How to choose a BB cream

Nikki ParkinsonBeauty 59 Comments

Hands up if you used a BB on your face this morning instead of foundation?

If I could actually see this virtual show of hands I would imagine I’d see about half of you with your hands in the air, waving about madly because you’re still so damn excited that you ever jumped on board the BB train.

About a quarter of you are probably not wearing any makeup (totally ok!) and the rest of you are probably scratching your head and wondering if I’m talking in some kind of secret code.

Let me quickly unlock that not-so-secret code and bring everyone up to speed.

The BB in BB cream stands for Beauty or Blemish Balm. The concept of this formula, which was designed to lighten and brighten skin, originated in Asia. There are plenty of beauty bloggers around who swear by their favourite Asian product. Me? I only jumped on the bandwagon when BB cream first became available for sale two years ago in Australia. That was with Garnier BB Cream – one that to this day is loved and used by many SY readers.

I’ve since tried a BB from Korea (thanks Miss Amy for swinging me that stash), a couple when I was in the US last year and I’ve worked my way through almost 30 BB creams as they’ve arrived on Australian counters and shelves.

Obsessed? Most definitely.

The reason for my obsession harks back to that lazy-girl part of my beauty personality. BB cream is a multi-functioning product. A BB cream is more than a tinted moisturiser because it offers complexion-enhancing and illuminating goodness immediately on application AND over time. So you get cosmetic benefits plus ongoing skin benefits.

The upshot? A BB can make you look all glowy when your skin is far from glowy. Winning.

I have some new BB cream finds to share with you but before I do, I need to talk about CC creams.


At first I thought the concept of a CC cream was just clever marketing jumping on the BB bandwagon but on closer investigation and trial, that isn’t necessarily the case.

The CC in CC cream stands for Colour Correcting so the formula contains ingredients which work to disguise redness, dullness and uneven skin tone.

Where I think the lines are really blurred is that many of the BB creams I’ve trialled do this anyway.

CCs tend to offer more coverage but I’ve also found that the coverage between BB creams can vary and my favourite BB creams offer as much coverage as the CCs I’ve tried.


You bet.

That’s why I’ve created a bit of a How to Choose a BB Cream – or CC Cream – road map for you.

How to choose a BB cream

Things to consider

1. How much do you usually spend on a tinted moisturiser or foundation? There are options from supermarket to makeup counter to in-salon.

2. Do you prefer a sheer, medium or heavy coverage?

3. Is your skin prone to dry or oiliness?

4. Do you want an SPF with your cream or do you prefer to apply separately?

5. Do you prefer a natural makeup product?

Once you’re clear on these answers you can start the process of narrowing down a shopping list. Below I’ve categorised my picks of BB and CC creams I’ve trialled and that are available in Australia (there are more out there!) as a starting point for you. Or maybe you’ve been using a particular BB cream and think you’d like to try something else.

I’ve included price, coverage levels, SPF and any other things that might appeal to you.

Don’t panic if you see that only one or two shades are available. In these cases, the formulas are designed so that they blend with – and enhance – your natural skin tone. Where there are more shade options, the formula is more opaque. It’s a personal choice which one you go for.

BB 1


Garnier BB Cream range ($11.19 on sale): light coverage, available in two shades, available in original, sensitive and oil-free formulas, SPF 15, hydrates and illuminates skin

Garnier BB Cream Eye Roll-On ($11.19 on sale): light coverage for eye area, corrects dark circles, smooths fine lines, brightens and hydrates eye area

Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream ($15.95): light coverage, SPF 15, available in four shades, great for a dewy, fresh finish, consider a darker shade for a sunkissed look

Maybelline Dream Pure BB Cream ($15.95): light coverage, SPF 15, available in two shades, great for teenage or oily skin, hydrates and minimises pores, contains 2% salicylic acid

L’Oreal Paris Nude Magique BB Cream ($21.95 on sale): light coverage, SPF 12, available in two shades, formula blends with natural skin tone and tiny granules dissolve to illuminate complexion

L’Oreal Paris Nude Magique CC Cream range ($21.95 on sale): light coverage, available in anti-redness, anti-dullness and anti-fatigue formulas, like the BB it transforms on your skin to correct desired tone. Anti-dullness is great under foundation.

