As a cosmetic chemist, I personally cannot wait until we finally get to ZZ creams so we can put alphabet creams to rest. They’re smart products that give excellent results, but actually choosing the best one for you is confusing. I want to help shed light on the differences between BB, CC, and DD creams, from a chemist’s point of view.

In many cases, there are none.

True story: One day early in 2012, I was working with a brand to bring a new BB cream to the market. The research and development had already been completed when the CC creams began to phase into the market. In order to be on top of the latest trend, the company changed the name of their BB to a CC, and the rest was history! There was no modification to the formula, just the name. I’m sure that this was an isolated incident (so how about that bridge in Brooklyn for sale…).

The difference is not necessarily the product in the tube, but what the beauty brands are saying about it.

Alphabet Creams Reference Chart

When BB creams first hit the U.S. market, they were positioned to be your everything-in-one product, including treatment (i.e. anti-aging, brightening), coverage and sun protection. It’s not hard to see why a product like this would be so appealing! Within a couple of years, whispers of Color Correction creams (CC creams) began to spread and soon after, the first CC creams launched in the U.S. market. That’s when things began to get a little confusing. The primary focus of CC creams is to correct color, but what does that really mean? Is there such a big distinction between the two types? Take a look at the two tables above listing the claims of current BB and CC creams on the market—do you see a significant difference between the two?

The lines couldn’t get any blurrier…and then there were DD creams.

The first DD cream was launched as a Daily Defense product for body and feet that would have lessened the alphabet chaos, since these were targeted for everyplace but your face. However, that quickly changed paths with the launch of “Dynamic Do-all” creams—for the face—earlier this year. My personal favorite (in name only) from a popular niche brand: DD Cream Dermatologically Defining BB Cream. The name says it all, I think. Check out the claims and again I ask—do you see a difference?As a chemist, here is what I observe regarding DD Cream claims:

  • I see the same claim being made only worded differently.
    • Example: “Brightens” is the same as “Enhances Vibrancy.”
  • I see attributes being called out that could have easily been highlighted in the BB and CC creams.
    • Example: Primers inherently mattify the skin, therefore each product with primer benefits will mattify.
  • I see the obvious being called out as a separate claim.
    • Example: Broad Spectrum SPF protection obviously defends the skin.

At the end of the day, each category overlaps to the point where the differentiation is almost non-existent. The upside is they are all great products that can be very beneficial for the skin. The downside is sorting through the many varieties to determine which would work better for you. (This just in: We now have a “GG” cream.)

Where do you start? If discoloration is your primary concern then start with CC creams, because that’s their claim to fame so you will more than likely find a product that contains skin-brightening ingredients such as arbutin or daisy flower extract. If fine lines and wrinkles are the issue, then look for an alphabet cream full of ingredients like retinol, firming peptides or adenosine. If your skin is oily, then look for an alphabet cream that controls oil and has a lightweight texture.

There is an alphabet cream out there for you—let’s just hope that brands don’t try to exhaust the entire alphabet!

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