BB and CC Creams

Breakthrough or hype?

October 3, 2013

BB and CC Creams: How safe are the ingredients in BB and CC creams?

You are often better off using a BB or CC cream. EWG’s analysis shows that a consumer using a typical BB or CC cream would be exposed to an average of 40 ingredients, while a consumer using three separate products -- foundation, concealer and moisturizing sunscreen -- would be exposed to an average of 70 ingredients.

You should read labels carefully and use EWG’s Skin Deep Database to check out the scores of the BB or CC cream you’re considering.  Formulations vary widely – and not all are good choices.

The number of chemicals matters because the more chemicals to which you are exposed, the more likely you are to encounter a hazardous one.  It’s a gamble:  many chemicals on the market have never been thoroughly assessed for safety.

EWG’s analysis shows that the average number of ingredients recognized as hazardous -- those that score poorly in EWG’s Skin Deep database -- dropped from three to one when the user shifted from a three-product regimen of foundation, concealer and moisturizing sunscreen to a BB or CC cream. 

An important caveat: some of the BB and CC creams that EWG analyzed contained up to five hazardous ingredients, including oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate (a form of vitamin A). Other potentially hazardous substsances may be hidden from the consumers’ eyes because many companies lump such ingredients into the term “fragrance.” The cosmetics, cleaning and candle industries often use the vague term “fragrance” on ingredient lists rather than disclosing the specific chemicals in the product.

In 2010, after years of intentional mystery, the International Fragrance Association published a list of 3,163 ingredients that its members reportedly use to make consumer products (EWG 2010). It’s impossible to know which of these fragrance ingredients might be in your BB and CC creams. Some of them are quite troubling, so it’s best to stay away from products whose labels list non-specific “fragrance.”  

A few examples of ingredients that may lurk behind the term “fragrance”:

  • Phthalates are potent hormone disruptors linked to reproductive system birth defects in baby boys
  • Octoxynols and nonoxynols break down into persistent hormone disruptors
  • Citral, eugenol, coumarin and geraniol are natural or synthetically derived chemicals that are associated with allergies and contact dermatitis and that have been banned or restricted in the European Union

Read more about the problems with fragrance here: