BB, CC, DD, and EE creams – does that sound like an alphabet soup to you? Let’s decode these letters, and figure out what these alphabet creams are all about, and what are the differences between BB, CC, DD, and EE creams.
BB and CC creams are the go-to favorites for those who like natural makeup, all-in-one products, and as many skincare benefits as possible. DD and EE creams are a little more complicated, and much less common. Trying to decide which of the alphabet creams you need can be difficult, especially when there are so many options on the market.
What is true for almost all BB, CC, DD and EE creams is that they are one-part foundation (or maybe closer tinted moisturizer), and one-part skincare products. Some can also cover the categories of face primer, anti-aging serum, and sunscreen (or at least so they claim).
While some will cover more than others, it is undeniable that alphabet creams can be excellent products, which is why I’ve included in this post my choices for the best BB, CC, DD, and EE creams that are available for purchase.
Where Did BB, CC, DD, and EE Creams Come From?
The OG BB creams, while created in Germany, became a hit thanks to their popularity in East Asia. A dermatologist formulated the first BB cream in the ‘60s, in order to give a safe and protective makeup product to patients who have had strong acid peels.
In Korea and Japan, the emphasis in the beauty world is on perfected skin and soft makeup, so BB creams, which were advertized as skincare products that happened to also be makeup, caught on quick.
Currently, alphabet creams make up about 13% of the beauty product market in South Korea, and they are also a serious part of the Western makeup work. Since 2012, BB and CC creams have become more and more popular in the West, and nowadays almost every makeup brand carries their own BB or CC cream.
Alphabet Cream Application Tips and Tricks
• Always start with cleansed skin before applying BB or CC creams.
• If your skin is on the oily side, most BB, CC, and DD creams will do it all by moisturizing your skin in addition to priming and protecting it from the sun. Feel free to skip the moisturizer.
• If your skin is dry, you might still want a hydrating serum or moisturizer underneath that alphabet cream.
• While alphabet creams often contain impressive skincare ingredients, they will not penetrate into your skin as well as they would if they were in a moisturizer. If you’re looking for heavy-duty skin benefits, wear a serum underneath your BB creams.
• To get the full sunscreen benefits of your BB, CC, DD and EE creams, you probably need to apply double what you are used to. If that ends up in a cakey result, then perhaps alphabet creams won’t work for you as a sunscreen replacement.
• It is perfectly okay to amp up the coverage of your BB cream with a layer of concealer or a heavier foundation on top, or only on the spots where you need a bit more coverage.
• To extend the wear of your BB, CC, DD or EE creams, or to give them a more matte finish, set them with your face powder of choice. Personally, I am forever loyal to the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder, which is available at Nordstrom, and works beautifully with almost all alphabet creams.
What Are the Differences Between BB, CC, DD, and EE Creams? Are They Definitive?
Short answer: nope. Long answer: well, it depends. No two formulas are alike, so going from brand to brand BB creams will be different from other BB creams, CC creams will be different from other CC creams, etc.
You might even find that what is a DD cream according to one brand really reminds you of a different brand’s BB cream. There are no specific rules, although for the most part you will find some claims are more commonly made about one type of alphabet cream, and others are made when speaking about a different alphabet cream.
Ultimately, when trying to choose between BB creams, CC creams, or DD creams, consider each product individually – is the color right for you? Do you like the coverage it gives? Do the skincare benefits this product offers take care of your specific skin concerns? Those answers are much more important than the letters used to name the product.
What Are BB Creams?
BB creams are the first alphabet creams to make a splash on the market. Depending on the brand, the BB either stands for “blemish balm” or “beauty balm”.
The originals were suited for all skin types, but especially for normal and combination skin types leaning either towards slightly dry or slightly oily. As more BB creams were released, however, companies started making different BB creams for different skin types and skin concerns.
BB creams usually provide thicker coverage than the average tinted moisturizer, which they have all but replaced, but not quite as much as a foundation.
Since the BB cream tradition hails from Korea where skin tone ranges are not very diverse, the color selection leaves quite a bit to be desired, with shades often pulling very fair and neutral-cool. Western brands tend to have larger selections, and as time passes companies tend to expand their color range.
BB creams often have very high SPF, so if you’re willing to pile on a full ¼ teaspoon of BB cream, it can totally replace your moisturizers, primers, AND sunscreen.
