Are BB Creams Worth It? Which is the Best?


Dear Nicki,

I’ve been seeing a lot of BB Creams on the market recently.  Are they worth it?


Dear J,

BB Creams are only worth it if you are looking for a makeup, not a skin care treatment, and have pretty good skin in the first place.  This is because BB creams are generally far more “makeup” than “moisturizer” or “anti-aging treatment.”  The main ingredients are primarily silicones, which can be hydrating as well as aesthetically pleasing to the skin.  Unfortunately, silicones lay on top of the skin, not acting as a very effective delivery system for the beneficial ingredients in the product – hence why I do not believe in buying BB creams as a “skin care treatment.”

What Should I Look For in a BB Cream?

1.  Sunscreen.

My favorite of the ingredients in BB creams are the mix of physical and chemical sunscreens.  Physical sunscreens, like zinc oxide and titanium oxide, prevent UV light from penetrating the skin.  On the other hand, chemical sunscreens, like avobenzone and oxybenzone, take UV light and transform it into another form of energy that is not harmful to the skin.  Some dermatologists like to use both, as chemical sunscreens have been shown to be unstable (Photochem. Photobiol. Sci., 2002), and layering a physical sunscreen over top helps the chemical sunscreen last longer.

2.  Proper match for your skin color.

BB creams originated in Asia, where there are two desired skin colors:  pale and paler.  (I can say this and still be politically correct because I am Asian myself, haha).  At any rate, this may be great for the Asian markets, but not so great for America, where skin tones could be said to run an entire 256 color spectrum on their own.  While some brands, like Smashbox, offer up to five shades of BB cream, most companies are offering only one to three.  So be sure that you try your desired BB cream before buying it!  Chances are, none of the shades will work exactly right for you, unless you have great skin to begin with and only need to use one small, semi-sheer drop.

3.  Appropriate hydration for your skin type.  

If your skin tends to be dry, I recommend Clinique Age Defense BB Cream SPF 30.  The formula contains a large concentration of hydrating silicones, as well as sodium hyaluronate, to assist in moisture production.

If your skin is normal, I recommend I recommend a hydrating formula, like Dr. Jart++ Beauty Balm SPF 45.  Its lightweight, pinkish formula is best for those with fairly clear, smooth skin.  It also contains arbutin, a skin brightening agent that has not proven to be the most effective on the market, but still illuminating enough to make a somewhat noticeable difference after 4-6 weeks of daily use.

If you are looking for full coverage, look no further than Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream ($39.00,  This BB cream is by far the heaviest of any of the brands I’ve analyzed, and the coverage holds up through the scrutiny of close-ups and 24-hour wear.  Definitely a buy for the on-screen crowd!

If your skin is oily, I would not recommend a BB cream.   The purpose of BB creams is to provide moisturization, sun protection, and the cosmetic benefits of a makeup in one product.  In order to achieve this aim, chemists will formulate BB creams to have a lot of hydrators, like silicones, which are not-so-great for acne-prone skin.  I instead recommend Clinique Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup ($34.99, for you – with 2% salicylic acid, it controls oil production, but with enough hydrators to make it dry soft and smooth on the skin, not dry or flaky like some other foundations.

Bottom Line

Don’t go expecting a miracle from BB cream:  As we all learned from 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, there’s something to be said for using separate steps.  The truth of the matter is, I will never say that any of the BB creams listed above are as great as using separate a skin-specific serum/moisturizer, primer, and foundation.  However, I will say that BB creams can be an life-saver for women in a constant time-crunch.  If you have near-perfect skin to begin with and constantly find yourself running out of time to get ready, then I hope this guide to BB creams helped you out!

Let me know your thoughts in Comments!

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  • kim

    LOL u guys are totally getting this wrong- American BB creams are SO MUCH different than Asian’s ones. I have an asian brand BB Cream (Im Korean, they originated there) and I got three from my aunt who sent it over. It works as a full coverage, natural sunscreen, not oily, reduced acne, feels nice, and is wonderful. I come back to america and look up the price and its $60!! so glad I bought it there. American bb Creams are DEFINITELY not like Asia’s

  • Melissa Backus

    Great review; I totally agree with everything you say! BB creams are definitely not for oily skin, even slightly oily & it is hard to find your shade. The Garnier blends in well & feels light, but the Origins has several shades & offers a lot of moisturization. I say, ask if you can sample before you buy!

  • I reviewed Garnier’s BB Miracle Skin Perfector on my blog. I like the product, but it really is just a tinted moisturiser with SPF –

  • Alejandra

    Great post, theres so many bb creams that consumers can get lost when trying to choose one. Something that discourages me from buying the famous asian bb creams is that they dont publicate their ingredients lists, regarding publicity and all the rave about them in blogs, ill not buy something if I dont know its ingredients list, thats my golden rule when comes to beauty products.

  • I have FAR from perfect skin, especially right now as I’m breaking in a new retinol prescription. I’m also a professional makeup artist, so I’ve tried more foundations than I could ever count, and I know all of the tricks.

    My Missha Perfect Cover has been invaluable to me this winter. The coverage is on par with a good medium coverage foundation, and it’s got an SPF over 40 to boot! I’ve actually recommended it to friends & family before for the winter, as it’s probably the best way to get coverage without exaggerating dry patches or flakiness like most makeup will.

    I also fit into the “ultra pale” category (most mainstream companies, including MAC and MUFE, don’t have foundation fair enough to match my skin). The Missha in #13 Milky Beige is the best shade I’ve found of the 10ish creams I’ve tried.

    Though I still use separate treatment and moisturizer as Nicki mentions, I still adore my BB for flawless coverage that won’t harm my skin!

  • gail

    How about 3Lab Skincare BB Cream?

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