Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Book Review: The Japanese Skincare Revolution December 6, 2016

51bambfqanl-_sx350_bo1204203200_I had wanted to read this book for a long time since I am fairly obsessed with all things Japanese – the culture, the food, their skincare esthetic.*  After it was part of my Amazon wishlist for years I finally took the plunge and purchased it.  I wish I could say that I loved the book, but unfortunately it disappointed me in so many ways.

The Good

The book started off great with wonderful, inclusive advice not just about skincare but about how to lead a fulfilling life.  Not only does the author Chizu Saeki suggest taking a few minutes a day to really tune into your skin (advice I love), she also makes sure her reader knows that each person is unique and that uniqueness should be celebrated.  She encourages her readers to embrace what makes them different and special, instead of trying to be like everyone else.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book include:

My message is simple: anyone who desires to be beautiful can be beautiful, and the power to do that is in your own hands.  A major principle of the Saeki method to get to know your skin and care for it yourself according to its condition.  To do this, you make full use of your hands.  Your hands are the ultimate tools – they can gauge your skin’s condition like a sensor and smooth wrinkles like an iron.  They can also warm and soothe tensed-up skin, making it more receptive to skincare ingredients. (Page 9)

Don’t fuss over every spot and line on your face.  It isn’t as if their presence diminishes your worth as a woman.  Most brown spots and lines can be erased with patience, and, at any rate, the overall demeanor and luster of your face are far more important in determining the impression you give.  (Page 15)

Of course, it’s nice to have good skin – which is why I’ve carefully attended to my face through the years.  But keep in mind that flawless skin isn’t everything.  Beauty isn’t something to be plastered on from the outside; it’s fake unless it also exudes from the within.  (Pages 15-16)

Interestingly enough, though Japanese women, like Korean women, are known for their multiple step home skincare routines Saeki actually encourages her readers to do less to their skin in order for their skin to look good.  For her a few products work best.  She puts an emphasis on how you apply those products to your face and encourages everyone to do daily facial massages.   This is all great advice.

My favorite part of the book were the different facial massage techniques.  Though I know how important facial massage is for the overall look and feel of your skin, I neglect my own face on a regular basis.  Since reading this book I have made sure to massage my face, even just for a few moments, daily and to do a little lymphatic massage as well.  The book includes a few nice of ideas about how to moisturize dry lips or prepare your skin before an important event.  Saeki writes about the importance of a healthy lifestyle in order to have beautiful skin and why you need sunscreen daily.  All excellent advice.  She even writes about how an active imagination leads to positive thoughts will positively benefit the look of our skin in the end. Though all of this is first-rate skincare advice, it is also very basic advice.  No new ground is being broken here.  Much to my immense disappointment there wasn’t much else that I took away from the book.  For me this book certainly wasn’t revolutionary.

The Bad

Saeki encourages her readers to do facial exercises.  Please don’t get me started on why facial exercises are a waste of time; read this post of mine instead.   There is very little truth to some of the skin science she writes about.  Don’t listen to what she writes about how our skin functions.  Listen to The Beauty Brains instead.  Pressing a serum into your face will not help that said serum penetrate all the way down to your dermis.

While I do agree that you don’t need to go overboard with the number of products you use daily in order to have lovely skin, the fact that she says you should exfoliate just with a scrub without any mention of retinol or facial acids perplexes me greatly.  The way she asks her readers to figure out their skin type and her analysis of each skin type is also very elementary.

The Too Bad

Perhaps if I had purchased this book years ago before the Korean skincare craze arrived in the United States I would have found it more valuable.  The thing is most, if not all, of the advice found in this book is easily accessible in thousands of online articles about Asian skincare routines.  I’ve written both here in my blog and on about Korean skincare repeatedly. Though, of course, there are differences between Korean and Japanese skincare routines there is much that is the same – investing time in caring for your skin on a daily basis, performing facial massages, etc.  You could purchases this book in order to have an easy way to look at how to perform the massages in the privacy of your bathroom instead of doing them in front on your computer.  But frankly, you could take your phone into the bathroom with you, find a facial massage video on YouTube, and perform the massage in private.  No book needed.

One of the more prominent homecare ideas Saeki repeatedly mentions in her book is making what she calls a “lotion mask”.  This is essentially a DIY sheet mask.  It’s great that the book contains an easy “recipe” for how to make a sheet mask at home with the skincare products you already have on hand.  But with every store now selling sheet masks for very little money, do you really need to make your own?  You could if you are like me and don’t want to buy a sheet mask ever again after this summer’s sheet mask scandal.  Masking on a regular basis certainly does wonderful things for your skin, but there is no need for you to whip up those masks on your own if you don’t want to.

Bottom Line:  While some parts of the book were charming this really isn’t a must read and certainly not a must buy.  If you want to read a book by an esthetician as opposed to a dermatologist read Complexion Perfection! by Kate Somerville instead.  If you want to know more about Japanese skincare just Google it.


*If you are as obsessed with Japan as I am I suggest watching videos from Begin Japanology.  I learned many interesting things about Japan from these videos.

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2 Book Reviews November 12, 2013

Filed under: Book Reviews — askanesthetician @ 8:24 am
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Can You Get Hooked On Lip Balm?  by


 Age-less by Fredric Brandt, MD

Chances are if you follow skincare and beauty news you’ve heard of Dr. Fredric Brandt.  He is quoted extensively in glossy fashion magazines, and his name pops up all over The New York Times (such as here or here  or here and here to name just a few articles).   A celebrity cosmetic dermatologist who works in both NYC and Miami, Dr. Brandt was one of the first doctors in the US to use Botox and fillers.  He has helped shape the face (pun intended) of today’s cosmetic dermatology and thriving Botox and filler culture.  Of course he also has his own successful line of skincare products.  His book that I am reviewing here; Age-Less, isn’t new at all; it was published in 2002, making parts of it already obsolete, particularly the sections about collagen fillers.  But there is enough well-thought out skincare advice here that I wanted to share my thoughts about the book with my readers.

This book is short and to the point; it was very readable and relatable.  I think that when a doctor is writing a book for the general public the readability factor is a utmost importance so that anyone can clearly understand the points they are trying to make instead of getting bogged down in scientific information.  The subtitle to this book is: The definitive guide to Botox, collagen, lasers, peels, and other solutions for flawless skin, but what I found most topical about the book was the straight-up skincare advice.  As with all books by dermatologists this book begins with a section about how the skin functions and continues with clear-cut information about what ages our skin.  Much to my liking Dr. Brandt takes the time to discuss the importance of protecting one’s skin from the sun and explains what an SPF rating means (though some of this information is outdated since the FDA finally changed their SPF requirements).  For instance he writes on page 16:

This next piece of advice is almost simplistic, but since I am constantly given a multitude of excuses for being sunburned, I think it bears repeating.  First, everyone needs to consider sunblock as vital as toothpaste and as indispensable as those pricey antiaging creams.  No sunblock will offer you complete protection from the sun – you’d need to go outside covered with a metal cage to accomplish that – but the options today are so wonderfully diverse that it’s truly inexcusable not to use one.

The home care advice that Dr. Brandt dispenses is succinct and very helpful.  He also goes over prominent skincare ingredients and how they help the skin.  The skincare ingredient information you can find in a multitude of sources, but if you are confused about how to care for your skin at home this book can help you get started with a simple and effective home care regime.  I did like the fact that Dr. Brandt explains how regular facials can help your skin (page 38):

Unlike our European counterparts, we are not a nation that values pampering rituals like facials.  Usually, as the aesthetician is busy slathering our faces with multiple potions and lotions, we’re busy thinking there must be something more productive that we should be doing instead.  The many new day spas that opened in the mid-1990s increased interest in facials, adding a sense of urgency and obligation to facials as a crucial step in a skin care routine.  There are many benefits to having regular facials.  The pores get professionally cleansed, the facial massage stimulates the skin’s microcirculation, and the concentrated percentages of active ingredients that are applied are a rare treat.  And, of course, anything that makes you feel this relaxed is going to have a positive effect on your skin.

