BB cream vs. foundation: which is better for your skin?

If you’re confused by the bb cream vs foundation dilemma, this is the difference between the two products.

BB Cream vs Foundation
(Image credit: Getty Images / pogrebkov)

When it comes to perfecting your complexion, picking the right base is key - so should you go for a bb cream or foundation? With a plethora of options to choose from, you may find yourself both overwhelmed and thoroughly confused. We’re here to make acing your base simple, by filling you in all you need to know about two of the most popular skin tone perfectors out there – BB cream and foundation.  

BB Cream vs. foundation

Should you use a BB Cream?

The Korean’s have been perfecting BB formulations since the 80s, and although they are now known for their love of elaborate multi-step beauty regimes, they have set the standard for this multi-tasking skincare, make-up hybrid. Beauty brands in the West have taken their cue from Korean innovations, and so you’ll find that BB cream formulations here are anything but basic. 

“‘Beauty’ or ‘blemish’ balms aka BB creams are the perfect entry into colour cosmetics. They offer sheer coverage that conceals and blurs imperfections and contain a hefty dose of actives to keep skin looking it’s best,’ shares makeup artist Elaine Lynskey

In a single step, BB creams flood the skin with restorative actives, like ceramides, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, that offer long term as well as instant skin perfecting results. Most protect against harmful UV rays and there are options for all skin types, and most skin concerns. 

This means oily, combination, normal and dry skins are all catered for and even concerns like acne, rosacea, lines and wrinkles are addressed. But shade availability is where BB creams lag behind. Designed to offer sheer coverage and made with pigments that adapt to the wearer's skin tone, most brands only offer one or two shades. And while others offer more, many (but not all) don’t have a range of darker tones, making it harder for warm and dark skin tones to find a BB cream that addresses their skin concerns and matches their skin tone too. 

Okay but what about the case for foundations?

As the name suggests foundation is the basis of most make-up wearers regimes. It comes in a multitude of forms from liquids, and mousses to powders and pan sticks - offering a host of different coverage options and finishes. Whether light, medium, or full coverage – mattifying, natural or dewy, you’ll find that foundations are designed to camouflage skin conditions like acne, pigmentation, redness, and even out skin tone too. They are also made to last, with some boasting up to 18 hours of wear. 

One size does not fit all, and nowadays there is a range of formulations to suit every skin type. And despite ‘colour correcting’, and texture perfecting being their main objective, you’ll find that many of them offer some skincare benefits too. Typically, these come in the form of hydrating hyaluronic acid, mattifying clay, repairing anti-oxidants, acne busting acids and SPF protection.  

Shade wise, offerings have increased considerably in recent years, and while drug store brands still have some work to do, generally warm and dark skin tones have more options than they once did.

What’s the main difference between BB cream and foundation?

“The main difference between a BB cream and a foundation is the coverage. BB creams are skincare products first that are designed to treat your skin and even out skin tone with very light coverage. While despite the addition of skincare ingredients in some formulations, a foundation's main job is to hide imperfections,” shares Diego dalla Palma, international beauty ambassador, Gianluca Oddi. 

BB Cream vs. foundation: so which one should you use?

There is no need to pick one over the other. In fact when it comes to most beauty products, you'd be wise to invest in a wardrobe of bases, in much the same way as you would lipsticks. Some days you might just want something quick and easy that benefits your skin and imparts a sheer, second skin veil of colour and go for a BB cream. While on others your main concern might be concealing imperfections and evening out your skin tone in the way only a foundation can.