The Fresh Face Secret: What Is BB Cream?

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What’s this “BB cream” everyone keeps taking about?

BB cream is the new makeup/skincare product that movie stars, cosmetic queens, Korean pop stars and lolitas are all in love with for smooth, airy and natural looking skin. Previously used to regenerate laser-surgery patients’ skin in Korea, this product has made the leap from Asia all the way to America and even entered the mainstream. If you’re sick of flat, cakey foundation or want to streamline your daily face-up routine, BB cream has got you covered – literally.

Why try BB cream?

BB cream is a the kind of miracle product a lot of girls swear by. The “BB” standards for “blemish balm” or as they say in America, “beauty balm” because of its many restorative properties. BB cream can have various properties such as:

  • scar-fading
  • whitening or brightening
  • moisturizing
  • skin repairing
  • smoothing
  • pore-minimizing
  • sun protection (added SPF)
  • anti-wrinkling
BB creams are also great for girls on the go who want a simple makeup product. It’s a stand-alone product so you can skip all the prepping, smearing and patting. It’s like tinted moisturizer, primer and foundation had a crazy night and wound up with this love child – you don’t need any of those other products if you’ve got your BB! Even setting powder can usually be skipped. BB cream can be applied with your fingers, sponge, or brush for quick face-ups on the train or during rush hour.
What I personally love about BB cream is not only its ease of application, but its light, dewy look. Whereas straight-up foundation takes color and beauty marks out of my face, BB cream smooths out my skin tone and texture without giving that blank, fake look. Love your freckles? Got a natural blush? BB cream is more sheer, so those pretty unique features of yours show through.

There are two worlds of BB cream today: Asian BB creams and the newly-created American BB creams. While many are finding out BB cream only now from such American brands as Maybelline, Garnier, Clinique, and Smashbox, there is also a strong following of Japanese and Korean BB creams outside of Asia as well.

BB Cream: Asian or American?

I’m a big fan of Asian cosmetics and skin care products myself, for two reasons. One, if you’re into Asian fashion such as lolita fashion, fairy-kei, gyaru, ulzzang, or even Asian celebrities and pop artists, you’ve probably already got a fashion style that meshes well with Asian makeup products. For example, Korean fashion lovers probably know that orange and tangerine were big for lipstick and cheeks in the past year – but not in America. So naturally, followers of Asian fashion are drawn to Asian cosmetics.

Two, to be blunt, Asian cosmetics are not messing around. When my standard American face products and makeup remover give up a few weeks after use, my Asian products are still going strong. I’ve used American makeup removers to find lots of eyelash glue, eyeliner, and general gunk still on my face, while a pass with my favorite Japanese face wash removes another full face of foundation, blush and all the glue. When my friends are unhappy with their skin, I tell ’em to hit the nearest Asian grocery store. (They look at me like I’m crazy, but I mean it!)

So, while American BB cream is most likely going to be focused on being a good makeup product and not-so-good a skin product, BB creams from Asia are not kidding around and you will see bonafide results not only when you wear it, but when the product comes off.

Okay, the cool  part about American-made BB creams is that unlike Asian BB creams which usually come in a maximum of two or three colors (beige, and uh, beiger), American BB creams come in a typical range of five colors from light to dark, at least three shades deeper than Asian standards. This means all you gorgeous mocha, bronze, and deep chocolate girls can get your BB on too! The American BBs are also more focused on coverage and less likely to be as sheer as their Asian counterparts.

I’m short on BB cream right now and can’t make it to my favorite shop for a while, so I’m going to pick up some of Maybelline’s Dream Fresh BB Cream and do a quick review on it soon! (Though I am a little concerned that “glowing” is a term that here means “quietly making you tanner every time you use it until you look like you just deep-fried at a salon”!)

Where to Buy BB Cream

For American BB creams like Clinique or Smashbox, check out your local Sephora – trying them on make or break your favorite BB cream and I’d really recommend trying them in-store if you’re new to the world of BB.

If you want Asian BBs, take a look at – they have a huge selection of BBs, as well as oodles of other Japanese and Korean face products, makeup and eyelashes. Their Facebook fanpage is also a great resource, where they give more product details, makeup tutorials, reviews, and you can always see what’s new! (You can buy all of the Asian  so-pretty-in-pink BB creams from their website, too!)


If you’re already a tried-and-true BB girl, what are your favorite brands and labels? I’m partial to Etude House, but I really want to try out some of the new stuff we’re seeing from Holika Holika!

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  • Valeria Cheshire

    They started to sell this stuff in here in Germany as well, but I don’t quite like it. This is mostly because all the brands put out one or two different “one-fits-all”-shades max. I went to a drugstore and tested literally all the different brands, but none looked right. See, my skin is a very light, slight peach tone, so if I add a peach-colored product, it looks like I fell into a pot of bad tanning lotion.

