May 19, 2011

MAC Prep + Prime Beauty Balm Review, Swatches, Photos

So you wanna know the deets on the new MAC Prep + Prime Beauty Balm SPF 35 eh? I’ve had it for several months now heck maybe it’s even been a year….I believe mine came from Duty Free in either Japan or Singapore, not sure which. This was around the original date when it was available within Asia only.

The tube I’m reviewing for you is from Asia but I do want to indulge in the one that has released on our shores as well just to see if the formulas are the same. I suspect they are but out of curiosity I will be buying the other version and comparing the two for any differences.

If you’re unfamiliar with BB Creams or have questions about them I do suggesting familiarizing yourself with them by clicking here.


A creamy base that contains SPF and can be worn alone or under makeup.

There is alot of hype at the moment that surrounds MAC Prep + Prime Beauty Balm because, well, it’s MAC. We all know, love, and trust MAC so we expect the very best from them particularly when it comes to products like BB Creams. Since BB Creams are just starting out their first steps in our market it’s natural we get excited that favorite brands, such as MAC, are the first to dabble their toes in the new product world of blemish balm cream.

There are things I both like and dislike about MAC’s version of a BB Cream.. First off it’s a very rich, creamy product that remains lightweight. The wear is very comfortable and it doesn’t oxidize nearly as quickly as regular foundation so you’re looking at extended wear times depending on your skin type. I can get 6 hours out of it without a touch up normally a BB Cream goes at least 8 for me but anything that works more than 5 hours is ace as far as I am concerned as my skin tends to suck foundation products right up and they disappear fairly quickly. Of course, wear time on this or any BB Cream will vary but I think you’ll be pleasantly happy with the length of wear compared to your normal foundation.

I don’t wear MAC foundation and I’m not familiar with their color range but I’m going to say that NC20-35 should be able to sport this shade fine. It should blend in seamlessly and really it should suit a range of medium fair skin types however not super fair/porcelain complexions and not tan, olive, or darker. It’s a shade that’s smack in the middle so anyone who wears medium shades should be fine. I’m personally an i20-i40 in Shiseido foundation range and this pretty much fits me fine color wise. The color is a warm beige but has a creamy lightness to it as well so it’s not an unflattering shade of beige.

The issues with the product are…

MAC recommends it as a face primer on their website which defeats the entire purpose of a BB Cream which is supposed to act as your foundation. Great a tinted face primer…that’s fab…but why label it a blemish balm cream? It does not contain any whitening agents or anti-aging ones two important factors of a BB Cream however it does contain an SPF 35.

Coverage is very sheer with very little pay off which could be why MAC dubs it a primer. I will say that anyone who has fairly good skin and doesn’t need alot of coverage will like that this evens out skin tone, blurs minor imperfections, and creates an overall flawless finish to skin. I did a little beauty mark test below so you can see how very little it covers.

However, those who need a heavier base to conceal acne, dark spots, or just general problem skin will be disappointed in the lack of coverage.

  • Those wanting lightweight coverage for the Summer with a built in SPF.
  • Those who want a foundation product that perfects, eases dullness, and blurs very minor imperfections.

  • Those who have problem skin in need of extra coverage.
  • Those with have tried traditional Asian BB Creams (this really doesn’t follow the guidelines of a traditional Asian BB Cream formula).
  • Those want the entire BB Cream experience (this lacks anti-aging benefits, whitening, or treatment ingredients).
  • Those with tan, olive, or darker skin tones.
  • Those with very fair skin tones.

Basically MAC Prep + Prime Beauty Balm is a tinted moisturizer in the long run and not a true BB Cream. The product undoubtedly eases dullness and creates a fresher more vibrant finish on my skin plus the added benefit of SPF 35 is great and the extra long wear time however those who are looking for a pigmented BB Cream that creates a truly flawless experience may be disappointed here. It’s a product you definitely need to try before deciding if it’s for you or not however the $30 price tag for a 1 oz tube may be a little too much to splurge when you can get a real BB Cream that has better characteristics than this one.

Overall, MAC Prep + Primer Beauty Balm does much of what MAC says it will do but isn’t a BB Cream in the true sense of the word which could disappoint those who know and use BB Creams already.

For those that never tried a BB Cream before they may be pleased with the overall results so long as they don’t need a ton of coverage.

As someone who’s used alot of various BB Creams, MAC’s version proves disappointing…..the term “blemish balm cream” is loosely tossed around here when in fact that product is not exactly that.

It’s available starting May 31st from MAC if you’re wanting to try for yourself.

I hope to hear from those abroad who have already gotten there hands on this and tried it.

What did you think?

Do share!

I will be updating with a review of the US version should their be any changes to the formula…!

About the Muse

Isabella MuseIsabella is just an average everyday geeky girl who doesn’t blend her eyeshadow correctly, wears too much blush, and hopes she never finds her holy grail products because she likes the thrill of the chase so much. Her mission is to bring you super honest reviews on makeup, skincare, fragrance and all things beauty. She’s in no way an expert on the topic and she sure as hell isn’t a super model. But she’s passionate about makeup and is seeking like-minded individuals that like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and ones that enjoy spending hundreds of dollars at Sephora without feeling buyer’s remorse. If you’re that person feel free to reach out and leave a comment or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Bloglovin‘.

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  • Comrade Garlic

    Thanks for the review. I was planning on ordering this last night. Now I’m not so sure. Do companies really think the US market can’t handle a real BB cream?

    • the Muse

      I feel like that’s what this is turning into comrade LOL….however, this is actually from Asia, weird they didn’t quite get it right!

  • Kelly C.

    Thank you for the review! I know its not a BB cream in the original Asian sense, but this is actually the kind of product that I really like! I love things like Origins VitaZing, and this seems to fit more into that category, a lightly tinted blurring effect with some good SPF that makes a great base for concealer and powder. My skin is FAR from perfect, but I just don’t like a lot of ‘stuff’ on my face, you know? If this is going to be at the counters I might check it out. Or, if my Sephora ever gets the Dr. Jart water one, maybe that would be even better? Any thoughts?

    • the Muse

      Hey Kelly not quite like Vitazing dear. It’s perfect for you than hun! So long as you’re good with lightweight you’ll like this. I’d go with the Dr Jart version, it mimics a bb cream in formulation more fully than mac’s version, the formula is incredibly, so creamy and rich…particularly great if you have dry skin! It has a cooling, refreshing feel ;D! But if you use MAC base products already you might want to check this one out!

      • Kelly C.

        Thanks, sweetie <3 I hope someone does finally release the 'true' BB cream that all the rest of you folks are craving!

    • Kelly C.

      I suppose I do wish it has the anti-aging ingredients (I mean why the heck not, right?) but I can’t say I’m sad that the whitening ingredients didn’t make it- I’m all about my summer color.

      • the Muse

        me too kelly. I’m all about whiter and brighter that def disappoints :-/

  • Cj

    Oh Mac 🙁 I’m so disappointed! I was so excited when I heard about Mac coming out with a bb cream but it seems every new bit of info I hear makes me more and more sad lol. For one I’m on the darker side of NC15 but 20 is still too dark, and it barely covers anything! (btw the beauty mark test was an awesome idea!) I might have good skin but I still like a little coverage lol. Idk if I even want to get this now :/

    • the Muse

      mmm cj I’m sorry I def don’t want to disappoint ya dear ;-D I think you should try it before deciding ;D! I know it does a fine job of easing my dullness but it works more as TM than a full on BB Cream imho though. ha glad the beauty mark helped ;-D!

      • Cj

        Yeah I think I’ll still get it. Just hope it isn’t too dark for me, I might have to get a little tan to wear it 😛

        • the Muse

          return it if anything cj ;-D! although if I were you I’d go with the Dr Jart water fuse, that’s way nicer!

