BB Cream in Canada: How to Choose?

by Janine on 25 January 2012 · 43 comments

Now that you’ve heard the initial buzz on BB creams in Canada — here are the details on what BB cream is — you might like to know which one might be best for you. North American formulas fall somewhere between tinted moisturizer and medium-coverage foundation and include anti-aging ingredients, primer-like smoothing and oil-absorbing properties. They’re buildable — you can add more layers for more coverage — or you can apply foundation over them if you like.

I don’t for a minute think these are miracle creams, but I am a fan of their multi-tasking personalities. I wish I could multi-task like BB creams.

For skin with uneven tone and texture
If you want opaque or nearly opaque coverage, best to hit Korean neighbourhoods for a Korean BB brand, such as Iope or BRTC (recommended by makeup pro Susana Hong), or Missha or Dr. Jart. Just know that you’ll find only one or two shades in these formulas and that they may be a bit grey for your skin. Korean BB creams are designed to make the complexion appear paler and more porcelain.

For skin with moderately uneven tone

Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35 ($50, Sephora now) delivers a semi-sheer finish in a creamy texture. It comes in four shades, Fair, Light, Medium and Dark. The Medium shade is best for me, but it was sold out so I tried Light — and was surprised. The formula is just sheer enough that it worked. But I still needed a teensy dab of concealer for shadows, and definitely over stupid hormonal blemishes.

My go-to since I got a sample to try is Estée Lauder Daywear BB Multi-Perfecting Beauty Benefit Cream SPF 35 ($45, department stores, February 2012), which comes in two shades. I like the finish so much better than when I use just concealer and blot powder on my oily skin; tinted moisturizer never really did it for me either. Now firmly part of my routine, the Light matches my skin, the creamy texture blends easily and blurs imperfections, and the finish lasts for hours. I add concealer under my eyes, around the base of my nose and over damnstupidhormonal blemishes, and top with a barely-there layer of MAC Blot Powder in Medium/Dark.

I love the smooth texture of Canadian Marcelle BB Cream ($22.95, drugstores, February 2012), which comes in two shades. But I don’t love that it has no SPF — in my opinion SPF is a must-have to call it a BB cream. The finish is a little less sheer than Boscia, Smashbox and Lauder, but still looks natural on skin, not like a mask of makeup. Really, it made my skin look great, and until I tried the Estée Lauder formula, it was my preference (applied over SPF moisturizer).

For naturally nearly flawless skin (what.ever.)
If you want super-sheer and a warm-glow boost, try Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream SPF 15 ($19.99, drugstores, February 2012). Very much like tinted moisturizer, comes in two golden-tone shades, Light/Medium and Medium/Dark. You’ll need concealer to boost coverage over dark circles and any redness around the base of the nose.

Boscia BB Cream SPF 27 ($46, Sephora, end of January) is also a sheer finish. At the moment it comes in only one shade. It’s a little too dark for my medium skintone, even sparingly applied. You’ll need concealer to temper under-eye shadows and any red areas.

UPDATE: Stila Stay All Day 10-in-1 HD Beauty Balm ($49, Shoppers Drug Mart, Sehora) launched in late Spring 2012. It’s sheer and contains no sunscreen. Dries down to a weightless finish; nice texture.

For dull or sallow skin
If you want instant brightening for dull or sallow skin, try Vichy Neovadiol Lumiere ($44, drugstores, February 2012), another super-sheer finish which has a peach tone and built-in illuminators. It has NO SPF, however, so I’d classify it more as a skin tint, similar to YSL Teint Parfait. Available in one shade, it’s intended for women in their 50s or better, but I tried it anyway. Got lots of compliments on my glowy skin, but that might have been because of a bit of accidental colour I got on my last day in St. Lucia. You’ll need concealer with this one as well.

More to come
BB creams from Clinique and Pür Minerals are slated for Canadian release this year. US residents also have access to Bobbi Brown BB Cream SPF 35 and 3Lab Perfect BB SPF 40 cream (this one is $95 USd, but I’m still intrigued — 3Lab co-founder and co-owner Erica Chung is all about cramming as many top ingredients as possible into one formula).

