Demystifying ingredients, clarifying how to apply products and revealing everything you’ve always wanted to know about skin types; Eliza Explains will help you become a beauty pro.
Once upon a time, high coverage foundation reigned supreme. Long-wearing formulations designed to conceal, cover and mattify were considered the crème de la crème of base products and notions of dewiness and glow were barely conceivable.
Of course, when you consider that some of the earliest incarnations of consumer foundation were created to be used on the sets of films and theatres – take Max Factor’s Pan-Cake which first launched in 1935 – then this heavy-duty approach makes sense. These days, however, foundations are a lot more flexible and designed to show off our skin, rather than cover it up.
What are the best alternatives to foundation?
From barely-there coverage to radiance-boosting finishes, modern base products definitely take a skin-first approach to makeup.
Which is why it’s no surprise that, in recent years, there has been an undeniable shift away from the popularity of classic foundations in favour of more lightweight skin tints like CC creams, BB creams and tinted moisturisers. Especially post-2020 when many of us ditched our full makeup routines entirely.
Essentially, all three products are lightweight foundation alternatives that offer sheer, natural-looking coverage alongside skincare benefits. But what exactly is the difference between these seemingly interchangeable formulas? Good question…
So, what is a BB cream and why should I use it?
Simply speaking, BB creams – aka beauty or blemish balms – are a skincare-makeup hybrid created to even out skin tone while caring for your complexion. These hydrating base products were hugely popular on the Asian beauty market long before they landed on UK shores, but have become a makeup bag staple for many.
I’ll be honest though, if coverage is your thing then BB creams are unlikely to impress. In fact, I’d describe them more as a moisturiser with just a hint of pigment. Your natural colouring and texture will still shine through, but your complexion should look healthier and more uniform in colour after application.
Is BB cream good for all skin types?
As lots of the classic BB cream formulas are designed with blemish-prone skin in mind, they’re particularly good for oily and combination skin types as the finish tends to err on the matte side.
It’s also worth pointing out that of all the foundation alternatives on the market, BB creams definitely have the most limited shade selection; partly because the coverage that they offer is so minimal that the shades often work more flexibly across different skin tones.
Here are three of the best cult BB creams to try.
Erborian BB Creme Au Ginseng
Erborian is a brand that’s inspired by Korean skincare, so it’s no surprise that their classic BB cream is widely considered one of the best on the market. It has a beautifully creamy texture that glides over skin when applied with your fingertips and really blurs the appearance of large pores and any uneven patches on your skin. The best thing about it though is that it’s enriched with hydrating ingredients that dry complexions will adore, while leaving behind a velvety finish that suits oilier skin types too.
The Body Shop Fresh Nude BB Cream
A fellow beauty editor got me hooked on this rather underrated BB cream from The Body Shop; it’s basically healthy-looking skin in a tube.
While ultra-sheer in coverage (I’m talking barely-there) it manages to impart a fresh-faced glow, even on days that I look absolutely shattered. Plus, it lends a kind of soft-focus finish to your skin thanks to its ability to even out skin tone without relying on heavy coverage.
Garnier Classic Perfecting Care All-in-One BB Cream
One of the first BB creams to make waves in the UK was this drugstore formula from Garnier – and it still stands up nearly a decade after launch. Formulated with hyaluronic acid and aloe vera extracts, hydration is the name of the game with this product. In fact, it really does feel like a rich moisturiser. Once applied to skin, it diffuses blemishes and evens tone, leaving behind a subtle luminosity that lasts all day.
What is a CC cream and why should I use it?
Real talk: you may be feeling as though I’ve just described a CC cream above. However, while the two are similar, they have distinct differences.
Short for colour correcting, CC creams are designed to remedy areas of discolouration that you might prefer to cover up; for example, redness caused by irritation, dark circles or dull skin.
Is CC cream good for all skin types?
While professional makeup artists might have a variety of colour-correcting products in their kit to do this very job – from green concealers to minimise blemishes, to peachy-toned pigments to conceal under-eye bags – the best CC creams can target a whole host of different areas in just one formulation, making them a brilliant choice for all skin types.
