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.
Read more: 10 best foundations for every skin type
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.
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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.
L’Oréal Paris skin paradise tinted water-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.
Bobbi Brown nude finish tinted moisturiser SPF 15
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.
Trinny London BFF skin cream SPF 30
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.
Nars pure radiant tinted moisturiser SPF 30
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.
Tarte tinted treatment 12-hour primer SPF 30
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.
Clinique moisture surge sheet tint hydrator SPF 25
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.
Glossier perfecting skin tint
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.
Smashbox halo glow tinted moisturiser SPF 25
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.
Drunk elephant umbra tinte daily defence SPF 30
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.
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 makes a brilliant second option, if your budget is a little tighter.
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