The Best Korean BB Cream: Our Favorites, and How to Pick the Right One for You
If you’ve got your Korean BB cream game down and you’re just here to see the ones we suggest, that’s wonderful—scroll on, check them out, and let us know what you think.
If you’re a little mesmerized by Korean beauty products, and you’re not even certain what “BB” even stands for… well, you’re in luck! In this post, we’ll dive deep into this somewhat mysterious cosmetic, and discuss why it can be an incredible beauty option.
We’ll list our reviews first—and discuss our tops picks, as well as our selection for the best Korean BB cream overall—and then we’ll go over the basics (like… what is a BB cream, anyway, and how are its benefits different from the benefits of a CC cream?) and then we’ll go into more detail, like how to select the right one for your skin, and how to use the one you’ve picked. Let’s get to it:
Korean BB Creams: Our Reviews
Here are our picks for the top Korean BB creams…
Purito Snail Clearing BB Cream SPF38/PA++
MISSHA M Perfect Cover BB Cream SPF42/PA+++
The Face Shop Face It Power Perfection BB Cream SPF 37
Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45
Erborian BB Creme Au Ginseng 5-In-1 Total Sheer Make-Up
…and here’s why we think so:
Purito Snail Clearing BB Cream SPF38/PA++
The Purito Snail Clearing BB Cream SPF38/PA++ is our pick for the best Korean BB cream for those with dry skin, especially if they’re newer to the world of BB creams. Purito describes it as a lightweight formula that won’t be felt on the skin, but one that can provide excellent coverage (which we would describe as medium coverage)—and that’s a very nice combo, and one that could potentially be substitute for the foundation in your beauty routine. It’s fortified with a touch of mineral oil, too, which can it a more dewy finish than similar BB creams. Also a nice touch.
We don’t think there’s anything more Korean than a BB cream with snail secretion filtrate, an odd-sounding ingredient that may actually have skin-soothing and hydrating properties. Using a product with snail secretion filtrate may be a bit challenging for some of our readers, but that’s really the essence of Korean beauty products—using odd-but-natural compounds that provide skincare benefits. There are a lot of other ingredients in this formula that we really love, like niacinamide, which has antioxidant properties that may help stave off the first signs of aging, as well as adenosine, which may have skin smoothing and anti-wrinkle properties.
We think that these ingredients, in combination with the serious sun protection that Purito included (most cosmetics include SPF of 15 and that’s that), make this a formula worth reviewing. It would be nice if Purito made this in more shades, but they do manufactures it in a larger shade and a darker shade.
May be a good option for: those with dry skin who would like to cover imperfections with a dewy finish and sun protection.
MISSHA M Perfect Cover BB Cream SPF42/PA+++
MISSHA M Perfect Cover BB Cream SPF42/PA+++ is one of our favorite Korean BB creams on a number of fronts, but especially for those dealing with discoloration or dark spots. It’s designed to offer a natural sheen that works on all skin types, and with buildable coverage that ranges from medium to full, it’s formulated to camouflage a range of imperfections. That’s pretty much all we could ask for in a BB cream, and because it offers an SPF of 42, it may also be strong enough take over the job of your daily sunscreen.
This BB cream has been well-loved on the Korean market for many years before coming over to the West, and it’s actually one of the products that helped start the BB cream craze over here. MISSHA manufactured it with ingredients that have skin brightening, moisturizing, and soothing effects, including arbutin, which is a gentle skin brightener that has become popular as a safe potential alternative to hydroquinone, squalane, and ceramides. Arbutin is included to keep the skin moisturized, and MISSHA also included chamomile extract, as a soothing agent—a very nice touch.
We give MISSHA a lot of credit for offering the Perfect Cover BB Cream in a shade range much wider than most Korean brands. No. 25 (the one we’re reviewing here) is somewhere in the middle, while No. 13 is the one of the lightest options lighter and No. 31 is one of the darkest.
May be a good option for: those with discoloration and dark spots who would like to treat and cover imperfections while still looking a little dewy.