If facials make you feel great, then by all means indulge.  Just remember that a facial is a supplementary treatment, not a replacement for a consistent home care routine.  Your facialist may truly be amazing, but the benefits received from one treatment will not carry you until your next appointment unless you do your share at home.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

A large section of the book deals with the benefits of Botox and of fillers.  While the information about Botox is still topical there have been so many advances in the world of fillers that most of the information in the book is already outdated.

My favorite part of the book is at the end – befores and afters.  I am a sucker for a good makeover.  Here Dr. Brandt takes four different women and shows how injections of Botox and filler can rejuvenate one’s appearance. What is nice about this chapter of the book is that not only does Dr. Brandt explain why and how he chose to do what he did for these patients, but each patient also explains what she thought about the process and results.  If you are considering non-surgical facial rejuvenation (which I fully endorse when done by the right physician) the stories in this book, and most importantly the photos, will be helpful for you in making your decision.

Can You Get Hooked On Lip Balm?

If you are interested in skincare and science, figuring out the truth behind beauty companies’ claims, and making sure that you buy the most effective beauty products you need to be following the blog The Beauty Brains.  I’ve promoted this blog before in my blog for the simple reason that it is one of the best sources on the web for truthful information about the beauty industry.  The creators of the blog are cosmetic chemists so they really know what they are writing about.  There is definitely not an ounce of beauty bs on this site which I love.

The forces behind The Beauty Brains have written a few books; the one I am reviewing here – Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? – which was published in 2011.  The book is divided into sections: hair, skin, make-up, the beauty industry, and cosmetic concerns and perilous products.  At the very back of the book they even explain how to read a beauty product label which is of utmost importance if you want to be a savvy beauty consumer and not be duped by the beauty industry.  Each section of the book contains questions sent in by blog readers followed by a short, but very much effective, answer.  The questions really run the gamut from: Do pore strips really work? to Is it safe to use lipstick on your cheeks? or How to pop a pimple and top five causes of darkened armpits.  The problems and issues covered in the book are real life dilemmas and not at all esoteric.

While I liked the skincare section a lot (truth be told I wasn’t as interested in the hair or fragrance sections) I thought questions and answers in the beauty industry and perilous products sections were the most topical since those sections very clearly teach readers what to believe and what not to believe when it comes to the beauty industry.  On top of that these sections of the book really cut through all the noise and nonsense that surrounds the beauty industry and confuses consumers.  As I already mentioned above, reading this book (or the blog) makes you a much more savvy beauty consumer which in the end saves you lots of money and time.  The advice here is down-to-earth and clearly understandable.  The book is also a malleable read since you can skip around just reading the questions and answers that interest you the most or you can take the time to go through the whole book word by word.  Either way, the book won’t take you a long time to get through.  It is also a good reference book to have at home so you can look up common beauty questions without having to surf the web to find answers.

Bottom Line:  I enjoyed reading both of these books and am happy to have them as part of home beauty library for future reference.

Images from and


Book Review: Heal Your Skin July 5, 2013

There are an endless number of skincare books by dermatologists on the market.  When I decide to purchase (or in this case I asked for this book as a birthday present so many thanks to my sister) yet another skincare book by a dermatologist I want to know that there is some different sort of content in the book that sets it apart from all the other books out there.  In the case of Dr. Ava Shamban’s book – Heal Your Skin: The Breakthrough Plan for Renewal – what I found that was different, especially for a book intended for mainstream, public use, was the chapter about how to care for your skin during cancer treatment.  After reading the book I also thought that this was the strongest chapter in the book overall.


This book is above all easy to read, written in accessible language, and has very concrete steps and suggestions about how to care for one’s skin.  After the obligatory introduction about how the skin works Dr. Shamban gets down to business by talking about what damages the skin and how to stop those “skin enemies”.  Chapter 4 of the book contains great introduction about how to build a skincare routine at home and really explains the basics of good skincare.  Chapter 5 which deals with food, nutrition, and skincare does a fine job at helping readers figure out what to eat in order to stay healthy and have great skin.

The next four chapters in the book, six through nine, discuss specific life situations that impact the skin and how to care for your skin while dealing with or experiencing these situations or issues.  The topics are: pregnancy, menopause, adult acne, and cancer treatment.  Each chapter follows that same format: how the particular topic of the chapter affects your skin, how to heal your skin, skincare and treatment options, nutrition and fitness tips, and step by step skincare regimes.  Dr. Shamban does not, for the most part, recommend specific products instead she gives readers a long list of ingredients to look for when searching for the right products for their skin.  Each of these chapters really gets down to the nitty-gritty of these topics – explaining in detail about what to expect skin-wise when going through these life events or issues, why your skin behaves as it does in these situations, and how best to treat your skin.  The information in each chapter is not only specific but valuable as well.  Out of these four chapters I thought the one about caring for your skin while undergoing cancer treatment was the best (as I already mentioned above).  Since I’ve studied the topic of oncology esthetics more in-depth I can definitely say that Dr. Shamban did a great job at getting the most important information across to the reader/patient in a clear and concise way.  Her concrete advice will definitely help those undergoing cancer treatment.

Next the book has a chapter on fitness and skincare with actual fitness plans.  Lastly a chapter with recipes for homemade skincare products (cleansers, scrubs, masks, etc.).  I haven’t made any of the recipes yet, but I plan to in the future.  The book even contains an appendix that breaks down three ingredient labels for products which is always helpful since trying to understand skincare products labels can be a challenge.


Truthfully I liked this book so I don’t have that much to say in the cons area of the this post.  There were a few minor things that bothered me.  Though Dr. Shamban does not in any way reach the levels hubris that Dr. Wu does in her skincare book (see my review of Dr. Wu’s book for more information about that) she does mention numerous times that she has many celebrity clients and that she was the dermatologist on the TV show “Extreme Makeover” (I should add that I used to watch that show because the makeovers, and who doesn’t love a good makeover, were jaw dropping though totally disturbing on a psychological level.  But that’s a different topic for a different blog).  I don’t understand the need to mention either of these facts more than once.  I really could care less how many celebrity clients Dr. Shamban has. I’m interested in her knowledge and expertise.

The other thing that bothered me about the book was the in skincare regimen sections.  There Dr. Shamban lists numerous ingredients to look for in skincare products and numerous ingredients to avoid.  The lists are overwhelming.  Only occasionally does she recommends specific products.  The fact that she doesn’t recommend products doesn’t bother me per-say, it is the length of the list of ingredients that really irked me and also the fact that there is no explanation about why certain ingredients are ok and others are not.  Personally I like explanations and would like to know why Dr. Shamban recommends certain ingredients but not others.  And if there wasn’t room in the book to explain each ingredient maybe the list should have been shorter with explanations.  I think just listing ingredients is a determent to readers since few people have the time or patience to research skincare ingredients or skincare products’ ingredient lists online or in a store.  In the end I suspect that most readers will continue to use the same products they have always used because they will be overwhelmed with the task of determining for themselves if a product has the right ingredients in it or not.

Lastly, because two of the main topics of the book are pregnancy and menopause this book is really geared toward women and not men which is a shame since men are becoming more and more interested in proper skincare.  It is too bad the book wasn’t more inclusive.

Bottom Line:  I would actually recommend buying this book if you are looking for a good, basic skincare knowledge book to have at home as a guide and if you are a woman.  If you want specific skincare product recommendations you are better off with a different book like Dr. Leslie Baumann’s The Skin Type Solution.  (See my review of her book)  I would recommend looking at Dr. Baumann’s book at the library or Barnes and Noble instead of purchasing it.  If you are undergoing cancer treatment or know someone who is the chapter in this book that deals with skincare during cancer treatment will be invaluable for you or your loved one.

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Book Review: Stop Aging, Start Living by Jeannette Graf, MD September 24, 2012

Also a short review of Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr

I wrote a post a few months ago entitled Is an Alkaline Diet Good for Your Skin? which concluded that yes, an alkaline diet was good for your skin.  After researching that post I wanted to learn even more about the subject of alkaline diets so I read the two books reviewed in this post and attempted to change my own diet (not so successfully) as well.

