Back in 2012, BB creams (short for blemish or beauty balm) were the beauty sensation that had everyone talking. The miracle multitasker gave our complexions a flawless canvas and cut our makeup routines in half with its ability to prime, protect, conceal, and hydrate—in one quick step. Later, more skincare acronyms arrived with some of our favorite brands launching CC and DD creams, offering color correcting and anti-aging benefits to boot. This month, Estée Lauder took things to the next letter of the alphabet with the first-ever EE cream. The innovative product defends against the damaging effects of UV rays and daytime pollution as it minimizes the appearance of common skin concerns like blemishes and dark spots—all while providing a radiant, “even effect.”
Feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities? You’ve come to the right place. Here, we break down what each alphabet cream stands for, what it does, and how to use it. Plus, we threw in our our top picks for you to shop. Find the one that best suits your skin's needs below.
What it stands for: Beauty Balm or Blemish Balm
What it does: A favorite in the East Asian market before making waves in the states, this supercharged version of a tinted moisturizer has a lighter, more natural finish than foundation. The all-in-one product acts as a primer and moisturizer, evens out the complexion, hydrates, and wards off sun damage with broad spectrum SPF.
How to use it: After cleansing your face and applying moisturizer, dab the cream on your face and eyelids. BB creams can be worn alone, or paired with foundation for a fuller coverage.
We recommend: Mally Face Defender BB Cream SPF 15 Foundation with Brush ($45; qvc.com), a formula packed with skin-loving ingredients, like vitamin C and antioxidants, and offers all-day staying power.
What it does: Lighter in texture than a BB cream, CCs are like a soft focus lens, tackling an uneven skintone caused by redness, discoloration, or a sallow appearance.
How to use it: As with BB creams, these can be used alone, or as a primer when applied prior to foundation or a tinted moisturizer.
We recommend: Clinique Moisture Surge CC Cream Hydrating Colour Corrector Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($37; sephora.com). Along with other products in the brand's moisture surge line (like this cold weather staple), this CC cream is a must-have for those with drier complexions.
What it does: It combines the benefits of BB and CC creams, while focusing on anti-aging. It works to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as it promotes a healthy, youthful glow.
How to use it: Include in your daily skincare routine to nourish, hydrate, and protect from future damage. Wear it as a primer for your foundation, or on its own for a fresh-faced finish.
We recommend: Dermadoctor Dermatologically Defining DD Cream ($38; nordstrom.com). It contains a mineral-based SPF 30, and white sapphire complex that brightens the complexion and self-adjusts to suit every skintone.
What it does: It defends against daytime damage including UV rays and pollutants that often lead to dark spots and an uneven tone.
How to use it: Apply every morning (alone or before foundation) to camouflage pesky imperfections like acne marks, sun spots, and areas prone to redness.
We recommend: Estée Lauder Enlighten EE Even Effect Skintone Corrector ($40; sephora.com). The first of its kind, this innovative formula provides instant radiance and allows for sheer, buildable coverage without the dreaded caking appearance.