The Face Shop Face It Power Perfection BB Cream SPF 37
The Face Shop Face It Power Perfection BB Cream is our pick for the top Korean BB cream to give a bit of coverage to those dealing with visible signs of skin aging. The Face Shop made this product to be both makeup and skincare, and we love, love, love when cosmetics companies do that.
Even though it’s designed to feel lightweight on the skin, the Powder Perfection BB Cream is actually formulated to be built up to give the skin full coverage that masks redness or blemishes without settling into wrinkles. It’s also made to have a natural finish, so it could work for all skin types (though those with oily skin may end up looking just a little bit shiny).
Our favorite aspect of The Face It Power Perfection BB Cream, though, is that it’s designed to have really robust skincare benefits. The Face Shop crafted it to be anti-wrinkle, whitening, moisturizing, and firming, and included niacinamide, for its ability to brighten the skin and protect it from premature aging.
We’d love it if we could find a wide range of shades for this product, but alas… no. The Face Shop does make it in a lighter shade, though, called Apricot Beige. We’ll take what we can get.
May be a good option for: those who’d like a full coverage BB cream that gives a natural glow with ingredients meant to have anti-aging effects.
Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45
Is Dr. Jart+ a person? A team of people? A company? And how to do you say that name? Dr. Jart Plus?
We may never know, but whoever he/she/it/they are, we like Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45 and whole bunch, and it gets our vote as the best Korean BB cream in the “high-end” category. We especially like it for people with normal-to-dry skin—it’s formulated with a lot of emollients (that is, topical compounds that soften and soothe the skin), and that’s often a great fit for BB cream wearers who are dealing with moisture issues.
If you’ve been aiming to achieve the Korean “glass skin” look—that is, clear, poreless, and dewy—this is the one we’d suggest. It’s designed for a somewhat “glowy” look, and with coverage that Dr. Jart+ describes as “natural,” it’s designed to even out tone and diffuse imperfections, but keep the skin looking normal (“natural” translates somewhere between “light to medium” coverage in “non-Dr. Jart+”-speak).
As with most Korean BB creams, the real perk is the focus on skin ingredients. Dr. Jart+ included niacinamide, a surprisingly versatile antioxidant that may help with everything from acne to premature aging, and with an SPF 45 rating, Dr. Jart+ made the most protective BB cream on our list, so it can be a great option for those of our readers living in sunny climes.
Dr. Jart+, whoever—whatever—you are, we’d like to thank you for making such a wonderful BB cream. Happy thumbs up.
Also, before we move on—if you have lighter skin, you might be happy to know that Dr. Jart+ also make this BB cream in a lighter shade: the Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45, No. 1 Light—Medium. Thank you once again, Dr. Jart Plus!
May be a good option for: those with normal-to-dry skin looking for a high-end pick and hope to achieve a glowy, “glass skin” look that Korean BB creams are known for.
Erborian BB Creme Au Ginseng 5-In-1 Total Sheer Make-Up
The Erborian BB Creme Au Ginseng 5-In-1 Total Sheer Make-Up is our favorite luxury Korean BB cream, and our top pick for those looking for anti-aging effects. It’s crafted to have a light coverage that can help to even out skin tone, and designed to be lightweight and offer a very natural finish, and while offering some fantastic skincare ingredients.
The Au Ginseng contains—you guessed it—ginseng, which is known to have antioxidant and skin-brightening benefits. That alone makes this a unique cosmetic, as many other BB creams shy away from it. Erborian also included a few other ingredients we like, including hydrating betaine and brightening and soothing licorice root extract. While the formula may not be 100% natural, we’re happy to report it is paraben-free.
We have two small criticisms: with BB creams, it’s always important to mention sun protection, and Erborian made this BB cream with SPF 20. That can be enough for day to day use, though we don’t think it’ll be enough to replace sunscreen in the summers. Also, we’d describe the coverage on the Au Ginseng as “light,” so it probably won’t cover serious discoloration—just a heads up.
