The Makeup Artist's Alphabet: BB, CC, and DD Creams - QC Makeup Academy

When the western market was first introduced to these alphabetized beauty products, some of us didn’t quite buy into the hype. But if you walk into your local Ulta or Sephora today, you’ll still be able to find a wide selection of BB and CC creams from some of your favorite brands.

It’s hard enough navigating the beauty-product jungle but now there are cryptic letters involved? If you’ve always seen these creams on display but never had the courage to ask a sales associate to define BB, CC, or DD for you, worry not! Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know for your next visit to the makeup aisle.

BB Creams

BB Cream Foundation Sponge

Definitely the most popular of the alphabet-beauty creams, this cream is still selling like hotcakes.

The BB creams (short for blemish balms) we see on the market together hail from South Korea’s innovative beauty industry. These creams provide all-in-one makeup and skincare benefits. The properties differ depending on the product, but they are usually a combination of five or more features including,

  • SPF protection
  • Hydration
  • Anti-acne benefits
  • Brightens complexion
  • Primer
  • Foundation
  • Color correction
  • Concealer
  • Anti-aging benefits

In terms of coverage, you can expect more than a simple tinted moisturizer but less than your run-of-the-mill foundation. It’s supposed to feel light on your skin while replacing 5 other beauty products you might have otherwise had to put on—it seems like a miracle product, and for some, it really is! If you’ve been blessed with clear and even-toned skin and don’t need lots of coverage, the BB cream might be your new best friend!

CC Creams

BB Cream foundation match

CC Creams are meant to color correct and even out your skin tone. They give you less coverage than a BB cream, but more coverage than a tinted moisturizer. Most boast a consistency like whipped mousse, and focus less on becoming a be-all-end-all skincare product than their BB predecessors. CC creams seek to target skin “flaws” (we say that lightly!) to correct pigmentation or dark spots, and smooth out acne scars without weighing down your skin. Some CC creams deliver amazing luminosity to your face. With light-reflecting particles that act like a Photoshop cloning feature to your face, CC creams do make a difference!

Because the CC creams seem to be more targeted in purpose than BB creams and are lighter in coverage, most people choose to mix CC creams in with their normal foundations or use as a primer. It’s a suitable replacement for a primer or moisturizer, but for more heavy color-correcting duties, it’s best to double back to your concealer if you’re looking to really even out your skin.

DD Creams

BB Cream Foundation Brush

While the other two products can be found at your local drug store or high-end department store, it seems like the DD cream is more elusive. In fact, we’re not sure that it’s anything more than a gimmick on the alphabet train! After their quick 15 minutes of fame, DD creams have now all-but-disappeared from the net.

Standing for “Dynamic Do-All” or “Daily Defense” depending on who you ask, the name’s vagueness reflects its vague purpose. They were touted as being better and more advanced than their BB and CC counterparts, but they sounded and worked just like their cousins. Even the DERMAdoctor DD cream says “Dermatologically Defining BB Cream” in the fine print! Perhaps that’s why they’ve all but fizzled out from mainstream parlance…

Korean vs. Western brands?

There are benefits to Korean brands and the same can be said for their North American counterparts. At the end of the day, it’s your choice what brand you choose to invest in. Check out the differences below if you’re on the fence!


Because BB creams are lighter in coverage, you won’t have to worry about finding a cream that looks 100% identical to your skin color. You’ll usually select a shade lighter and blend it into your own skin tone. While American brands have yellow-based creams, a lot of the Korean brands will boast grey or pink-tinted creams. The grey or pink tones will oxidize with time and blend in more evenly with your natural skin-tone, but do a test patch just in case!

BB Cream Sunscreen

Korean brands certainly have a leg up when it comes to churning out BB creams with SPF protection. Sometimes a cream from a western brand will check off all the criteria except give you broad-spectrum SPF protection! SPF is such an integral part to the BB cream experience that it’s downright criminal not to have it included in your product. As some western brands are known to drop the ball on this point, you can rest assured that Korean take their sun-protection very seriously.

Western Brands

Western brands, on top of being easier to find than their Korean counterparts in North America, will also offer a wider range of shades. Since Korean brands are catering to the Asian market, it’s not surprising that you’ll find a small range of 3-5 light to medium shades for each brand. In the case of Korean brands who’ve made a name for themselves in the US market, Laneige is one of the few brands that will offer BB creams for darker skin tones.

If you’ve got darker skin tones and haven’t found a Korean CC or BB cream that works for you, don’t give up! Western brands like Smashbox and Iman have responded to the demand for BB creams for darker skin beauty and have come out with shades that will suit anybody and everybody.

Going ga-ga for Korean beauty products? If you’re new to the K-beauty market, here’s our list of the best-of-the-best Korean products you should be buying!

Author Celina Feng

More posts by Celina Feng

Leave a Reply