You see the labels everywhere these days: BB cream, CC cream, even DD cream. Part makeup, part skin care item, BB creams first made a splash in the Western market in 2011 — but what is BB cream, and how does it differ from CC creams? In this article, we take a deep dive into the world of the so-called “beauty balm” and try to figure out which one is right for you.

BB Cream: Blemish Balm or Beauty Balm

The BB cream as we know it is a direct import from Korea that gained widespread popularity about 6 years ago in the West. Originally standing for “blemish balm”, the first BB creams were initially developed in Germany to treat patients following intensive face peels or laser surgery. There is little wonder, then, that it rapidly gained a wide usage in South Korea. After all, South Korea is known as thebeauty epicenter of the world and rates highest in cosmetic and aesthetic procedures performed per capita.

The term blemish balm can be a little misleading because Westerners who are unfamiliar with the product might be led to believe that it’s a spot or blemish corrector. To prevent confusion and to make its description more accurate, thecream’s name was made to stand for “beauty balm”.

So what does a BB cream really do, and how did BB creams become an essential part of one’s beauty kit? The BB cream is a multi-function product that combines the benefits of a moisturizer, primer, serum, foundation and sunscreen in one convenient formulation. It can come in a tube, a bottle, or in something called a cushion compact. The latter looks like a regular compact of pressed powder, except that instead of powder, you’ll see a sponge soaked in the product.

Asian BB creams tend to be on the thick side, with higher levels of sun protection and coverage. Depending on the brand and method of application, the cream can be comparable to liquid foundation. Western BB creams, on the other hand, are runnier and closer to tinted moisturizer, and they typically provide sheer, light coverage. You can use it with a moisturizer for added hydration, on its own, or under your regular foundation for full, seamless coverage. However, while most BB creams contain SPF, it’s still best to apply sunscreen under it for maximum protection.

CC Cream: Color Correcting or Complexion Correcting

You can consider CC cream to be an amped-up version of BB cream as certain variants offer fuller coverage and contain anti-aging ingredients. An effective CC cream is used to hide redness, correct sallowness, dullness, or uneven skin tone, and mask hyperpigmentation. Though it offers more coverage than BB creams, CC creams tend to be on the light side while packing more pigment than regular BB creams. A little goes a long way, which is why you’ll find CC cream tubes in smaller sizes compared to BB creams.

CC creams can brighten up your skin, thanks to the presence of a brightening primer ingredient. In addition, this product combines the perks of a foundation, moisturizer, and sun protection. Plus, it also has anti-aging benefits from Vitamins C and E as well as collagen and antioxidants. It is aimed towards the concealment or correction of existing skin issues such as redness, acne, dark spots and dullness. Some CC creams even have a blurring effect on imperfections, giving off the appearance of a smooth, flawless complexion.

They come in a variety of forms as well: tube, bottle, cushion compact, even a compact that does away with the cushion part entirely and dispenses pure cream onto an included puff. While BB creams are best used by ladies in their early 20s who still have great skin and don’t have a multitude of marks to hide, CC creams are recommended for those who suffer from a variety of skin woes, or older women.

Now that you know the difference between these items, it isn’t hard to see how some of their uses and benefits intersect. Choosing between these 2 products can be confusing at first. However, by familiarizing yourself with your skin’s needs and through a little bit of trial, you’ll be sure to find a specific type or hybrid of BB or CC cream that’s right for you.