Those are nit-picky criticisms, though, and we like Erborian specifically for its anti-aging ingredients. We also really like that Erborian makes it in two darker shades that are also a little warmer: Dore and Caramel. Another two happy thumbs up.
May be a good option for: those who prefer light, natural-looking coverage with anti-aging and brightening effects.
What is BB Cream?
So, there are our picks! Now let’s get into the “instructional” sections, and answer the first question on your mind: what is bb cream?
BB creams are multi-purpose creams that cover imperfections and even out the look of the skin, while also offering a whole variety of skincare benefits, like moisturization, sun protection, anti-aging, and skin brightening. They are often marketed as being both makeup and skincare, and when it comes to Korean BB creams, they truly are formulated in such a way.
The history of the BB cream is fascinating, and kind of odd—especially because we so closely link BB creams with Korean beauty products. The very first BB cream formula was actually created in Germany—yes, Germany—in 1967, by a dermatologist who wanted her clients to be able to hide their facial redness after intense skin treatments without worsening the condition of their skin. It wasn’t until the 1980s, when Korean companies started producing BB creams for their market, that Korean BB creams took off. Over the years they had a steady rise in popularity in the East Asian country, and in the mid-2000s, they began to sell BB creams internationally—and soon after Western brands followed their lead by releasing their own BB cream formulas.
All that’s very interesting, but let’s get to the real question: what does BB actually stand for?
There’s a lot of disagreement, and most Western brands use “BB” to mean “Beauty Balm,” or something like that. The Korean meaning of “BB” actually stands for “Blemish Balm,” for the concoction’s ability to cover discoloration. You can imagine why Western companies changed it—“Blemish Balm” sounds like something that gives you blemishes, rather than helping you try to look your best.
So, now you know! Be sure to tell all your friends and you can sound like a smartypants.
BB Cream vs. Foundation: How is BB Cream Different from Foundation and Other Complexion Products?
For the most part, BB creams and foundations are very similar, and many people who start using BB creams eventually ditch their foundations. It makes sense, too—both products are pigmented creams applied to the skin in order to make its coloring appear more even, and to hide any imperfections or discolorations. The main difference between BB creams and foundations is that BB creams have skincare benefits—BB creams usually include a long list of ingredients that provide hydration, promote collagen synthesis, and provide anti-aging support. Many even brighten skin tone. They often boast a very high SPF rating, too, and they can be used in place of moisturizer as well as other skin treatments.
If this makes BB creams sound a lot like tinted moisturizers, you wouldn’t be wrong. From the description alone, the two product categories sound nearly identical. In fact, when the popularity of BB creams first migrated over to Europe and North America from Korea, many brands simply renamed and repackaged their tinted moisturizers as BB creams!
We won’t fully address the “foundation vs. BB cream” debate in this post, but we will say—there are plenty of great arguments on both sides. Use what works for you.
What Makes Korean BB Creams Special?
The Korean beauty market is wholly responsible for the international popularity of BB creams, and in fact, the BB cream was the first product category to come out of Korea, paving the way for many more uniquely Korean beauty trends to become popular on the international scene.
However, for the most part, Western brands don’t mimic Korean BB cream formulations, so there are still some differences between the two. That’s why opting for Korean BB creams—instead of their Western counterparts—can be a good strategy.
The first (and perhaps most important) difference to remember is that Korean BB creams can offer serious coverage—anywhere from light to medium to full—and good ones are capable of covering discoloration, beauty marks, wrinkles, etc. Many Western BB creams, despite their best efforts, don’t offer the same coverage capability, and they also don’t offer…
The next difference, which is the type of skincare ingredients that Korean BB creams usually contain. Those ingredients include:
• Niacinamide, which is the “heavy hitter” when it comes to Korean BB creams—it has been shown to have antioxidant properties, and can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, improve epidermal barrier function, improve the elasticity of the skin, and decrease hyperpigmentation and discoloration;
• Vitamin C, which aids in natural regeneration process of your skin; and
• Licorice root extract or its derivatives, which contains enzymes that block UV rays from the sun, so that you experience less sun damage.
