Foundation, as a category, is challenging to shop for—and it’s only gotten more confusing with all the iterations of complexion-evening products that are available to us nowadays, like BB and CC creams. Since we’ve already discussed BB creams before, we’re going to focus on CC creams. Because you’ve likely seen them at your local Sephora at some point and wondered what the heck they are and how they’re different.
What is CC cream?
CC stands for “color corrector” or “color correction” cream. (FYI: Sometimes they’re referred to as a “color control” cream.) You can think of them as a multitasker in your makeup routine. CC creams offer great coverage without looking heavy and can easily be built up to your desired levels. They’re often loaded with other skincare ingredients like sunscreen and squalene (for added moisture) and, as their name suggests, CC creams are especially great for evening out any discoloration in your skin.
What are the benefits of CC cream?
First and foremost, they’re very efficient. If you’re someone who prefers a one-and-done product that optimizes for convenience (that makes most of us, right?) you may want to give CC cream a whirl. Again, CC creams offer more than just coverage; they have additional skincare benefits (like hydration and sun protection). They tend to make your skin look a bit more polished than when you use a BB cream, but they have a more natural-looking finish than most foundations.
What is the difference between BB and CC cream?
Aside from the obvious difference in acronyms (“BB” in this context stands for “blemish balm” or “beauty balm”), BB creams are generally lighter than CC creams in terms of coverage. Where they’re similar is BB creams are also spiked with skincare ingredients (the key players being sunscreen and antioxidants that help protect against free radical damage). So how do you decide between the two?
To put it plainly, we’d wear a BB cream on a casual day of running errands or grabbing coffee with a friend because it gives us SPF and a light evening of any redness or discoloration on our faces without looking like we’re wearing makeup. We’d save CC cream for a work event or a night out (or after a night out, when we might need a little more help covering the evidence of our sleep-deprived pallor).
How to apply CC cream:
To apply CC cream, dispense 1 to 2 pumps onto the back of your hand. Then, dab a small amount on your forehead, nose, cheeks and chin. Using a foundation brush (the fluffier the better, in our opinion) or a wet makeup sponge, blend the cream into your skin, starting at the center of your face and slowly making your way out towards the perimeter, where you want the sheerest coverage.
If you’re looking for even more coverage (perhaps for a wedding or an event where you know you’ll be photographed at), you can also use your CC cream as a color-correcting base layer underneath a foundation. We’d just recommend that you are sparing with your foundation in this scenario, so you still maintain that natural-looking glow from your CC cream.
A final note: While you may have come to expect a wider range of shades with foundations, the same is not always true for CC creams (and BB creams for that matter). This is partly because both creams have a lighter texture and finish than most foundations, so they’re usually more flexible and forgiving on your skin, even if they’re not an exact match. That said, don’t be alarmed if the shade looks a bit too light or dark when you first dab it on your skin; remember what we said about blending it from the center of your face, outwards.
OK, ready to shop some of our go-to CC creams?
1. Thrive Causemetics Buildable Blur CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 35
We had to kick things off with a CC cream we’ve used (and repurchased) several times over because it’s just that good. This pick from Thrive Causemetics wears you’re your favorite moisturizer (creamy, smooth and hydrating), while delivering ample coverage for any dullness, dark spots or areas of discoloration on your face. Plus, it has broad-spectrum SPF 35 and vitamin C to double-up on protection against the elements.
2. IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream
Let’s put it this way: We have a friend who hasn’t used a single drop of foundation since she first discovered this CC cream years ago. (As of 2020, it’s also the #1 prestige CC cream in the U.S., according to The NPD Group’s report on makeup sales.) That’s probably because the coverage this stuff gives rivals most foundations we’ve tried—only it also has the added benefits of collagen, peptides, hyaluronic acid and, of course, SPF 50, to round things out. (There’s also an “illumination” and an “airbrush perfecting powder” version available, in case that’s more your preference.)
3. Clé Cosmetics CCC Cream
We love how Clé Cosmetics was like “I see your CC cream and raise you a CCC cream.” CCC, in case you’re wondering, means “color, control and change,” lest you think they’re playing around with coverage. The unique formula comes out of the tube white, but fret not, it quickly adjusts to a flesh tone as you rub it into your skin, which is a satisfying experience. What you end up with is a dewy, even-toned complexion that looks good on Zoom and IRL.
4. Amoré Pacific Color Control Cushion Compact SPF 50
You can think of AmorePacific as the L’Oréal of Korea; it’s a storied beauty conglomerate with a ton of brands that sit under it (some of which are also on this list). AmorePacific also has a line of premium products that are primarily skincare focused, but the one exception is their cushion compact, which is beloved for its lightweight, yet surprisingly buildable coverage and SPF 50.