I was drawn to Dr. Graf’s book Stop Aging, Start Living for a few reasons.  Dr. Graf is a practicing dermatologist with a background in medical research who came to the conclusions that she writes about in her book after years of research and trial and error (on herself and her patients).  I always like to read books by people who back up their medical claims with real evidence and science as opposed to hearsay which is exactly what this book is like.  Moreover, Dr. Graf actually follows the advice that she dispenses in this book.  This is definitely a case of someone practicing what they preach.

The book is clearly and concisely written and an easy read.  Though there are real scientific principles outlined in the book they are done in a way that anyone can understand.  Believe me – I need my science dumb downed for me so if I could understand what she was talking about in this book anyone can.  The book outlines a lifestyle that embraces healthy eating and living.  There are recipes (I haven’t tried any yet I must admit) and skincare product recommendations in addition to skincare regime ideas.  Dr. Graf also includes sources for finding the other products she suggests getting in the book.

Dr. Graf’s co-author Alisa Bowman outlines the anti-aging program in the book’s introduction (pages 4-5 in the paperback edition):

The Nutrition Prescription.  You’ll focus most of your food choices on Jeannette’s eleven alkalinizing Age Stoppers (dark leafy greens, vegetables, filtered water, lemons and limes, garlic and onions, spices, fruit, nuts and seeds, olive oil, sea salt, and specific whole grains) and try to minimize the five acid-producing Age Accelerators (sugar, processed carbohydrates, alcohol, colas, coffee, and animal protein).  Using her 3-to-1 alkalinizing formula, you can continue to eat the acid-producing foods you love by balancing them with more alkaline options.

The Supplement Prescription.  Each morning you’ll drink a sweet but powerfully effective Alkalinizing Cocktail that contains greens powder and fiber.  You’ll also take an alkalinizing mineral supplement with calcium and a probiotic supplement to improve digestion.

The Lifestyle Prescription.  Through laughter (watching funny movies), joy (doing something every week that exhilarates you), and calm (deep breathing, vegging out, etc.), you’ll rev up your brain chemicals that produce joy, happiness, serenity, and an overall sense of well-being.  Your skin will glow as a result.

The Skin Care Prescription.  By using a cleanser, moisturizer, sunblock, eye cream, and makeup suitable for your age, skin type, and skin needs, you’ll reduce the appearance of wrinkles and plump up your skin.  The products work, and they’re affordable and easy for even the least knowledgeable skin care consumer (read: me) to fine. You won’t go broke on this program.

That is really Dr. Graf’s program in a nutshell.  The book expands upon the above topics.

I found Dr. Graf’s program to be easy to follow (for the most part) and realistic (compared to the program outlined in Crazy Sexy Diet – more on that below).  Dr. Graf takes into account that people do not have the time or inclination to make huge lifestyle changes that would disrupt their lives and burden themselves with unattainable goals and edicts.  Take for instance coffee – Dr. Graf acknowledges that while coffee is acid forming and while it really doesn’t have a place in an alkaline diet she still drinks it herself so it isn’t banned entirely from her patients’ diets or from the regime outlined in the book.  Or look at her alkalinizing cocktail which can replace time-consuming juicing and green smoothie making yet still gives you similar benefits to juicing and making vegetable laden green smoothies.

Part 1 of the book is the scientific side of the book.  In this part of the book Dr. Graf explains all about pH and how it affects your body and your skin; she talks about how if your body chemistry is too acidic hurts this your health.  The book also delves into the workings of our digestive system and explains how a properly working digestive system helps your body and your skin.  Lastly, the first  part of the book discusses the importance of joy and balance in our lives and how valuable it is to incorporate activities that make us happy into our lives.

Part 2 of the book explains, in detail, Dr. Graf’s four pronged approach to help you look your best.  There is the nutritional program, the supplement program, the skincare regime, and the lifestyle prescription as well.  I found her nutritional program striking in its easiness to follow and to incorporate into your life.  Yes, it takes some planning to follow her suggestions and you do have to give things up (limit the amount of animal protein in your diet including dairy and eggs and cutback to two cups of coffee a day for example), but the plan, overall, is realistic and clear.  The fact that there are recipes in chapter 10 (I would like to make the crunchy oatmeal raisin cookies with flax soon) and a list of acid forming and alkalinizing foods (pages 222-225) at the back of the book just makes trying to change your eating habits much easier.

The supplement chapter (chapter 6) outlines the different supplements Dr. Graf recommends taking daily and the reasons behind her recommendations.  This chapter also includes her recipe for the alkalinizing cocktail she recommends drinking every morning.  This is the simple way to get all the nutrition you would get from juicing without the fuss and mess of juicing (or expense). Dr. Graf explains how she came up with the idea for her alkalinizing cocktail (pages 89-90):

I stumbled across the greens powder many years ago, after that juice fast that I mentioned earlier.  I knew I needed more fruits and vegetables in my diet, but I was constantly on the move, going from patient to patient.  I traveled frequently.  Sometimes – often with the help of my juicer – I managed to eat ten servings of fruits and vegetables in a given day.  Usually I did not, especially when I traveled.  As committed as I was to juicing, I wasn’t willing to lug the juicer with me on an airplane.

So I began looking for a more concentrated and convenient source of fruits and vegetables.  I discovered greens powders.  Sold online and in health food stores, greens powders are nothing fancier than a powdered form of vegetable juice.  You mix the powder with water and drink.  Most notably, these powders are rich sources of wheat and barley grasses, sprouted grains, broccoli, kale, and other green vegetables.  Wheat, barley, and other cereal grasses in particular are extremely rich in antioxidants, chlorophyll, protein, vitamins, and minerals.  The grasses – the youngest green sprouts of these cereal grains – are actually much more nutritious than the grains (wheat, barley, kamut) that they produce.  They are particularly rich in polyphenols, the colorful pigments in fruits and vegetables that have been shown to promote optimal health.

Thanks to the nutritional goodness of these grasses, some greens drinks – such as my favorite brand, Greens First – contain antioxidant power equivalent to eating ten servings of fruits and vegetables!  That’s what I call concentrated nutrition.

I was really intrigued by the idea of drinking an alkalinizing cocktail each morning.  I went to a very large Whole Foods near my home at the time I was reading this book and looked for the brand recommended by Dr. Graf (Greens First).  When I couldn’t find that brand I decided to try different flavors of another brand since you could just buy one serving sizes.  The brand I tried was called Amazing Grass and the drinks I mixed up tasted just like that – grass.  No matter the flavor it tasted like grass.  It was very hard to drink (I still have one more packet left that I am dreading to try).  Granted I did not try Dr. Graf’s actual cocktail recipe (page 92) or the brand she recommended, but still the taste of the powder was a huge turnoff.  Also no matter how hard I tried to dissolve the powder in water I just couldn’t.  After drinking a full glass of the powder mixed with water I was still left with  sludge at the bottom my glass.  It was gross.  I do think that I need to try the greens powder again since I am nowhere near being able to afford a juicer, and despite my negative experience I still think this is a great idea.

Dr. Graf’s lifestyle prescription calls for incorporating a fun for you activity once or twice a week into your life.  She recommends exercising 20 or more minutes four times a week (fairly doable for the average person), deep breathing twice a day (a great alternative to mediating), laughter (so important and easily overlooked), relaxing for ten minutes twice a day, and finally finding a way to give back as often as you can.  Being able to make all these lifestyle changes every day probably isn’t in the cards for most people, but when you do have the time all of the recommendations in the book are quite doable and not overwhelming.  For instance, how many of you have tried to mediate and just given up in the end?  But can you find time for deep breathing twice a day?  I think most of us can.

Of course I was very interested to read Dr. Graf’s skincare regime advice.  I actually really like it since it was so down to earth, realistic (yes that word once again), and clear.  I found it really interesting that she advises everyone, no matter what is going on with their skin, to use a moisturizer twice a day.  As a retinol, retin-a devotee myself I loved the fact that she sees both as an integral part of an anti-aging skincare routine.  In the book she recommends drugstore products for everyday use though while researching this post I found out that she now has her own line of skincare products (which are very reasonably priced).  I have no idea if her products are any good, but I found it interesting that she has also come out with a skincare line.  Overall, I loved the skincare advice that she dispenses in the book, and if you aren’t into the nutritional aspects of this work I would still recommend reading what she has to say about skincare.

