How to Apply BB Cream the Right Way

The not so age-old question, answered.

woman with glowing skin

Natalia Mantini / Refinery29 for Getty Images


When it comes to skincare-makeup hybrids, it’s hard to know how seriously to take the skincare part. Is your skin really soaking up the complexion-benefiting ingredients? Or is it really just makeup, only slightly less makeup-y? Never has the question been more pressing than with BB cream. You wear it, essentially, as face makeup to camouflage imperfections. Does that mean you should treat it as a foundation and wear it with a face primer? To get some answers, we turned to the experts.

Ahead, check out a step-by-step guide on how to apply BB cream the right way.

01 of 04

Prep Your Skin

Portrait of young female Chinese woman applying cream
Westend61 / Getty Images

"I always prepare the skin before applying anything with a tint to it," says makeup artist Ricky Wilson, whose client roster includes Nina Dobrev, Emmy Rossum, and Joy Bryant. “Lots of people confuse BB creams with a tinted moisturizer, and although BB cream has skin-improving benefits, I have found that they go on heavier than I like without adding something lightweight first." So don't skip whatever skincare steps you normally use before makeup (especially not SPF). "Stick to the rule of always prep before you paint," says Wilson.

What does "BB" mean, anyway?

The "BB" in BB cream is an abbreviation for "beauty balm," although other variations, like "blemish balm," exist. It refers to the general perfecting power in these creams while still not being a full-fledged foundation product.

02 of 04

Choose Your Product

Covergirl Clean Matte BB Cream in Deep
Cover Girl Clean Matte BB Cream $10.00

"Not all BB creams are created equal," warns makeup artist Julianne Kaye, who has worked with Tia Mowry, Kelly Osbourne, and Toni Collette. It's understandable to think that a skincare-makeup hybrid will mean a radiant, glowy finish, but that's not true. If you have naturally oily skin, BB creams with a matte finish or oil-controlling properties are out there. The same goes for particularly dry skin. Take these things into account when you are choosing what product to make your next makeup-bag staple.

If you like to carry your complexion products with you for touch-ups throughout the day, cushion compacts may be a great option for you to explore BB creams. They come with an applicator and won't squeeze out all over your bag for an unpleasant surprise when you reach for them after lunch.

03 of 04

Apply Alone or Before Foundation


One of the beautiful things about BB creams is their extreme versatility. "BB creams are created to be multiple steps in one product," says makeup artist Kendra Richards, who founded primer brand Heir Atelier. Yes, a BB cream can be a standalone complexion step. Since it shares properties with skincare and we know the best way to work those products in is our hands, try using your fingers to massage the BB cream into your skin, starting in the areas of your face where you want the most help. Give it a couple of minutes to set, apply any other product you like, and you're good to go.

The other option is to utilize your BB cream with your foundation to get extra coverage by applying it beforehand. Already having perfected skin before you put on your foundation means you use less product to get the same amount of coverage as you normally would. Use the same amount for an extra-flawless finish, no Instagram filter needed.

04 of 04

Still Use Concealer for Problem Areas

Woman applying undereye concealer

If you've got hyperpigmentation, breakouts, or über-dark undereye circles, a BB cream isn't going to have the power to make them completely disappear. You'll still want a concealer for any problem areas you want gone. Dab it into place on top of the BB cream just in the areas you need help to keep the soft, natural look the BB cream provides.

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