MAC Prep + Prime BB Compact – swatches and review

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A look at MAC’s unique take on the BB cream revolution


“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”
Thomas Jefferson

When I grow up, I want to be a beauty historian, because many great products and ideas are rooted in the past discoveries or necessities. I dream of a perfect world where new products help me look flawless with minimal effort. So, I am always looking for what is new, what has improved and what saves time.

Enter MAC Prep + Prime BB Compacts…

BB cream is a popular player in the beauty ball game. What the heck is a BB cream you may ask? BB is actually short for blemish balm, blemish base or beauty balm. It is serious business in Korea where even the word “blemish” has a trademark. It is “all in one” product that has a combination of ingredients such as moisturizer, primer and sun block.

Believe it or not, BB’s have been around since 1960. Dr. Christine Schrammek, a German dermatologist formulated the first BB cream to help protect patients skin after surgery. I was excited to try one of MAC’s latest twist on the beauty balm, the Prep +Prime Beauty Balm Compact with SPF 30 ($30).

For now, this compact is available in just three colors:

Extra Light – pale alabaster
Light – pale ivory
Light Plus – light ivory

I inquired at my local MAC counter why there were just three colors and was told three things. 1) This is a test run to see how the consumers like it. 2) Due to the added sunblock it is hard to formulate warmer pigments. 3) Time will tell what happens next.

Initially, I was alarmed as typical colors do not usually work on me. But, rest your fears, because this product is super sheer and versatile. These natural, semi translucent shades are created to “perfect, protect, even out and illuminate” almost any skin tone.

This is the only BB cream I have seen in a compact. It can be applied it like a cream foundation with a sponge. The sponge performed just fine, but I preferred my foundation brush for an even application. This took a bit of practice, as I am used to warming product with my fingers.

But once I got the hang of it, I found the BB Compact to be a double duty lover’s dream combining skin prepping and priming with a broad spectrum SPF 35. Not bad for one slim compact.

Prep + Prime BB Cream in Extra Light, Light and Light Plus – swatched

Prep + Prime BB Cream in Light, Extra Light and Light Plus – blended

The Prep +Prime Beauty Balm Compact formulation really smoothed out my skin and erased much of my redness with no irritation from my sensitive skin. Touch ups on the go were a snap. It was such a pleasure to say good-bye to redness whenever it rudely shows up uninvited during the day. I’m now a BB-believer!

we heartsters – Have you jumped aboard the BB Cream train? What are your thoughts?


  • hao9703

    Holly is a Midwestern gal living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She loves gardening, animals and is a skin care junkie. She's always on the quest to try something new or old and live the best life possible. skin tone: NW 20 skin type: a true combo; normal, dry and oily favorite beauty product: skincare

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  1. Lovely review. Quick question: do you feel like this is heavy enough to cover hyperpigmentation? I have tried a bunch of BB creams, but because I have some discoloration, I can’t get away with just wearing the BB cream–I always have to put on foundation as well. However, in my quest to find one that would cover on its own, (and these are all inexpensive, ’cause I’m cheap) I’ve tried: Lumene Vitamin C+Illuminating BB Cream, the Revlon and Maybelline versions, Aveeno Clear Complexion BB cream, and my favorite, the Physicans Formula Super BB cream.

    Also, how about a CC cream review?

    1. @amity — Excellent question! Honestly, I think you will still need some concealer or foundation. However, if you find that holy grail product that does it all — let me know.

  2. BOO for only three colors! But this is interesting, I haven’t seen a BB cream in a compact before. I love pretty much everything MAC does, so I’m curious to see how this goes!

  3. Love the compact for BB cream! I’ve been wanting to try one out but have been hesitant because my skin is pretty oily.

  4. I want to try this. I love BB creams because I don’t need a lot of coverage but I do have a bit of redness along my cheeks constantly that I like to tone down and blend my skin my a little more pale overall. Thanks for the review I might have to ask about this the next time I stop my MAC counter!

  5. Me too! I just tried my first BB cream yet by smashbox.. camera ready.. I liked it and after reading this review I’ll try this one! I’ll let you know what I think!

  6. Wow–you’ve been a busy “chick!” I honestly haven’t found a liquid BB I love, but this makes me think twice. The colors are just right for me (my skin is best described as “ghost”). I think this would work beautifully and save me time. Thank you, @hao9703!

  7. Great review! I think I would be the darkest color. I am not really into compact foundation/bb cream type makeup but it looks really fun to use. I have trouble with most BB creams because although they say the colors are universal, they are usually way way off.

  8. I’m probably the lightest shade. I’m intrigued, but I haven’t had any luck with BB cream-style makeup. I always break out horribly. What’s up with that?!?

  9. I really wanted to like this as I was absolutely intrigued by the thought of a BB Cream in a compact. But I have a hard time sheering this out and the darkest color, Light Plus, is even a bit too light on me (NC25 – 30). It also feels a bit heavy on my oily skin. And the big reason that I wasn’t happy with this is that the cream itself got dirty almost instantly. I’ve got little hairs and just general yuck stuck on to the surface of the cream, and if you’ve ever tried to get a hair off a cream you know it’s next to impossible. Sorry, this is a pass for me.

  10. I’m LOVING all the new BB Creams! I hardly need foundation, so BB Cream tends to be the perfect amount of coverage for me. And I love that MAC is bringing us a BB Cream in a compact! So much easier to tote around, and so much easier to apply in a rush. Light looks like it would be a good match for me, I need to get to a MAC counter to test it out!

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