The ABCs of BB and CC Creams

For some time now, we here at Sally B’s have wanted to touch on the topic of the industry’s latest trend: the BB Cream. Out of nowhere, every big player has a BB Cream claiming to be your all-in-one serum, moisturizer, foundation, and sun protection.  And as an added bonus, they promise to blur imperfections, hydrate, brighten, and give all day hydration. They have become so popular that now CC Creams have shown up in the beauty aisles, vying to one-up its BB cream predecessor:  it covers AND corrects.

We’ve seen all-in-one products hit the market before (remember the shampoo-conditioner combo?), but rarely to this extreme in popularity. It seems every brand is getting in on this trend with big marketing campaigns, product pre-orders, and prime-time commercials. So what is so special about the new BB and, now, CC creams?  And are we missing out not having a BB cream of our own?

First, it’s important to know that the BB creams didn’t start out as the product we see on the shelves today. The first formulation was created in the 1960’s by a German dermatologist to help patients protect their skin after surgery. However, it was put on the map in the 80s when Korean women discovered that not only did it protect their skin from the sun, but it also helped to smooth and lighten their complexion. In a society where light, porcelain skin is the image of beauty, this cream – named BB cream, short for Blemish Balm – reined supreme.  Fast forward to a couple years ago when an idealistic beauty brand decided to capitalize on BB Cream’s Asian popularity in the American market and created a must-have buzz about this “miracle” product.  But somewhere in its journey from Korea to the United States, BB cream was re-imagined into a product that added color to skin.  The product that was so successful in lightening women’s skin was now intended to darken the skin to hide imperfections.

At Sally B’s we have a research budget to pick up products we deem deserve a closer look. This is especially important for us since most beauty companies do not list their ingredients online; we have to buy the product to check out the back-of-the-package ingredient list. And as you guessed, we deemed these creams a definite cause for a trip down the beauty aisle. Upon application of several different brands of both BB and CC creams, we found that despite their letter difference, both creams were shockingly similar. For us, both creams were nothing more than tinted moisturizers with added SPF. While they did smooth the skin nicely, their coverage was extremely heavy and their blemish blurring abilities were questionable. This comes as a surprise, because according to its “blemish balm” name, it’s the one thing it should do, right?

As it turns out, the name “BB” is left open to much interpretation here in the States.  Sure the beauty bloggers and industry insiders call it “blemish balm” or “beauty balm,” but we were hard up to find a manufacturer’s definition. Not one beauty brand that had a BB cream or CC cream defined what their alliterative abbreviation stood for. Each brand’s formulation varied, too. Some protected, some prevented, and some corrected, but they all seemed to vaguely claim to “perfect the skin.”

Beauty brands will tell you that the true beauty behind these all-in-one creams is that they reduce the number of products you have to layer on your face each day.  But we don’t agree. By creating an all-inclusive product you are packing in ingredients that may not be necessary to one person’s skin. In the summer you might not need the benefits of a moisturizer and in the winter you may not need as much SPF protection, but with BB cream or CC cream, you’re layering on the ingredients whether or not you need them.  

After many hours of applying creams and washing them off and reapplying another brand’s cream, we concluded that this BB and CC cream “revolution” is nothing more than gimmicky marketing hype. Case-in-point: during our trip to the drug store we found that a well known beauty brand had simply put a sticker that said “CC Cream” on a product they already had. How do we know this? The product we purchased was the exact same product, sans sticker. After a quick internet search, we found that the company simply rebranded their product to keep up with the Jones’.  It underwent a very expensive rebrand, we might add. The product used to sell for $17.99 (for 1.7 FL OZ) and we purchased it today for $23

With the emergence of BB and CC creams (and can we expect a DD cream anytime soon?!) it drives home the fact that we must remain our own expert, no matter how alluring a “miracle product” may be. Even though all of the BB and CC Creams before us have very compelling messages on their websites and packaging, one look at the ingredient list will uncover heaps of parabens, phthalates, chemical sunscreens, alcohol, and preservatives. Ingredients that we know all too well do not contribute to “perfect skin.” We desperately wish someone had discovered a “miracle” product during the BB cream trend, but we’re realistic enough to know it’s never that easy.  Perfect skin relies on a balance of good-for-you ingredients put both in your body and outside on your skin, which, to us, seems impossible to package into one single bottle.

In our experience, natural and organic skincare products are what these all-in-one products only dream they can be: efficient, beautifying makeup with all the benefits of good-for-you skincare. If only these companies realized that all they had to do was put their money into effective, organic ingredients rather than spending it on marketing gimmicks.








  • Lori Rossetti

    So glad to read this article. A few friends have recently been raving about the latest BB creams. I had never heard of them. I was feeling old and also skeptical. I decided they were too good to be true and I told all of them I would not be purchasing a BB cream. I’ve been tempted but have not succumbed. Thank you for confirming my suspicions.

  • Jaclyn Hines

    I’ve had my suspisions about all the BB and CC creams hitting the market and thank you so much for confirming my thoughts. Very informative and appreciated!!! :o)

  • Trivanny

    is 24 da rite age to use anti aging creams on the face escileaply the eye area?ive had relly bad eye bags since the last two years and after applying sum cheap quality make up i’ve recently grown wrinkles on my forehead and pimples and can u please also tell me if just botox or chemical peel r the only solution for forehead lines cuz ive heard the creams rely dnt work?

  • Kathy Martin

    Thank you, Sally, once again for doing the research and demystifying these creams. I can mark this off my to do list. It seems to me your Tinted Moisturizer has most of these sought after qualities?

  • Jana Pendragon

    This is an interesting and, seemingly, important subject. Good to know!

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