Differences Between Western And Asian BB Creams

difference_asian_western_bb_creamThe BB cream (blemish balm) is a relatively new, yet sensational product. Originally designed in Germany for patients who had undergone intensive skin procedures, the BB cream quickly took over the Korean cosmetic market starting in the 1980’s. Designed to multi-task in any combination of these functions – moisturizer, color corrector, anti-aging, sun protection and even skin lightener – it quickly became one of the most innovative beauty products in the worldwide beauty blogosphere.

East Meets West

Ever since the first BB cream (Dr. Jart Black Label Detox BB) was revealed to be Korean actresses’ secret to flawless skin, its formulas and uses have changed. After circulating around the East Asian market, it made its way to the United States in early 2011.

One of the first BB creams to be sold in the Western market was Korean brand Dr. Jart, which made its debut in Sephora retail stores. Other popular Asian brands such as Missha, Etude House, Skinfood and Lioele also found footing in the Western hemisphere, albeit at a slower pace, since many of these need to be purchased online.

It was only a matter of time before Western brands caught on to this craze and began to manufacture BB creams of their own. Garnier launched their first line of American BB creams in February 2012. Since then, many major brands have begun to sell BB creams, some of which include CoverGirl, Maybelline, Clinique, Smashbox and MAC.

How Are Asian BB Creams Different from Western BB Creams?

Before its rise to fame, the BB cream underwent several changes to better cater to Western consumers. For instance, Clinique’s first BB creams were originally made to match Asian skin tones.  When it hit Western shelves, two shade options were added to accommodate the wider range of Western skin tones.

Main Differences Between Western and Asian BB Creams

Shade/Color Options:

Most women in East Asia either have or desire pale skin. As a result, Asian BB creams generally have only 1 to 3 shade options, usually in the MAC NC15 to NC25 range. In an attempt to diversify their lines, some Asian brands such as Etude House have began to offer as many as 4 shades with varying undertones. Currently, the Missha M Perfect Cover BB cream offers the most shade diversity, thus being the most suitable for Western skintones.

Many Western brands such as Garnier offer shades that cater to a wider range of skin tones—most going from a light/medium to a medium/deep shade. These shades are able to accommodate skin tones in the NC15 to NC45 range.

Asian users looking for a Western BB cream should keep in mind that Western shade options are generally more cool-toned. Boscia BB cream is a great Western BB cream that offers warmer shades.

It is important to remember that all or most BB creams tend to start off grayish before adjusting to your skin tone.


Another large difference between Asian and Western BB creams is the amount of coverage. Asian BB creams generally offer fuller coverage, needing only a minimal amount of product.  They have a unique texture, formulated to complement Asian skin, which is generally oily or combination.

The texture of Western BB creams is more similar to that of tinted moisturizers. They are lighter and oftentimes more sheer. In addition, Western BB creams will work better with dry skin types.

Multi-tasking properties:

In Asia, the extra benefits of BB cream are what set it apart from other face products. They are considered one-step facial products, used to cover blemishes, fight wrinkles, correct color and moisturize. They often contain a higher SPF, more coverage and a wider range of active ingredients.

Because of the preference for a lighter and perfectly flawless complexion among Eastern cultures, many Asian BB creams will have whitening agents and blemish correctors. Many Asian countries have high levels of humidity and free radicals that cause blemishes and aging, so it’s common to find that these creams will also contain vitamins, anti-aging benefits and a formula that caters to combination and oily skin types.

Western BB creams tend to be more moisturizing, and usually focus on one main feature, as opposed to many. For example, while Garnier’s Skin Renew Miracle Perfector renews, evens out and protects the skin, the main addition to the product is moisturizer.

Which BB Cream Is Right For Me?

Asian BB creams were originally, and to this day still, used to create a flawless, pale complexion. East Asian cultures prize youthful, white skin, free of imperfections. Many of the benefits found in Asian BB creams are targeted to create that perfect look.

Western BB creams are more focused on creating a natural, clean look. These will often be sheer and contain more moisturizers to maintain a dewy look throughout the day. The main purpose of many Western creams is to create a “no-makeup look”. These are great for those who only want that final finishing touch.

In addition, some BB creams such as Urban Decay’s Naked Skin Beauty Balm can be used as primer underneath foundation, rather than as stand-alone products.

Okay, I’ve decided. Where Can I Get It?

Because of the rising popularity of BB creams, they are becoming increasingly easier to find. Purchasing authentic Asian BB creams requires a bit more effort for Western buyers, as they must be imported. As a result, prices may be higher, ranging from $10 to $40 USD for more common brands (certain brands may cost up to $60 USD). Popular Asian brands such as Etude House and Missha can be found online.

Some sites that carry Asian BB creams include Yesstyle.com, Thebbcreamshop.com, and Gmarket.com. In addition, Dr. Jart BB creams can be purchased at Sephora retailers. If you are lucky enough to live in or near a city with a high Asian population, you can usually find imported BB creams at local Asian markets.

Western BB creams can be found in virtually any store that carries cosmetics. Drugstore brands such as CoverGirl and Maybelline cost between $5-$20 USD. Higher-end brands can be found in specialty stores such as Sephora, ULTA and Macy’s. These BB creams will range in cost up to $60 or even $90 USD, depending on the quality and brand.

There’s no “one size fits all” – every BB cream out there is different, each with a variety of features. Regardless of where it is made, there is a BB cream that is right for everyone.

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