Korean BB creams can also include herbal ingredients that are popular in Korean and East Asian traditional medicine practices, like:
• Centella asiatica, which is the other “heavy hitter” in Korean BB creams—it has a number of incredible properties, and has been shown to tamp down inflammation, enhance the collagen that keeps your skin plump and youthful looking, improve circulation, and promote the healing of wounds on your skin;
• Ginseng, which can maintain the skin’s elasticity over time; and
• Artemisia, which is packed with Vitamins A and C, can soothe redness, regenerate growth, and protect the skin from premature aging.
If you’ve ever heard someone freak out about Korean BB creams, that’s usually why—good ones are absolutely loaded with some really neat natural ingredients.
AND, not only are these ingredients more common in Korean BB creams, they’re amount in which you’ll find them is greater, too. If you look at the ingredient list on a Korean BB cream, it’s likely that those skincare ingredients show up all the way near the top of the ingredient list, while in Western BB creams and tinted moisturizers they are often listed towards the end—which means there is a smaller amount of them.
Korean BB creams also double as very good sunscreens, as well. Whereas many Western cosmetics have SPF ratings in the high teens—not enough to meet dermatologists’ recommendation of at least SPF 30—many Korean BB creams have SPF ratings of 30 to 40 or more. Ones that are made in Korea also usually feature a PA rating, a special rating that tells how well a sunscreen protects against UVA rays, which are the sun rays primarily responsible for the free radical damage that leads to premature skin aging. (It’s important to note, however, that in order to enjoy the full protection of the advertised SPF rating of a Korean BB cream, it’s usually advised that you apply at least 2 milligrams per square centimeter of skin, which ends up being around a nickel-sized amount for the whole face, and for many of us, that can be too high an amount, and the cream might end up looking cakey. Just a heads’ up).
The final difference is that Korean BB creams, especially if they are sold primarily in Korea, come in a limited amount of shades, which often skew a little gray rather than pink or yellow. Unlike all the other differences, this is not an advantage, because Western audiences tend to have a very wide range of skin. This means that sometimes it can be harder for international consumers to find a color match, though as Korean brands start selling more products outside of Korea they often expand their color range.
How to Choose the Right Korean BB Cream for You
What might be the best Korean BB cream for one person may not work for you, so here are the details you should keep in mind when choosing your Korean BB cream:
Determine Your Skin Type
Korean BB creams usually come with two finish options: dewy or natural. Occasionally you will see a demi-matte Korean BB cream, but it’s not very common. The reason for that is that in Korea, skin that looks a little shiny is perceived as more youthful. Dewy skin is often called “glass skin” in Korea, or sometimes described as being “chok chok,” which is an onomatopoeia that brings to mind what it feels and sounds like to touch bouncy, well-hydrated skin.
Because of that, those with dry skin almost usually prefer BB creams that will make them look very dewy. If you’re dry-skinned and looking for a Korean BB cream, it can make sense to get on the “chok chok” train and opt for a formula that will make your skin gleam.
Those with normal or combination skin can also opt for dewy Korean BB Creams to really represent the K-beauty look, though a BB cream with a natural finish is also a good choice since it will look very natural and skin-like.
Lastly, those with oily skin should usually stick to natural or demi-matte Korean BB creams. If you have oily skin, a natural-finish BB cream may mix with your facial oils throughout the day, and that can actually lead to that beautiful dewy look… but many people with oily skin really hate that effect, so they might prefer to use a mattifying powder to avoid it altogether.
Determine Your Coverage Level
One of the best things about Korean BB creams is that they usually offer more comprehensive coverage than your average tinted moisturizer, so they can actually replace a foundation in your makeup routine. As in, totally replace your foundation. Here’s how it breaks down:
If your skin is naturally quite even looking and you prefer to look like you’re not really wearing any makeup, a BB cream described as having light or medium coverage can be a good option. Apply it with your fingers or with a damp sponge, so it that it goes on lightly and looks very natural on the skin, and wallah, you should be good to go.
