ABCs of beauty: The difference between BB, CC and DD creams

Whatever happened to the good old duo of concealer and foundation? Today’s new alphabet soup of facial creams can often seem like a confusing jumble of marketing buzzwords.

Have no fear – we’re here to simplify the new language of beauty. Take a look at our handy overview of the colour cocktails on the market, and decide for yourself which beauty-boosting balm best suits your needs.

BB Cream

What it is: The letter game started here. Originally conceived in Germany as a post-procedural healing ointment, the “beauty” or “blemish” balm fad really took off in South Korea and neighbouring Taiwan. On the makeup spectrum, BB creams sit somewhere between tinted moisturiser and foundation.

What it does: The lovechild of a happy marriage between makeup and traditional skincare, BB creams offer the hydration and translucent coverage of a tinted moisturiser, with bonus benefits like spot-fighting antibacterial agents, anti-aging retinols and sun damage protection.

How to use: Blend well into skin, after cleansing, toner and serum. Think of it as doing triple duty as an all-in-one sunscreen, moisturiser and sheer foundation. Remember that BB cream is an alternative to, and not a substitute for, foundation – don’t expect it to mask all of your flaws.

A common bugbear of BB cream users is the deathly gray cast some brands can impart to your skin. Always test different swatches on your wrist and wait for an hour or so, to make sure the one you select stays true to hue and doesn’t oxidise a shade or two darker after application.

Best for: Women with enviably good complexions who require just a little evening of skin tone. For the rest of us, a BB cream is great for days off when you want to look polished without going the full makeup route.

Do note that most BB creams use light-diffusing optics for a dewy look, so oilier skin types might need to tamp the shine down with an added swipe of a mattifying compact.

ABCs of beauty: The difference between BB, CC and DD creamsCC Cream

What it is: The Lady Gaga to the BB cream’s Madonna. This next-gen “colour correcting” or “complexion corrector” cream focuses on fixing dull skin undertones.

What it does: Generally lighter and fluffier in consistency than its predecessor, CC creams come in various tints to correct colour-related woes like the flush of rosacea or the sallowness of Asian skin. Most CC creams carry some degree of SPF, although number varies by brand.

How to use: Like BB creams, this can be used on its own as a subtle skin brightener after your usual grooming routine. However, coverage is usually minimal, so we recommend those with post-acne inflammation, for instance, to layer an anti-redness CC cream under fluid foundation.

Best for: Targeted tone correction. If you’re into photography, think of it as a lens filter that enhances your skin’s “colour temperature”.

DD Cream

What it is: The new-fangled kid on the beauty block, the latest alphabet cream purports to be a “dynamic do-all”, with all of the hydrating, sun-protecting and skin-correcting goodness of BB and CC creams plus a near-prescription grade emphasis on anti-aging.

On an interesting side note, trade publication Cosmetic Design reported late last year that a smattering of so-called “Daily Defense” body and foot creams were set to launch – but made no mention of DD face creams. It appears the beauty industry has now decided that the market is ready for the next letter in the alphabet. We’re holding our breaths for XX, YY and ZZ creams…

What it does: Blurs the line between cosmeceuticals and cosmetics by disguising and diminishing shallow wrinkles. We anticipate the emergence of DD creams touting anti-aging agents that work to soften fine lines and repair photo-damaged skin with daily use. 

How to use: Like an anti-aging add-on with instant beautifying benefits. As with any topical treatment, patience is key. We suggest using it religiously for at least four weeks before deciding if a particular brand is worth your dollar.

Best for: Combating and concealing early onset wrinkles. If you’re in your mid-twenties and beyond, opting for a DD cream over your regular BB cream might save you some grief (and trips to an aesthetician) a few years down the road.