Do the Top 5 Most Reviewed BB and CC Creams on Sephora Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

Cosmetics, Reviews, Skin Care


BB and CC Creams are the new all-in one skin care treatments that utilize the latest in scientific technology and innovation to give you the best skin you’ve ever seen! Well, as WE all know, that is complete BS. BB and CC creams are just tinted moisturizers that may or may not contain beneficial non-vehicular ingredients such as skin lighteners, antioxidants, etc…  Both Asian and Western ones contain the same types of ingredients and are not particularly different from each other. However, the one thing they all promise to do is to replace your sunscreen—something that most consumers believe and practice. Let’s see if the most popular ones actually provide adequate*** sun protection.

***Please note that “adequate” is a subjective evaluation, at least considering protection against UVA rays—something that has not been standardized like that against UVB rays. Therefore, what I deem as “adequate” may not be the same as what someone else believes. However, please rest assured that what I deem as “adequate,” is likely above what the average consumer deems as “adequate,” since I’m the type of person who will put on sunscreen even when leaving the house at 6:00 pm in the summer months—that’s how much I care… or how obsessed I am. Mhm, that’s right I said it.

Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35

Smashbox BBWith 1,543 Reviews, this contains (7.5% octinoxate (ON), 4.0% octisalate (OS), 2.5% oxybenzone (OB), and 1.1% titanium dioxide (TiO2)). Well, this provides great UVB protection from almost-maximum amounts of ON and OS, good UVA-II protection from the OB and TiO2, and… very little UVA-I protection from the meager amount of TiO2.

Verdict: FAIL

Boscia B.B. Cream SPF 27 PA++

s1339035-main-heroComing in second with 1,095 Reviews, this contains (6.4% TiO2). As indicated in Part V of the Sunscreen Series, TiO2 does not provide adequate UVA-I protection, except at concentrations higher than about 15%. At that point, the opacity (nanoparticles or not) will be too high to allow for a cosmetically acceptable finish—unless of course, you’re okay with looking like a geisha.

Verdict: FAIL

Dr. Jart + Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45

s1327915-main-heroWith 954 Reviews, this contains (9.015% TiO2 and 6.035% zinc oxide (ZnO)). With the inclusion of ZnO, this definitely makes the cut for being adequate. While I wish the numbers were reversed for the two UV filters, the resulting formulation is acceptable.

Verdict: PASS

Too Faced Tinted Beauty Balm SPF 20

s1392521-main-heroWith 717 reviews, this contains (5.0% TiO2 and 5.0% ZnO). Here’s where we get into the gray areas of: Does this provide enough protection? Well in my opinion, I wouldn’t use this on a daily basis. However, I would recommend this for those rare situations when you have to “put on your face” in a rush, since it does provide decent sun protection, light coverage, and is mildly moisturizing for normal-ish skin types. I personally use the Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Sunscreen, which is just a rebranded version of the former Smooth Operator Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20, for these situations. It contains the same concentrations of the same UV filters, but has a better selection of shades and on my very oily skin type, lasts better throughout the day.

Verdict: (Conditional) PASS  

Miracle Skin Transformer SPF 20

s1356146-main-heroRound out the top 5 with 623 reviews, this BB cream (while not specifically labeled as one, but categorized on the Sephora website as so) contains (7.5% ON, 5.0% OS, 2.0% OB, and 1.5% ZnO). As it is quite similar to the Smashbox BB Cream, the same comments apply. This provides great UVB protection, good UVA-II protection, and very little UVA-I protection. While ZnO is a better choice than TiO2, it is far less efficient. At 1.5%, its presence is pretty much negligible.

Verdict: FAIL

Surprise, Surprise

I guess being the most popular doesn’t mean you’re the best. Wow, that sounded like a comment about high school students… Popularity and hype really know how to derp people. And it’s really unfortunately that so many people aren’t getting adequate levels of sun protection. Hopefully a majority of them will eventually come across this post, or another that “preaches” a similar “doctrine.” Haha!

Want to see more derping? Check out this post on the “efficacy” of alpha lipoic acid AKA thioctic acid in terms of topical antioxidant potential.

Check our bestsellers!

  • Hey, I love this post, but I find it odd that you didn’t do any BB creams from the Skin 79 brand,

  • Pingback: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SUNSCREEN Pt 2: Stability and Safety of Sunscreen Ingredients, both FDA Approved and Non-Approved | Vanity Rex()

  • @nelson

    Oh I see. Well, then that’s a shame. They should share with their “cheaper” siblings. Haha!