Chapter 9 of the book is an outline of how to really put to use all the information you just read about in the book.  There are three different plans explained – the 24-Hour Kick-Start (hardcore), the 2 Week Plan, and the Baby Steps.  I think most people will want to try the second or third or just the third plan.  Every aspect of your day is explained in detail and meal recommendations are included as well.  There is no guess work about how to incorporate all the information in the book into your life.  Everything is right there before you.

And Now A Little Bit About Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr

Many of you may have already heard of Kris Carr, but for those who haven’t I urge you to read her bio and explore her website.  Personally I find her story very inspirational and was looking forward to reading her book.  Now keep a few things in mind when you read Crazy Sexy Diet – the lifestyle choices recommended in this book are not for most.  Not that many people are willing to embrace a largely vegan and raw diet.  Not that many people can fast and/or go on juice cleanses.  Not everyone is willing to give up their coffee.  And not everyone has the time first thing in the morning to mediate and exercise before going about their daily business.  I would love to start my day like that but my son has drastically different ideas of how our morning should look like.  Having said all of that I found aspects of this book wonderful and inspiring.  Though Carr’s food and lifestyle plan do not work for me as a whole there were parts of the book and ideas from the book that I was delighted have encountered.  Just the outpouring of positivity that the book embraces is worth the price of the book.  As I was reading this book I kept thinking of different friends, who for varying reasons, would benefit from this reading this book.  I think there is really something, even if it is small, that everyone can take away from this book.  Just because you aren’t ready to spend your days juicing and eating raw vegan meals while telling yourself positive affirmations doesn’t mean that you can’t find something of use to you in the pages of this book.

Bottom Line:  If you are looking for a reasonable and fairly easy way to improve your health and help your skin I recommend Dr Graf’s book.  If for whatever reason you feel like you need a total lifestyle overhaul I recommend Carr’s book.  And if you just need a little inspiration and a pick-me-up turn both of these books can help you.

Just for Fun:

Further Reading:

In case the ideas espoused in Crazy Sexy Diet sound new to you be sure to read The Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle which is a fictionalized account of the going ons at Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s Battle Creek Spa.  Ideas about healthy eating and how to care for one’s body have been around for eons, in different permutations.

Images from and


Book Review: Feed Your Face by Jessica Wu, MD November 10, 2011


I noticed Dr. Jessica Wu’s book Feed Your Face last year at my local Barnes and Noble and was intrigued, but I frankly I didn’t want to invest in buying the book so I was psyched to see that my local library had a copy.  There was a simple reason why I didn’t want to invest my money in buying this book – there really isn’t any new information in this book.  Now before you think I didn’t like this book let me explain.  I thought Dr. Wu’s book, for the most part, was well written, concise, easy to read, and contained a lot of good information.  They only thing was – there wasn’t really any new information in this book and you had to slog through lots of celebrity name dropping and ego stroking to actually get to the useful information in the book.  I’ll explain.

Check Your Ego At the Door

Dr. Wu spends a lot of her book reminding her readers of a few things:  she is a graduate of Harvard Medical School, she has MANY celebrity patients, and she used to be ugly but now she looks great.  I do have to say that if the one grainy photo included in the book is supposed to make me really believe that Dr. Wu used to look horrible in the past (acne, bad haircut, etc.) she should get a look at one of my photos from high school to really see how terrible one can look (I had an extremely unflattering haircut in high school coupled with grossly oversized glasses, not meant as an ironic fashion statement, and awful acne) and reevaluate her statement.  But I digress.  How many times do I have to read that Dr. Wu attended Harvard Medical School and that she has a large celebrity following?  I found the fact that she constantly harped on these details to be a massive turn off for me.  Neither of those issues made me want to read her book more.  They actually made me want to read the book less.  But the real kicker for me came with the following encounter Dr. Wu related in chapter 5 of the book (pages 99-100):

Not long ago I spent the evening at a charity fund-raiser in West Hollywood.  (One of my patients organized the event, and she was kind enough to snag me a ticket.)  It was a raucous scene –  a welcome change of pace from the buttoned-up medical conferences I usually attend – and I was enjoying the music, the dancing, and the free-flowing Champagne.  Suddenly I caught the eye of a handsome young actor.  I’d seen him professionally (during a routine exam at my office), but the thought of his sweet, shy smile and cool blue eyes still tied my stomach in nervous knots.  He waved and began making his way though the crowd.

I don’t usually develop crushes on celebrities, no matter how handsome.  After all, I am a doctor, a professional.  I went to Harvard, for crying out loud!  But this man is so charming, so charismatic, so unbelievably dreamy, that he usually travels with an entourage of swimsuit models and Hollywood “It Girls,” all clamoring for his attention.  That night, however, he was uncharacteristically alone.

We exchanged somewhat awkward hellos, and then, to my delight, he leaned forward to whisper something in my ear.  “Could we … go somewhere?” he asked.  He smelled like palm trees and expensive aftershave, a dizzyingly sweet combination.

I thought about my husband, home alone, probably reheating those noodles from last night’s dinner, sitting among a pile of work papers at the kitchen counter, dripping stir-fry sauce on his tie.  But I couldn’t help myself.  I followed the actor as he cut a path through a jam-packed dance floor, past throngs of tipsy partygoers, and led me into a dark, dimly lit hallway near the bathrooms, tucked out of view from the crowd.  All I could hear was the thud, thud, thud of my heart in my chest.  I can’t believe this is happening, I thought.  I can’t believe this is happening!  I held my breath as he leaned in and asked the question I’d been waiting to hear:

         “Um, could you take a look at this rash?”

Come on!!!  Really???!!!   Did the above story really need to be included in this book???!!  I have to say that these types of stories coupled with Dr. Wu’s incessant need to remind her readers of her educational background and current roster of celebrity clients were a huge problem for me with this book.  And that’s a real shame since the book contains lots of valuable information but you have to get past all the superfluous information in the book to get the real facts that can help your skin look its best.

One last thing in this category – Dr. Wu also uses her book as a way to settle scores with, if you are to believe her, is a rather old-fashioned and sexist professional dermatological community.  Dr. Wu takes pains to explain why she prefers to dress in sexy stilettos and skin-tight skirts instead of boring, boxy clothes and how most other dermatologists won’t take her seriously because of her choice of clothes.  Take for example the following (page 340):

There’s nothing more annoying (or more self-confidence-crushing) than being ignored or excluded because of the way you look – whether that’s because you’re a geek in glasses who can’t roll with the cool kids (that was me in high school) or because you’ve embraced your love of Louboutins and, subsequently, people think you’re an airhead.  (Sometimes that’s me now.)  But you know what?  Every year when it comes time to pack for the AAD Conference, I don’t reach for my most conservative duds.  Instead, I pack the hottest thing I own and a kick-ass pair of heels, because when they call the featured speaker to the stage, I can hold my head up high.  There is nothing like that long walk from the back of the room to the podium, the moment when 8,000 doctors realize they’ve flown thousands of miles and shelled out hundreds of dollars to listen (and learn!) from me: the petite woman from the party, the one who just doesn’t look like a doctor.  Knowing that I’ve earned the right to speak as a medical expert (and look damn good doing it) is the best feeling in the world (right up there with graduating from Harvard Medical School and getting paid to examine half-naked celebrity hunks).

Now while I think that a discussion of sexism in the medical community is important and necessary I found it disconcerting that Dr. Wu used her book as a vehicle to try to shame and reproach her fellow professionals.  Isn’t there a better time and place for this?

Having Said All That – What I Learned

It is a shame that Dr. Wu fills her book with so many unnecessary comments because overall her book is interesting, straightforward, and filled with a lot of helpful information.  The premise of the book is that through a healthy diet you can achieve great looking skin.  Is there anything revolutionary about this book and the diet it recommends?  Absolutely not.  The diet Dr. Wu recommends a low glycemic one that emphasizes eating lots of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and making sure you have omega 3s in your diet.  Numerous people have recommended a diet like this for weight loss and a healthy body.  Dr. Wu connects how certain foods directly affect the skin – both positively and negatively which is interesting.  Unlike the book The Clear Skin Diet which extensively quotes scientific studies in the body of the book Dr. Wu summarizes the findings of studies and then lists her sources in the back of the book so if you want you can look them up yourself.  This makes her book quite readable and accessible though not dumb downed at all.

I did learn quite a few things – like that if you have eczema who should avoid eggs, if you insist on eating a bagel pair it with some fat so that your body digests it more slowly, that almonds will protect your hair from going gray, and if you must have a candy bar have one that contains nuts, like a Snickers, which is better than eating pretzels which are simple carbs and your body just breaks that down like sugar.  Furthermore I learned the importance of eating tomatoes (and I loved that Dr. Wu puts pizza on her list of allowed foods), page 40:

Tomatoes have more lycopene than almost any other food, making them particularly effective at preventing sunburn and UV radiation damage in the skin.  In fact, studies show that eating as little as 20 g of tomato paste per day (about 1 1/4 tablespoons) can reduce the risk of sunburn by as much as 33 percent.

The next time you’re heading to the beach or spending the day in your garden, add some tomatoes to the menu.  You’ll counteract the effects of a day in th sun as well as help prevent wrinkles, age spots, and inflammation (not to mention lower your risk of developing skin cancer).  Even when you’re not lounging poolside, adding more tomatoes to your diet can protect you from the small amount of UV light you’ll inevitably encounter when your sunscreen wears off – or when you forget to put it on!

You can get the same amount of lycopene found in 20 g of tomato paste by eating

  • 1 slice of pizza (with marinara or red sauce)
  • 1/2 cup of V8 juice
  • 6 tablespoons of salsa

Bear in mind that lycopene is better absorbed by the intestines when the tomatoes are cooked.  In fact, the lycopene in tomato paste is four times more “bioavailable” than in fresh tomatoes (meaning it’s four times easier for the body to absorb).  The absolute best source of lycopene (offering the most sun protection) are tomato paste and tomato sauce – so opt for pizza instead of a burger, especially if you are dining al fresco.  Lycopene is also fat soluble, which means you need to pair your tomatoes with a healthy fat to get the maximum benefits.  Try drizzling tomato slices with a splash of olive oil or enjoy them with some avocado.

One more thing: Lycopene may be effective at preventing sun damage, but a diet rich in tomatoes doesn’t preclude the need for sunscreen altogether.  Slather on a minimum SPF 30 every time you’re headed outdoors.

Interesting stuff and well worth reading.

Since I’ve read The Clear Skin Diet (read my review here) the chapter about acne and diet was simply a review for me (avoid sugar and dairy, eat whole foods, etc.).  But there was a curious part of that chapter that didn’t make much sense to me (especially after a client of mine, with whom I was discussing the book, pointed out to me that this had little logic to it) and that was Dr. Wu’s assertion that iodine exposure causes acne.  Now I have read before that excessive iodine exposure will cause acne, but what makes little sense here is that in Japan, where the traditional diet is high in iodine, the national rates of acne are very low.  The Japanese began experiencing acne at the same levels as Americans when they moved away from that traditional diet and began eating a more American diet – high in fat and sugars and low in vegetables and omega-3s.  (See chapter 7: The Former Clear Skin Nation: Japan in The Clear Skin Diet for many more details on this phenomena).  So while it is true that the traditional American diet contains too much salt in it and that excessive consumption of iodine has been linked to acne I feel that singling out Japanese food as an acne culprit (see page 90 in the book) is misguided.

Chapter 6: To Tan or Not to Tan does a good job at going over the dangers of sun exposure and the importance of daily sun protection.  Dr. Wu’s discussion of the Vitamin D controversy (pages 149-151) is well done.  What I really appreciated was the meal plan for her diet outlined on pages 264 – 282.  Though vegetarian options were few and far between (I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years so I’m not going change now) I could see how I could tweak the menus for my use.  I just wished she provided some dessert options besides a strawberry drizzled with dark chocolate.  I found Chapter 8: Eating for Stronger, Healthier Hair and Nails thorough and helpful.  And according to Dr. Wu eating almonds prevents gray hairs so with the amount of almonds I consume on a daily basis I shouldn’t have any gray hairs ever.  The book even contains a chapter on how to make your own skin products at home if you are so inclined which is a perfect area to cover with the economy being as it is these days.

Buy It?

Overall I thought this book contained a great deal of valuable information.  The dietary tips, instructions, and menus are logical and easy to follow though you’ll have to cheat once or twice or go crazy.  Certainly this book made me reexamine my diet, and I got to thinking about how much sugar is contained in everyday foods (like your supermarket peanut butter).   This book could be a valuable addition to a home library though if you want a book that truly covers ALL skin issues purchase Simple Skin Beauty by Dr. Ellen Marmur.  If only Dr. Wu had stopped shoving the fact that she went to Harvard and has celebrity clients down the readers throat.  The book could have been a lot better without Dr. Wu trying to prove to everyone how smart, capable, and sexy she is.  In my opinion, address those personal issues with a therapist not your readers.


Book Review: The Clear Skin Diet March 17, 2011

One of the earliest posts I wrote for this blog was called:  Is Your Diet Causing Your Acne?, and in that post I basically concluded that there is no connection between diet and breakouts.  Well I have to say that I have changed my mind in regards to the connection between diet and acne.  I now do believe that you can improve your skin, in this case acne, with the help of a healthy diet.

I started to change my mind about the diet-acne connection about six months or so ago when I noticed a change in my skin after I drastically cutback on the amount of dairy that I was eating.  Almost a year ago I started to see an acupuncturist about chronic pain I had in my right shoulder.  Since Traditional Chinese Medicine treats the body as a whole as opposed to just focusing on what is bothering you and looks to bring balance back to the body one of the things my acupuncturist and I discussed was my diet.  She suggested that I cut back on dairy, sugar, and fried foods.  Well this scared me.  I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years, and I love dairy.  I pretty much ate dairy with every meal which isn’t surprising since if you look at vegetarian recipes they seem to inevitably have some sort of dairy in them.  I thought – how could I ever give up dairy?  But I wanted to feel better so I decided to try to cutback on the amount of dairy I was consuming.  I bought almond milk instead of cow’s milk (I absolutely hate soy milk so I wouldn’t even consider getting that) and started eating oatmeal each morning instead of my cup of greek yogurt.  And now the added bonus – anyone who has read the “about” section of my blog knows that I have suffered from acne for the last 20 years or so and this constant skin condition lead me to become an esthetician since I wanted to learn more about skin and skincare and help others as well – as I cutback on the amount of dairy I was consuming my skin started to look much better (and I lost a few stubborn pounds that I hadn’t been able to lose since I had my son three years ago).  No my breakouts have not stopped completely and yes I still follow a strict home care anti-acne regime, but I could definitely see a positive change in my skin.  I was very surprised to say the least.  I also really started to notice, more than ever before, a connection between how stressed out I was and the number of breakouts I had.  So now that I had seen a change in my skin I wanted to learn more.  I finally checked out The Clear Skin Diet from the library and started reading it.

So in many ways the authors of this book were preaching to the choir when it came to me reading this book since I have really started to believe in a connection between diet and health, including skin health.  At times I got very bogged down in the number of studies and scientific proof and explanations that the authors presented in the book, but truthfully I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.  I was glad that the book didn’t just state a connection between certain foods and acne but actually proved that connection by quoting and explaining numerous scientific studies from all over the work (the scope of the research quoted was impressive).  Not only that but the authors of the book did the opposite as well; they thoroughly explained why so many doctors do not believe in a connection between food and diet.  Furthermore, the book goes out of its way to explain how past studies that claimed to prove that there were was no link between diet and acne were flawed and need to be reconsidered.  I really appreciated how much explanation the book contained.  Another thing I liked about the book were the summaries at the end of each chapter so if you didn’t want to read an entire chapter and just needed to be reminded of the key points in a chapter it was easy to do so.

