What's the Difference Between BB Cream, CC Cream, Tinted Moisturizer, and Foundation?

And how to pick the right one for you.

Take a browse through any of your favorite makeup looks that you've saved on Instagram or TikTok. Chances are all of those looks have one thing in common: a flawless, glowing complexion. Base makeup acts as the canvas of any makeup look. Because the process of choosing any beauty product can take a lot of trial and error, when you do find a formula that melts into your skin and gives you the finish you're looking for, it feels like you've won the lottery.

However, choosing a base makeup product over the years has gotten tricky. While foundation has always been the go-to face makeup product, there are now so many more complexion products out there. From BB creams and CC creams to tinted moisturizers, trying to figure out the difference between each and then figure out which one is best for you can be tricky. To help you figure out which formula works best for you, allow us to break down the differences between these face makeup products, with the help of industry experts.

What is BB cream?

Also known as a beauty balm or blemish balm, BB cream is intended to simplify your makeup routine, says Lori Taylor Davis, the global lead pro makeup artist for Smashbox Cosmetics. "A BB cream can help make your routine easier as they typically have skincare benefits, can be used in place of a foundation and primer, and have SPF," says Davis. The coverage of BB balms is typically sheer, but it acts as a great multitasking product that evens out your skin tone and offers added skincare benefits. Try Maybelline Dream Fresh Skin Hydrating BB Cream ($7; amazon.com), which hydrates, brightens, and protects skin with its SPF30-infused formula.

Smudged make-up gradient texture palette creamy matte concealer foundation CC or BB-cream powder on white and beige isolated background
Getty Images

What is CC cream?

While CC creams and BB creams are similar, CC cream stands for color-correcting cream. "A CC cream is a multi-action sheer coverage formula designed specifically to color-correct," says Nick Lujan, the global director of artistry and education for Kevyn Aucoin Beauty. "These formulas usually feature soothing ingredients to calm redness and even out blotchiness."

You can use a CC cream on its own to lightly cover any discoloration and even out the skin tone or as a base to other foundations, like a primer with added color-balancing pigments, says Lujan. He recommends IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream with SPF 50 ($42; sephora.com) because it has a wide range of skin tones available, which Lujan says usually isn't the case with CC creams and BB creams because of their super-sheer formulas.

What is a tinted moisturizer?

"A tinted moisturizer, versus a BB or CC cream, usually has fewer skincare benefits infused into the product," says Melissa Hurkman, a celebrity makeup artist. "This is typically a foundation mixed with an emollient moisturizer to keep your skin looking fresh and hydrated throughout the day with minimal coverage." You can also find formulas with sun protection included, like Smashbox Halo Healthy Glow Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum with SPF 25 ($39; ulta.com).

How to Choose the Right Product for You

"The easiest way to determine which is best for your needs is by determining your skin type and your desired coverage and finish," says Davis.

"Build out a list of the skin concerns you have as well as the benefits that you are looking for before comparing brands and formulas," recommends Lujan. "BB creams, CC creams, and tinted moisturizers, although similar in description, can all be quite different." BB creams and tinted moisturizers are great for normal to dry skin types and are for those who want lighter coverage. Davis says CC creams work great on oily skin types and those with uneven skin tones.

And if you prefer added coverage, a foundation is the way to go, says Lujan. Foundations vary in coverage, finish, and benefits. One of Lujan's favorites is Kevyn Aucoin The Etherealist Skin Illuminating Foundation ($58; amazon.com), which offers medium coverage that looks like real skin.

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