Now You CC Me — The Ultimate Guide to CC Creams
Just two years ago, BB creams were the talk of the beauty world: multi-tasking products that sauntered down a fine line between skincare and makeup, moisturizing the complexion, boosting luminosity, reducing the appearance of pores, concealing any dark spots or blemishes, reducing the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles, and providing natural-looking coverage along with UVA and UVB protection. Since then, however, BB creams have been largely dethroned by their close relatives: CC creams.
Like the beauty balms that preceded them, these “Color Correction” creams are also meant to hydrate and protect the skin and to deliver natural-looking coverage but, while BB creams have more of an anti-aging focus, CC creams are formulated to prioritize the concerns of those suffering from hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone. Those with rosacea and redness, sun spots, acne scars, and sallow skin, then, can benefit from color-correcting pigments meant to diminish the appearance of these imperfections while also battling them in the long run, gradually helping to break up melanin clusters, inhibiting the enzyme that triggers melanin production, and so forth. Now, it’s important to note that those with serious hyperpigmentation concerns should not rely solely on CC creams but, instead, should invest in a proper skincare regimen. After all, most CC creams are, truth be told, lightweight foundations with specific skincare benefits, belonging more readily in the makeup realm than in that of skincare. But, that said, they can be true lifesavers on days when we want to wear minimal makeup and yearn for flawless coverage and a uniform, radiant skin tone.
Now, ever CC creams became the most buzzed-about beauty offerings, everyone has been jumping on the bandwagon, making it harder for consumers to navigate through an increasingly cluttered marketplace. To make the process a bit less underwhelming, I’ve amassed a number of CC creams and assessed which should get a “C” grade (or lower) and which are A-plus products.
Smashbox Camera Ready CC Cream, $42. Available at Sephora.com
I consider the Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream to rank among the very best BB creams on the market, so I had high hopes for the brand’s CC cream, which prioritizes color correction, helping to disguise redness and dark spots, making the skin tone appear more uniform, and protecting the skin from future hyperpigmentation signs (primarily via SPF protection). Now, unlike many CC creams that merely disguise trouble spots, making them no different than liquid foundations, this product does contain ingredients that help to tackle hyperpigmenation in the long term, breaking up melanin clusters, and promoting cellular turnover and natural exfoliation which, in turn, helps to reveal new and unblemished layers of skin. These ingredients include licorice extract, which has anti-inflammatory properties and helps to soothe redness and other topical irritations; its glabridin content also protects the skin from hyperpigmentation by preventing the activation of an enzyme called tyrosinase that is, in turn, responsible for melanin production. Apple extract works to promote cellular proliferation and activity, helping skin look firmer, more toned, and more radiant. The formula also contains tocopherol-rich wheat germ extract, which some scientists believe can improve the survival rate of high-risk skin melanoma patients and help to fend off skin cancer, along with barley extract, which can neutralize free radicals and therefore fend off the UV damage that leads to sun spots and other forms of discoloration. Cucumber extract soothes and nourishes the skin.
Smashbox once again surpassed my already high expectations, unveiling a CC cream that perfectly blends into the skin and feels so weightless you forget you’re wearing anything at all — that is, until you look in the mirror and notice all the spots and marks you’re so self-conscious about have been cleverly concealed. The cream feels a bit rich at first, but it’s readily absorbed by the skin and leaves behind no cake-y residue, nor foes it flake or peel. More remarkably, it moisturizes the skin while keeping it nice and matte, so that you look radiant and not shiny (big difference!). And, since it’s available in eight shades, there are plenty of options to choose from according to your skin depth and your individual undertones.
My only caveat: in terms of coverage and performance, this product deviates only slightly from the Smashbox CC Cream so, if your concern is hyperpigmentation, I’d advise investing in skin care products addressing this concern and sticking with either the BB or CC cream (which is a taster’s choice matter, ultimately) as opposed to investing in both.