The core point of the book is that the typical American diet which includes fast food, white bread and rice as opposed to whole grains, many foods filled with saturated fats, few vegetables and fruit, a lot of sugar, and many processed foods causes inflammation in the body which then triggers the production of hormones which lead to acne (this is an extremely brief summary of what the book aims to prove).  By changing the foods you eat you can stop this process from happening and thus help to clear up your skin.  The book doesn’t just promote changing one’s diet in order to improve their skin but also mentions leading a less stressed life in order to see an improvement in one’s skin.  The book goes beyond just explaining how diet and stress affect the skin, but also gives lots and lots of concrete tips on how to go about distressing and changing your diet.  It is great that the book doesn’t just say you need to change your lifestyle and/or diet but actually gives you the tools to do so.

I found two parts of the book intriguing.  The first thing I found interesting was the discussion of probiotics (chapter 5: Acne – A Gut Reaction) and acne and the other was the statistical information about the rise of acne in Japan as the traditional Japanese diet has given way to a more Western diet (chapter 7 – The Former Clear Skin Nation – Japan).  I had never given much thought to The trillions of microbes living in my intestines and how they affect my health but now I will.  I am on the lookout for topical skincare products that incorporate probiotics into them; I think we will be seeing more of those in the future.  So far I have found Bioelements Probiotic Anti-Aging Serum which, as the name suggests, isn’t marketed at acne sufferers but rather at people interested in an anti-aging product.  The chapter about Japan clearly presents a quite convincing report on how the traditional Japanese diet that includes lots of green tea, few processed foods, omega-3 rich foods, more fiber, little dairy, and a variety of foods rich in antioxidants protected the majority of the population against acne.  As Japanese food habits have changed and shifted more towards an American diet the rate of acne in Japan has risen tremendously.  As the charts, statistics, and research presented in the book explain this rise in acne with the change in the Japanese diet cannot be mere coincidence.  Lastly, I was also really fascinated by the studies that the authors quoted about the connection between diet and all sorts of other diseases like depression and anxiety.  For so long I have held on to the Western notion that diet, skin, beauty, and mood are not closely related so I was captivated (for lack of a better word) by the whole connection between food and health and not just for the sake of preventing acne.

Now if you are not one to want to read about scientific studies and such you can do two different things with this book:  read the summaries at the end of each chapter and read and follow the action plan for clear skin outlined in chapter 8 of the book.  There is a clear list of foods to include in your diet and which foods you should limit or avoid entirely.  I for one am making sure that I drink my green tea everyday without fail.

The one thing I didn’t really like about the book were the food suggestions and recipes.  I actually found all of the recipes completely unappealing, and I say this as someone who likes to cook and is always on the lookout  for new recipes to try.  Also in the food/snack suggestions dairy is mentioned again and again which is strange, in my opinion, since the book time and again talks about limiting the amount of dairy that one consumes.  Yes, I know the book explains that not everyone needs to completely cut dairy out of their diet and that different types of dairy affect one’s skin differently, but I just felt it strange that so many of the snack suggestions had dairy (or white potatoes) in them instead of someone coming up with a more creative, dairy-free suggestion.

Overall I really liked this book.  I would definitely suggest that if you are struggling with acne and have tried numerous topical solutions, oral antibiotics, etc. to no avail that you seriously consider changing your diet.  Yes, genetics plays a major role in acne (because we all know that person who eats fast food morning and night and never gets a pimple or gains weight, right?  I hate those people as much as you – believe me) as well as hormones, but perhaps the missing link to clear skin really is diet.  Eating healthy will only benefit you – there is no reason not to try the suggestions in this book.  You don’t need to try the actual recipes.  Take the list of good and bad foods and proceed from there.  And do a little meditation in the evenings as well.  Your body will thank you.


More reading, if you are inclined:

  • If you are less interested in effects of diet on acne but more interested in anti-aging be sure to read Dr. Amy Wechsler’s book The Mind-Beauty Connection.  I’ve recommended this book numerous times before in my blog, and I’ll continue to do so.  Her advice about living a healthy, happy life and how that will positively affect your skin, appearance, and psyche is wonderful.
  • Once I decided to give up eating a lot of dairy I went on the hunt for a good vegan cookbook.  I’ve been pleased with most of the recipes I tried in Appetite for Reduction.   The salad dressings in particular are great and so is the baked falafel.
  • Another great source for vegetarian and vegan recipes is Nava Atlas’ website Veg Kitchen.  Her cookbooks are great too.
  • For a concise article about the topic of this book read this article from WebMD Healthy Diet, Healthy Skin.
  • Can Eating Carbs Give You Pimples?Skin Inc.

Book Review: Allure Confessions of a Beauty Editor January 24, 2011

I will readily admit that I am quite a johnny come lately when it comes to reading this book.  It came out in 2006, and I am only getting around now to looking at it.  I figured since I am such a fan of the magazine Allure that it really was time to look at their book. 

I really wanted to love this book, but it definitely fell flat for me.  I’ve always enjoyed the letter from the editor page in Allure by Linda Wells, the magazine’s founding and current editor-in-chief, and once again her very short essays at the beginning of each chapter in the book were a highlight for me.  And the rest of the book – well it was a mystery to me frankly.  The book was so basic!  I still can’t quite figure out who the book’s intended audience was and why everything in the book was so dumbed down.  There are even instructions in the book on how to shave your legs! 

Is the intended audience for the book was a 13 year-old girl who was just starting to get interested in skincare and make-up then I would understand both the tone and content of the book, but I truly doubt that 13 year-old girls were the intended audience for the book.  In my opinion the magazine Allure is aimed at smart and savvy women who are very interested in skincare and make-up and who definitely don’t need to be told to exfoliate their skin or taught how to properly shave their legs.  I would assume that the average Allure reader really wants to know if there is a new and effective exfoliant on the market and how the latest innovations in hair removal work.  So why didn’t the book contain any information like that? 

Was there any new and exciting information in this book?  No, not really.  Overall I liked the make-up section the best.  Though most of the tips were old hat, I did pick up one or two new ideas on how to apply my make-up.  But so much of the book was extraneous and down right dull.  For instance, does anyone really need to be told that you have to apply your eyeliner before your mascara or you’ll end up with a huge mess?  I think you only need to be reminded of that if you have never applied eye make-up.

One more gripe for me were the photos.  The models in the photos are all extremely young, but what bothered me even more were how completely airbrushed the photos were.  Instead of offering up a realistic portrayal of how a woman could look if she followed the tips in the book, the photos instead offered an extremely stylized and unattainable beauty ideal.  No one has such perfect skin in real life.  The lighting in the photographs is amazing – no one and I will repeat no one can look that good in real life!  Yes, the photos in Allure are always stylized and high fashion, not particularly realistic, but the photos in the book, in my opinion, took that aesthetic too far.  Plus the photos looked really dated to me, as if they had been done in the late 1990s or early 2000 instead around 2005.  The photographs were so artificial that they ended up being a huge turn-off for me.

So who should you buy this book for?  I suggest getting the book for your favorite niece who is just starting to be interested in skincare and make-up or for your daughter who wants to begin wearing make-up and taking care of her skin.  And if you want a book at home with the most basic of information about skincare, body care, and make-up application this is the book for you.


Book Reviews: Make-Up Tutorial Books September 22, 2010


I am pretty much all thumbs when it comes to make-up application.  Truth be told I didn’t really start wearing make-up on a daily basis until I was in my 30s.  I have to admit that I was always intrigued by make-up but completely intimidated by make-up application to the point of near paralysis.  A few years ago I started playing around with make-up.  Now I feel that I look much better with at least a little make-up than without any at all.  In my opinion a little eyeliner, mascara, and lip gloss go a long way. 

