Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Book Review: “The New Science of Perfect Skin” by Daniel Yarosh, Ph.D. January 22, 2010

I was very excited when I discovered this book.  Finally a book about skincare not written by a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon!  Unfortunately by the end of reading the book I was just disappointed and slightly confused. 

The author Daniel Yarosh is a molecular biologist with over 30 years experience developing and testing ingredients for use in skincare products.  Not only did his lab developed the skincare line Remergent but he also developed ingredients for brands such as Estée Lauder, L’Oreal, and Shiseido.  With a background like this it isn’t much of a stretch that he would think of writing a book about what works and what doesn’t work in regards to skincare, particularly products.  I guess my expectations were high when reading this book because one issue that comes up over and over and over again with clients (or just in “conversations” with myself) is which skincare ingredients really work and which products contain those ingredients?  Understanding skincare product ingredients and product formulations can be a daunting task at time.  I consider it a professional obligation to be up to date about ingredients and their effectiveness.  New ingredients are hyped and promoted all the time in the cosmetic industry, but I always want to understand the science behind those ingredients.  So when I found this book at my local library I thought it would be a guide for me to better understand the above mentioned concepts and ideas.

The overall theme of the book, which is the “new science” mentioned in the book’s title, is the fact that scientists have found a way to reprogram and repair damaged DNA leading to “undoing intrinsic aging itself” in your skin – quite a promise!  Of course, what products does Yarosh mainly recommend in order to undo damage to your DNA?  His own line Remergent.  I always find it suspect when an expert mainly recommends their own products for use.  So this is the main selling point of this book, and the reason why you should read it instead of all the other books out there about skincare.  Basically, the chapter about DNA repair is the only thing that sets this book apart.  There are so many skincare books on the market that do a better job of explaining both the concepts of skincare and how to take care of your skin.

The Good and the Bad:

Chapter 2 titled “Cutting Through the Hype” does a great job of explaining how cosmetic companies formulate, market, hype, advertise, make ridiculous scientific claims about, and price their products.  Yarosh does a very good job at explaining why you can’t believe cosmetic advertising at all (I will definitely be devoting a blog post to this subject in the future) and how you can become an educated consumer by learning to understand cosmetic ingredients.  BUT I don’t agree with Yarosh’s list of “overrated” ingredients since he puts antioxidants on that list. 

Furthermore, this point connects to what I think was one of the strangest things about this book.  On one hand, Yarosh disparages the emphasis placed on the use of antioxidants in skincare products and in caring for your skin.  He uses Vitamin C and E as examples of antioxidants that are overrated.  On the other hand, Yarosh promotes and recommends those same ingredients as effective anti-aging ingredients.  He even lists Vitamins C, E, and A in his list of ingredients that “work” when found in a skincare product.  I am not sure why Vitamin C, E, and A are great ingredients to look for in a skincare product if you are interested in anti-aging but somehow they same ingredients are not good for anything else like brightening or healing or fighting free radicals.  Yarosh is definitely the only expert out there saying that free radicals do not contribute to aging or harm the skin.  He dismisses the idea of antioxidants almost out right.  He is definitely a lone voice in this regard and so it hard to swallow his message when there is so much evidence to the contraryAntioxidants are a great ingredient to look for in skincare products, and I find it almost bizarre that a scientist who develops and researches skincare ingredients dismisses their importance.  This whole issue was one of my biggest problems with this book.  I found the treatment of these ingredients in the book to be very convoluted.

Having said all of that there are a few other good parts to the book besides the discussion of cosmetic advertising and hype.  Chapter 3 in the book deals with how to read a skincare product label and also discusses the “all natural ingredient” fallacy as well ( I will discuss the whole issue of natural and organic skincare products in another post).  It was also interesting to read in this book about the whole process of testing ingredients before they get into a skincare product.

The book also addresses common skincare problems and gives solutions.  I found the part about dark under-eye circles to be very interesting.  Yarosh says that in order to get rid of dark under-eye circles you need to stimulate blood flow to that area of the face.  This blood flow will flush away the dark purplish color that you see when blood accumulates in stagnant veins in that area.  Puffiness will also be reduced. 

Chapters 6 and 7 in the book deal with sun protection and skin cancer, respectively, and are good chapters but, once again, they offer nothing new or special.  It was interesting to read what Yarosh had to say about peptides since peptides are one of the skincare ingredients that everyone is talking about and promoting at the moment.  Yarosh, and in this case he is not the only one, comes out against their effectiveness.  I found both the instructions and the chart at the back of the book that are supposed to help the reader plan and execute their daily skincare regime to be very confusing.  Maybe that is just me, but I felt like that same information could have been presented in a much better fashion.  Chapter 12 of the book is entitled “Future of Skin Care” and contained some interesting information about products and ideas in skincare that are still being developed.

Bottom Line:  Skim this book.  The chapter about DNA repair and the chapter about the future of skin care are pretty much the only things in this book that are new or different from all the other skincare books on the market.  The confusing message about Vitamins C, A, and E in the book really bothered me.  One last note – Yarosh does recommend lots of products in the book.  Of course, as already noted, he mostly recommends his products.  Even though there are hundreds, if not thousands, of premium skincare brands out there I consider myself pretty up to date about companies, but Yarosh recommends numerous products from companies I have never heard of.  I think the reader would have been better served if Yarosh had recommended more products that are readily available to the average consumer.

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