Dr. Jart+ CC Essence Balm, $42. Available at Sephora.com
Convenient and effective, the Dr. Jart+ CC Essence Balm, which is packaged inside a travel-friendly round compact and comes with a handy sponge meant to be stored in a separate compartment, is a beauty slam dunk. Developed by the Korean skincare brand that sparked the BB craze, the Dr. Jart+ CC Essence Balm aims to combine the anti-aging benefits of a BB cream with color correcting, sun protecting, and radiance boosting ingredients. To that end, this lightweight treatment incorporates 7 essential vitamins: Vitamin C to tackle hyperpigmentation; Vitamin A to encourage cellular turnover and boost collagen and elastin production; Vitamin B1 to smooth the skin’s texture and diminish the appearance of enlarged pores; Vitamin B2 to kickstart cellular renewal; Vitamin B5 to calm irritated skin; Vitamin B3 to reduce redness and help yield a more even tone; and Vitamin E to moisturize the skin and protect it from free radicals. Other skin-loving ingredients include hydrating hyaluronic acid, brightening arbutin, firming adenosine, and soothing sea buckthorn berry extract. Titanium dioxide, octinocate, zinc oxide, and octisalate work together to provide SPF 24 protection.
I love everything about this CC cream: how it makes skin appear dewy, not greasy; how it doesn’t appear too pink or too yellowish on the skin but, instead, strikes the right balance between cool and warm undertones; how it blends into the skin seamlessly so that it appears as if you’re wearing nothing at all; how it’s lightweight yet buildable, allowing you to customize the amount of coverage needed; how its handy compact and sponge allow you to touch up your makeup while on the go; and how it delivers the most natural effect, offering the coveted “no makeup” look. Would it be in my Top 5? You better believe it!
Physicians Formula Organic Wear CC Color Correction Cream, $14.99. Available at drugstores and Ulta.com
Fans of eco-friendly skincare and makeup products will swoon over the new Organic Wear CC Color Correction Cream, which is formulated with 100% natural ingredients, 70% of which are organic. What I personally love about this product is how great it makes my skin not only look but also feel. Organic orange water works as a toner and antibacterial, plus it helps the skin maintain its ideal moisture balance. Organic blue agave functions as a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin. Açai palm helps to fortify the skin’s barrier abilities, locking in moisture and nutrients. Jojoba seed oil and sunflower seed oil both nourish and moisturize the skin while leaving behind no greasy residue. Organic lemon extract brightens the skin and gives it a radiance boost thanks to its vitamin C content. In short, this CC cream has all the delicious ingredients you covet in a tinted moisturizer but it also includes red microalgae to reduce the appearance of redness and light-reflecting pigments that deliver a soft-focus finish, blurring any existent sun spots, acne marks, red patches, scars, and other imperfections. If you want a CC cream with tons of skin-loving ingredients, a moderate amount of coverage, and a radiant finish, this is your choice pick.
Clinique Moisture Surge CC Cream Compact Hydrating Colour Corrector Broad Spectrum SPF 25, $35. Available at Clinique.com
Along with the aforementioned Dr. Jart+ CC Essence Balm, this CC cream comes in a rather convenient compact that should make it immediately attractive to consumers. Available in six shades, this CC cream can be easily applied using the sponge included in the handy compact. You can even use it as a concealer of sorts, dabbing it atop problem areas only or, for moderate coverage, you can apply it to the entire face, blending it in with the spongeIt contains salicylic acid, which is used to naturally exfoliate the skin, unclog pores, and keep skin clear and blemish-free; sodium hyaluronate to moisturize the skin and make it appear smoother and plumper; tocopherols to protect the skin from free radicals; and glycerin to smooth and lubricate the skin. And, as promised, it does hydrate the skin and provide a considerable amount of coverage. I had no issues with the CC cream oxidizing so that, once I found the right shade, I could rest assured that it wouldn’t turn a different hue while resting on my face. That said, I have noticed that the cream can appear a bit streaky as time goes by — nothing major, but still just a inch short of perfection.
