MAC Prep + Prime BB Beauty Balm SPF 35 Review, Photos, Swatches

MAC Beauty Balm

MAC Prep + Prime BB Beauty Balm SPF 35

MAC Prep + Prime BB Beauty Balm SPF 35 ($30.00 for 1 fl. oz.) is described as a “lightly tinted in a nearly sheer beige tone to work on an array of complexions, it creamily re-texturizes the skin and then goes on to excel at being a face primer with high everyday UVA/UVB SPF 35 defense.”

First things first, I have no experience using BB Creams as they are known elsewhere in the world, so I urge you to check out Musings of a Muse’s review on this as well as her informative post on what BB Creams are. She pretty much sums them as one major multi-tasking face product that imparts skincare benefits, along with concealing/foundation and moisturizing qualities.  On its face, MAC isn’t marketing this as a “true” BB Cream from what I can gather, because it’s designed to work best as a face primer–not as a tinted moisturizer, moisturizer, foundation, concealer, etc.

It’s a soft, sheer shade of yellowed beige with soft shimmer-sheen. It’s not something I could wear alone at all, because it just looked a bit too light on me (I am NC25/NC30 for reference). When I layered Kiehl’s Tinted Moisturizer over it, it became something I could use. It seems more like an illuminating primer to me; something like MAC Strobe Cream but yellow-based and with a significantly different texture (not as thick or heavy, thinner, not quite as shimmery).

It works well as a primer; it helped keep my makeup looking fresher longer (ten hours) and always felt lightweight. I only tested this product for two days (not back-to-back), though, because it does have dimethicone as the second ingredient in it, which I am more-often-than-not sensitive to, but for readers, I wanted to give it a shot. I didn’t experience any breakouts, but I deliberately tested it on two occasions but with a week between each try.

The packaging is interesting, because it has a very long, needle-nose applicator that squeezes out the merest amount.  For a product you wear all over your face, it seems too precise.  It’s by no means a deal-breaker, since I would rather squeeze out more than have half the tube squirt out, but I thought it was interesting.

MAC Beauty Balm

MAC Beauty Balm

MAC Beauty Balm

MAC Beauty Balm

MAC Beauty Balm

MAC Beauty Balm

Nothing / MAC Beauty Balm

MAC Beauty Balm / Kiehl’s Tinted Moisturizer over


Comments that do not adhere to our comment policy may be removed. Discussion and debate are highly encouraged but we expect community members to participate respectfully. Please keep discussion on-topic, and if you have general feedback, a product review request, an off-topic question, or need technical support, please contact us!

Please help us streamline the comments' section and be more efficient: double-check the post above for more basic information like pricing, availability, and so on to make sure your question wasn't answered already. Comments alerting us to typos or small errors in the post are appreciated (!) but will typically be removed after errors are fixed (unless a response is needed).

We appreciate enthusiasm for new releases but ask readers to please hold questions regarding if/when a review will be posted as we can't commit to or guarantee product reviews. We don't want to set expectations and then disappoint readers as even products that are swatched don't always end up being reviewed due to time constraints and changes in priorities! Thank you for understanding!

Comments on this post are closed.
Edelmc Avatar

I have pink undertones, do you think this would still work on my nw10-15 skin. Also do you know if it’s available worldwide or just online/America?

Lara Avatar

Hi Christine, do you kniw if it will ever come to Australia, as I asked the mac counters and they didn’t know what I was talking about (as always), which was frustrating.

Melinda Avatar

Thanks for this review. I just posted a request on another beauty board to see if anyone would be willing to post the ingredients for me. Sadly, I will pass on this as Dimethicone is #2 on ingredient list and I am sensitive to the source of sun protection (Avo/Ocxybenzone).

Chelle Avatar

LOL. The shot of you with just the Beauty Balm makes you look like you’re about to be very very ill, or like you’ve just seen a ghost. Definitely not your colour (as you said)!

Jessi Avatar

I wonder if this would be pale enough for me. I don’t like liquid foundations, but I’ve been looking for a product that gives a glow without being over the top shimmery. At $30 for 1 ounce I think I may just wait until MAC releases the mini Strobe Cream soon and get that instead.

Alexis Avatar

I’m usually N15, N20 in summer, suits both tones on my skin, though my skin is apparently just N, not specifically NC or NW, idk if that makes a difference.

Líria Avatar

Well, i don’t think that MAC should have named this a “BB” cream. It’s misleading and seems to me that they’re trying to take advantage of the hype surrounding bb creams without actually making one. The worst part is that this may actually be a good product for other purposes, like being a primer, but because it’s named this way it’ll disappoint people who are looking for a bb cream.

JTisaMACoholic Avatar

I totally agree .. I was so excited .. Now I’m just disappointed! Love BB creams and when I heard mac was making one I thought it would be the best thing ever .. But I guess not. Lol I will still try it out though just coz I’m a sucker. BTW Lioele triple the solution is the best BB in my opinion!