Max Factor CC Cream ($13.99 on sale): medium to full coverage, SPF 10, available in six shades, creates instant radiance, matte finish

Rimmel 9 in 1 BB Cream Primer ($12.95): medium coverage, SPF 25, available in three shades, smooth matte finish

Palmer’s Eventone BB Cream ($9.99): light coverage, SPF 15, available in two shades, fragranced, oil-free

BB 3

Makeup counter

Napoleon Perdis Auto Pilot BBB Cream ($55): medium-full coverage, available in two shades, anti-ageing and high definition formula

ModelCo BB+ Cream ($19.95): medium coverage, SPF 30, available in two shades, brightening and mattifying finish

Clarins BB Skin Perfecting Cream ($50): medium-full coverage, SPF 25, available in three shades, hydrating formula

Kiehl’s Actively Correcting & Beautifying BB Cream ($36):  light coverage, SPF 30+, available in three shades, fragrance and paraben free

Stila Stay All Day HD Beauty Balm ($58):  light coverage, one tone fits all, includes anti-ageing formulation

Bobbi Brown BB Cream ($60): medium coverage, SPF 35, available in nine shades, dewy finish

Too Faced Tinted Beauty Balm ($47.95): light coverage, SPF 15, available in six shades, oil-free and hypoallergenic

BB 2


Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream ($61.20 on sale): full coverage, SPF 25+, available in six shades, non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, sensitivity tested, clinically tested, dermatologist tested

Ultraceuticals CC Cream ($59): medium-full coverage, available in three shades, SPF 30, demi-matte finish, includes great formulation for hydration

Thalgo BB Cream ($45): medium-full coverage, available in three shades, SPF 15, powdery finish

Seacret BB Cream ($85): medium coverage, allergy tested, paraben free

Mineralogie BB Creme ($49): medium coverage, SPF 20; includes zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic

Lavera Beauty Balm 6-in-1 Tinted Moisturiser ($29.95): light coverage, natural formula including many organic ingredients, mattifying

Catalina Geo Intensive BB Cream ($39.90): medium-heavy coverage, SPF 35+, perspiration resistant

What I use

A BB or CC cream is still my everyday makeup choice. The ones I tend to reach for more often from the above list include Jane Iredale, Napoleon Perdis, Clarins, ModelCo, Max Factor and Garnier Oil-Free. Mostly because I prefer more coverage and a matte finish. Miss SY is mad for Maybelline Dream Pure BB. If I want even more coverage, I’ll apply a mineral powder over the top. Something I tend to do more often in the warmer months.

When I want to have a more polished finish for an event or where I really need my face to stay in place all day or night long, I use either Maybelline NY Instant Age Rewind The Lifter foundation (read about it here) or Illamasqua Skin Base Foundation, which is based on a BB formula (read about it here).

What’s your BB or CC routine? Found one you like that’s not on this list? 

Comments 59

  1. Hi Nikki, thanks for all the info! I just bought my 1st BB cream tonight-I’d never heard of it and was looking for a tinted moisturizer (I don’t normally wear foundation but my skin is so pale in winter). Do I need to wash it off at night like a foundation or can I leave it on like a moisturizer? One reason I don’t wear foundation is because I don’t like the idea of anything bad for my skin clogging my pores. I bought Garnier Oily/combination-it feels quite dry (more like a foundation than a moisturizer) but maybe because I’d just washed my face? Would it be likely to dry out my skin and have a bad effect? Thanks again!