Lumene Time Freeze Anti-Age Color Correcting CC Cream, $14.99. Available at drugstores and mass market retailers. Visit Drugstore.com
This multi-purpose cream offers six benefits in one handy dandy formula: nourishing and hydrating the skin with botanicals like sunflower seed oil and rosemary extract; protecting the skin against visible aging signs thanks to the inclusion of lingonberry, a superfruit found in abundance in Scandinavia and known to be rich in vitamin E and vitamin C, as well as polyphenols that fend off UV rays and prevent skin damage; offering natural-looking coverage; helping to give the complexion a radiant look; evening skin tone via color-correcting mineral pigments; and providing broad spectrum SPF 20 protection (thanks to the incorporation of octinoxate and titanium dioxide). When you need SPF protection and want a hint of coverage so as to conceal any redness and dark spots without having to rely on heavier foundations and powders, this CC cream will work wonders.
At only $14.99, I expected it to be a decent choice but not necessarily as delightful as its higher-end counterparts. To my surprise, this wound up being one of my favorite CC creams! It has a more fluid texture than most of its CC counterparts, but this doesn’t render it any less potent in the coverage department. Instead, it makes it feel more lightweight on the skin while still delivering considerable coverage and a luminous, youthful finish.
Revlon Age Defying CC Cream, $13.99. Available at drugstores and mass market retailers. Visit Ulta.com
Finding the right CC cream can prove as challenging as discovering the perfect shade of foundation. That said, the chances of the Revlon Age Defying CC Cream being your perfect match is as low as that of meeting your soulmate at a strip club. For one, it’s almost impossible to blend the cream into your skin — instead it seems to just sit there, leaving you with a streaky and patchy countenance. It has a tendency to seep into inconvenient locations — expression lines around the mouth, the area above the brows, the contours of your nostrils, and so forth. Second, my experience has been that its tint changes within minutes so that, initially, it may seem to harmonize with your skin tone but, within a few minutes, it will oxidize and turn a bit orange, leaving you looking like Snookie and her Jersey Shore comrades with their terrible spray tans. Not cute. Third, every time I have applied this CC cream, I found it left my skin looking and feeling greasy — which in itself is a feat since my skin is naturally dry. If, say, I wiped my forehead with the back of my hand, I’d then look at my hand and grimace at the oily sheen left above it. You’d think I’d been handling Crisco! When applied to the face, then, you’re left with a catastrophic situation that calls for constant use of blotting papers, a complete hassle given that the whole point of a CC cream is to simplify one’s beauty routine.
Sure, this CC cream contains SPF protection but that’s hardly enough of a positive to counteract all the negatives. To be fair, it also includes certain botanical extracts meant to target hyperpigmentation — such as mulberry extract and licorice extract —and resveratrol-rich grape extract, which is meant to battle visible aging signs, but you can easily find face washes, serums, and lotions that contain the necessary brightening and skin rejuvenating ingredients and then rely on other makeup products to achieve natural-looking coverage.
Origins Smarty Plants CC SPF 20 Skin Complexion Corrector, $35. Available at Sephora.com
Origins wasn’t just being coy when it bestowed the “smarty plants” name upon this CC cream. The impetus behind the creation of this product was the development of Origins’ S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting) technology. Sound like cyber terminology? Well, it’s not too far off. Born in the tech industry, S.M.A.R.T. technology was a process that allowed programming experts to study potential software snafus and adapt their work accordingly so as to maximize the expediency, efficacy, and dependability of different programs and devices. Origins scientists adopted a similar approach when assessing the performance of different botanical ingredients, ultimately culminating in the creating of an Intuitive Delivery System for Smarty Plants. In layman’s terms, this CC cream’s formula can recognize stimuli like pollution and UV exposure and, in response, time release the protective substances needed to prevent skin damage, elasticity loss, dehydration, and premature aging.
How does it work? Well, there are receptor sites on the surface of encapsulated key ingredients. When the walls of these capsules are ruptured as a result of exposure to environmental aggressors, protective ingredients are released: green tea to block free radicals, vitamins C and E to protect the skin from pollution, and algae to convert oxidative stress into light hydration (it does so by completing free radical molecules, which are missing an electron, thereby neutralizing them and releasing water in the process). Pretty impressive, right?
In terms of color correction, this CC cream does a fine job but what makes it truly special is its intuitive nature.