Now you might ask – as an esthetician don’t you want to help me get skin that looks great so I don’t need make-up?  Of course that is one of my goals as an esthetician.  But we all must remember that perfect skin is almost completely unobtainable.  In the words of the great make-up artist Pat McGrath: “How can anyone really look like she has perfect skin without any makeup on?”  McGrath is, sadly, right on target with that comment.  But here is my outlook on make-up – for a day-to-day look I think make-up should be subtle and enhance what you have and hide what you don’t like especially.  While make-up is a fantastic medium in order to experiment, create, and be artistic with (there is a very important reason why make-up artists are called just that) it doesn’t need to be unnatural or a mask.  I love the idea of using make-up to enhance your best features and to boost your self-confidence.  A make-up routine doesn’t need to be complicated or overwhelming.

So why make-up books you might ask?  Certainly there is no end of make-up tutorials available online (particularly on YouTube).  But this is the thing, as I wrote at the beginning of this post, I’m all thumbs when it comes to make-up application so I need photos, step by step instructions, diagrams if possible, and more photos on how to apply my make-up, and I need those things in front of me, in the bathroom, as I attempt to apply my make-up.  Though I now have a netbook that I could bring into the bathroom with me I don’t want to have to rely on the whims of technology (or the speed of my home internet connection) in order to view a make-up tutorial.  But on top of that – I like books.  I want to be able to open up a book anytime, anywhere in order to learn how to create a make-up look.

Now while I was given a few basic make-up lessons in esthetics school and tried to experiment on my own I realized that I needed help.  So I started searching for a make-up book that would teach me the basics and beyond (I was particularly interested in eye make-up and still am for that matter).  While my job rarely calls on me to do someone’s make-up or give a lesson I realized that I would have to prepared for that eventuality since make-up application is considered part of an esthetician’s job.

The first make-up tutorial book I purchased was the late, great Kevyn Aucoin’s Making Faces.  As a make-up artist Aucoin was in a class by himself.  His looks are extraordinary and gorgeous.  The book is inspiring.  The book has makeovers of ordinary women and instructions on how to create classic make-up looks like “the vamp”, “the flapper”, and “the starlet”.  While there is no denying Aucoin’s genius (yes genius – look at the book and you’ll agree) in applying make-up I realized that even with step by step instructions and diagrams I still needed more basic instructions.  For me this book serves as an aspiration.  I hope one day I can apply make-up well enough to get close to recreating one of the looks in the book.

So my next make-up book purchase was Bobbi Brown’s Makeup Manual.  I like this book for its clear and concise instructions on make-up application and make-up tools.  My favorite part?  Photos!  Lots and lots of photos!  I learned how to do a smoky eye from Brown’s book.  The step by step photos really helped me understand each part of the process.  Smoky eyes, a make-up look that had always scared me (yes, scared me), became very doable with the instructions in Brown’s book.  I also really like Brown’s basic make-up look which though it is ten steps doesn’t take too long to achieve.  Bobbi Brown is known for her signature natural, not over done make-up look and these clear instructions help anyone achieve those same results.  And if you are at all interested in pursuing a career as a make-up artist this book is a must read for you since the final chapter is all about the business of make-up artistry.

My most recent make-up book purchase was Robert Jones’ Makeup Makeovers.  What a great book!  Basic but not dumbdowned, helpful, and thorough.  One of the reasons I wanted to buy this book was for the instructions on contouring (something I am still working my nerves up to trying contouring on myself), the precise instructions on how to do make-up on different face shapes and different eye shapes, and the summaries of how Jones did each makeover featured in the book.  Though Jones has a definite style of make-up application you can still take his tips and do your own thing.  Most of the transformations in the book are on real women, not models, and it is amazing to see how great he made each of them look.  The women are also all ages, shapes, and ethnicities which is wonderful to see (the same can be said of the models in both of the other make-up books I already mentioned).  While reading this book I found myself going to the mirror or to my make-up supply in order to immediately try out some of Jones’ tips and instructions.  There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from this book.  (It turns out that you can get online lessons from Jones, for a fee of course, through his web make-up academy)

And last but not least I would be quite remiss if I did once again mention Allure magazine in this blog.  The monthly print edition of Allure will keep you up-to-date about the latest make-up trends.  The looks in the magazine will certainly give you inspiration for your own make-up looks.  The website has daily updates on things beauty related and offers many make-up tutorials as well.

Now I just need to work out the courage to try out false eyelashes – wish me luck!


Book Review: Lessons of a Lipstick Queen September 7, 2010

I can’t remember when I first heard about Poppy King, her lipsticks, or her seemingly implausible accomplishments, but I was always impressed and intrigued by King and her runaway success in the make-up business at a very young age.  So when I saw that King had written a book about her experiences, Lessons of a Lipstick Queen, I was very interested in reading what she had to say.  Truth be told I’ve never tried one of her lipsticks; it was always her story that I found fascinating.

So who is Poppy King and what is so interesting about her life?  I’ll let King explain in her own words:

Gosh… It is hard to know how to tell this without it sounding like I made it up… But I didn’t! I started my own lipstick brand in 1992 in Melbourne Australia when I was about 6 months out of high school and had just turned 18.

I did this not because I was a chemist, a make up artist, a designer or anything else (I was barely an adult and sometimes wonder if I am one yet!) I did this because I couldn’t find any lipsticks I liked. They were all thin, slimy and too greasy feeling. Plus there were no deep colors or browns and most reds went pink. I wanted lipsticks that gave me the look of the 1940’s. Rich, opaque and filled with pigment.

So… On a whim I found manufactures to mix up some lipsticks, a business partner and the nerve to approach a few stores. It became a run away success!

For 12 years I had a brand called Poppy that specialized in all sorts of lipsticks and lip glosses (I am obsessed with the lips and every possible color, texture, finish and technology there is to make your lips look amazing). During those 12 years I experienced many of the ups and downs involved in running a business so when I was approached in 2002 to move to New York and join a large cosmetic company I decided it was time for me to try something new.

Which I did… However my fascination, obsession and borderline insanity regarding specialized lipsticks and lip products would not leave me. So last year I decided once again to return to having my own business and the obsession that has been with me since my school days.

Intriguing, right?  How many of us can say that at the age of 18 we took a personal obsession, created a business because of that obsession, and made that business a success very quickly?  Not many people have done what Poppy King has done.

The book is actually a how-to guide for the would be entrepreneur in all of us.  Interspersed amongst King’s advice for how to start, develop, and grow your business are short asides titled “my story” where King illustrates her points with a tale from her own experiences.  I found King’s book straight-forward, heartfelt, and helpful.  I’m not someone with a business background or any business know-how so reading a clear guide to how to start and build a business was interesting for me.  I was grateful to King for being so honest about her own mistakes (her candor reminded me of Ruth Reichl’s autobiographies which I loved), lack of confidence at times, and her own need for both professional and personal improvements.  I liked the fact that King was enthusiastic, upbeat, and lastly that she broke down everything about starting a business into the easiest of terms.

There were two things that “bothered” me about the book.  The first is that I kept finding that I would skip pages ahead in the book just to get to the “my story” parts.  I wished the book was done in reverse – that most of the book was King’s personal story and the asides were her advice.  As I wrote at the very beginning of this post, I was always captivated by King’s personal story and journey.  The book only provided a glimpse into her story; I was left wanting to know more.  The other thing that I found interesting about the book, which was published in 2008, was for the most part a lack of acknowledgement or instruction on the use of social media and the internet to promote or otherwise help your business.  While I know that King started her original business before the internet was such a daily, powerful force in our lives nonetheless I thought it was strange that the its power and possibilities weren’t addressed further.

All in all, I would recommend this book if you have an idea for a business but don’t know how to proceed with that idea.  If I ever have an original idea for a business I will definitely give this book a read again.  In the meantime, I will be waiting for King to write a true autobiography which I will be interested in reading.  Lastly, I do have to say that while reading this book I had an almost overwhelming urge to put on lipstick and will definitely think to try or even buy one of King’s lipsticks in the future.

Poppy King’s current lipstick line can be found at Lipstick Queen.

For an interview with King read this BBC article.


