What is BB cream?

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How to cite: Wong M. What is BB cream?. Lab Muffin Beauty Science. April 2, 2012. Accessed July 24, 2024. https://labmuffin.com/what-is-bb-cream/

BB creams are popping up on shelves everywhere – but what are they?

BB stands for beauty balm, blemish balm or beblesh balm, depending on which brand you’re looking at. BB creams are said to have originated from a cream that dermatologists recommended after cosmetic surgery to help repair skin and cover damage. They became popular in Korea after some actresses revealed them to be the reason for their flawless skin, and lo and behold, a trend was born!

What’s so great about them?

The main pro of a BB cream is that it’s a multipurpose product – most BB creams combine sunscreen, moisturiser and foundation/concealer. In terms of makeup coverage, they sit somewhere betweem full foundation and tinted moisturiser; however, unlike traditional makeup, they usually claim to improve your skin rather than clog it up. They often contain anti-irritant ingredients as well, so they tend to be good for sensitive skinned gals.

There’s a BIG difference in formula and function between the original Korean/Asian BB creams and the newer Western brand ones. The Asian BB creams generally contain better skincare ingredients and provide better coverage, whereas most Western BB creams are nothing more than glorified tinted moisturisers. Accordingly, BB cream devotees tend to use “true” Korean BB creams, and people who have only tried Western formulas end up disappointed. There are some exceptions with more Asia-centric creams released by Western brands, such as Bobbi Brown.

What do they do?

Almost all BB creams combine basic moisturising ingredients, coloured pigments and sunblocking chemicals. Additionally, some BB creams also contain antiwrinkle (adenosine), blemish-fading (arbutin), and anti-inflammatory (chamomile extract, beta-glucan) ingredients. Some BB creams also claim to minimise pores and control acne.

What are the drawbacks?

Colour range – The biggest drawback is that BB creams tend to only come in 2 or 3 shades – luckily, they tend to blend into your skin, so it’s not a huge problem, but using a sample first is recommended. Additionally, since the Korean brands produce their BB creams for an Asian market which loves skin lightening as much as Western girls love their tanners and bronzers, the creams can sometimes look unnaturally light.

“Ashy” problems – Because they tend to have very high SPF ratings, BB creams can look unnaturally grey or pink when you put them on, but this usually goes away after a few minutes.

How much? – The most annoying thing for me is that the BB creams have very nice ingredients, but they never tell you how much of each there is in there.

Is it for me?

If you want a one-step skincare product to slap on in the morning, and there’s a shade that suits your skin tone, a BB cream might be your solution!

I’m a massive fan – I love my sleep, and I hate spending time in front of the mirror when I could be in bed. I currently have Skin79 Pink Label, Skin79 Gold Label and Missha Perfect Cover on rotation – I haven’t quite decided which one works the best, but I love how good the results are for so little effort!

Which BB creams have you tried, and what did you think of them?

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33 thoughts on “What is BB cream?”

  1. This is fantastic! I have been trying out these recently and needed a decent explanation. I keep reading that they can lighten/brighten your skin & was concerned they might bleach yr skin or something? Do you know anything of this?

    • Good question, and one I forgot to cover, sorry!

      A lot of the Asian/Korean ones have whitening agents – most Skin79 and Missha BB creams, for example, have arbutin which is a skin-lightening hydroquinone derivative. They usually state it clearly in the packaging and descriptions because it’s a major selling point for Asian girls. I haven’t seen a Western BB cream yet with lightening ingredients.

      I think a good idea is to read the packaging for “lightening” “brightening” or “whitening”, and check on Google before you buy.

  2. I only use BB creams! My skin is already pretty good so using actual foundation actually makes it worse. =S Even with BB cream, I only use it for special occasions. I like that it’s light yet evens everything out magically! My fave is from Etude House – I also have Skin79 Oriental Gold but it’s a bit heavier and has a dewy finish rather than matte. It smells so delicious though, yum!

    • Yeah, I had pretty nice skin, then when I tried to cover up the few spots I had with MAC foundation, my skin just kept getting worse and worse until I had to cover it all up! I haven’t tried Etude House, but I’ve heard that Skin79 Pink is for oily skin while Gold is for dry, so that might explain the dewyness?

    • Oriental Gold is different to Gold Label but it’s also meant for dry skin so maybe that’s it? =o Although my Etude House one is also meant for dry skin, so I’ve always put it down to a brand finish and personal preference! What differences have you found between your three? =)

    • Yeah, I think it depends on what you want out of it and what works with your skin! I’m undecided at the moment, but Missha Perfect Cover seems to give better coverage than either Skin79. They all make my face shiny, especially the Gold Label, so I always put powder on top. They haven’t broken me ou so far, touch wood!

