Dec 13, 2022

BB Cream VS Foundation VS Tinted Moisturizer: What Are The Differences Between These Three Products?

Which product should you use and when should you use them?

Formulate user Janie wrote us with a brilliant question about foundation, bb cream, and tinted moisturizer:

I feel like bb creams and tinted moisturizers do the same thing - they're basically like foundation, but with skincare stuff in them. What's the difference between foundation and bb cream and tinted moisturizer? Are they secretly all the same thing, or are there actual differences between them?

Thanks for writing, Janie! To answer your questions, we did a breakdown of the differences between each product, and what skincare needs each product is best suited to. You'll find it below!

BB cream vs Foundation

Coverage: winner is foundation

 A BB (beauty balm or blemish balm, depending on who you ask) cream is a multi purpose skin product that works towards several different skincare goals while simultaneously providing a limited amount of coverage. Foundation, meanwhile, is a more opaque and pigmented product. It is typically thicker in consistency and is used to cover up blemishes and imperfections.

Most BB creams provide between light to medium amounts of coverage, while foundations can provide anywhere from light to heavy amounts of coverage - the amount of coverage depends on what kind of foundation you are using. If superior coverage is your primary concern, you'll be best off using a foundation instead of a BB cream. If you don't require much coverage, a BB cream might be more appropriate for you. 

Number of shades: winner is foundation

Most BB creams come in at least a few different shades. Unfortunately, very few BB creams are available in a full spectrum of colors, so it may be challenging to find an exact match to your skin. Some BB creams only come in two colors (light and dark), though others come in as many as 12 different colors. Most foundations, meanwhile, come in a huge spectrum of colors - it's becoming more and more normal for foundations to come in 40 plus shades.  If you find it challenging to get an exact match to your skin color, you'll likely have an easier time finding a foundation that matches your skin.

Skin benefits: winner is BB cream

BB creams are formulated to address skincare concerns, whereas foundations are formulated to cover blemishes and other imperfections. While you'll find some foundations formulated with ingredients that are beneficial to skin health, these foundations are typically few and far between. 

Lightness on skin: winner is BB cream

In general, BB cream tends to feel lighter on the skin than foundation. This is partially because BB creams provide less coverage - there's less pigment that sits on your skin, thus the product feels less like heavy makeup. Still, this isn't a hard and fast rule. Many foundations are available in powder form, which typically feels very light on the skin.

Variety of forms: winner is foundation

Foundations come in a variety of forms, including powder, cream, and liquid. BB cream comes only as a cream, as the name implies. If you want powder coverage instead of liquid, a powder foundation is a better move than a BB cream.

BB cream vs tinted moisturizer

Coverage: winner is BB cream 

A tinted moisturizer is a skincare product that provides hydration to the skin while also adding a hint of color. The primary goal of a tinted moisturizer is to moisturize, rather than provide coverage - the coverage is more or less an added bonus. In general, BB creams are more heavily pigmented than tinted moisturizers, thus, they provide better coverage. This isn't a hard and fast rule - some BB creams are only slightly pigmented, and some tinted moisturizers are heavily pigmented. Still, most tinted moisturizers provide only a very small amount of color correction - they function more to give skin a healthy glow. 

Number of shades: Tie, winner depends on the specific product

Neither BB creams nor tinted moisturizers come in as many shades as foundations do. Some BB creams and tinted moisturizers come in only one shade, and others come in twelve different shades. The number of shades ultimately depends on which brand of tinted moisturizer or BB cream you use, and if that brand offers a wide variety of shades or not.

Benefits for skin: Winner is tinted moisturizer

Typically, tinted moisturizers include more skincare ingredients than BB creams. Tinted moisturizers are often made with a blend of moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and shea butter. These ingredients help to hydrate and nourish the skin, leaving it feeling soft and smooth. BB creams are also formulated with skin-loving ingredients, though they often aren't as hydrating as tinted moisturizers.

Lightness on skin: winner is tinted moisturizer

Tinted moisturizers typically feel lighter on the skin than BB creams. Again, this isn't a hard and fast rule - some BB creams, particularly those that are very sheer, feel extremely light on the skin, and some tinted moisturizers feel heavy when applied to the skin. 

Foundation vs tinted moisturizer

Coverage: winner is foundation

If you read the above sections on foundation vs BB cream and BB cream vs tinted moisturizer, you probably won't be surprised to learn that most foundations provide superior coverage when compared to tinted moisturizers. Foundations provide more coverage than tinted moisturizers since they're formulated to be a makeup product, not a skincare product.

Number of shades: Winner is foundation

Again, this won't be a surprise if you've read the rest of this article. Tinted moisturizers come in a lot fewer shades than foundations. The rationale behind this is that because tinted moisturizers provide minimal coverage, they'll be easier to blend in with your natural skin color. Foundations, on the other hand, provide a much higher amount of coverage, and look a heck of a lot worse when they don't match your skin color. 

Benefits for skin: Winner is tinted moisturizer

Tinted moisturizers work basically the same way that non-tinted moisturizers do - the only difference is the added pigment. Some foundations contain skin care ingredients, but most don't. 

Lightness on skin: Winner is tinted moisturizer

Tinted moisturizer is moisturizer, and like other day-time moisturizers, tinted moisturizer absorbs into the skin quickly. Thus, it feels lighter than foundation, which sits on top of the skin and does not penetrate into it. 

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