    • Although Asian BBs usually only come in two shades, there’s so many BBs that usually you can find one that looks like yours if you try several brands. Maybe you’re just hard to match? I’m pretty pale (blue/neutral tone) and I usually find something that works.

  • Arika Kimsey

    I like the asian ones, most of the American versions are nothing more then tinted moisturizer with some spf.

  • I was able to try out the Maybelline BB Cream and the only huge issue I had was that it was sticky. I noticed that it did take care of blemishes and my dark circles (thanks years of insomnia!) though. I’ve been using Almay’s Smart Shade primer and foundation, but I’m interested in adding BB cream to my routine to simplify it a bit. 

    • I used to use the Smart Shade but it made me a little orange. Good to know that Maybelline corrected some dark circles though, I’ve got this great Walking-Dead thing going on with my under eyes.

  • I love the mushroom skinfood BB! I’ve also tried Missha which was pretty good, but it was only a test packet so I can’t say for sure. Lovely post btw~I didn’t know brands like maybelline were making bb creams now~

    • I’ve heard good things about Skinfood! Though I can’t imagine mushroom? I like makeup and skin products with peach or green tea :)

  • I actually just bought the Maybelline BB cream today!  I tried it and I don’t love it, as it’s a bit sticky and shiny; however, my friend bought some of the L’Oreal BB cream and I thought it was a lot better and had nicer application and feel to it.

    • I didn’t know L’Oreal made one! I’ll have to look. So far most reviews find Maybelline’s BB to be kind of sticky and overly-dewy. Wish I could try a sample before I buy it!

  • lady_saltina

    I’ve tried both the Garnier one and the Maybelline one so far…. The Garnier one was way too oily and did not have good coverage. My skin felt greasy after I wore it and it may or may not have made me break out. The Maybelline one is definately a step up from the Garnier one, and I definately don’t find it as oily as most of the reviews I’ve read have claimed it to be, but it still doesn’t have as much coverage as I’d like. I usually use it on top of Neutrogena’s Shine Control Primer, which is made with rice powder and is super absorbent and may counter the oilyness of the Maybelline BB cream. It’s great for people with oily/combination skin like mine and I totally recommend it as a daily primer. I have heard L’Oreal’s BB Cream is the most similar to Asian BB Creams currently on the market from American budget brands. I just picked up a tube but haven’t tried it out yet! Hopefully the results are good!

    • If you like your L’Oreal BB, let us know in the comments! It sounds like it’s the winner for American BB brands!

  • I use the Dr. Jart+ BB cream you have pictured in the American Products.  It is litterally the first primer/foundation I have EVER used that doesn’t leave me with zits at the end of the day.  The sheer covering is enough to smooth out imperfections without masking them entirely (like my freckles!)

    Are there any BB creams (asian or american) that don’t have SPF in them?  I’ve heard that SPF foundations can look really weird with flash photography, and I’m getting married in a few months….

    • Hmm, for photoshoots I usually use foundation since it has more coverage and is usually more matte. Try MAC StudioFix for your wedding – its what I use for shoots!

      • Thank you!  I was thinking of hitting up a MAC booth to ask about ideas/to get foundation matching.

  • I’m a big fan of Missha’s BB cream but I’m still wanting to experiment with other kinds. I’ll have to take you up on your suggestion and try to get a hold of Etude House samples, since I’ve heard some great stuff about theirs. Luckily, I’m pale and my skin has a yellow-ish tone so buying BB creams from Asia usually works out well for me. I should probably try some other brands soon, though!

    • I like to switch brands when I’ve finished a tube because a) there could be a better match out there and b) I am so swayed by all the cute bottles! :)

  • osuneyedgirl

    Oh my gosh, I’ve been wondering what the heck BB cream is! Thank you for such an informative answer, doll :]

  • Ah, BB cream. The skincare product that is the talk of the world and had recently been introduced into the Western market. Though I have to admit, I totally did not see that coming. Frankly I haven’t actually gotten around to using BB cream, though this blog post is seriously tempting me to do so. xD I had seen the Maybelline BB cream in stores and I had been curious on how that turned out.

    • I was surprised that they were pushing Americans to BB cream too, but I find it funny that some American companies act like they invented it XD

  • Jen

    I’ve been using Missha BB Cream for the past year (their very light color in the winter and their more natural color in the summer… 13 and 21, I believe?). They both blend so wonderfully into the skin and improved its condition a lot! I’m really interested in trying other Asian BB Creams though… American ones? not so much.

    • It’s great to hear they’re improved your skin condition! I’ve heard great stuff about Missha, especially their Water Droplet versions.