  2. Hi Nikki,your site is wonderful.I am 19.Can I use Bob cream?Is this age fine to use bb cream.if so then I have combination skin and skin tone is pale,fair,what kind of bb cream should I use?Revlon,essence,maybe line,MUA,garnier?thanks

  3. Hey thank you so much for the guide 🙂 I heard that BB cream was so good so i decided to look into it and this really helped me choose one that sounds best for me. I’m going to try the Maybeline dream pure BB cream xx 🙂

  4. I am just jumping on the BB bandwagon now (I know I know) but I’m just not good with change. This post is brilliant and I think I’m going to try the Clarins or the Jane Iredale to start xxx

  5. Hi Nikki, I am an avid reader of your site, congratulations on everything you’ve achieved since we worked together at The Daily many years ago (I was Rebecca Hackshaw then!). I’m off to Bali in March for a holiday and looking into sweat-proof make up options. I know you love BB creams but I sunburn instantly, so I’m wondering if I went with the Jane Iredale Glow Time, with a mineral powder over the top, do you think I should apply sun cream underneath (or maybe Dermalogica primer?)? And I usually need to re-apply spf protection throughout the day, so is there a particular type of product that would be best for this? Or should this combination of products (with a hat and as much shade as possible) see me through?

    1. Hi Rebecca, hope you’re doing ok. With the Jane Iredale and a mineral powder on top you wouldn’t need a sunscreen as well unless you were swimming. And yes I’d go the Dermalogica primer underneath the lot – for staying power and SPF. As regards to reapplying, it would be a case of starting over again with the face, sorry – putting an spf on top of the powder might get messy and not work. There’s another great Dermalogica product – a sunscreen – I’ve been using for everyday because it’s not thick and slimey but gives great lasting coverage – – that would definitely be your friend in Bali and yes keep the hat on and stay in the shade. x

  6. Thanks for this great summary Nikki! I too have tried so many but am really loving the Ultraceuticals CC cream that came in my recent Bellabox. I am yet to find a BB cream that lasts a long day in office so I am struggling to let go of my foundation for those days but the Ultraceuticals seems to have a bit more staying power. But I might start adding a bit of powder to give it some help. Is there a particular powder you choose to go on top of Bb cream. I have been scared of powders since entering my thirties as I feel it takes away the ‘dewy’ look?

    1. I use a mineral powder mostly Ali – Bare Minerals or Jane Iredale – both are breathable and I think that’s good. You do sacrifice the dewy look but in summer I need to. If I were working in an office every day it’s difficult to say whether I’d still go the full foundation so I understand where you’re at with that!

  7. Hi Nikki,
    thanks for the great article, I am well and truly converted to BB creams thanks to you, and your informative articles, but having just started working in an office a few days a week again, I was wondering if my go-to BB cream was going to be enough coverage by the end of the day [Bobbi Brown]. So after reading your picks, i took myself off the the local mall and have been trying the Clarins one and am really happy with it so far. It has just a little more coverage than the Bobbi Brown one and I don’t really need to dust mineral foundation over it like I preferred to do with the Bobbi Brown one. I also like that is seems to have a little luminosity [altho that may be from my primer also!]. I still go back to the garnier oil free BB cream sometimes on days at home, but prefer the Bobbi Brown for the extra SPF. I have also been using the MAC prep n prime BB cream – I love that this comes in a compact and has what I think is a nice weekend light coverage.

    Am also considering trying the IIlasmasqua foundation next time I’m in the city, it sounds great.

    Thanks for the great articles – I can’t wait to read your primer article!

    1. Oh Peta, I love how you’ve been exploring a whole range of these to see what works for your skin and lifestyle. The primer could reduce the moisturiser part of the BB but I tend to still use my moisturiser anyway. When I call on a primer it’s because I want my makeup to have extra staying power.

  8. Thank you! That was a really helpful breakdown. I really want to find a BB cream that actually has helpful ingredients in it opposed to just being a glorified tinted moisturiser. It’s a bit hard as it’s all flooding the market right now.

  9. Can you/should you use moisturizer underneath? Or does this defeat the purpose?! Just wondering as some that sound like they would suit my skin don’t have a very high SPF

  10. Wow, you’ve educated me on a whole new world. I need to ge me some BB cream. I fall into the category of “not wearing any makeup” unless its for a special occasion.

