The first time I heard about BB Creams, it was from my friends familiar with the Asian beauty market. I had heard whispers about these miraculous balms, intended to mask imperfections while improving the quality of your skin. I remember wanting to try them, but word on the street was that BB creams weren’t made with deeper skin tones in mind. Remember the first wave of American BB creams? They came in like, three shades tops. If your skin could be described as anything deeper than ivory, you were fresh out of luck.

Now alphabet creams have come stateside in a big way, and the companies producing them know what we’re looking for – variety. There are  BB, CC, DD and combinations of the aforementioned for women all shades of beautiful.

First, let’s break them down by what they are and what they offer. And then I’ll tell you which ones I’ve tried, liked, and would recommend for you to try!

BB Cream CC cream and DD cream


BB Creams, CC Cream, DD Cream. What’s The Difference?

BB Cream – BB stands for “Beauty Balm,” or “Blemish Balm,” and they’re by far the most popular and requested of all the alphabet creams. It’s tinted moisturizer on steroids, and different blends promise different results. The standard BB Cream multitasks as a tinted moisturizer, a primer, a sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection, and an all-around anti-aging skin improving moisturizer. There’s a BB Cream to fit every skincare need, from anti-inflammatory blends to blemish coverage.

CC Cream – CC stands for “color corrector” or “coverage control” and these creams offer some of the benefits of a BB cream but in my experience the coverage is a bit denser and the skin-improving benefits are more specific. CC’s aim to correct color, reduce hyperpigmentation and discoloration, that sort of thing.

DD Cream – DD stands for “daily defense” or “dynamic do-all” and these claim to do everything the previous letters do, and add another level of anti-aging goodness. Usually there’s SPF protection involved.

Also worth mentioning – Beauty Flash Balm (BFB? IDK) a product made by Clarins that’s a primer/moisturizer/skin smoothing and tightening hybrid that promises to make you look less tired. (Good looking out, Refinery 29).

Let me tell you which ones could and should be on your radar, in alphabetical order (appropriate no?)

AJ Crimson BB+D Cream – renowned makeup artist AJ Crimson saw a need in the marketplace and aimed to fill it with his combo BB + D cream. It comes in 11 shades and truly caters for deeper skin tones. It doesn’t include an SPF, and I had some issues pumping the product out of the bottle (but that just be me). It’s a highly pigmented product that will work beautifully for women who thought this whole BB train was not for them. Don’t sleep on AJ Crimson!

Cover FX CC Cream – You guys already know that I stan for Cover FX, to the point of working with them to host events. There’s a reason. Their products work. I’m a fan of the CC cream, which glides on effortlessly and provides great all day coverage while attacking your hyperpigmentation situation. Felicia Walker-Benson of This That Beauty swears it improved hers! Cover FX’s CC currently comes in 9 shades, and in the summertime I was more of an X-Deep and now I’m just Deep. Hopefully that gives you an idea of their range.  If I’m running out the door to have a lunch meeting or daytime date, this is the product I reach for – it gives me the right level of coverage for my current skin concerns. And HEY BELLAS, Cover FX will be offering Afrobella readers free shipping with no minimum for the rest of 2013! Just enter the code “AFROBELLA” at check out!

Garnier BB Cream – Normally I’m not here for products that come in but three shades, but I can say that Garnier’s BB Cream is a pretty decent drugstore buy. The beautiful thing with a BB Cream is, if it doesn’t match your skin tone you can still use the product as a base or primer. I’m close to their Deep shade, but it sometimes looks a tad chalky on me so I warm it up with my MAC blot powder or Cover FX Matte Setting Powder. I like the texture and the staying power.

Iman Skin Tone Evener BB Crème – If you know anything about Iman, you probably know her history as a model led to the creation of her beauty brand. Finding herself surrounded by inept and unprepared makeup artists who had no idea what products to use on her skin, Iman found herself having to mix and make her own products. Her BB Crème comes in six shades, from Sand Light to Earth Deep. I’m a Clay Medium or Clay Medium Deep, and I really dig how lightweight the formula is. It’s light and buildable and gives the coverage I need to face the world. Winner.

Laura Geller Beauty BB Cream – Laura Geller’s BB comes in but four shades but it’s excellent as a primer and base if one of those shades doesn’t match you. What do I like about Laura Geller’s BB? It’s water resistant and includes a broad spectrum SPF. It’s a good base skin protectant, and gives light coverage for those seeking that. Having said that, I’m hoping they expand the shade range.

MAC Prep and Prime BB Cream – MAC didn’t enter the BB game half stepping. They took their entry seriously and considered the needs of their customer base. MAC’s BB comes in a tube or in a compact, and it comes in nine shades which can either be a great match, or need to be blended (as the author of NY Mag’s glowing piece touting MAC as the Supreme BB Cream discovered). I’m a fan of the formulation, it’s the right kind of thick for my coverage needs.

Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream – This is probably the most well known of the drugstore brand BB’s, and with good reason. Maybelline got this formulation right. It’s light and moisturizing, and unlike many other drugstore BB’s, it comes in a few shades for us WOC. Of course with just five shades it could go deeper into our range of beautiful, but hopefully that will come in time. Nouveau Cheap has a really detailed review that breaks down all the whys and wherefores, and to me the salient point is that it doesn’t leave your skin with that unfortunate greyish cast that products of this nature so often do.

Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream – Smashbox usually knocks it out of the park and their Camera Ready BB Cream is a favorite of many people I know and respect. Smashbox’s formula is more matte than some of the others, and less moisturizing. What it lacks in moisture it makes up for in intentional oil control. If you’re seeking sheer coverage and mattifying primer awesomeness, try their formula first. PS: Smashbox also has a CC Cream, which promises awesome-sounding results when it comes to coverage and acne scar fading. Worth checking out!


There are quite a few other alphabet creams on my radar – Sleek and Gosh come most immediately to mind, but I wanted to speak to the varieties I’ve tried.

In summary, there are quite a few kinds of BB, CC, and DD creams out there, all ready for you to check out. Many of my makeup artist friends say they don’t love the alphabet creams because usually they prefer to use makeup as makeup and skincare as skincare, but for women in a hurry and on a budget, looking for a one-and-done type of skincare/cosmetic solution, it can be a godsend. And clearly from the proliferation of the products on the market, it’s a popular trend for a reason.

For more on BB’s, CC’s, and other alphabet creams, read on:

This That Beauty – BB Creams For All/ Bergdorf’s Behind the Buzz – BB Creams

This That Beauty – 5 CC Creams to Try

xoJane – The ABC’s of Beauty Creams

SheKnows – BB CC and DD Creams Explained

Nouveau Cheap for reviews of most drugstore BB Creams

Have you tried an alphabet cream yet, bellas? What’s your favorite kind?


juliette says:
November 12, 2013, 2:08 pm
Girl, you know I needed this! Been wondering but didn't have the patience to do the research - thanks, as always, for USEFUL information!
Phyrra says:
November 12, 2013, 8:12 pm
My absolutely favorite is the Cover FX CC Cream. Great coverage, gives me a great glow, and lasts.
Lisa says:
November 13, 2013, 9:57 am
I feel like I've tried 20 of these creams, but the only two I really love is Smashbox BB Cream and Pur Minerals CC Cream. I tried the Pur Minerals on a whim and now I won't leave my house without it! I have issues with redness and it helps so much without being heavy.
pets says:
November 13, 2013, 10:41 am
I really enjoy using BB Creams. Thanks for this detailed and informative post.
Sweatsalot says:
November 14, 2013, 12:34 pm
Hi! I tend to sweat alot. Would you recommend any of these BB or CC creams for a person who sweats?
Erika says:
November 14, 2013, 12:47 pm
Attended BlogHer earlier this year, only to gleefully find that Garnier left a BB cream in my bag in - guess what color - DEEP! EEEEE! So, they get love from me for that. Used the cream, promptly added it to my everyday bag. Haven't looked back since. :)
Gianna says:
November 15, 2013, 10:36 pm
Thanks again for the shout-out! Such an honor! By the way, my current fave BB cream from the drugstore is the one by Lumene. However, their shade range is probably the worse at just two colors: Light and Medium. If they eventually make some for deeper skintones, I'll shout it from the rooftops and I promise you'll hear it all the way in Chicago. ;) PS: Have you tried the Palmer's Eventone BB Cream yet? I'm hearing mixed reviews but those who like it *really* like it. It comes in light/med and med/dark.
Helena says:
December 4, 2013, 6:34 pm
I like some bb creams, but the fact that most are filled iwth chemicals that will eventually harm your skin is what bothers me. I am still looking for a great, natural non-paraben, non-irritating formula. Currently I am sticking to my usual great regimine- Glam Girl Naturals Cosmetics Primer, Loose Mineral Foundation, and Glam Girl 2-in-1 which is like a primer and finishing powder in one. Just a nice light dusting of each does wonders for my skin, and complexion, and its a bb cream in and of itself. I am really hoping they will come out with an all natural bb cream and that its quality is like the rest of their products because they are really rocking it. I know they are coming out with a skin care line next year. So excited!
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Mochacurls says:
December 10, 2013, 6:47 pm
Great article! I'm actually running out of foundation and would like to try out a bb or cc cream. I'll use this article as a guide.
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Natural Face Mask says:
February 11, 2014, 4:43 am
I usually avoid using any cosmetics however, I occasionally use CC cream. I have used BB cream once but I felt it left me with greasy look. The best part of these creams is you don't have to use sun screen lotion. They do the work for you :)
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