BB creams (or beauty/blemish balms) were one of the original K-Beauty trends to hit our shores over a decade ago. But what are they? Well, if your skincare and foundation had a beautifying offspring, a BB cream would be it.
They give all the skin-quenching effects of a moisturiser, contain the kind of antioxidants you’d find in a serum and they often have a broad-spectrum SPF too. Add in some light coverage (not as heavy as a foundation) and a BB cream becomes your everyday, speedy beauty essential.
While old-fashioned tinted moisturisers are great for that barely-there look, a BB cream delivers a little more while still being low key; there’s no need to add any other base make-up should you not want to, making them the perfect choice for holidays, summer, working from home and chilled weekends alike.
So, can you sack off your entire regime for one single tube? Not quite. You still need to keep using skincare if you’re wearing a BB cream (and that includes wearing an additional SPF, FYI).
Some other pointers: the shade ranges tend to be limited, but since these formulas are more transparent than foundations, one hue generally suits a handful of skin tones. Finding a vaguely suitable shade of BB cream for skins of colour does continue to be an issue, but, that said, many BB creams now come disguised as tinted moisturisers to be more consumer friendly, and their ranges are far better.
Over the course of two weeks, we tested these creams daily to assess their wearability, coverage and how well they lasted on the skin. We were looking for a light finish that wasn’t too oily, great skincare benefits, and an element of “glow” that was one step beyond that of a moisturiser. Keep reading to see which ones are actually worth your money.
The best BB creams for 2021 are:
Best overall – Bare Minerals complexion rescue tinted moisturiser: £30, Bareminerals.co.uk
Best coverage BB cream – L’Oréal Paris skin paradise tinted water-cream: £10.99, Boots.com
Best for dry skin – Bobbi Brown nude finish tinted moisturiser SPF 15: £32, Bobbibrown.co.uk
Best BB cream with SPF – Trinny London BFF skin cream SPF 30: £35, Trinnylondon.com
Best for oily skin – Nars pure radiant tinted moisturiser SPF 30: £33, Johnlewis.com
Best for lasting all day – Tarte tinted treatment 12-hour primer SPF 30: £34, Tartecosmetics.com
Best for summer – Clinique moisture surge sheet tint hydrator SPF 25: £31, Clinique.co.uk
Best for mature skin – Glossier perfecting skin tint: £20, Glossier.com
Best oil-free BB cream – Smashbox halo glow tinted moisturiser SPF 25: £28, Smashbox.co.uk
Best for combination skin – Drunk Elephant umbra tinte daily defence SPF 30: £30, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Bare Minerals complexion rescue tinted moisturiser
Though the name might throw you off, this tinted moisturiser is actually a BB cream in disguise – we loved its broad-spectrum SPF 30, light gel-cream formula and medium-light coverage. It's brilliant on all skin types and the well-sized package lasts a good while. Available in 18 shades, this is a cult product for good reason – it is essentially tinted, glowy skin in a tube.
Buy now £30.00, Bareminerals.co.uk
L’Oréal Paris skin paradise tinted water-cream
Best: Coverage BB cream
Looking for a little more coverage than a traditional BB cream? Give this light, cooling formula that we loved a try. It not only quenches skin with up to 24 hours of hydration, but adds a pigment-rich base colour to the mix. With the coverage of a very light foundation, it comes in 10 shades and gives a noticeable “your skin on a great day” vibe, with an added dose of broad-spectrum SPF 20, plus soothing aloe vera and ginger.
Buy now £10.99, Boots.com
Bobbi Brown nude finish tinted moisturiser SPF 15
Best: For dry skin
Looking for a barely-there touch of colour with skin-friendly ingredients? Then Bobbi Brown’s tinted moisturiser is the one. Ideal for normal-dry skin types, this sheer formula gives you just enough coverage to let your skin look like its best self, while also providing a hint of moisture, which we rated. It has a little light sun protection with SPF 15, and comes in nine shades.
Buy now £32.11, Bobbibrown.co.uk
Trinny London BFF skin cream SPF 30
Best: BB cream with SPF
Coming in five shades, the microencapsulated pigments (they’re like little spheres that burst on contact with your skin) in this BB cream ensure the right amount of uber-light coverage to tone down our redness and give us that “I’ve had 12 hours of sleep” feel. The SPF 30 helps protect your skin, while the porcelain flower extract gives an antioxidant boost – and it felt easy to apply with fingers.
