BB. Also, it corrects your skin tone. I'm a fan of wearing as minimal foundation as possible [when wearing a CC cream]."

How to apply BB and CC cream

Like most makeup products, BB and CC creams can be applied with a brush. However, Robinette recommends applying them with your fingers.

"I prefer to use my fingers and warm up the CC cream before applying it on my skin," she says. "I treat it like a sunscreen and put it all over my neck, chest and face."

Robinette also recommends avoiding a beauty sponge for application to avoid the product being absorbed and wasted. For everyday makeup application, BB and CC creams are the way to go without adding a full mask on your face.

You should also make sure to "use a shade up and darker than you're used to," suggests Robinette. "The lighter color will highlight the areas that you want to cover, while the darker will offer coverage."

Best BB creams to shop

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Aging Perfector

Nail the perfect glowy complexion with Neutrogena's anti-aging formula, which can help correct your skin imperfections. What makes it a shopper favorite is the added retinol and SPF 20 for a protective, natural-looking finish.

"This has just the right coverage for a light, natural look, but all the discoloration is evened out and lasts for several hours in the humidity," said one shopper who gave it five stars.

Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream 8-In-1 Skin Perfector

With 21,000-plus glowing (and verified) five-star ratings on Amazon, Maybelline's hydrating, gel-like formula will give your skin a smooth feeling and sheer coverage. Customers note how much they love the non-cakey textures and how easily it blends into skin without clogging their pores.

In other words, this is a great cream if you're going for a "no makeup" makeup look.

Pacifica Alight Multi-Mineral BB Cream

This multi-mineral cream will leave your skin looking smooth and hydrated. Its light, sheer formula provides a barely-there finish that covers up dark spots and undereye bags.

"My skin is very fair and constantly dry throughout the year, but this provides good hydrating coverage without any congestion," raved one customer.

Lique Active Beauty Hydrating BB Cream

This lightweight BB cream offers a blend of antioxidants like white and green tea, which are said to help reduce redness and inflammation while strengthening the skin's collagen. The vegan formula not only provides a natural dewy finish while hydrating and smoothing fine lines, but it also supposedly adds full coverage without greasiness.

Iris & Romeo Best Skin Days SPF 25

If you're someone who forgets about sunscreen the minute you walk out the door, this product is for you. Its five-in-one formula combines the benefits of a serum, a moisturizer, a sheer cover-up and a blue-light/pollution protector for a true glow-y finish. With a near-perfect average star rating, this product will become your best friend when you need a quick skin care-plus-makeup routine.

"It isn’t matte, but it isn’t overly shiny. It provides that perfect healthy skin glow," gushed one buyer who gave it five stars.

One/Size Turn Up The Base Beauty Blur Balm Foundation

Blur your blemishes like a boss with this breathable formula. The Japanese white rose in this BB foundation helps to improve the skin tone while controlling oil production and delivering all-day hydration.

Exuviance Skin Caring BB Fluid SPF 50

For an even tone and ultra protection, we recommend this formula from Exuviance. While your blemishes won't be covered fully, the light tint provides a smooth effect that looks natural on the skin. Major pluses are the mix of ultra-fine mineral sunscreen, vitamin E and green tea extract to help the skin during those extra sunny days.

Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream

Disguise fine lines and wrinkles with this water-resistant BB cream. The full coverage, sensitive skin-friendly formula features antioxidants like apple extract and sunflower seed oil to gently moisturize and exfoliate.

L'Oréal Paris Makeup Magic Skin Beautifier Anti-Redness BB Cream Tinted Moisturizer

L'Oréal Paris's BB cream became a TikTok sensation last year, so it's no surprise it's been selling out left and right. The ultra-light formula neutralizes redness thanks to its green tint; plus, it hydrates, primes and perfects your complexion because of ingredients like vitamins C and E.

Best CC creams to shop

e.l.f. Cosmetics Camo CC Cream

With 3,000-plus five-star ratings on both Ulta and the brand's website, e.l.f.'s popular CC cream comes in light and full coverage, and in 20 shades, to help cover lingering sun spots and imperfections. It's also made with anti-aging ingredients like niacinamide, peptides and hyaluronic acid to provide a smoother texture and more even tone.

Neutrogena Clear Coverage Flawless Matte CC Cream

If you're looking for perfectly matte coverage, Neutrogena's CC cream is the solution. It contains vitamin B3 and boasts a creamy texture that blurs discoloration and minimizes redness and the appearance of pores.

Jason Wu Beauty Tinted Moisturizer Meets CC Cream

This hero product from Jason Wu Beauty offers a smooth finish without leaving an oily buildup. Think of it as a color-correcting moisturizer that you can use under your foundation.

The formula is lightweight and sheer, offering a glow-y finish to your complexion. This CC cream hydrates, reduces redness and provides an even skin tone, according to the brand. You can find 12 blendable shades for the perfect glow.

Perbelle Skin Tone Adjusting CC Cream SPF 43

If winter has ripped your skin of hydration, this CC cream will help replenish it, all while boosting sun protection with its SPF 43 and evening out y our complexion.

Its formula has hyaluronic acid, which hydrates your skin, and niacinamide to brighten your skin tone. Most customers love this base because it works like a foundation while leaving a flawless finish.

One reviewer said, "[It] layers very well, and I find that I don't use concealer when I wear Perbelle, even on my dark blue under-eye circles."

It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream SPF 50+

Just like its name implies, this bestselling, award-winning CC cream offers full coverage without the heaviness, claims It Cosmetics. It provides long-term nourishment thanks to hydrating, skin-friendly ingredients like collagen, peptides and hyaluronic acid. The brand designed this tinted formula for every kind of imperfection on every skin type.