Best BB Creams
1. Missha Perfect Cover BB Cream SPF 42
This Korean BB cream is one of the beauty balms that led to the BB cream popularity explosion, so its place on this list is well deserved. It offers a medium-light coverage, and has a pleasantly smooth texture.
It works well with most skin types, and even offers hydrating and anti-aging benefits, not to mention robust sun protection. It comes in 5 shades well suited to those with warmer skin tones. You can purchase it through SokoGlam.
2. Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Tarte makes some of the best, most wearable foundations, and their affinity for skin-loving ingredients makes it only natural that their BB cream would be exceptional. Its light coverage means that the relatively small color range (4 on offer) is no big deal.
One of the best BB creams, this one goes on smoothly, and diffuses the appearance of both larger pores and fine lines. It works decently on all skin types, and a simple formula means that it’s phenomenal for sensitive skin. It can be purchased at Sephora.
3. Laneige BB Cushion Pore Blur SPF 50
Cushion compacts are a new innovation that makes BB creams more weightless and airy than they’ve ever been before – pay attention, because you’ll be hearing a lot more about them soon.
The BB cream contained within the cushion is a mattifying all-in-one product that does not even require powdering. It is a perfect choice for combination and oily skin types that are looking for a light yet buildable foundation. It is available at Sephora in 6 shades.
4. MAC Prep + Prime Beauty Balm SPF 35
While we normally associate MAC with full coverage foundations, their BB cream is actually a lovely offering in a very respectable range. It’s fair to say that BB creams for women of color are sparse, so it’s nice to see someone put in the effort and do a great job of it.
The coverage is sheer and a little more on the matte side, so it likely won’t replace your moisturizer. You can find it at Nordstrom, in 9 shades.
5. Dr. Jart+ Dis-A-Pore Beauty Balm SPF 30
Choosing the best BB creams from Dr. Jart+’s roster is difficult, since this brand is a leader when it comes to crafting them. Ultimately, this one stands out as exceptional, especially for those with oily skin and enlarged pores.
It gives a medium coverage, with both available shades leaning towards neutral. This winning long-wearing formula can be picked up at Sephora.
6. Lancome Bienfait Teinte Beauty Balm SPF 30
This ultra-moisturizing and anti-aging BB cream is perfection for those with dry and maturing skin. The coverage is light yet buildable, and never looks cakey or settles into the fine lines. This product is available in 5 shades, from Nordstrom.
7. Coola Rosillience Oranic BB+ Cream SPF 30
Ultra-creamy and loaded up with skin-smoothing natural oils, this organic BB cream is perfect for dry and sensitive skin. The coverage is light, so despite the fact that it is only available in two colors, most people should find a good match easily.
One of the best BB creams out there, this is a skin-brightening formula with a gorgeous dewy finish. You can find it at Sephora.
What Are CC Creams?
So it seems to me like it was a marketing gimmick that gave birth to the first CC cream, and very little else. CC creams stand for color correction, but how they correct color in a way that BB creams don’t is a mystery to me.
Often you will find that CC creams, in addition to correcting as a foundation would, also contain skin-brightening ingredients like vitamin C. They usually have thinner texture, and are often marketed towards mature skin – it is no surprise that their finish tends to be creamier and more dewier.
CC creams might also brighten the skin cosmetically, with light-diffusing minerals that’ll give a radiant glow to the skin.
Exceptions always exist, with brands often focusing on differentiating within their brand, rather than following universal rules.
Best CC Creams
1. Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream
The focus with this organic CC cream was on the anti-aging effect, both immediately as minerals diffuse imperfections, masking fine lines and wrinkles, and over time with a collection of antioxidant fruit extracts. The formula is light, blendable, and creamy – perfect for anyone who likes a more natural look. It is available in 5 shades, at Ulta.
2. IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream SPF 50
This is one of the best CC creams, thanks to a robust formula of anti-aging ingredients including my personal favorite Asian beauty staple, snail mucus. It offers a medium to full coverage, so it can straight up replace your foundation, and is best for normal and dry skin types. It is up for sale, in 7 different colors, at Sephora.
3. Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream SPF 15
This lovely CC cream perfects the skin gently, with coverage on the lighter side of things. It’ll work well with most skin types, since it offers a very balanced satin finish to the skin.