  • FiammettaRey

    I always wanted to try the BB Creams that I saw on Asian fashion websites, but I never really could, because of the shade issue you mentioned, the Asian ones are all too light for me. But when I saw the Western ones, I got the first one I saw, which was the Boscia one. It has an “adjusting shade,” that says it changes itself to conform to your skin color, whatever that may be… I don’t know to what extent that’s true, because my skin is just a little darker than the product comes out (which is already darker than the Asian brands). But it blends in nicely on me, and I really like it! My mom, who’s about the same skin tone as me, used the Clinique one after I recommended BB Creams in general to her. But then she tried some of my Boscia one, and she likes that better. 

    • Great to hear that the Boscia is another good one, and for darker skin! When I first started using BB, I was excited to tell my friends – but a lot of them couldn’t use it without a darker tone. So at the least, America isn’t making makeup tints just for Asian complexions – a good move forward!

  • Lyona


    Ah, BB Cream, my saviour. I use Skin 79 triple function BB cream – I think it’s Korean, maybe? I just love it… It’s a bit thicker, very nicely buildable cream, and finaly, something to fit my kinda pale skintone!
    I had, and actually still have some problems with my skin, it’s pretty sensitive, plus when I’m stressed, I always fidget around my face, so yeah, I usually make things worse when I don’t pay attention. It helps a lot, my skin heals faster, and it isn’t cakey, even at the end of the day! Which is a great thing, as at school my makeup was a mess because of all the chalk-powder. Ugh. (I’m a teacher, so I used to get some extra amount daily while I taught at a high school, bleh.)

    And the best thing: it’s not much more expensieve than my old foundations, but LOADS better. I order it from ebay (my friend already had a great tried and tested seller!) so the only backdraw is the waiting time. But it’s really worth every day! :)

    • EBay has a huge resource of suppliers from many brands, you can find almost any BB cream there! Such extensive shops, I always want to buy everything!

      Glad you found and answer to the chalk problem. I can’t imagine finishing the day with a coat of chalk settled into your makeup! O-O

      • popprincess

        Are there any of these you highly recommend for girls in covering, and clearing acne blemishes especially with oily skin? : o

  • I love BB creams. And european/american are just regular foundation with less coverage and more shine. I love Missha Perfect Cover. I never had so nice make-up with regular foundation <3 What do you recommend for cleanig skin? I use oil clenasing method right now but I'm looking for something else

  • Cherori

    I don’t wear makeup and I’m not really interested in starting, but I do want to try some new skincare products.  Is BB cream more of a makeup product or can it be applied and then removed like a skincare product as well?  If not, what would you recommend for just general skincare?

    • BB cream is a makeup product. What kind of skincare product are you looking for? I’m going to review a few soon I think.

      • Cherori

        I’m looking for something that will give my skin a really clean and light look that lasts.  I’ve actually found that ProActiv worked really well for me, not just for acne but for making my skin feel nicer in general.  I’m interested in finding some new ways to take care of my skin in general though, not just on my face, and giving it a really fresh look.

        • Hmmm, so a cleanser? I have a favorite cleanser/makeup remover I really like, but no particular acne treatment – I only get one or two breakouts near my period.

  • Mia

    I actually really love the L’Oreal one, but it’s the only one I’ve used so far. When I get the chance, I want to try a different brand (maybe an Asian one), but this one is only $7.99 and available at drugstores, which is nice!

  • My favorite BB cream that I’ve ever used is Skin79’s pink bottle. It’s amazing. I had some pretty severe acne and acne scarring, and that stuff changed my face completely. I tried their orange bottle, but that wasn’t my cup of tea. I moved to South Korea this past February to teach English, and I’ve tried a few more brands since then, namely The Face Shop, Etude House, and Holika Holika. My Holika Holika Aqua Petit Jellly is pretty good, great color, but nothing has come close to the pink bottle. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the fact that the bottle was hot pink, but I always felt good wearing it.

    • It’s amazing how BB cream can seem to melt away acne scars and dark spots with continuous use; I recommend BB cream and Asian products in general to all my friends experiencing skin problems. Etude House is usually one of my favorites, but I have the feeling I’m going to like Holika Holika – that’s the brand I want to try next. Their skincare products look great too!

      • It’s because of the ingredients. I don’t know whether they are totally safe for the skin or not, but I love having clearer skin because of them. Holika Holika has awesome packaging. That’s one of the things I really love about Asian cosmetics. They don’t just work well. The look cute too.

  • pumpkin_spice

    i was a really said when I became more immersed in korean pop culture and found out about bb cream then saw the shades (pale, beige, and beiger) as a girl with chocolate bronze tone I was super super disapointed :( but now that they have BB cream in america I’m happy! although I haven’t come around to buying it yet…

  • cheshirecat

    Hey there. Im an austrian Girl…..i have very very pale skin. Nearly like porcelan but its so hard to find a bb cream here. We have only two brands. One Is garnier. Its ok but its too dark for my skin and it doesnt stick long to the face. Whenever I use a tissue or just touch my face The cream is sticking everywhere but not the face anymore. Can you recommend a good bb cream for pale and sensitive skin? I will love you forever if you do hahaha