Choose your next BB, CC, tinted moisturizer or foundation armed with a little more knowledge and understanding

Ever jumped in on a BB or CC cream love-fest without knowing what exactly they are—or what those letters actually mean? Join the club. The world of foundation—and tinted moisturizers and aforementioned alphabet creams—is a confusing one to navigate, but Sephora Pro Helen Phillips is here to be your tour guide. “It is really important to take you own skincare needs and skin type into consideration when determining what type of coverage and formula to use,” says Phillips—in other words, don’t blindly follow the latest fad. “Some needs are more obvious than others, so it’s important to research the formula of your foundation. For example, if you have drier skin, I’d recommend a tinted moisturizer; if you have discoloration or sunspots a CC cream might work best.” And since Sephora stocks more than 1,300 such formulas, Phillips knows what she’s talking about.

There’s confusion over what the lightest type of foundation product really is. Although tinted moisturizer sounds like it might be barely there, in reality Phillips says CC creams—aka color correcting creams that have a “whipped, light feeling and are used to brighten dull or sallow skin while helping to conceal hyperpigmentation”—offer the sheerest coverage. Advised for anyone with sun damage or discoloration, her favorites include Sephora Collection Skin Perfect CC Cream SPF 20 and Peter Thomas Roth CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Complexion Corrector.

Next up are tinted moisturizers (go-tos include Laura Mercier and NARS’ always-popular formulas) that give light to medium coverage with a hydrating component. Some include SPF, but they don’t typically contain anti-aging ingredients like the BBs and CCs, although they tend to come in more shades and are appropriate for the most skin types: normal to dry, aging and mature (since it conceals fine lines without seeping into them).

The most coverage comes from a BB cream or foundation. The former has a good deal of pigment and also boasts SPF, anti-aging benefits, primer and moisturizer while still feeling lightweight—perfect for someone with oily skin as the finish is usually more matte. (Try Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35 and the new BBs by Elizabeth Arden and Kiehl’s.) The most buildable products are liquid foundations such as Marc Jacobs Beauty Genius Gel Super-Charged Foundation. (We also love Oxygenetix Breathable Foundation.)

There are also current skin trends to take into consideration. Last year dewy was a watchword, while “real-looking skin” is in now, and Phillips says a matte finish is making a comeback for fall. To achieve that, she says, “many brands are launching powder foundations with formulas that promise satin and natural matte finishes, which allow for more dimension but still keep shine at bay.” Her pick is Kat Von D Lock-It Powder Foundation. Time of year comes into play too. “It’s very important to cater your skincare and beauty routine to the changing seasons,” says Phillips. Try a mattifying formula in the summer, tinted moisturizer in winter. “It’s all about finding a foundation to fit your lifestyle as the seasons change. Going for a bike ride by the beach and lunch after? Try a BB cream with strong SPF. Yoga then grocery shopping? Opt for a CC with a lighter finish,” suggests Phillips.

Of course the right base isn’t anything without concealer. Afterward, conceal flaws with Marc Jacobs Beauty Remedy Concealer. Or even try one of the newfangled CC eye creams (Ole Henriksen Perfect Truth CC Eye Crème and Natura Bisse The Cure Sheer Eye)—multitasking eye creams that offer hydration, SPF and light-reflecting pigments to conceal dark circles. You’ll be ready for whatever comes next.

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