  • nelson

    i completely agree with you! what i am also trying to say is that looking at how easy these japanese/korean bb creams and foundations obtain a spf50 pa+++, it makes me really wonder why the identified sunscreen actives, particularly the mineral ones, appear only in the middle of the ingredient list! as much as tinosorb s, tinosorb m, and uvinul a+ are accessible to the japanese, i realize they rarely appear in complexion enhancing cosmetics (bb creams, tinted sunscreen, foundations, primers with spf, color correctors). even if they do, it’s mostly from the luxury cosmetic giants (shiseido, kanebo, kose). even so, these ingredients rarely appear in their drugstore brands/lines. while these ‘new’ chemical actives are more frequently used in japanese sunscreens, most of the complexion enhancing cosmetics still follow the ‘traditional’ formulation of sunscreen actives (octinoxate + mineral actives).

    *my points are all over the place XD*

  • @nelson

    You are absolutely correct that the main disadvantage of Asian sunscreens it that they don’t list the % of UV filters. 🙁 It really annoys me! It only makes evaluating a sunscreen that much more difficult. For example, you bring up the first 10 ingredients rule. While that may usually work, many of the more potent UVA filters like Tinosorbs S + M, and to an extent Uvinul A Plus, can provide quite a bit of protection at a comparatively low %, meaning they that may not even be part of the first 10 ingredients. So yeah… as you can see, this issue a pretty serious mistake on the part of the regulatory organization of Japan, though the PA rating system makes up for that in-part.

    Lol, I am on such a roll because ANOTHER thing that really annoys me is that Ratzilla does not allow people to copy and paste ingredient lists, etc. Nor can I open multiple tabs. I get that the author is trying to maximize exposure and site hits, but it seems a bit overboard in my opinion. I mean come on, it’s so petty!

    Finally, as for the whitening issue, I’m on your side. 🙂 Even though I’m considerably lighter than you, I still dislike the paleness and ashiness that many inorganic sunscreens have. But similarly like you, I’ve just come to accept that characteristic as a lesser evil if I want a high SPF and UVA-PF mineral-based sunscreen.

  • nelson

    as of now, i know that has quite a well database (of ingredient lists) of bb creams and foundations albeit more japan-centric. so maybe you assess the products from there? one of the weaknesses i realized from bb cream/foundation formulations of asian brands (correctly me if im wrong) is the evaluation of the spf/pa system. since the % of sunscreen actives are not stated, to provide sufficient protection, it should be only natural that these sunscreen actives take the first 10 spots on the ingredient list (again, correct me if im wrong). and looking at the variety of high spf makeup products compared to western brands, i began to doubt some of these formulations and i realize that even with some products labeled spf 50 pa +++, the identified sunscreen ingredients are listed in the middle and sometimes at the end of the ingredient list. the one thing i’ve learnt from this sunscreen series is that when purchasing these asian formulations, i look for those which sunscreen actives are listed in the beginning of the list, but again, particularly with mineral actives and the whole asian ‘whitening’ culture, these formulations tend to run SUPER pale, ashy, and peachy. i am quite yellow for a chinese but considering that these don’t really matter to you, i think you can accept these shortcomings.

  • @Tiffany Martin

    Yeah, I’d like to review some of them, but without knowing the % of UV filters, the best I can do is guess at how much protection they provide, which isn’t very assuring, right?

    As for mixing a sunscreen with a BB cream at a 1:1 ratio, so long as both products provide adequate levels of protection, the mixture applied at 2.0 mg/cm^2 should give you at least as much protection as the “weaker” one provides alone at that same amount.

    Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. If you would still like to see an example of how I would review an Asian BB cream, you can post a link to one of them on here, and we can proceed from there!

  • John,

    Thanks for answering!

    I’ve seen that the formulations for Asian BB creams aren’t “special” chemically but I like the products I’ve tried better for many reasons (color match, and opacity especially), and I didn’t know if there was a way to learn more. You’re great at chemistry questions and I wishfully hoped you’d tackle Asian brands but I can see the issue with not knowing % of ingredients present.

    If I were to ask for specific products, probably popular BB creams from brands like Missha, Etude house, Holika Holika, Tony Moly, etc. I mean, products can vary greatly in their SPF/PA ratings~

    Also, I do use a sunscreen everyday, not sure if I put on the 1/4 teaspoon though. Would be nice if I could apply 1/8th sunscreen and then add bb cream and have it be safe enough, I am looking into some of the good Japanese sunscreens out there, I’ve read that they feel very light on the skin but provide good sun protection.

  • @nelson

    Like I said in the last comment, that will only occur if I expose the packaging to the sun and keep it there for a long period of time. But between where I keep my products and where I apply them, there’s no sunlight to be found (or at least very little of it).

