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BB Cream vs. Foundation vs. Tinted Moisturizer

Rimmel's BB creams and L'Oreal True Match Foundation, shown side by side.

Rimmel's BB creams and L'Oreal True Match Foundation, shown side by side.

A Brief History of BB Cream

BB cream was originally developed in Germany in the 1950s. "BB" is short for Blemish Base, Blemish Balm or Beauty Balm Cream. It was used on the wounds of patients who had laser surgery to heal the scars faster. In addition to helping wounds heal, the cream also provided light coverage to the skin to help hide scars. The trend then spread to Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, the rest of Europe, and finally, to the West.

The market exploded with these BB creams just a few years ago and by the end of 2014, every major high-end and drugstore brand had its own BB cream, and some brands even created an entire line of BB creams, such as Rimmel London and Maybelline New York.

Properties of BB Cream

BB Cream provides coverage, like a foundation, but the coverage is usually sheer, more closely similar to that of a tinted moisturizer.

The cream also claims to have healing properties to soften, smooth, refine, and regenerate skin; we have to be careful with very vague claims like that. More on that later.

BB Cream Benefits

  • Ingredient to help control acne and blemishes
  • Pigment that can act as a concealer
  • Pigments that can cancel out redness
  • SPF
  • Antioxidants
  • A light moisturizer

Among the other ingredients in the BB Cream were Abyssine®, Hydroprolisilane, and Beta-Glucan.

Important Ingredients in BB Cream



A chemical synthesized by an organism that lives in hydrothermal vents about 3000 meters under the surface of the ocean. It reduces irritation against UVB rays


Not naturally found. Usually used in firming products and healing of small scars or fading of stretch marks.


These are polysaccharides that are made up of only glucose linked together. They are known as “biological response modifiers” because they have the ability to activate the immune system.

What Is BB Cream Used for?

A description of Boscia BB Cream from states the intended purposes of the BB Cream:

“This oil-free B.B. Cream is the ultimate multi-functional treatment. The gentle botanical formula creates a lustrous, flawless finish as it hydrates, firms, and soothes the skin. It helps to diminish the appearance of pores, fine lines, and uneven skintone while providing long-wearing, natural coverage that conceals imperfections. It comes in a self-adjusting, universal shade that warms to complement most skin tones for sheer, flawless coverage.

Designed to repair damage and protect skin from future damage without irritation, it's packed with antioxidants and physical sunscreens that provide broad-spectrum sun protection rated to SPF 27 and PA++. The PA system is a grade of UVA protection that provides superior defense against the rays that cause collagen damage and photo-aging of the skin.”

BB Cream, Foundation, or Tinted Moisturizer?

The main difference between BB cream and foundation or tinted moisturizer is that the former is designed to be an all-in-one product. Whereas foundation focuses on heavier pigmentation to even and conceal, tinted moisturizer focuses on light coverage and moisturizing, BB Cream tries to focus on all of those including acting as a "medication" for your skin.

The Garnier BB Cream comes in a large-sized bottle compared to other BB creams currently on the U.S. market. It was also one of the first BB creams to popularize the store shelves in the U.S. If you've tried this cream, you can vote in the poll and comment below and let us know how well it worked for you, as well as see how it stacked up for others.

I tested out Garnier's Skin Renew BB Cream in Medium/Deep, L'Oreal's True Match Foundation in Alabaster, and E.L.F.'s Tinted Moisturizer in Porcelain to see how they compare. Below is how each showed up on the skin under incandescent and fluorescent lights.

How BB Cream, Foundation and Tinted Moisturizer Compare

Garnier's Skin Renew BB CreamL'Oreal True Match FoundationE.L.F Tinted Moisturizer

Very creamy

Not viscous, watery


Felt moisturizing

Matte finish

Felt moisturizing

Sheer coverage

Full coverage

Sheer coverage

Blended easily

Dries fast

Blended easily

Overall Thoughts

The BB cream was most similar to the consistency of a tinted moisturizer. A lot of makeup artists will tell you not to waste your money on BB Cream because it is the same as a lot of Tinted Moisturizers, but sometimes even gives you less coverage than those. While I tend to agree with these makeup artists, the added benefits of the cream being an all-in-one cream make it tempting to try.

One downside of BB cream is the poor range of colors it comes in. As of May 5th, 2012, Garnier's Skin Renew BB Cream only comes in two shades: Light/Medium and Medium/Deep. Poor selection, but since you have to blend out the cream well and it doesn't provide a lot of coverage anyway, it won't look like much of a difference in skin tone.

As always, it's best to try out a sample beforehand at a professional makeup counter, from online samples, or just a "buy-try-and-return" from a store with a good return policy, to make sure your skin will not react adversely to all of the ingredients.

There are so many BB creams on the market since Garnier initially came out with their BB cream.

There are so many BB creams on the market since Garnier initially came out with their BB cream.

Thinking of Buying?

There are three basic things to know about BB Cream before you shop around:

  1. Like foundations, there are a lot of varieties out there
  2. BB Creams from Asia tend to provide a lot more coverage and the overall public opinion is that Western BB Creams are nowhere near as well-developed and good as the ones in Asia.
  3. There is a poor range of colors regardless of what country the cream is purchased from.

With that said, in order to narrow down your options, ask yourself some questions about your skin tone.

  • Do I want a matte or dewy look?
  • What type of skin do I have, oily, dry, or combination?
  • What is the main thing I want my BB Cream to do?

Your answer should tell you what type of BB Cream you are looking for. For example, I need a matte BB Cream for oily skin that will give skin a toned appearance. From there, narrow down your choices by reading online reviews and informing yourself.

Opinion from a Makeup Artist: Wayne Alan Goss

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Mrs Jil Manning from Sussex, England on September 17, 2013:

I was really wondering about BB creams too. I have used three different ones and I find that they really vary...I have a very definite favourite! Interesting hub thank you!

Deya Writes (author) on November 14, 2012:

I'm happy to hear this helped. I was really wondering about BB Creams too, which is what prompted me to put in the research time to write this. Thank you for your comment :)

Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on November 14, 2012:

I'm so glad you wrote this. I was wondering what BB cream was. Now I'm informed, thanks to you. I won't be making that purchase. They wouldn't have my skin tone. Well done.