Alex Avatar

I’m not yellow toned – but I do have redness, and I think this would help counteract that before I put on my foundation. Hopefully it’ll help my foundation stay put –

I always find my make up breaks up, or is absorbed?, on my skin before the end of the day and sinks into pores.

I need a good primer, any suggestions anyone? Anyone else had this problem?

Christine Avatar

It should help – it actually does a good job of preventing/reducing makeup breakdown from oil production. You may also like MAC’s regular P+P Primer (they have one with SPF 50 or 55). Smashbox Photofinish is probably the most popular, along with MUFE HD Primer. I use Korres’ Silicone-Free, but that’s because my skin prefers less dimethicone!

Cheryl B. Avatar

Alex: If you are not silicone-sensitive, the oldest trick in the book (so stop me if you’ve heard this one before) is using a product like: Monistat Chafing Relief Powder – Gel (not affiliated with self). It is a clear, dry gel and makes liquid foundation go on SO smoothly. Only runs about $8.50/tube in the US. I can say that it works better for me as a primer than Smashbox. I live in Florida so the ultimate test was about a month ago… spent 5 – 6 hours in 90+ degree Fahrenheit temps and my foundation did not budge; it remained perfect-looking. And yeah, I know it’s a “feminine care” product! Works well in this humidity for that purpose also, but I digress.
And Christine, I read that silicones don’t jive well with your skin… are you careful to use silicone-free hair products? From what I can tell, all anti-frizz/spray on/shine enhancing/detangling/leave-in products have silicone(s) in them. That stuff can rub off on your face…

Christine Avatar

Hey Cheryl,

I use very, very few hair products (I’m just not a hair junkie at all) – I pretty much only use shampoo/conditioner. It’s definitely not the hair products! Any acne I have now is primarily stress/hormonal based. Whenever I use a dimethicone-heavy product for a couple of days, then I’ll get a noticeable increase in acne on my cheeks and face.

Dana Avatar

Thanks for your review. I will probably not purchase this because I tend to breakout from silicone products. I’m surprised it’s $30.00. Mac usually comes in a little cheaper then other brands and $30.00 for 1oz seems on par with the higher end brands. I would have expected this to be around $24.00.

Valerie Avatar

This is day 2 for me with the MAC Prep + Prime BB and I like it a lot. I am NC20ish and it is still a little light for me to wear alone. That’s ok, since I really purchased it as a primer. It does seem to even out skin tone and keeps my makeup looking fresher a lot longer. I notice fewer touchups and since the weather is heating up here that is a plus!! I think cooler skin tones could wear it also. I don’t know if it has HG status, but I like it better than both Smashbox Photofinish and the MAC Prep + Prime with SPF.

Chelsea Avatar

This seems to lighten your skin–is there a lack of shade ranges? Lots of companies do that with their tinted moisturizers.

Tara Avatar

The needle-nose applicator is actually PERFECT for BB cream! 😀 I’m amazed more Asian brands don’t pick up on it. Even though this isn’t a “true” BB cream, it seems to have a lot of the same ingredients and properties as a proper one — which means that you apply ONE DROP ONLY. Any more, and you can get a grayish oxidization or an overly white visage. So that’s why they have that system in place. 😀

Also, because of the benefits of a BB cream, it tends to be more expensive. MAC’s BB cream is actually cheaper than the other three being majorly marketed to Americans right now — two of Dr. Jart’s formulations and a new Boscia, both at Sephora. (They’re all around $40 USD.)

Personally, I like the whitening effect, but I’m also a lot paler. 😀 Over time, it’s supposed to lighten the complexion and even out skin tone. If you’re interested in BB creams still, I would suggest Missha’s M Perfect Cover BB Cream SPF 42 PA+++ in #23, I think. :] Too dark for me, but it would cover much better AND not cause a noticeable white cast.

(P.S. Just about all BB creams create a white cast in flash photography because of their high SPF and specific SPF ingredients…but thousands of women deal with it somehow, so. :D)

September Lena Avatar

I’ll try a BB Cream the day they don’t all come in one colour. They don’t even fit all colours of East Asian people that wear them, talk less of the rest of the world. Black girls like me have no chance…

Eibhlin Avatar

Sorry if this is a stupid question, but what is a bb cream and what is a bb cream designed to do, if this is not a true one? Tx

Rebecca Avatar

Eh, I’m not going to buy it. There are tons of BB creams that are more affordable and have more coverage. It would just look like a tinted highlighter on my skin. I am going to try Lioele.

Grace Avatar

I got excited when I saw your post pop up on my twitter feed, since I have been wanting to try a BB cream. But unfortunately this will most definitely not work since I’m on the dark side of NC40 :/

Kelly Avatar

I am passing on MAC’s version of a BB cream. BTW – if this product is supposed to be applied sparingly, how can one expect to get the full SPF protection? I was also told one must apply SPF liberally in order to get the advertised SPF.