Book Review: The Skin Type Solution by Leslie Baumann, MD July 23, 2010

I’ve already mentioned Dr. Leslie Baumann a few times in my blog mostly in connection to her blog on The Skin Guru on Yahoo! Health.  While for the most part I enjoy reading her blog I never liked the fact that Dr. Baumann continually disparages estheticians’ knowledge and expertise instead of realizing that doctors and estheticians can work well together and that their skills can complement one another.

If you read Allure magazine you are already familiar with Dr. Baumann’s name since she is quoted in that magazine almost monthly.  They even named her one of their top “influencers” in the field of fashion and beauty this past year.  Certainly when it comes to sharing her expert opinion on all matters connected to skincare Dr. Baumann is no stranger to fashion magazines.  Her enthusiasm for sharing her opinion about products has even gotten her in trouble with the FDA.

Besides for her constant media and print appearances Dr. Baumann is well-known for her book The Skin Type Solution which promises to save you both time and money in choosing your skincare products.  Since Dr. Baumann is both a practicing physician and a researcher (more on that later) she claims to have a unique perspective into knowing what products work well and which are a waste of money.  Furthermore, one Dr. Baumann’s contributions to the field of skincare is her expansion of the whole idea of skin types upping that number from five (dry, oily, combination, sensitive and normal) to sixteen. 

In order to figure out where you land on Dr. Baumann’s skin type assessment you need to fill out the questionnaire that is found at the beginning of her book.  The questionnaire measures four different factors in the skin: oiliness vs. dryness, resistance vs. sensitivity, pigmentation vs. non-pigmentation, and tightness vs. wrinkles.  For instance once I filled out the questionnaire and tallied my results I found that according to Dr. Baumann’s criteria my skin type was: OSPT or oily, sensitive, pigmented, and tight (though for the part when it came to tight vs. wrinkled I was really borderline).  I thought that was a good assessment about my skin.  Once you finish the questionnaire and determine your skin type you flip to the section of the book that corresponds to your skin type in order to learn more about your skin including numerous product recommendations.

Each different skin type has its own section that includes lots of information as it relates to that skin type exactly.  The information in each section is then subdivided into categories such as:  “about your skin”, “a close-up look at your skin”, “everyday care for your skin”, “daily skin care”, recommended products, “shopping for products”, “procedures for your skin”, and ongoing care for your skin”.  All good things especially the daily skin care regimes which really explain how and when to use your products; I think is always valuable.  You get a lot of information about your skin – a lot.  What can be confusing is all the asides or ifs and differences.  For example (page 69, paragraph two):

The OSPT Skin Type is quite common among people with medium and darker skin color, like Caribbean-Americans, Latin-Americans, Asians, and Mediterraneans.  Lighter-skinned people from other ethnic backgrounds, like the Irish or English, can be OSPTs, as can a redhead with freckles, which are a form of pigmentation. If the questionnaire revealed that you’re an OSPT, but you don’t experience all the symptoms I’ll cover, your rest result isn’t wrong.  OSPTs share many common problems, but there are some differences, so throughout this chapter, I’ll discuss the various symptoms, tendencies, and treatment options typical for dark, medium, and light-toned OSPTs.

Interspersed amongst the chapters are information about eczema, rosacea, acne, skin dehydration, sensitive skin, skin cancer, etc.  If your specific chapter doesn’t contain information about something you are interested in learning more about you can always use the index in the back of the book to locate the chapter that does.  Because of organization issues like that I found the book a bit choppy.  Of course I read the book straight through and didn’t just read the chapter for my skin type maybe if I had done that I wouldn’t have felt that the book was so choppy.


Things That Made Me Say “huh?”


There were a number of things that Dr. Baumann wrote in her book that made me raise my eyebrows.  For instance in the chapter for my skin type – oily, sensitive, pigmented, and tight – under the category “skin care ingredients to avoid if acne prone” jojoba oil is one of those ingredients.  I was very, very surprised to see that there since I feel (and I am not the only one) that jojoba oil is actually a great skincare ingredient for acne prone skin needing moisture.  [See my earlier post Ingredient Spotlight: Jojoba Oil for more information]  No explanation is given for including this ingredient in the list of ingredients to avoid.  In addition, Dr. Baumann continually recommends copper peptides as  great anti-aging ingredient.  I found that really interesting in light of the fact that few other experts agree with her.  Take for example what Dr. Ellen Marmur (also a dermatologist) writes about copper peptides in her excellent book Simple Skin Beauty:

Because copper is vital to enzyme function in the body, it follows that it’s also important to the synthesis of extracellular matrix in the skin.  I sound like a broken record, but although the notion of applying copper cutaneously to assist skin function is interesting in theory, it many be ineffectual in practice.  Is there enough concentrated copper peptide in an over-the-counter product, and is it stable?  Can it actually penetrate the skin to have an effect on the enzymatic workings of the body?  Personally, I would rather eat foods containing copper (such as sesame, sunflower sees, and cashews) to be sure the element is getting into my body to do its amazing job.  I’m doubtful [about copper peptides] until stronger scientific data proves the claims.

Lastly, Dr. Baumann recommends using eye creams with Vitamin K in them to help undereye circles.  Though many skincare companies have jumped on the Vitamin K bandwagon there is little proof that it actually does help undereye circles.

Issues like that made me wonder if I should believe everything written in this book.  It made me want to take Dr. Baumann’s advice with a grain of salt.


But My Real Issue?  The Product Recommendations


Dr. Baumann’s bio at the back of her book describes her thusly:

Leslie Baumann, M.D., is professor and director of Cosmetic Dermatology at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, and founder of the university’s internationally recognized Cosmetic Center.  She is on the advisory boards or does research for many companies, including Johnson and Johnson (Aveeno, Neutrogena), Avon, Allergan, and others.


So guess how often Johnson and Johnson products (Aveeno, Neutrogena, and Clean & Clear) are recommended in this book?  A lot.  So I found it hard to believe when I read the following (page 9):

Instead of letting you waste your valuable time and money tracking down products that wind up in the trash, I will direct you to ones that will really help.  I’ve reviewed the clinical trial date for the products, when available, to offer those proven effective.  Finally, since my patients have used my recommendations, I’ve listened to their feedback and tracked their treatment results to guarantee the efficacy of the treatment approach and product selection for each Skin Type.  All you have to do is take the test, determine your Skin Type, and choose from products in your chapter.  And at least when you splurge on products and procedures, you’ll know you are getting your money’s worth.

The recommendations are independent of any relationships that I have with the companies that manufacture them.  Of course, when I with a company, I know more about its products.  However, I work with over thirty-seven companies and have approached many others for information while writing this book. 


I don’t know – I guess I’m not buying her complete impartiality.

I was happy to see that Skinceuticals and Topix products were recommended since they are both great product lines.


Skin Type Solutions Website


Throughout the book Dr. Baumann continually reminds her reader that they can log on to her website Skin Type Solutions for more product recommendations, to share their thoughts about their skin type and skincare products, and to get more skincare information in general.  The site even has its own version of her skin type questionnaire.  So that made me wonder – why do I need the book at all if everything is online?  Of course, someone had thought of that as well.  While the online quiz will tell you what your skin type is according to Dr. Baumann’s criteria (it took me about 5 minutes to complete the online quiz) it will only give you the briefest of summarizes afterwards about your skin type – no recommended skincare regimes, no product information, and no in-depth information at all.  You’ll need the book for that.


Buy It?


I would actually recommend NOT buying this book simply because most of the information in the book isn’t going to be relevant for you.  That isn’t to say that I didn’t learn some new things from the book because I did.  There is valuable information in the book, and taking an in-depth questionnaire that forces you to think about your skin is actually great.  Having lots of detailed advice about your skin type is also extremely valuable in my opinion even if I don’t agree with lots of Dr. Baumann’s product recommendations.  So I would recommend that you check the book out of your local library or take an hour to sit in the library, take the skin type quiz, read the section of the book that is relevant to your skin type, and photocopy just that section.  I just don’t see a reason to keep a copy of this book at home.  If you want to have a skincare book at home I will once again recommend the following books (see my reviews):


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