    Does that make sense?

  • nelson

    but the beneficial ingredients in the tarte one gets oxidized because of the clear packaging right?

  • @nelson

    Well, I chose the Tarte version because it appears to last the longest on me. That’s it. But they all provide about the same amount of sun protection. I don’t really care about the packaging because my products don’t see the sun anyways.

    And you’re welcome!

  • nelson

    ah i see. that explains why you chose the tarte tinted moisturizer for its texture and longevity although the packaging clear, over both the stila and too faced ones with opaque packaging. yeah most single shaded bb creams are very grey and/or peach. this particular renewalist bb cream is still grey but not too bad (slightly ashier than clinique’s city block). thanks so much! =D

  • @nelson

    Well you know me, I don’t like combination products because they almost always fail in comparison to using two separate products that are really potent in their respective aspects! But yeah, you’re right. There’s just a small bit of niacinamide. But the sun protection is good, though I’d imagine this BB cream is quite gray in finish.

    Same goes for the Lorac CC cream. I mean, the smatterings of non-vehicular beneficial ingredients are nice to have compared to a foundation that doesn’t have any. But will you notice a significant effect? Nope!

  • nelson

    i just realized some of the dr jart bb creams we receive in SEA are of a different formulation (i.e. the black label bb cream that you get in sephora are fully mineral sunscreens while the ones we get include octinoxate). anyway, what do you think of this dr jart bb cream; are the beneficial ingredients too little to produce any significant effect?

    and same question goes to the new lorac cc cream; are the beneficial ingredients too little to produce any significant effect?

  • @Kari

    Well, a separate sunscreen may or may not be necessary, just depending on the specific BB/CC Cream in question, and how much of it you consistently apply. But hey, applying more sunscreen is never a bad thing in terms of sun protection anyways! 🙂

  • @Lucas

    Phew, great!

  • I must admit I was fooled into thinking adding sun screen was unnecessary. If summer ever does arrive this year, I will be ready this time. Thank you.

  • Lucas


    Hahah, no, that’s ok. You actually made it clearer.
    Look forward to that post!

    Thank you!

  • @Lucas

    While particle size and dispersion tendencies have some bearing on a product’s SPF rating, the vehicle itself will have a more significant impact. Even more impacting are the other non-vehicular beneficial ingredients present like antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. I’m actually doing a post (which will published on or before Thursday) on this subject on the blog. Stay tuned!

    Also, note that ZnO will always provide slightly less UVA protection that UVB protection. But its spectral profile remains approximately the same no matter the particle size, etc… The only factor that can largely influence its spectral profile is whether or not its in the water or oil phase of a product, which is directly linked to the type of coating used, if any is used at all.

    Lol, I know I’m only complicating everything, but sunscreen technology is a super complex issue. I hope I didn’t confuse you too much!

  • @Sarah

    You’re welcome! And I agree to the extent that the FDA needs to implement their proposed formal UVA labeling system! Currently, there’s a 4-star system in place (similar to the PA rating system), but the FDA has yet to require products to be labeled as such. I really don’t understand the delay! They need to be more forceful!

    On a side note though, both UVA and UVB rays need to be blocked. 🙂

  • Lucas


    I always thought as well that zinc wasn’t able to reach medium-high SPF, but them I come across products like Obagi Nu-Derm Physical UV Block SPF 32 (18.5% zinc oxide) and don’t know what to think anymore. How can they achieve that SPF with only zinc oxide? Does it have something to do with particle size, dispersion,…? Does it mean the UVA protection is not as great as if it had a lower SPF?


  • Sarah

    Thanks for another great article, John. Like another reader mentioned, I cannot wait to try some of these new Japanese “PA++++” rating products! I honestly wish that American products will start adopting some form of system where it’ll indicate to consumers the level of UVA protection. I mean, after all, isn’t the main (and only?) reason why we put on sunscreen to begin with? To protect against the god awful UVA. With summer approaching, I hope you have a few more sun protection related articles for us. We are all obsessed like you! haha…

  • @nelson

    Yeah, I saw the review.

    I’m actually going to Sephora tomorrow (I think), and I will check out the texture and color of the PTR CC cream. As for the Supergoop one, Sephora doesn’t carry it. And my local Nordstrom doesn’t have it either.

    Hopefully, there will be a review up soon from someone.

  • @Robert

    Well, it depends on the sunscreen/BB cream in question, since anything with an SPF is tested the same way. But you’re correct the they all have to be applied in correct amounts (2.0 mg/cm^2) in order to achieve the labeled amount of protection.