  3. I keep meaning to try bb creams but of late, I just haven’t used any cream at all. Horrible, I know, but my skin went through a period of irritation and it’s improved when I stopped using any cream on it. The only worry is that means I haven’t been using sunblock when I go out…

    • Yeah, one of the reasons I started using BB creams is because I realised I needed some sort of sunscreen, and sunscreen formulas are usually just so… yech. Maybe you should start with some sensitive skin formulas, like Cetaphil or QV?

  4. I use Etude House and Skin Food BB creams. I tried the Garnier but it was too much like a tinted moisturiser on me.
    The BB creams make my skin look nice and even without changing my colouring or looking like I’m wearing makeup but the Garnier makes it look like I have foundation on.
    The Skin Food Aloe Vera BB Cream is my favourite so far but I’ve ordered the Skin Food Good Afternoon Berry Berry Tea BB cream to try next.

    • Yeah, I wasn’t impressed by the Garnier one at all, but since it has no coverage, it’s incredibly easy to blend! Not that it does much.

      I’ve been meaning to try the Skin Food and Etude House ones – amazingly you can actually buy them in person in a couple of shops in Chinatown!

  5. I have the Garnier BB cream, it’s a bit orange for me and I do have to powder a lot to stop from becoming oily. I’d love to try one of the original BB creams but I think getting a colour match would be hard, I have very light olive-toned skin.

    • The Garnier one doesn’t do much for me, except make me feel better about (hopefully) not slathering my face in pore-clogging thick makeup… You can order little samples off eBay for about $2 including postage to try out, or if you know your skin colour, maybe try heading over to Makeupalley and reading reviews to see what girls with similar skin colour think 🙂

  6. arbutin – i’ve heard requires large amounts if you want to bleach / whiten skin. which is why usually those whitening products really work.

    i have scandal bb cream which is great for me. Have u tried missha signature range? I’ve heard its the same as perfect cover but w/o mineral oil.

    • That’s what I suspect – arbutin etc. are expensive, and there are never any %s on the packages, so I doubt there’s much in there. But a lot of reviews report that hyperpigmentation, acne scars etc. fade with BB cream usage – this could be the whitening action, placebo effect, sunscreen action or just the tint covering it up. Arbutin does work better on hyperpigmentation than normal skin tone, so it’s possible that it won’t bleach the whole face, just the abnormally darkened bits. But it’s really hard to say without the %s whether all/some/no BB creams do what.

      I’ll check out Scandal 🙂 I haven’t tried Missha Signature yet, but I’m hoping a sample comes with some Korean makeup I ordered a few weeks ago… I just got some Skinfood BB samples so I’m pretty excited to try those!

  7. Awesome post. I’m always struggling with my skincare. Acne-prone and the only thing that’s never made it worse so far is MMU, which I order online, but even the lightest touch is too heavy in summer and I can’t wear sunblock at all.

    I’m crossing my fingers and just ordered a Skin79 Pink. 🙂

  8. I would like to try this but I have a pink skin tone and a lot of the reviews I have read said they are more for golden or yellow toned skin. Is there one that anyone could recommend for pink toned skin??

    • Some are very pink – Skin79 Oriental Gold for instance. I’d recommend trying a sample out – many of the BB cream brands give out sample packets, and you can buy a pack of 5 or so for a few dollars on eBay if you don’t have any stores near you 🙂

  9. Hullo, love your blog!
    Quick question about the Missha perfect cover BB cream – how does it differ to the Skin79 Pink label in your opinion?
    Thanks and keep posting 😀

    • Thanks! Unfortunately I haven’t been wearing BB cream lately (I’m lazy haha) so I’ll put one on each side of my face tomorrow and let you know ASAP… hopefully no one notices :

    • OK, sorry it took me so long…

      They’re very similar, but the main differences imo are:

      – MPC is heavier than S79 – MC covers dark circles decently, but S79 is pretty transparent. MPC feels more like foundation, in a covering-your-face kind of way. I guess this might be why some people report breaking out from it…

      – S79 smells more like skincare (light, fragranced), MPC smells more like a cosmetic (kind of chemically).

      I couldn’t really notice a difference in oiliness (I didn’t use powder for either side of my face) or colour (I used MPC #21, and not very much of each one – maybe a dot about 3 mm wide for each side of my face).

      My preference would be probably to use S79 all over, then MPC over the bits that need a bit of concealing, since I don’t really like the heavy feeling.


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