If BBs and CCs are the foundation-meets-moisturizer-meets-SPF lovechild of the cosmetics and skin-care world, then their latest incarnation — freed from the tube and housed in mirrored, snap-lock compacts — is the result of that lovechild growing up, getting a job, and joining the over-scheduled masses. The draw? No more sticky fingers, for one thing.
Among these travel-friendly picks are cushion compacts (yet another crush-worthy Korean export), which wield a BB- or CC-cream-saturated sponge that releases very controlled quantities. When you apply them with the included puffs (smartly housed in separate inner compartments, so they don't contaminate or dry out the product sealed below), the results are more luminous than cakey. “BBs from cushion compacts are easy to control and tend to go on sheer, so you don’t need to be worried about applying too much product,” says Sonia Kashuk, makeup artist and founder of Sonia Kashuk Beauty.
With the demand for alphabet creams stronger than ever — according to market research group Mintel, last year, 50% more BB creams launched in the American market than during the year before — we took a look at the latest of these face-savers.
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Dr. Jart+ helped launch the American BB craze, so it’s no surprise that it one-ups others with some serious skin-care ingredients. In addition to delivering tinted coverage and SPF 30, this beauty balm hydrates skin with hyaluronic acid and mineral water. The marine collagen, pomegranate extract, elderberry, and grapeseed oil improve elasticity. What’s more, of all the ones we tried, this cushion compact contains an elastic mesh dispenser, rather than a porous sponge, which dispenses a finer quantity of product for more buildable control.
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We were surprised by the foundation-like coverage this BB delivered: It concealed dark spots and redness. For a more natural finish, Laneige makeup artist Cat Koh suggests applying the cream by using the puff in sweeping motions. “To add even more luminosity, add a drop of your favorite serum on the puff before applying the BB,” Koh says.
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This sponge-soaked CC covers like a foundation, while employing hyaluronic acid, peptides, algae, and antioxidants to act as a makeshift serum. The result is product that helps even out blotchy skin and gives you a dewy complexion — plus, it doesn’t feel makeup-y when on.
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This is one of the best-selling cushion compacts in Korea — which played a huge role in popularizing the BB. It’s easy to see why: Although the saturated sponge inside dispenses more product per push than others we tried, it delivers surprisingly light coverage and a glowy finish, thanks to moisturizing ingredients like vitamin B3, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin.
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This cushion compact packs rose water, as well as ingredients derived from licorice root and oats, to help sensitive skin types quell irritation while still getting light coverage. Of the compacts we tried, the Aqua BB provided a matte, rather than dewy, finish, which keeps skin from looking too slick.
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What’s better than being complimented on your makeup? Being told you have enviable skin, of course. Although this formula is technically a foundation, its light coverage and slight tint helps make you look as though you're not wearing any makeup at all. We also like that this base is pumped full of hydrators like mango-seed oil, sea-buckthorn oil, Brazilian babassu oil, and vitamin E.
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We love the cooling sensation this CC cream delivers; its forgot-I-was-wearing-makeup effect after hours of wear; and that it doesn't degrade into a cakey, oily mess by day's end. As if that's not enough, it also protects with SPF 50 and nourishes with antioxidant-rich green tea and amino acid-loaded bamboo sap.
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No matter how revolutionary an innovation is, sometimes classic is best. The compact version of Laura Mercier’s best-selling tinted moisturizer with SPF 20 may not wield a cushion delivery system, but its sponge was the best we tried. While some included sponges, they were thin wafers that require doll-like fingers to use, this applicator is thicker, springier, and more dense. We also like that this comes in 15 shades, instead of the limited light, medium, and dark offerings many BB makers provide.
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