Buy now £35.00, Trinnylondon.com
Nars pure radiant tinted moisturiser SPF 30
Best: For oily skin
With Nars incredible pigment technology, this light protective coverage is like having your normal skin, but just a smidge glowier. It’s oil free, which we loved, making it great for oily or combination skins (it didn’t slide off) and for use on holiday, with an added hit of SPF 30 and kopara, a Polynesian marine extract said to help plump the skin. There’s a range of 12 shades, as you’d expect from Nars.
Buy now £33.00, Johnlewis.com
Tarte tinted treatment 12-hour primer SPF 30
Best: For lasting all day
Use it as a primer or as a BB cream – either way, this tinted dream, which comes in nine shades, has all the trappings of your usual BB cream, but with some serious staying power. If you’re looking for the BB benefits (there’s an SPF 30 too), coverage and something that lasts all day, this could be the one.
Buy now £34.00, Tartecosmetics.com
Clinique moisture surge sheet tint hydrator SPF 25
Best: For summer
Packed with skin-plumping ingredients like hyaluronic acid and soothing aloe water, this lightweight BB-esque formula has become our summer fave. It’s super sheer – so the five shades cover a wider range of skin tones than you might think – and it’s sweat and humidity resistant too. It also contains SPF 25 and antioxidants to help combat free-radical damage.
Buy now £31.00, Clinique.co.uk
Glossier perfecting skin tint
Best: For mature skin
While it doesn’t contain an SPF, this product does classify as a BB cream because the ultra-fine formula (in 12 shades) helps to even out the skin while adding a moisturising glycerine boost. We noticed that the addition of the brand’s “diamond powder” which – translation – gives a glowy soft-focus effect without minimising skin texture, makes it ideal for all skin types, but it comes highly rated by those in the mature category.
Buy now £20.00, Glossier.com
Smashbox halo glow tinted moisturiser SPF 25
Best: Oil-free BB cream
In 12 shades, this BB cream gives you lightweight coverage that we found lasted for a noticeably long time. It’s vegan, oil free and contains 81 per cent skincare ingredients, with plumping hyaluronic acid, antioxidant goji berry and a protective SPF 25 to help ensure your skin benefits while it’s being perfected.
Buy now £28.00, Smashbox.co.uk
Drunk Elephant umbra tinte daily defence SPF 30
Best: For combination skin
Looking for a barely-there glow? This suit-all shade (it actually does work on all skin tones, praise be!) contains a physical sunscreen that feels light enough for daily wear, and we found that it doesn’t leave the dreaded ghost effect (ie, a white cast) on your skin. It also contains raspberry seed and marula oils along with a dose of grape extract for added antioxidants, but it doesn’t feel slick or greasy when applied.
Buy now £30.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk
BB Creams FAQs
What is BB cream used for?
Beauty/blemish balms, better known as BB creams, are designed to moisturise skin while providing light coverage, and often SPF protection, for a speedy make-up base that’s more lightweight than foundation.
You’ll find the shade ranges of BB cream tend to be smaller, but as they offer a more sheer, transparent coverage, one shade can often suit multiple skin tones.
What is the difference between CC and BB cream?
CC creams stand for colour-correcting or complexion-correcting creams and offer more coverage than BB cream, while still having a similar lightweight texture. They’re better for concealing redness and tend to be less oily, so if you’re blemish-prone, a CC cream may feel more comfortable, whereas a BB cream is designed to hydrate skin with a sheer tinted finish.
Is BB cream better than foundation?
BB creams are more lightweight and fluid than foundation and can easily be applied with just your fingers, as you would your usual moisturiser. They provide much less coverage than a foundation but are more hydrating.
BB creams are speedier to apply, and are often popular in the summer months, when you may wish to switch from a heavier foundation to a more lightweight product that still offers some coverage.
The verdict: BB creams
For a brilliant all-rounder with a strong shade range we recommend Bare Minerals complexion rescue tinted moisturiser; it's an easy addition to your beauty routine.
L’Oréal Paris skin paradise tinted water-cream is a brilliant second option, if your budget is a little tighter.
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