Think of BB cream as a new category in makeup — remember when tinted moisturizer was just your favourite foundation with a couple of drops of your favourite moisturizer? Every major brand will likely have their own version or versions, and formulas will vary the way foundation formulas vary. And finding the right one for your skin, lifestyle and wallet will take a bit of trial, and hopefully very little error.

Hope this helps!


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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Lara 25 January 2012 at 10:16 am

I’ve been using the Dr Jart BB cream, the age perfecting one, that I picked up Sephora in the states after reading your other article on BB creams. Still need a little touching up after, but it looks pretty good. Now I am curious about the Estée Lauder one!


Isabel 26 January 2012 at 11:14 am

I cannot offer you a firm launch date at this point, but Marcelle will eventually be introducing a second BB Cream, WITH SPF! We do have a good base of consumers with skin that doesn’t do so well with SPF (myself included), so the original version will remain. I sigh with relief!


Janine 28 January 2012 at 9:30 pm

That’s a good point, Isabel, that some people’s skin doesn’t do so well with certain sunscreen ingredients. Thanks for your comment!


Nel 29 January 2012 at 8:51 pm

Does the Estee Lauder BB cream come in different shades like the Smashbox version and is it out in Canada? I tried the Smashbox version in dark and mix with a lighter powder over top to cut the whole darker face/lighter body thing but at times feel like it may not be the best for me, since I have very oily skin.


Janine 29 January 2012 at 10:39 pm

Hi Nel,

No, the Lauder BB cream isn’t available just yet as far as I know, and it comes in two shades, Light and Medium.

Is the Smashbox Dark too dark for your skin? Is that why a lighter powder on top? Is the Smashbox Medium too light for your complexion?

If your skin is oily, you never want a foundation shade too dark for your skin — oil will eventually make it seem darker. What kind of powder are you using, by the way?


Vivian 30 January 2012 at 10:21 am

Alright day 2 of using EL BB cream… ok I’m in love. It seems like all of the department stores are already carrying it.


Janine 7 February 2012 at 12:12 am

It’s a good shade, right?? I do wish the sunscreens were mineral — they hold up better and longer than chemical sunscreens do (as long as you don’t rub after application). But for the time being, I’m hooked. Glad you found it!!


Marianne 31 January 2012 at 12:34 pm

I don’t know why but I have this feeling I’ll still prefer Asian BB creams although I’m looking forward in trying non-Asian ones. I’m currently using Skin 79 Super BB cream and I really like its coverage and texture.


Nel 31 January 2012 at 10:26 pm

Hey Janine,

The smashbox shade isnt bad one me at first glance. As in when I first put it on (with a duo fibre brush to give it a very second skin look) it actually looks perfect even when worn alone but it begins to darken a bit when left on its own, so I temper it with powder or powder and Primer so that the shade looks fresh and doesn’t oxidize too much. I didnt try the Medium shade because it looked like it might have too much of the yellow pigment to suit my undertone properly. May be worth the visit though now that you mention it.


Janine 1 February 2012 at 8:42 pm

I think yes, it would be worth it for you to try the medium shade at the Sephora Smashbox counter. If you have oily skin, it’s better to go a smidge too light with your foundation (or bb cream) than a smidge too dark — foundation darkens over the day as it absorbs oil.

MUFE HD powder is so finely milled that it should work just as well over a shade that matches your skin a bit better :-)


Nel 31 January 2012 at 10:26 pm

Whoops ! Am using the MUFE HD powder over top of the Smashbox BB cream


Jenn W 1 February 2012 at 11:48 am

I’m using the Smashbox BB Cream and I have a question. Should I treat it like foundation and add powder when I wear it or can I wear it on all by its lonesome, you know since it’s 22 things in one?


Janine 1 February 2012 at 8:45 pm

The one thing it isn’t is a cream-to-powder formula. *grin*

So yes, treat as you would foundation (or tinted moisturizer). It has primer-like qualities (otherwise known as silicone), but if you have oily skin, you’ll likely have to top it with a light dusting of powder to set it and temper shine.


Jenn W 2 February 2012 at 9:50 am

Thanks! That helps. I’m trying to both ways and we’ll see if I can get away without powder.