Jill Avatar

This is definitely the type of product I would buy, but I think the shade will be too light for me. If they expanded the shade range, I’d try it out!

Emilie Avatar

It does look more like an illuminating primer than anything. I personally am going to have to say no to it. I could probably fit the shade but because the dimethicone content is so high, I’m going to pass.

None of the BB Creams being released in the states seem to be like the ones from Asia. It’s a bit disappointing since the ones here are imo, much more expensive than their Asian counterparts. I do like Boscia’s version but it’s nothing like the ones from Korea I’ve tried.

Nicole Avatar

BB Cream is very popular in Asia. It is basically all-in-one foundation. (moisturizer, foundation, and sunscreen) I was happy that MAC just made this product! Just wish it was sold off-line as well so I can try out and see what color suits me the best 🙁

Kathy Avatar

Jemma Kidd does something like this with her tinted moisturizers and skin enhancer, doesn’t she? The skin enhancer is in the moisturizer so you have a multi-functional product. I like those, by the way. Now I know why they last so long. Since it’s also less expensive, I’ll stick with that and save my money for your shadow, Christine.
Thanks for the link, by the way. I had been wondering what these were, but had been distracted by Semi Precious and MAC’s Blogger collection.

Andrea Avatar

Is dimethicone an ingredient known to cause breakouts in those that are acne prone? I have recently been using Laura Mercier silk cream foundation (which contains dimethicone) and have wondered if it is the cause of my recent breakouts.

Miss_Silk Avatar

BB Creams are a huge deal in Asia, because it was created towards the skincare side. I recently purchased a BB Cream from the Missha brand because they carry different shades. I tried a sample a long time ago from them and my large pores minimized and some of my acne scaring got lighter so I can barely see it under my foundation on a light to medium coverage. I’ve got yellow undertones so most of the BB creams fit me. But different kinds of BB Creams from different brands can go from being watery to thick. You should look up some more ^^ Lots of Korean artists swear by it!

callie Avatar

I think this is a fail attempt at copying the ever so popular asian beauty trend. Sorry, but if you want a quality BB cream you must stick with a company that knows what the hell they are doing.

ruru Avatar

I’m glad bb creams have finally made its’ way to america! I havent tried mac yet, and given the disastrous consequences I have everytime I try their foundations, I think I’ll pass! I hope that bb cream brands from asia start to make its’ way to america! Especially the ones that are KFDA approved! =D It’s really a cool concept! =D

Ishah Avatar

I’m not sold on this… I love my true BB Creams, the coverage, skin benefits and polished look they give the skin. I think it’s funny that they market them in the western world as ‘Beauty Balm’ and not ‘Blemish Balm’. I think I’ll stick with Missha’s BB Creams, as they’re the only ones that have really released shades for darker skintones.

001pegasus Avatar

I love MAC BB Beauty Balm, it is prob one of the few yellow based BB creams ard that suits my NC 30 to 37 skintone,didn’t make me look ashey. Bought this at LA Airport DFS MAC counter when they first launched in 2010. I have tried using this as a MU base under powder foundations, as a tinted moisturiser over a water based primer. Both ways works great. For me, it caked up after 2 hr if i try to layer this under another liquid or cream base fdn. With or without setting powder, the latter method still doesn’t work. It is very lightweight, offering sheer coverage.

Jennifer Avatar

What would you recommend: Smashbox 5 in 1 BB cream SPF 35 or Mac Prep + Prime BB Beauty Balm? It is the same size, but Smashbox is more expensive, but I preordered it for July so I can still cancel. I am just learning about these and was intrigued b/c it covers a few steps in one product. Also, Smashbox has four colors available : Fair, Light, Medium and Dark…. What do you think Christine??

Bambina Avatar

Missha Perfect Cover B.B Cream is the one I have been using. Missha’s has been one of the best seller in Korea and Hong Kong.

kmk Avatar

Thanks for giving us a picture of the ingredients ! I live in France and this product has just been launched (internet only) today here ! But as usual for M.A.C. products, the list of ingredients is never written on their website 🙁
Thank you for your review, I know now that this BB cream is NOT for me !

Val Avatar

Oh I love this so much…yes it’s a bit too white for me but I use BECCA mineral powder makeup on top and it was ok. This stuff covers my pores and makes my skin looks almost perfect! The oil control ability is perfect as well. Usually with my skin type (my face sweat too), my makeup can only last around 4-5 hours indoors and maybe 2-3 hours outdoors (right now Hong Kong is really hot and humid). I put this on at around 10:30 this morning and when I took it off at 8pm it still looks perfect! In that condition I believe it will still look perfect for another hour or two indoors! Love this!!!!

We try to approve comments within 24 hours (and reply to them within 72 hours) but can sometimes get behind and appreciate your patience! 🙂 If you have general feedback, product review requests, off-topic questions, or need technical support, please contact us directly. Thank you for your patience!