    Finally, 15%+ ZnO would only provide good protection against UVA rays. In comparison, the amount protection against UVB ones would be unacceptable. You’d need around the maximum allowed amount of ZnO (~25%) in order to achieve an SPF of 15.

  • @janine

    Oh nice! I’m sure the VLA makes the Josie Maran SPF 40 more palpable.

    And I’m so happy that you like the JS. It’s one of those rare inorganic sunscreen gems that doesn’t leave ANY kind of a white cast. I’m super jellybean! I wish there was something like that for people with oily skin types AKA ME. Lol!

  • nelson

    speaking of PTR, beautypedia did a review on it!–CC-Cream-Broad-Spectrum-SPF-30-Complexion-Corrector

    oh well, i guess i’ll have to wait for it to arrive in malaysia to see the shades for myself (or we might not even get it at local sephoras! T.T)

    in the meantime, i’m still keen on the supergoop one :3 HAHA

  • Robert

    For serious protection from the suns rays, it’s far better to use a separate sunscreen for the face. And use the correct amount which is about 1/4 tsp for the face and the same amount for the neck. Zinc oxide at 15%+ is your best bet. There are a number of quality ones out there. You just gotta try them out and see.

  • janine

    Actually, it is the Vitalumiere Aqua that I currently use and LOVE for the fact that the coverage is not as heavy. And, oddly, my skin is not that dry but I adore that Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer (which you turned me onto, so thank you) for two reasons:
    1) it provides that “adequate” level of sun protection without leaving the skin dry-ish and flaking at the end of the day. My skin fells supple at the end of the day.
    2) it does not have the whitish cast that so many of the good non-organic sunscreens have.

    P.S. thank you so much for including in your responses to the comments exactly how much is enough product to apply to be effective. And last night’s detailed facebook post on that was so helpful.

  • @Anne

    Sure, you need to apply 2.0 mg/cm^2 (about 0.0655 oz/ft^2) to achieve the labeled SPF rating. I know it’s hard, but do the best that you can! If you can’t, try switching to a lighter formulation. Furthermore, layer with a powder on top that contains a high % of TiO2 and/or ZnO to boost sun protection.

    If I may ask, which sunscreen are you using now?

  • @nelson

    Yeah, the Dr. Brandt one really walks the line between what is adequate and what is not. That combined with the likely pink shades, I wouldn’t recommend it. Although, I admit that the online swatches on Sephora are usually inaccurate.

    As for the PTR CC cream, like with the Dr. Jart SPF 45 reviewed here, I would prefer of the % of the two UV filters were switched. However, it would still get a PASS from me. I like that there are 3 shades, though. I’ll try and remember to get swatches of this on my next trip to Sephora.

    And yes, with any SPF product, you need to apply 2.0 mg/cm^2 to achieve the labeled SPF rating.

  • @janine

    Haha nice! It’s great to meet a fellow “mixer.” You must have some seriously dry skin because from my personal experience, both of those products are quite greasy; although, I have very oily skin so I’m definitely biased. 😉

    Have you tried perhaps using the Vitalumiere Aqua? The alcohol in that product would help thin out the overall texture of your “BB” cream. However, I’d imagine that you may not like that, since the VLA provides markedly less coverage than the original VL. Still, it’d be a fun experiment, at last in my eyes!

  • @Dawn

    Thanks for reading! Well, as long as a BB cream provides adequate protection, you wouldn’t have to use a separate sunscreen underneath, as long as you apply enough. 🙂

  • @Lucas

    Thanks! And nice job for commenting on the recent post of that Aveeno product. It makes me so freakin’ happy when I see a reader make such a smart remark! Nice work!

  • @Rachel

    Well like with anything, BB creams will vary in terms of how well they protect the skin against the sun. But don’t be afraid of them, because the best of them are pretty fantastic. But, can I ask which sunscreen you’re using now?

  • @Emy Shin

    Mhm, that product does look promising. But as I indicated above to a few people, I cannot really evaluate Asian BB creams since the % of UV filters isn’t listed. However, due to the spectral profiles of ZnO and Tinosorb S (the main protectors against UVA1 rays that are included in that product), it likely provides excellent overall protection. That combined with the PA++++ rating, can pretty much assure broad-spectrum protection. However, like I said, I can’t be sure. Give it a try, and let us know how you like it!

  • @Tiffany Martin

    I understand why you’d say that, but even then, the formulas wouldn’t be that different. From what I’ve seen, most Asian BB and CC creams (especially the ones that most people talk about) primarily utilize a silicone base with dashes of more emollient emulsifiers. Everything is then solubilized and thinned by alcohol. There’s nothing too particularly unique about that.

