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While foundation is a staple in any well-rounded makeup kit, sometimes, heavy formulas can feel suffocating when skin just needs to take a breather. One way to provide some air is by swapping your foundation for a lighter, more breathable formula like a tinted moisturizer or BB cream—alternatives that provide pigment without the heaviness of many foundations. What’s more, a good tinted moisturizer or BB cream is like the LBD of makeup—it can be worn alone or layered with colorful add-ons (read: blush, highlighter) and everyone should own at least one that flatters and enhances their natural beauty without much effort or thought.
Tinted moisturizers and BB creams usually provide more than just pigment and hydration; depending upon their ingredients, the often multi-tasking products can impart additional skin-loving benefits, including sun protection, a luminous glow, and even built-in acne-fighting formula—all with a sheer, more-natural-than-foundation finish to help achieve that “no-makeup makeup” look.
Below, the top tinted moisturizer and BB creams for every skin type.
Best Overall: Maybelline New York Dream BB Fresh Cream
It can be difficult to find a drugstore tinted moisturizer that checks all the boxes for your best-looking skin (read: moisturizing, concealing, non-comedogenic, anti-aging, sun protection), but this one from Maybelline makes the cut. This gel-like formula smooths over skin with ease while delivering sheer coverage with a dewy finish. It’s oil-free, non-comedogenic, and contains SPF 30, so you don’t have to think twice about applying sun protection before you head out the door.
Coverage: Sheer | Shade Range: 5 | Finish: Natural | Size: 1 ounce | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Hydrating: No7 Dual Action Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15
Limited shade range
One of the best aspects of tinted moisturizer is, well, moisture. If you’re looking for a formula that provides superior, all-day hydration, look no further than this one, which not only deposits a wash of sheer, natural-looking color but also keeps skin looking and feeling supple and hydrated. In other words, think of this formula as a moisturizer that also happens to contain a flattering tint.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 2 | Finish: Semi-matte | Size: 1.6 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best With SPF: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Glow Sheers Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Glycerin is a naturally occurring compound in the body; in topical skincare, it is derived from plants. It functions to draw water to the skin and continue hydrating it, making it a great ingredient for extreme dryness.
It’s no surprise that a brand boasting a plethora of sunscreen formulas also offers a tinted moisturizer with a dose of broad-spectrum SPF 30. Not only will this tinted moisturizer give your skin a natural glow, but it also quenches skin with hydrating glycerin. Plus, with regular use, skin-illuminating vitamins are meant to work to brighten skin tone and further protect against sun damage. Unlike some SPF-infused formulas, this one is never chalky or cakey; instead, it reads dewy and luminous for an “I woke up like this” radiance.
Coverage: Sheer | Shade Range: 4 | Finish: Natural | Size: 1.1 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Radiance: L'Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glotion & Makeup Highlighter
Gives a great glow
Can be used with foundation
Doesn't contain SPF
This aptly named “glotion” imparts an immediate, iridescent, celestial glow. That said, it gives skin more of a lit from within look than a holographic, strobed effect, making it ideal for daily use. One pumps-worth of this formula spreads smoothly and evenly over the skin. What’s more, it’s incredibly versatile: it can be worn alone for a sunkissed glow, under foundation as a radiance-boosting base, or layered over foundation to add a more targeted highlight. One note: This tinted moisturizer does not contain SPF, so be sure to layer protection over top.
Coverage: Sheer | Shade Range: 4 | Finish: Dewy | Size: 1.35 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for a Matte Finish: COVERGIRL Clean Matte BB Cream
Fans of stay-all-day matte—but not flat—coverage will love this formula, which dries with a velvety, shine-free finish. What’s more, the smooth, oil-free canvas lasts all day without separating or allowing shine to peek through.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 6 | Finish: Matte | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Mature Skin: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Aging Perfecto
Formulated with retinol
Retinoids are the crème de la crème of anti-aging ingredients. That said, some forms of the ingredient can be drying and potentially irritating to the skin. This tinted moisturizer, on the other hand, promises to provide a dose of retinol without causing irritation or redness. Instead, it washes skin with a sheer, hydrating tint that works to fade lines over time, conceal them at the moment, and protect against future sun-induced wrinkles, thanks to SPF 20.
Coverage: Sheer | Shade Range: 6 | Finish: Dewy | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Natural Formula: Burt's Bees BB Cream
Made of 98.9% of natural ingredients
Burt’s Bees is more than just their iconic smoothing lip balm; the natural beauty brand also boasts a host of color cosmetics, including this hydrating BB cream, which functions as a next-level tinted moisturizer. Not only does this formula quench thirsty skin and leave it satisfied throughout the day, but it also protects against environmental skin stressors, thanks to antioxidants and SPF 15. Best of all, this formula is 98.9% natural—a level of cleanliness that’s practically unheard of in the realm of drugstore tinted moisturizers, according to the brand.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 3 | Size: 1.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What to Look For in a Drugstore Tinted Moisturizer or BB Cream
Tinted moisturizers and BB creams come in various shades, but since they tend to be pretty sheer, the hue doesn’t have to be a perfect match. When picking the right shade, compare it to the skin tone around your jawline. Let the product dry before deciding if it matches your skin since it might appear too light or dark upon the initial application. If you're between shades, it's advised to choose a darker shade rather than a lighter one so your skin doesn’t look too pale or ashy.
When picking a drugstore BB cream or tinted moisturizer, it’s important to choose one that caters to your skin's needs. If you have oily skin, use a cream that has a matte finish or an oil-free formula. A moisturizing formula will be great if you have dry skin and need hydration. If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, use a product with an oil-free formula that can neutralize redness.
Tinted moisturizers and BB creams tend to provide much lighter coverage than most foundations or concealers—their semi-sheer application makes for a more natural look. However, some products provide medium coverage and are buildable, which is great if you're trying to achieve that no-makeup-makeup look. Some also provide light coverage that smoothes out the skin and camouflages redness.
What is the difference between a drugstore tinted moisturizer and BB cream?
Tinted moisturizers hydrate the skin while evening out your complexion. They aren’t heavy like some foundations and provide barely-there coverage. BB creams are also lighter than foundations and help to conceal blemishes and uneven skin tone. They can also have many additional benefits like SPF and priming and moisturizing abilities. In fact, many BB creams have more than one benefit, which makes them a great option if you are looking for an all-in-one product.
How do you apply drugstore tinted moisturizers and BB creams?
To apply a BB cream, place small dollops of the product on your face. Using a damp sponge or your fingertips, blend the product into your skin. Tinted moisturizers are hydrating and can be applied using your fingertips, similar to how you'd apply a regular moisturizer.
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Kim BH. Safety evaluation and anti-wrinkle effects of retinoids on skin. Toxicol Res. 2010;26(1):61-66. doi:10.5487/TR.2010.26.1.061