Generally, I find that the best CC cream offers more coverage than a BB cream and comes in a wider range of shades too; for this reason I often recommend them to people who are just venturing away from foundations and into the world of skin tints.
Check out three of the best CC creams below.
IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream
Most days, if I’m not wearing foundation then I’m using this CC cream – and I know so many other beauty insiders who swear by it too. It has a pretty full-coverage formula that hides everything from breakouts to pigmentation, yet it feels uber-lightweight and is packed with hyaluronic acid, soy extract and collagen to hydrate and plump skin. Plus, it contains SPF50+ as an extra layer of protection. It’s also available in illuminating and mattifying versions, but it’s this classic formula that I rate most for all skin types.
E.l.f. Camo CC Cream
This product is a bit of a hidden gem and really holds its own against some of the hardiest foundations in my stash. Not only does it do a brilliant job at neutralising dark circles, redness and pigmentation, but it also evens skin tone and offers decent coverage without looking cakey or cloying. And as well as all that, it’s infused with collagen, peptides and niacinamide so your skin is left smooth, protected and healthy-looking.
Revolution Pro CC Perfecting Foundation
Revolution Pro describes this as a product that bridges the gap between makeup and skincare and, while you definitely get some bang for your buck when it comes to coverage here, I’d have to agree. Packed with hydrating hyaluronic acid, soothing vitamin E and plumping collagen, it has all of the skincare benefits of a good moisturiser alongside buildable pigment that can be worn as a sheer skin tint or a pretty full-coverage foundation. It never looks heavy or cakey on the skin and it makes light work of minimising dark circles, redness and blemishes.
What is a tinted moisturiser and why should I use it?
Tinted moisturisers are effectively what they say on the tin (or bottle): a straight-up moisturiser with a tint. Traditionally, they would have offered the least amount of coverage when compared with BB and CC creams, but some of the launches that I’ve tried in recent years actually boast fairly impressive coverage (It Cosmetics, I’m looking at you).
Are tinted moisturisers good for all skin types?
While tinted moisturisers are an obvious choice for dry skin types who will really benefit from an extra layer of hydration (in fact, you can layer it over your usual moisturiser for extra efficacy), there are plenty of options to choose from depending on your skin’s specific needs. Plus, if you’re in a rush then they’re brilliant, as you can apply them as the final step in your skincare routine and you’re good to go.
Three beauty editor-approved tinted moisturisers below:
NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturiser
When it comes to tinted moisturisers, this is one of the best on the market in my opinion (and according to many of my beauty editor pals). It’s oil-free – so a great option for combination skin types – yet doesn’t miss a trick when it comes to hydration. Infused with natural botanicals and hydrators, skin is left supple and soft while vitamin c lends brightness to any dull areas. Even better though, you can wear this as a barely-there moisturiser or build it up for more coverage. It’s truly versatile.
Morphe Glowstunner Hydrating Tinted Moisturiser
More than a moisturiser, this glowy formulation not only offers up hydration but it’s infused with lactic acid to gently exfoliate skin at the same time. The result is a complexion that not only appears brighter, but is genuinely more luminous and even in tone. It has a sheer finish (although there are 15 versatile tints to choose from) but can be layered up if you’d prefer your finish to have a little more pigment. Oh, and the glow that it leaves behind is undeniable.
Beauty Pie Super Healthy Skin Sheer Tinted Oil-Free
This tinted moisturiser has so many amazing reviews on the Beauty Pie website that I was convinced to try it for myself, and it really didn’t disappoint. It’s ultra-light, and has an almost water-weight consistency, so I find it best applied over my usual moisturiser on dry days. However, oily skin types will likely find this enough hydration on its own thanks to the moisturising squalane and smoothing jojoba. Alongside sun protection (SPF 20), it delivers a sheer tint to the skin which evens tone, boosts radiance and generally leaves your skin looking way healthier than before application.