    I rarely leave myself enough time in the morning for makeup so BB creams seems just what I need.
    Excuse the uneducated question but can you use the Garnier BB cream and eye roll on together? Or is that not how they supposed to be used?

  11. Hi, have you tried the Rachel K Mineral CC Cream? Any feedback to share. I heard and read quite lot of good things about it. I am about to buy it … 😉

  12. You know which one I sneak in my shopping trolley Nikki 😉 you recommended it! Still love it and how it lasts all day and provides good coverage, and think I need to try the sister product, the roll-on for under my eyes which are looking their age at the mo 🙁 I’ve had the Clarins BB cream on my wishlist since you first wrote about it, it sounds like its SPF, coverage and hydration would really suit my needs – thankyou for this awesome list! xx

  13. I’ve tried a few of the Asian brands but with regards to the Western brands, I swear by Smashbox’s Camera Ready BB Cream, in fact I use this instead of my favourite foundation most of the time when I’m looking for a heavy cover. It’s buildable and gives great cover. For a more hip pocket friendly BB Cream, I love Maybelline’s Dream Pure BB Cream for oily skin because I’ve got combination/oily skin. Again, great cover and buildable. 🙂

  14. Still loving my Garnier BB for everyday but will definitely consider some of your other suggestions when it’s time to replace my current tube.

      1. Yeah, I’m still loving it but am finding that the oil-free formulation I’m using ATM (which I grabbed without paying attention at the time!) is leaving my skin a little dry, despite using my moisturiser with serum twist combo first. Any suggestions? I’m thinking the regular formulation is better for my skin type.

          1. I found a new favourite – I scored some samples of the Maybelline Dream Fresh BB and I’m in love! Will definitely be purchasing it when the samples run out – the texture and colour seem to work better for me than the Garnier.

  15. Hi Nicky, I have a couple of BB creams I am using at the moment, I have the Clarins one which has good sun protection (spf 25) so I use that if I know it will be sunny. Have just bought the Too Faced Beauty Balm, and really like that for my skin. Finally I use a tinted moisturiser (I know not a bb cream) – by Terry Eclat de Rose which is gorgeous to use, smells all rosy! but has no sun protection so I will generally use this either at night if I go out or if I know I won’t be in the sun. Don’t really use foundation at all nowadays, just one of these. My skin is quite dry, so I find I like the moisturising ones.

  16. I have one for everyday it is a Korean Brand Skin 79 BB cream and I have the Catalina Geo one as well and I like that it is SPF30 I prefer one with a good coverage.I also love the Maybelline Age Rewind Foundation and I have found that by changing primers my skin looks better I am using the NP Pre Foundation Primer Set and love it.Thanks for the update Nikki there are so many BB creams around now!

      1. Looking forward to your primer post. That’s my next major purchase. Benefit have a new one coming out tomorrow “Stay Flawless”. Also considering Napoleon Auto Pilot and Smashbox. Will be interested in your review.

  17. Thanks for this great info. I’ve been wanting to try a BB cream … due to the fact that I’m lazy. But as I have fair skin I wanted a higher SPF factor than they seemed to offer. It’s great to know that some brands out there do offer over a 15.

  18. Love these posts!
    I started with Garnier {the original one} – I still use this occasionally but my everyday favourite is Revlon Photoready BB Cream in Medium SPF 30 – it goes on like a dream. I also tried the Jane Iredale BB – this didn’t work on my parched skin at all. Beckie and I both felt it sat on our skin. I gave it to a friend and she loves it – just proves you have to find the right BB and not give up at the first hurdle!

    1. Yes, in the list above you’ll see that I’ve included where they are paraben-free … some are listed with their more natural properties too. Try Kiehl’s, Seacret, Lavera, Mineralogie and Jane Iredale. You’d have to check full ingredients to check if there was something you’re wanting to avoid.

  19. Hi Nikki – I think one of the very first ones you recommended was the Catalina – I love the texture and fantastic coverage! Thank you 🙂

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