Clinique Moisture Surge CC Cream Hydrating Colour Corrector

Lighter than a foundation but heavier than a tinted moisturizer, Clinique's hydrating, oil-free CC cream is meant for uneven skin tone to correct dullness, redness and sallowness. Touted as "one simple step for glowing skin" by the brand, reviewers adore how this formula stays on all day long.

Dermablend Continuous Correction Tone-Evening CC Cream SPF 50+

For those looking to hide their dark spots, Dermablend's formula is here to deliver full, long-lasting coverage. The combination of niacinamide, vitamin E, baicalin and caffeine will give you that "I woke up like this" look.

Erborian CC Cream

If you want to improve your skin's texture, go for this CC cream. According to one verified reviewer, "the color match is absolutely perfect, the texture of my skin is soft, and the finish is very natural but still gives great coverage."

The multipurpose formula is enriched with Centella Asiatica (aka "tiger grass," a plant used in traditional Korean medicine), which helps to soothe skin. It's also formulated with hyaluronic acid for hydration and SPF 25 for UV protection.

It leaves a natural look without weighing down your complexion. Plus, your skin will look soft while camouflaging any fine lines.

Mary Kay CC Cream Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 15

Look all made up with minimal effort using Mary Kay's eight-in-one formula. This CC cream is meant to cover up that pesky blemish without making your complexion thick and condensed. Plus, if you're dealing with skin sensitivity, it'll hydrate your skin for hours while leaving it less irritated, according to the brand.

Olay Total Effects Tone Correcting CC Cream with Sunscreen SPF 15

Address your skin concerns with this multi-functional cream from Olay. Your skin will feel refreshed and moisturized thanks to the brand's proprietary blend of several antioxidants and vitamin B3. This lotion is said to minimize the look of pores, hydrate your skin and even skin tone.

Over 4,000 Amazon reviewers have raved about how this cream buffs out any imperfections — yes, acne scars too!

Arbonne Intelligence Pollution Defense CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30

Replace your primer with this CC cream containing concealer, SPF 30 protection, foundation and mattifying powder. In general, this CC is a multitasker offering a radiant and dewy finish to your complexion. Besides offering medium coverage, this lightweight formula is said to give mature skin improvements in appearance, like evening out skin tone.

The combination of Vitamin E, argan oil, alfalfa and chicory extracts work together to moisturize the skin's outer layer.

Questions about BB creams and CC creams, answered

Can CC cream or BB cream be used as a foundation?

Yes, according to Los Angeles-based celebrity makeup artist, Jose Corella. CC creams, he says, "can be used as foundations as it is basically a color-correcting tinted moisturizer." You can also wear BB creams as a foundation, he adds.

Do you wear a primer under CC cream?

For Corella, this is all about personal preference.

"If you have a primer you like that blurs or adds glow, you can definitely make your own skin cocktail. However, I personally would use it as is!" he explains.

Do you need powder over CC cream?

According to Corella, you can use a powder if you want to lock in makeup all day. But if you have dry skin, he advises to just avoid the powder for a more natural and glow-y look.

What is the difference between BB, CC and DD cream?

"BB cream is ideal for dry skin as it is super hydrating. It’s basically a tinted moisturizer with skin care benefits, and usually added SPF," Corella explains. "CC Cream is a step up from BB cream in the sense of coverage and evening out the skin tone with its color-correcting properties," he adds, explaining that the latter is very hydrating with its added skin care and SPF properties.

"DD cream is a marketing term that followed the invention of BB creams and CC creams, and it often stands for 'dynamic do-all' or 'daily defense.' There is no quantifiable definition of a DD cream that distinguishes it from BB or CC creams," Corella explains.

If you have mature skin, Corella recommendsCC creams because the formula has more pigment and works better for hyperpigmented and dark skin.

Is BB cream good for mature skin?

According to New York City-based esthetician and makeup artist Edelyn Collado, mature skins need hydration more than coverage. "Sometimes, when you add foundation to aged skins the fine lines will show up more and the creases will be more noticeable," she says.

If your skin is dry, you can get away with BB creams and CC creams. However, Collado emphasizes the importance of adhering to a skin care routine in order to prevent breakouts.

Do you recommend BB cream vs. CC cream for oily skin?

Collado recommends a CC cream, primer and powder for oily skin, because throughout the day your skin gets oily and the powder will help to absorb the oils on the skin.

Do you wear powder over CC cream?

You can wear powder over CC cream depending on the type of skin you have and the level of coverage you want. Collado says that what powder does i set your makeup, so if you have oily skin, you might want to add the powder to set the makeup. Collado does not recommend powder for individuals with dry-to-combination skin.

Is it good to use CC cream daily?

Yes, you can use CC cream daily because it is typically the better formula for skin due to its added skin care properties and UV protection qualities. According to Collado, CC creams are great for daily use because they work as a color corrector. However, Corella also suggests cleaning your face daily before use.

Meet the experts

  • Nydia Figueroa is a celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert with over 15 years of experience working for the biggest names in beauty. Her work has been featured on television, NYFW, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, the Miss Universe Organization and more.
  • Jeannia Robinette is a makeup artist whose work began at the young age of 15. Her work has been featured in Allure, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, W and more.
  • Jose Corella is a professional makeup artist with a background in photography. His work has been featured on the red carpet, in advertising, in magazines and more.
  • Edelyn Collado is a licensed cosmetologist and esthetician with over 20 years of experience. She specializes in permanent makeup, lashes extensions and more.