It’s hard to find negative reviews, because it simply works so well as a makeup product. Throughout the day it keeps the skin hydrated, with some gentle moisturizing ingredients. You can choose one of the four colors it comes in at LookFantastic.
4. Clinique Moisture Surge CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Clinique’s BB cream for acne-prone skin is phenomenal, so their CC cream, targeting dry skin is unsurprisingly also fantastic. With 6 colors to choose from, the color palette is impressive, and the coverage is more than adequate while still looking light and natural.
If your skin is on the oily side, you can use this and skip your moisturizer. One of the best CC creams, it is available for sale at Nordstrom.
5. Amorepacific ‘Color Correction’ Cushion Compact Broad Spectrum SPF 50
This is the cushion that started it all. It is one of the best CC creams both in terms of its buildable, lightweight coverage and its incredible skin-brightening and anti-aging benefits.
It keeps the skin dewy and moisturized, and is generally best for normal and dry skin types. It can be found in 5 different shades at Nordstrom.
6. Supergoop! CC Cream Daily Correct Broad Spectrum SPF 35
This phenomenal mineral CC cream gives excellent sun protection without any harmful chemical ingredients. It’s a perfect choice for those who like a natural-looking coverage along with natural ingredients. It keeps the skin smooth and hydrated, but works well for all skin types. There are three shades on offer, at Sephora.
7. Giorgio Armani Beauty Luminessence CC Color Control Bright Moisturizer SPF 35
The cloud-airy coverage of this CC cream means that it is flattering and luxurious – best for those with mature skin who don’t want a product that will settle into their fine lines or emphasize dryness.
Light-reflecting minerals mask imperfections gently, and a 6-shade range means that you’ll have an easy time finding your perfect match. You can pick it up at Sephora.
What Are DD Creams?
Let me start by officially announcing that the whole concept of DD creams is pretty much dead. May they rest in peace! The ‘DD’ in DD creams stands for either “dynamic-do-all” or “daily defense”. Both mean nothing to me, seeing as that “do-all” idea was already part of the BB cream mythos, while defense, likely in the form of a sunscreen, is de rigeur in your average alphabet cream.
It is telling that no Korean company seems to have ever come up with a DD cream. Marcelle and Julep were two of the first brands to introduce the concept, but both have discontinued their DD creams in the past few years.
Best DD Creams (Okay, Only DD Creams)
1. Dermadoctor DD Cream Dermatologically Defining BB Cream SPF 30
Aside from the confusing name that implies this product is both a BB cream and a DD cream, this product is okay. The single color available is mediocre, best suited for those with medium, neutral skin tones. The coverage is decent, with a rich finish that is best for dry skin. It can be purchased at Sephora.
2. Pur Rescue Squad Broad Spectrum DD Cream SPF 25
Somewhere between a primer and a sunscreen, this take on DD creams is nothing like other alphabet creams. It’s a silicone-heavy formula that will blur both pores and fine lines, and is an excellent sunscreen choice for those who hate a greasy finish. For those with oily skin this is also a great moisturizer. It is available for sale at Ulta.
What Are EE Creams?
Usually, the EE in EE creams stands for extra exfoliation. In other words, these are not a two-in-one skincare and makeup products… they are only skin care!
Like many other beauty bloggers and writers, I call shenanigans. A scrub is a scrub, and there is no reason to pretend that you reinvented the wheel by trying to jump on a different marketing trend. So yeah, no, no thank you!
There was also an attempt to market EE creams as Even Effect – super sheer, low-coverage, with a blurring effect. The first (and only, I think) EE cream of this kind was released by Estee Lauder, but it doesn’t seem to have wide marketing.
Best EE Creams
1. Estee Lauder EE Even Effect Skintone Corrector Cream SPF 30
This sheer product barely qualifies as makeup, instead, utilizing silicones and polymers to blur the skin in order to hide pores and wrinkles. It does provide a tiny bit of coverage, as well as some sun protection.
2. The Jojoba Company Jojoba Bead & Bamboo Facial Exfoliant
What was marketed as the original extra exfoliation cream is actually a really lovely scrub, with clay, jojoba beads, and nourishing bamboo extract. It is a great product, and as you can see from the name, it seems to have been disassociated from the EE cream term. You can purchase it from Beauty Expert.
How do you feel about alphabet creams – sick of ‘em, or still enjoying their all-in-one magic? Do you have a favorite that I missed? Let me know!
Photos via Instagram