  • lolly05tmua

    Hi Muse!

    I never commented before, but I have a question now about the bb creams. I have a frangrance allergy, and I tought that maybe you can recommend a brand wich made fragrance free bb creams.

    Thank You for your answer 🙂

    A huge fan of you from Hungary

    • the Muse

      hi lolly how are you! 🙂 Ummmmmmmmmmm I’ve tried ALOT of bb creams and most appear to be fragrance free to me but I can’t confirm completely since the tubes aren’t in English. However, I will say avoid Missha as some have a strong scent!

  • winni

    What do we want? A real BB cream! When do we want it? Right now!

    P.S. you are fully responsible for my BB balm cravings! I’m thinking about buying Missha’s in 31, do you think its good?

    • the Muse

      LOL winni ;-D! Missha does good bb’s but sometimes the fragrance kills me on them :-/ TP scented haha….

  • Sonia

    Awesome review, very honest and very educational too (why not?). I’m still waiting for a real bb cream made in america suitable for all skin types….I’m reading everything that you are writing about it and I’m learning so much! Thank you…you are my muse! Lol

  • sarah

    I really love the Missha M Signature Real Complete BB Cream. I use it underneath mineral loose powder foundation, and the results are amazing. I was interested in trying MAC’s, but I think I’ll just stick with Missha

  • Mary the Muse Militant

    I’ll rename it Bogus Balm !
    Many thanks for the review Muse.

  • Alina

    Thank you so much for the review. I am so used to my Missha Watery BB cream, but I love MAC so I thought I may try it. However, I guess I will have to wait until the formulas catch up to what I am expecting from BB creams.


  • Mollie

    Hi Muse! Loooong time no comment. 😉 I’m graduating tomorrow with my BA though… so my absence has been worthwhile. I actually really like the idea of this stuff. I have good skin, but it gets dull sometimes and I am super anal about sunscreen. So the MAC “BB” cream could actually be quite nice. I wonder if they could make me a sample somehow?

    • the Muse

      hey mollie! congratszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! ;-D Mmm possible…mac has been known to give out samples of foundations sometimes so why not the BB? 😀 but as of now it is sold online only as far as I know!

  • Beverly

    Thanks for the review! The beauty mark test was genius idea to see the coverage strength. I also recently saw that Sephora is carrying a Boscia BB cream on their site– I wanna check that one out too

  • asha

    I purchased this BB cream and I absolutely love it. I have very pale light skin with reddish cheeks. I usually wear NC15 or C1. I bought the Light one. This works great as a primer, my makeup lasts so much longer and I dont get that oily look on my T-zone. By itself it illuminates your natural skin tone. It gives you that natural glow. It only comes in light colours so I don’t know how it would work on darker skin tones. It blends well and gives minimal yet buildable coverage. Personally the added longevity it gives my makeup and the Spf are what sells me on this BB cream. The skin illumination is a added bonus. If you use it alone it is best for clear skin because the coverage is very light. Overall I recommend this. I have used make-up forever HD primer in blue, and Macs BB cream still works better in my opinion.

  • PushkaDoll

    I loved your review as I was looking for more information on how to use this product. I have been using it for the last week and love the fact that it gives me coverage without the use of foundation which can look a bit heavy during the day. The colour is ok for me as I normally use nw15 or 20 but after a couple of hours my face looks like an oil slick. The Mac BB Cream seems to hold the shine at bay for longer without a Matt look. I didn’t realise it could also be used as a base so will try it under my foundation for a more evening look. I did also try some of my minerals powder foundation over the top the other day which lasted really well. I normally use this powder to warm up my pasty skin tone but it can get really oily and look sparse as the day wears on. Can you recommend any other BB creams as I’m open to trying others too. Thank you xx

  • Jane

    A bb cream isn’t supposed to have heavy coverage it’s supposed to have skin care ingredients and even out skin tone… If you want a fuller coverage buy a foundation