Trying To Find BB Cream For Dark Skin At Sephora Is Borderline Impossible

Sergey Shcherbakoff/Shutterstock

Sergey Shcherbakoff/Shutterstock

BB creams don’t care about black people. Yeah, hear me out.

I’m always late on the big beauty bandwagons because I often revert to my middle school self who liked to think she hated anything mainstream. But I’ll admit, the BB cream hype was slowly working its magic on me, even though I had no idea what it really was. For those of you who are still a little stumped, a BB cream is a “beauty balm” that acts as a foundation, primer and moisturizer. All those tedious steps in your morning makeup routine replaced with a single product sounds great, right? Why wouldn’t I at least want to try it out?


But then I noticed something strange: As I checked out these glorified tinted moisturizers at the drugstore, I noticed that they didn’t seem to come in many shades. In fact, the only shades offered were 50 shades of light and white. Oh, and maybe one ashy looking tan. The only one that didn’t suck was Iman’s line, which is specifically geared toward women with darker complexions anyway.

I took to the internet, asking my Tumblr followers if they had any BB cream recs. The response was unhelpful to say the least. I was either told what I already knew–that BB creams rarely come in darker tones–or they hand waved western BB creams entirely and suggested that I get a legit one from Korea.

Now, I’m not doubting that BB cream formulas in Korea might be a cut above the stuff I would get at Target, but something tells me that if I’m having enough trouble finding a BB cream color to match my [insert brown confection of your choice] complexion here, I’m not going to have much luck in Korea.

Honestly, other than Iman‘s line and a few CoverGirl gems, I’ve rarely put much faith in drugstore makeup to match my coloring. So I turned to more familiar turf–high-end cosmetics–to see if they were a little more forgiving.

Well, I did a quick swatch test of some of the most popular BB creams at Sephora and the results were both surprising and disappointing.

From top to bottom:

Why aren't there BB creams made for darker skin tones than medium-ivory?

Smashbox BB Cream
Clinique CC Cream (that was an accident, actually)
Bobbi Brown BB Cream
Too Faced BB Cream
Tarte BB Cream
Dior BB Cream
Clinique BB Cream

The variety of darker shades were lacking in nearly every single brand I checked out. Too Faced and Tarte were particularly blinding. Seriously, they should just have a sign stating that their BB creams don’t cater to anyone darker than a stack of Pringles. Too Faced‘s BB cream names only emphasized it: Snow Glow, Vanilla Glow, Linen Glow, Creme Glow and Nude Glow. Sheesh, I guess they looked up any and all synonyms for white.

As much as Sephora praises their Smashbox BB cream and despite how popular it is, the range left me only a little impressed. I mean, kudos to at least having a couple of kind of dark tones, I guess. But I’m not going to pat someone on the back for that, especially when other brands who have included a darker color seemed to have gone about it in a similarly careless way. For example, look at the jump between colors here for Clinique‘s BB cream line, which includes a new shade that wasn’t available in store at the time…Yikes.

BB Cream

For the record, their CC cream line is quite robust in terms of color options. Why? No clue.

The real winner was both surprising and not that surprising at all: Bobbi Brown. They’ve always had a good–or, rather, realistic–range of colors for all of their foundation and concealers, and their BB creams are no exception. The dark colors varied in undertone as well, which is a huge plus. So why am I surprised? Because I haven’t heard anybody else raving about it. Even the Sephora employee who helped me seemed surprised by Bobbi Brown’s BB cream line.

So my conclusion is that both drugstore and high-end brands suck at offering BB creams for darker tones. This shouldn’t be shocking for those of us who have always struggled with finding a makeup color that doesn’t completely wash us out, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing. Even if you think BB creams are a waste of money, those of us with darker complexions should be able to waste our money too.

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    • Kaitlin Reilly

      Personally don’t get the hype about BB or CC creams — they don’t seem to do a great job at any of the things they supposedly are supposed to be able to do for your skin. But you’re totally right about there needing to be a full range of skin tones that match the actual people who will be buying the products.

    • Katie

      I know this is not at all what I’m supposed to be getting out of this article, but apparently they started making paler ones now too? I wanted to waste my money on some BB cream last year, and they just had normal pale, not vampire pale yet, so I was unable to spend any of my money as well. I guess I will have to go check out the Bobbi Brown kind now too. And then you can say that you put on BB BB cream.

    • cat

      Ashley, did you have a cast member identify your ColorIQ number in-store at Sephora? Once you have your number id’d you can then find out which bb’s at Sephora match your skintone.

    • sarahindecisive

      BB creams don’t care about translucent white people either. In fact, It works for both ends of the spectrum, I suppose. Every white color I’ve sampled at Sephora/Ulta looks either too yellow or red. Not everyone was blessed and given sunkissed skin, but most major makeup companies beg to differ. What myself and my friends have discovered that if you’re white white or dark dark you are S.O.L. when it comes to finding colors that cater your needs. ]:

    • LynnKell

      I had always complained that here in Mexico most foundations come in pale, pink-undertoned shades. I am a NC30 in MAC’s shades and has always been a pain to find the right undertones. Now, I can’t imagine what a struggle it is to find a matching product to dark skin aaaand then the right undertones.

      The bottom line is:
      MAKE UP BRANDS, not everyone is pale and pink, please formulate accordingly.

    • Fatima

      I have not really tried the BB/ CC cream trend but i will say that Laura Mercier has a great color palette for their “Tinted Moisturizer”. I have been using it for years now. I tend to switch between two colors for summer vs. winter ( Almond and Caramel). As far as i am concerned, this is my BB/ CC cream as it serves as an all-purpose moisturizer with spf 20 and replaces the need for foundation. I just add more or less based on the amount of coverage i desire.

    • C Jai

      I heard something recently about Sleek’s BB Cream. It’s on my “to try” list for the spring.

    • Kacibelle

      First, the back of the hand may be a great place to swatch test for picture taking but it is a horrible place to actually swatch test for accuracy. Also, you didn’t try all the BB creams traditionally available in Sephora because the I don’t see Urban Decay’s BB cream on there (which is quite dark and only recently came in a light and darker shade). And last, CC creams stand for Color Corrector so that may explain why the spectrum of shades is larger.