What's the difference between foundation and BB/CC/blur creams?

Makeup usually conjures up exciting images of color, gloss, and shimmer. However, we should never underestimate the importance of the most fundamental piece of makeup: the face base. Before this decade, bases always just referred to foundation and, occasionally, tinted moisturizer. Shopping for base makeup has since gotten so much more complicated, what with the onslaught of new releases on all the ways to achieve a flawless face.

As if picking out the perfect foundation wasn’t challenging enough, we now also have BB (blemish balm) creams, CC (color correction) creams, and blur creams to choose from! It can be pretty overwhelming to be faced with so many options and figure out which one is best for you, so I've put together this guide on how each one is different from the other.

To start off, here’s my skin status: I have dry-combination skin that can start to get flaky around the cheeks, especially during the colder season. My primary face issues include redness around the nose area, gaping pores, and hyper-pigmentation. To better show you the effect that a product has on my skin, I applied each one to only one side of my face. Look to the left side of each photo (the side where I’m holding the tube of base makeup) to see the product in action.

Bare skin

Bare skin


The predecessor of the rest of the other face bases, foundation is primarily packed with skintone-colored pigments intended to produce a blank slate on the planes of the face. That means discolorations and basic imperfections are meant to be covered. Where there was once only thick skin-suffocating makeup, foundations have evolved to range from light to full coverage, offer matte to dewy finishes, and feature the most diverse shade selection to ensure a match for all skintones.

Covergirl Ready Set Gorgeous Foundation had the most obvious coverage and pigmentation in the group. I’m yellow-toned, but shade 120 had a beige tint to it. It was buildable, so I was able to cover up redness. As with lots of foundation formulas, this didn’t add much on the moisture front so starting with well-prepped skin is important.

Left side: Wearing Covergirl Ready Set Gorgeous Foundation

Left side: Wearing Covergirl Ready Set Gorgeous Foundation

BB Cream

Blemish balm cream is basically Foundation ++. It’s a multitasking product that combines pigment and skincare in one application. Aside from covering up blemishes, BBs are known for keeping skin moist and supple through an enriched formula. Beauty enthusiasts often talk about whether or not they should get a foundation with SPF due to a potential white cast, but it’s not as much of a concern if you’re using a BB cream because it usually has a lighter formulation compared to foundations.

L’Oreal True Match BB proved to be a good match for my skin, if just a liiiittle bit lighter than what I’d normally use. The coverage was great, and the redness and other discolorations were concealed easily while giving a Korean-level dewy finish.

Left side: Wearing the L’Oreal True Match BB

Left side: Wearing the L’Oreal True Match BB

CC Cream

Color correcting creams can best be described as BB Cream Lite. They offer the same skin-caring benefits (SPF, moisturizing properties, etc.), but as the name suggests, the focus is on evening out your skin color in a subtle way. You won’t be getting as much pigment or coverage the way you do with the first two, but it offers just a hint of color with an instant brightening effect. This face base is the closest to resembling your bare skin, though it gently fades the appearance of discolorations, dark spots, and the like.

While Origins Smart Plants CC Cream didn’t do much by way of color—the redness wasn’t concealed—it did give my skin a healthy finish. There was a subtle dewy glow and a slight brightening of my overall complexion.

Left side: Wearing Origins Smart Plants CC Cream

Left side: Wearing Origins Smart Plants CC Cream

Blur Cream

Blur creams rose to popularity just a couple of years ago, and compared to the other face bases, they seem to be in a class of their own. Their purpose is to smooth out the appearance of skin’s texture, particularly when it comes to pores and wrinkles. They can also be used as a primer for another layer of face base as they usually have the ability to keep skin looking shine-free for a longer period. Unlike the other three, color pigment is optional, but some blur creams do have light-reflecting particles to draw attention away from problem areas.

I was expecting Happy Skin InstaBeauty Blur Cream to have a velvety, silicone-y feel like most of the other blur creams I’ve tried, but this one actually resembled foundation more. It deposited a fair amount of pigment and was able to cover up my redness to an extent. It still ended up looking a lot like second skin, since the coverage wasn’t too heavy.

So which base came out as king? At the end of trying all these formulations, I’ve decided that it’s a tie between foundation and BB cream for me. I’ve become so paranoid with matching the color of my face to my neck that I appreciate just how many shades of foundation are out in the market. With a foundie, I can stand to be as picky as I want, knowing that my ultimate shade is out there.

BB creams, on the other hand, give me what foundations usually can’t. I’m mostly talking about skin hydration, but there’s also the instant color correction that the ones with heavier coverage can achieve. I love that a BB can cover so much ground without feeling heavy!

Have you tried all these different types of face bases? Which of these formulations do you go for? Which ones are you game to try?