If you prefer a slightly more made-up look or you need to cover light discoloration on your skin, it can be a good idea to for a BB cream that offers medium or full coverage. There are plenty of options sold that offer medium to full coverage, and if you choose a medium coverage BB cream, you may want to apply it with a buffing brush in order to achieve fuller coverage—or you can use a sponge or your fingers in order to make a full coverage BB cream look more natural on your skin. Whatever works!
Do Some Color-Matching
Shade matching Korean BB creams can be a difficult process. Most Korean BB creams only come in two or three shades (that often skew light), and they often have a very neutral undertone that can look a little gray. If you have darker skin, you may want to look to brands like MISSHA, which have a wider range of options.
So, before you dive in, it’s important that you know what your undertones are. If your skin looks a little pink-ish, then you probably have cool undertones; if it looks a little yellow, then you probably have warm undertones; and if it has a bit of a greenish tint, then you are an olive. If your skin just looks a little bit beige, then you have neutral undertones. Observe what you’ve got, and then look for a brand that can match your tone—and brands will usually mention the tone of their BB cream.
If you can test the BB cream in-store, apply it along your jawline, and if it seems to disappear into your neck then hooray! chances are good you’ve found a color match.
If you can’t test the BB cream in real life, it can help to look up swatches of the BB cream you are thinking of buying online, and then putting the BB cream’s name along with the word “swatches” into your favorite search engine. This will give you a better idea of the color and undertone of the BB cream you interested in. You can also try to find a blogger who has a similar skin tone to you (you can look at photos or see if they use the same foundation as you in a mainstream Western brand), and see what they say about the BB cream you are thinking of getting.
If you are not 100% sure that the BB cream you’re interested in is going to be a color match, see if you can purchase it in a smaller size—that way, if the color isn’t perfect, less product will go to waste.
Keep in Mind Any Skin Concerns
Unlike traditional foundations, BB creams are also skincare products that can have real effects on the skin, so it can make sense to choose a BB cream with ingredients that will help target your primary skin concerns. Here’s what to keep in mind if you’re dealing with…
Acne / Pimples. If you are dealing with acne, you’ll be happy to know that many Korean BB creams are formulated to be non-comedogenic. You should still read the ingredient list to see if there are any ingredients that might be potential triggers to you, but in general, most BB creams are a little safer than Western products. Look for BB creams that contain skin soothing ingredients to calm down the redness and inflammation of active breakouts, like chamomile and allantoin, as well as ingredients like niacinamide, that have been shown to help reduce breakouts. It’s worth noting that Korean BB creams are usually not oil-free, but that can be okay, as the notion that those with acne-prone skin have to avoid all oils is actually a little dated.
Visible Signs of Aging. Fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of tone can be a concern to people of all ages, which why almost all Korean BB creams are infused with antioxidant herbal ingredients like ginseng that can help prevent premature aging by neutralizing external damage. You can also look for more powerful anti-aging ingredients that may help trigger collagen production in the skin, like retinol, adenosine, or vitamin C.
Spots and Discoloration. Many Korean BB creams can help with dark spots, scarring, and melasma, because the Korean beauty market often focuses on skin brightening effects. Since pigmentation is usually exacerbated by sun exposure, look for a Korean BB cream that offers a high SPF. Additionally, look for ingredients known to help fade pigmentation, like vitamin C, niacinamide, licorice root extract, and arbutin.
Redness. Lastly, if you have sensitive skin with a lot of facial redness, a Korean BB cream with soothing ingredients may be able to help. The most common skin soothers you will find in Korean BB creams are licorice root extract, allantoin, chamomile extract, and green tea extract. You may also want to look out specifically for BB creams that only rely on physical sunscreens like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for sun protection, rather than chemical sunscreen ingredients that can sometimes irritate sensitive skin.
