Foundation vs. BB cream: The Final Face-Off

So, which base product to go for, foundation or BB cream? Find out all about their pros and cons and how to choose the right one for you.

June 6, 2023 4 minutes read
BB cream pouring on a makeup brush

In This Post

Sometimes, it's hard to navigate the overcrowded beauty and skincare world. New products turn up almost on a monthly basis, which is, by no means, a bad thing! But the abundance of choice, somehow, makes it harder to choose – at least, that's how we feel, especially when picking the right base product, foundation or BB cream, that checks all the boxes.

So, let's try to figure out together what team to go for, team foundation or team BB cream, and sum up odds and ends of both!

But, firstly,...

What Are BB Creams?

BB creams

BB creams, short for Beauty balms or Blemish balms, are multi-purpose cosmetic products combining the best of both worlds – skincare and makeup! BBs originally came from the 1950s Germany and were created by a dermatologist, dr. Christine Schrammek. She wanted to make a single product that would protect and nourish the skin after laser treatments and provide coverage for related redness, starting the BBs trend we know today.

As such, they essentially serve as an all-in-one product, replacing several steps in your beauty routine, including primer, moisturizer, and foundation. In addition, they contain a range of skincare ingredients, including humectants (like glycerin and hyaluronic acid), moisturizing and skin-firming ingredients (like silicones, ceramides, peptides, panthenol), and antioxidants (like vitamin C and green tea).

What Are Foundations?

foundation bottle

Foundations, on the other hand, are a more popular choice, considering they've been around long before BB creams. Interestingly, their history stems all the way back to ancient Romans and Greeks, who linked pale skin with material wealth and luxury and used such products to lighten their complexion.

However, the modern-day foundations used in makeup also come from Germany, just like our BBs; the Theatre in Leipzig, to be more precise. Namely, a German actor, Carl Baudin, first created a skin-toned paste, or grease paint, to hide the line between his wig and forehead.

So, foundations are more pigmented, full-coverage products that can, so to speak, fully change your complexion. Plus, they come in various forms, such as powders, creams, and liquids.

Foundations and BB Creams: What's the Difference?

BB cream bottle

While they are both meant for evening out the skin tone, foundations and BB creams do differ in many ways – so, before you commit to one, here's a summary of their pros and cons:

Coverage: Certainly, this is the most significant dissimilarity between the two. Namely, BBs are pretty light in texture, similar to tinted moisturizers, and offer just enough coverage to cover mild redness and blemishes (hence the name, Blemish Balms). In contrast, foundations, especially liquid foundations, offer buildable coverage, from light to full, for more severe skin woes, such as hyperpigmentation, acne, dark spots, acne scars, and you name it.

Finish: Due to their nourishing formulas, BB creams give off a natural, dewy look, ideal for a complexion that just needs a bit of boost. In comparison, foundations have a wide range of finishes, from matte to satin.

different foundation shades

Shades: One of the BBs' downsides is little variation in shades they provide. Most of them come in light, medium, and dark, which can be limiting, or you might need to mix several shades to get it just right. On the other hand, finding your ideal foundation shade won't be such a bother, as, depending on the brand, they can come in up to 50 different shades.

Care: BB creams are packed with skin-loving ingredients with anti-aging, moisturizing, hydrating, protecting, and soothing properties. While foundations are purely makeup and offer little to no skincare benefits.

Application: With BBs, you're free of the hassle of having to apply your skincare and foundation separately (Hello, fast-paced morning beauty routine!). Plus, they are easy to blend with your fingers, perfect for those new to makeup. Foundations, on the other hand, can be more challenging and time-consuming, especially if you're a newbie. So, you might need to resort to tools like a makeup brush or sponge to get that flawless blend, and do your skincare first.

Long-Lasting, Yes or No: To cut to the chase, foundations – Yes; BBs – Nope. This is purely due to their texture. Since BB creams are usually sheer, they can't last long. So, if you have ever wear-tested a BB cream, you probably noticed that your skin needs a touch-up after only several hours. While, in comparison, a foundation won't budge for hours on end.

So, How To Pick The Right One For You

woman applying foundation

Well, unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. And whether you go for a BB cream or foundation really depends on your plans for the day and the look you want to achieve. So, before committing to one, here are some pointers to help you decide what to wear, and when:


As you can see, choosing between foundations and BB creams isn't that straightforward, as both have their fair share of drawbacks. So, hopefully, our guide will help you easier pick the right product for your skin type and needs in the future.

However, if you are still on the fence about what to choose, go to a nearby beauty store, get a small sample product of both (these are usually free of charge), and test which one works best for you!


Do I need foundation if I have BB cream?

It will depend on your skin type and the look you want to achieve. If you don't have any acne or blemishes, a BB cream is all you need on your vanity. However, if you need a solid base with full coverage, having a foundation, in addition, will come in handy.

Do you use both BB cream and foundation?

You can mix your foundation with a few drops of BB cream to boost it with some extra skincare benefits and make it less cakey. This way, you'll get a good coverage base that will look more natural and dewy.

Is BB cream or foundation better for dry skin?

BB creams are perfect for dry skin types as well as mature skin. This is due to the moisturizing, nourishing, and anti-aging skincare ingredients they usually contain, such as glycerin, ceramides, panthenol, peptides, green tea extract, and others.

Is BB cream a good substitute for foundation?

If you have relatively clear skin and you just want to even out your skin tone with a single product, then BB cream would serve as a good substitute for foundation. However, if you need more coverage, BB cream is not enough.

...Liked what you read?