The ABCs of Alphabet Creams
It’s easy to get lost in the sea of alphabet creams that have flooded the beauty market in the last few years. BB, CC, and now DD creams can be found at every makeup counter – but what do these creams actually do?
“BB, CC, or any alphabet soup creams can be excellent all in one products for some women, but for many companies the labels are just marketing,” says Board Certified NYC Dermatologist Dr. Rebecca Baxt. “Check the active ingredients. Does it have a sunscreen? What is the SPF? Is it at least a 20 or 30 SPF? If your BB, CC, or any other over the counter cream is not working for you, seek help with a great Board Certified Dermatologist to solve your skin issues. They may be more complicated than just the ABC's!”
Dr. Baxt helps decode alphabet creams, looking at what each type accomplishes and which one you should reach for based on your skin type.
BB Creams: 'Beauty balms' or 'blemish balms'
The multifunctional foundation trend began in Germany, where a dermatologist developed a cream that would protect skin and provide coverage after laser treatments. The all-in-one formulation became a sensation in South Korea and then spread throughout Asia.
BB creams were first seen on U.S. store shelves in the spring of 2011. Today, almost every major beauty company has a BB cream, from drugstore brands that cost under $10 to high-end department-store lines that may be as costly as $100 or more, as well as lines that are only sold at spas or in doctors' offices. And this category shows no signs of going away. The NPD Group, a market research group, found that although only 2% of beauty shoppers have purchased a BB cream, nearly 4 in 5 of those who have say they'll buy the product again.
What BB creams do: Many BB creams offer effective sun protection, with broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher, the American Academy of Dermatology's recommendation for daily use. What's more, BB creams generally contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide, physical sun blocks that have some built-in water-resistant properties, Baxt says.
When it comes to skin treatment, you can find BB creams that contain:
- Anti-aging components, including peptides and antioxidants such as vitamins A, E, and C
- Moisturizing workhorses like hyaluronic acid and glycerin
- Ingredients such as licorice and arbutin that help even out skin tone
- Light-reflecting mica to give skin a luminous finish
- Silicone-based ingredients, such as dimethicone, that help smooth the skin, acting much like a foundation primer does
CC Creams: 'Complexion corrector' or 'correct and cover'
Loaded with vitamins C and E, complexion corrector cream is similar to BB cream, but focuses on color correction. CC cream is best for those who are acne-prone, have dull skin, dark spots or constant redness.
What CC creams do: Lighter than a BB cream, CC cream's primary purpose is to correct color-related skin issues, such as sallowness or redness. Like BB cream, it has SPF as well (number varies by brand).
DD Creams: 'Dynamic do-all' or 'disguise and diminish'
Fresh to the alphabet cream craze, DD creams are a super cream. They combine the power and benefits of both BB and CC creams, however their primary focus is anti-aging and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. They are formulated to yield results with continued use, so a DD cream should be incorporated into daily routines to see improvements in skin.
What DD creams do: The anti-aging specialty of the cream works to diminish wrinkles and fine lines throughout use. Additionally, DD cream will balance skin tone and protect the most sensitive areas of your 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,” says Baxt. “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.”