    As for the increased amount of coverage, I’ve seen ones with sheer coverage (indicated by the presence of a gray cast) and ones that have coverage more akin to a traditional foundation. If what you’re saying is true: that most of them actually provide more coverage, then that may not be a good thing. Due to the higher amount of coverage, people will use less to cover up their imperfections. Because sunscreens have their efficacy directly linked to the amount applied, the less applied, the less protection will be achieved.

    And as I indicated to @Annamarie above, it’s quite difficult for me to review Asian versions. Can you see any way around these roadblocks? And if so, which particular products are you interested in seeing?

  • @Annamarie

    Well, the title states that I would be reviewing the top 5 most popular BB creams at Sephora. The Skin 79 brand isn’t available there. 🙁

    Furthermore, it’s pretty much impossible for me to review the sun protection that Asian BB and CC creams give because they don’t state the % of UV filters present. However, a potential way around this would be to use the Japanese PA system (for Japanese BB and CC creams) to evaluate protection against UVA rays, and the SPF rating to do so for the UVB rays. Even then however, that doesn’t tell me how much a particular sunscreen protects against UVA1 rays versus UVA2 rays. Still, it’d be better than nothing I suppose.

    Does that make sense?

  • @Pedro

    At face value, I would definitely consider that product as a PASS. 🙂 Furthermore, you forgot to mention that it contains 7% octinoxate to boost SPF!

    On a more practical level however, because this is a cream product, most people will tend to use less of it compared to a liquid sunscreen–thereby reducing its protective potential. Most people will likely not apply the necessary 2.0 mg/cm^2.

  • Anne

    John, another marvelous article! Can you comment on how much of the product one would need to apply in order to get the protection labeled on front of pack? That has always been my biggest challenge with these creams – if I apply “enough” my face looks like its been covered in frying batter. I would love to know if I’m doing it wrong! 🙂

  • nelson

    have you seen the new dr brandt and PTR ones? they all seem very good too but the dr brandt one prolly has very pinkish shades from the way they described it. malaysia does not have supergoop so im sorta indirectly relying on bloggers *hint hint XD* to try them out and see if its worth it for me ordering. dr jart generally make very good textured bb creams but for better shade selection, i suggest missha. still, bb and cc creams generally dont go beyond anything darker than medium skin tones except probably those by iman, salma hayek, and black opal.

    so do these provide “adequate” protection? and btw, when you said adequate, do you apply 2mg/cm2 of these tinted moisturizers/bb/cc creams to your face?

  • janine

    best bb cream ever: 3 pumps of Josie Maran Daily Moisturizer SPF 40 and one drop of Chanel Vitalumiere foundation.

    That being said, there will always be the application of antioxidant serums underneath!

  • Great post! Bottom line, we all still need to use a moisturizer with SPF under BB cream.

  • Lucas

    I’m also careful (obsessed?!) with sun protection. I don’t even begin my day without reliable broad-spectrum UV protection, just because it seems counter-productive to not avoid the number one external cause of skin damage. And having rosacea, skipping sunscreen has an immediate reminder.

    This is such an educational post, especially because you chose to review the most popular BB creams. I mean, there are so many people using these products probably unaware of the compromised sun protection. It’s like you said, hopefully they’ll stumble upon this post!

  • I have my sun protection in my skin care cream so I was considering a BB cream but now I’m a bit concerned about the protection in this cream so I don’t want to layer so many creams on my face just to be protected.

  • Emy Shin

    Like you, I’m terribly obsessed with sun protection, and have thus far avoided wearing foundation or BB cream on a daily basis because I didn’t want to compromise my sun protection. So I’m actually thinking of checking out some Japanese BB creams that have PA++++ (which is equal to PPD16+), including the Shiseido ANESSA BB cream.

  • Yeah I was fooled too, asian bb creams have more coverage and even though ingredients like silicones and the types of sunscreens used are the same, that doesn’t mean the formulas are. Ask anyone who has tried both western and asian bb creams to know.

    I would have loved a walkthrough of asian bb chemistry over western bbs. They are just tinted moisturizer, most have little opacity.

    I trust your considerable knowledge and hard work, John, so I would absolutely love a follow up with popular asian bb creams!

  • Annamaria

    ARA: On second thought, presumably Skin 79 BB creams aren’t in the top 5 most reviewed. My bad. I would love it if you reviewed the sun protection of some lesser known BB creams, though.

  • Annamaria

    Hey, I loved this post, but I find it odd that you didn’t do any BB creams from the Skin 79 brand, which is what I thought (and hoped) would be featured.

  • What about the new C.C. from Amore Pacific? Titanium Dioxide: 4.15%
    -Zinc Oxide: 9.8% 🙂

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