Dior Diorskin Airflash CC Primer, $49. Available at Sephora.com
I’ve heard other beauty experts rave about the Dior Diorskin Airflash CC Primer, but I suspect many of them simply respond to the Dior brand name rather than objectively assessing this product’s performance. Sure, it sounds like a revolutionary product — mainly because of its spray technology, which delivers a lightweight mist with Photo-Smart Pigments designed to correct color imperfections, boost radiance, and even skin tone. To apply, you need to hold the bottle about 18 inches away from your face, close your eyes, and spray the CC primer using a Z-shaped motion. Now, in an ideal world, you could simply spritz and go, but this isn’t perfume we’re talking about so there will be some manual labor necessary as you use your hands to work in the product and make sure it’s distributed in an even fashion. I actually find that spritzing it atop the face is more of a hassle than it is a time-saving technique so I tend to spray the product onto my palm and then pat it onto my visage. Now, the product does contain hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring polysaccharide often found in the connective tissue between skin cells that is credited for giving skin its dewy and pillowy appearance and which, when applied topically, can help smooth existing fine lines and wrinkles. It also contains refreshing minerals but, as a color correcting product, it completely misses the mark since it provides a minimal amount of coverage and does little to disguise acute redness. It’s not a terrible CC product but, given that you still need to apply foundation or tinted moisturizer atop it, it’s hardly worthy of the price tag.
L’Oreal Visible Lift CC Cream, $12.99. Available at drugstores and mass market retailers. Visit Drugstore.com
I’ll be blunt: this CC cream is a complete and total waste of money. In fact, it should have the Twitter “fail whale” stamped right on it! It literally does nothing. In terms of moisturizing ingredients, the only ones listed are shea butter and soy protein. Even more befuddling, none of the ingredients listed purport to have any skin brightening benefits (save for vitamin C but, when it’s included in an unstable form, this ingredient is rendered useless) and, given that this is pretty much the entire purpose of a CC cream, it’s hard to see how this product fits into this category at all.
Like the Revlon CC cream, this one also leaves the complexion looking greasy and its pigments quickly turn a very unappealing shade of orange, as if you were a character inside a TV screen inadvertently set to a “Warm” setting. It’s also incredibly sheer which would normally be a drawback but which, in this case, might be a blessing in disguise given that, with more of a pigment pay-off, you’d wind up looking like the Annoying Orange.
My last gripe regarding this CC cream: it actually makes my skin ache! It’s probably the only CC cream I’ve tried that has caused me any irritation, which is why it gets a failing grade from me.
WEI Chinese Licorice Anti-Aging Color Correction CC Cream, $45. Available at WeiBeauty.com
Though CC creams just became buzz-y stateside, they’ve been around for quite a while in the Eastern hemisphere. WEI, for one, long ago unveiled its Chinese Licorice CC Cream which, as its name implies, is formulated with licorice. Used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, licorice is known to be rich in amino acids, flavonoids, and enzymes that help to detoxify the skin, slow down the aging process, and tackle discoloration. Mandarin orange peel extract also helps to brighten the skin tone, while Japanese gentian extract works as an inflammatory, working to reduce redness.
This CC cream is decidedly richer and denser than many other formulations on the market, which means it will provide fuller coverage. That said, the CC cream is only available in two shades, which might make it more difficult to find the perfect match — particularly given that the richer coverage makes having the right color so essential.
Physicians Formula Super CC+ Color Correction + Care CC+ Powder, $13.95. Available at mass food, drug, and mass market retailers.
In theory, this product should be genius — after all, it’s the first CC developed in a powder form. This cheekily packaged powder is designed to provide color correction via specific pigments: yellow to correct bluish imperfections (dull skin tone, bruises, age spots, and so forth), green tones to temper any redness, and pink tones to brighten the skin and make it appear more youthful. According to the tenets of color theory, these are sound principles. So what’s the problem? Well, the powder is rather sheer so it won’t yield the coverage necessary to truly diminish any signs of discoloration. When used over a liquid CC cream, it can do a fine job of complementing the former and also mattifying the skin, but it shouldn’t be used in lieu of a cream-based formula.