Janine 2 February 2012 at 9:51 am

What’s wrong with powder? *grin*


Shelley 6 February 2012 at 7:39 pm

OHMY. Day one of using a BB and I swear I got THREE compliments on my skin.

Well, one was about my hair but I think they really meant my hair made my skin look good.

I tried Too Faced, which I got at Sephora in the Eaton’s Centre. The very lightest shade was sold out and as I’m a little olive-y I thought I could get away with the second – ‘Cream Glow’. It’s GREAT – though I might still try a lighter one for that porcelain look as this is decidedly more on the ‘healthy tan’ side of looks.

Even with dry-ish winter skin, I did need powder on my nose and chin. Also still needed under-eye concealer ( but I have issues in that neighbourhood.)

Anyway, thanks for the article and for sending me out looking for these. I LOVED it.


Janine 7 February 2012 at 12:08 am

Yay! So happy you found one that works for you! Better than tinted moisturizer, I think — at least the ones that have more coverage than tinted moisturizer. They’re better for a wider range of skin because they’re not quite so sheer. In fact, they can be stippled on with a makeup sponge like liquid foundation can be. Win!

I didn’t know Too Faced had a bb cream, so thanks for that tip, too! xo


Shelley 8 February 2012 at 8:18 am

Oooh, I like the stippling thought. I will give that a go.

Yesterday was Day 1 of the bright lips experiment (yay ‘Lollipop’ as suggested by you…) Did pretty well and actually wore it in public, though when it came time to reapply after the gym I went back to a chicken-out colour – not chicken colour, that would be weird.

What I wanted to say, was I am SO GLAD I read your application tips. It sounds insane but I had never thought of using a finger to apply lipstick. ….I know. Lame. But I always found brush too precise and the sides of my mouth are way too small for tube. So it blew my mind!


Janine 8 February 2012 at 5:18 pm

Thanks so much for this comment, Shell — I love it! Am so happy you’re having fun playtime with bright lipstick! xoxo


Bryn 24 May 2012 at 1:42 pm

Finally!! Thanks for finding a BB cream without SPF! I’m deathly allergic to chemical sunscreens but have wanted to try one.


Janine 24 May 2012 at 1:46 pm

Hi Bryn! Stila has an SPF-free one too: Stila Stay All Day 10-in-1 HD Beauty Balm. Launched just a few weeks ago, available via Shoppers Drug Mart and Sephora :-) Less coverage than Marcelle, but very nice.


Nora 25 June 2012 at 3:29 pm

I know one of the Dr. Jaart ones has all physical sunscreen, not the water fuse one, but I would look up the black label, silver label, and premium ones and see if they have chmical sunscreeens, because I know at least one of those three (if not more) is all physical.


Janine 25 June 2012 at 7:15 pm

Boscia’s BB cream has physical sunscreen ingredients, as does Maybelline NY’s new Dream Fresh BB cream, which launched this month. And Nora is right; Dr. Jart Premium — gold-tone tube — has mineral sunscreen ingredients. I bought one to try and have somehow managed to misplace it… sheesh!


Dianne 2 July 2012 at 9:50 pm

Just discovered your site and loving it!


Janine 3 July 2012 at 2:04 am

Thanks, Dianne!


Kate 29 April 2013 at 7:17 pm

Hello Janine!

What is your skintone in MAC shades? I am MAC NC 20-25, MUFE face and body in #20 and Laura mercier silk creme in medium ivory. Also, shiseido perfect refining foundation in I20 and Estee lauder double wear in 2C1. I really want to try the boscia bb cream but I can’t decide to get the original or the new lighter shade. Thanks!


Janine 30 April 2013 at 1:09 am

Hi Kate,

I think you are the teensiest bit paler than I am; definitely go with the new lighter Boscia bb cream shade!


Kasia 8 July 2013 at 1:53 pm


I did a post about how to choose right BB cream (korean are better than western). It’s in polish but tables are in english and you can translate all.


Janine 8 July 2013 at 2:04 pm

I don’t think I agree that Korean BB creams are necessarily better, Kasia — depends on what you want and what you’re used to. For many, many North Americans, Korean BB shades are just too chalky, and too pale. Our market — our needs — are different. Overall, the much wider range of formulas and finishes now available is a positive thing.


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