How to Apply Korean BB Cream
You can use the most amazing, most effective cosmetic in the world, but if you’re not applying it correctly, chances are it won’t work for you. Here are some insights on how to get the most out of whatever Korean BB cream you go with:
● Start by making sure your skin is thoroughly prepped. It should be clean and well-hydrated, so cleanse it and then apply your favorite hydrating essence or serum;
● If it’s daytime and your BB cream doesn’t contain SPF, apply a sunscreen or moisturizer with sunscreen as well;
● With BB Creams, primers are totally optional, so it’s up to you if you’d like to use one;
● Now for the fun part—applying your actual BB cream! The best way to apply it is by first dotting it over the skin with your fingers or a brush and then blending it out (though you can also combine the two steps into slightly more elaborate two-in-one motions of stippling and blending);
● To blend out your BB cream, use a sponge, your fingers, or a buffing brush to smooth it out over the skin. If you’d like to blend out any harsh lines while maintaining the coverage, using a damp sponge and bouncing motions is usually the way to go. Smoothing it out with your fingers or using circular motions with a brush will give a lighter, more diffused coverage;
● When applying the BB cream under your eyes, use your ring finger, a smaller brush, or the tip of your sponge in order to get a gentle and more controlled application.
● When blending out, always work your way from the center of the face outwards and from the top downwards;
● For areas of discoloration, you can dot a little bit more BB cream and then blend it out without sheering it out, by either tapping with your finger or with a sponge;
● If you will be wearing a low-cut top, it’s a good idea to also blend your BB cream down the neck, especially if the shade is not a perfect match for your skin tone;
● Once you’re happy with how the BB cream looks, you can finish off your makeup. If necessary, you can apply concealer under your eyes or over still visible blemishes and discoloration. Apply any other cream or liquid-based products that you’d like to use;
● If your face is looking dewier than you’d like or if you would like to ensure that your makeup lasts all day, set your BB cream with a soft dusting of powder, but try to avoid overdoing it since the K-beauty routine is all about having glowy skin;
● Finish off your eye makeup and apply any additional powder products that you like; and finally…
● Apply a few pumps of a setting spray that suits your skin type in order to ensure your makeup’s longevity.
And there you go! Now you know as much as we do. Well… almost! Here are a few other pointers:
Korean BB Cream Insider Tips and Tricks
How could we hold back from you? We wouldn’t dare! Here are yet a few more tips and tricks up our sleeve to elevate your Korean BB cream game, if you want to go past “beginner” status:
● If you’re already rocking a Korean BB cream instead of foundation, you might as well experiment with the full Korean beauty look: skip the heavy contour, and instead embrace blushing cheeks and diffused lipstick. It may take some practice, but it can be a fantastic look;
● BB creams can mix really nicely with other products, so you can create your own blends if you would like to change something about your BB cream. Just make sure to mix things right before applying them to the skin rather than in the actual product container, as to avoid disrupting the formula or preservative system;
● If you find your Korean BB cream to be a little heavy, you can mix it with a little bit of moisturizer to make it lighter and sheerer;
● To make your BB cream look more radiant or dewy, add a few drops of oil to it in the palm of your hand right before applying;
● You can add a bit of concealer to your BB cream if you would actually prefer a fuller coverage;
● If the color of your BB cream is a little too cool for your skin tone, you can add a few drops of a mixer like the Temptu Yellow Adjuster to achieve your desired shade;
● Your BB cream can also be a replacement for primer if you usually prefer a very full coverage look. Apply an extra-thin layer of BB cream, and then apply your foundation on top like you normally would; and finally…
● If you’ve made any mistakes with your eye makeup or lipstick, use your BB cream to fix them. Saturate a cotton bud with BB cream and then use it like an eraser to sharpen lines and wipe away small smudges.
Hopefully there’s enough here to help you find what’s right for you. Korean BB creams are a fascinating product, and in our experience, it’s rare to find something that can offer cosmetics effects AND true skincare effects. Western makeup can—how should we put this?—sometimes Western makeup can take as much as it gives, and it can be really refreshing to think that the right Korean BB cream can actually help your skin while making you look good. Good luck on your quest to find the one that works for you, and have fun!