Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Book Review: Complexion Perfection! by Kate Somerville May 14, 2010

Kate Somerville has an enviable career – a successful skincare clinic in Los Angeles with numerous celebrity clients, a personal skincare line, and numerous media appearance (both television and print).  I had certainly heard of her when I found out that she had just published a book: Complexion Perfection! Your Ultimate Guide to Beautiful Skin by Hollywood’s Leading Skin Health Expert.  I looked the book over at Barnes and Noble and then decided to buy it.  One of the reason I wanted to buy the book were the full-page, color before and after photos she had for the makeover section of the book.  It is very, very hard to find a book about skincare with such quality, color photos.  I saw the photos, and I was hooked.  Additionally, as an esthetician I was very pleased to see that a fellow esthetician wrote a book about skincare instead of a dermatologist.

Kate Somerville begins her book with a very revealing autobiography section which chronicles both her personal and skincare struggles.  Needless to say, Somerville is certainly a self-made woman, and after reading about her tough childhood and young adult life (after her parents divorced when she was nine years old her mother descended into drug addiction eventually ending up homeless.  Her father remarried to a woman who already had her own children and eventually Somerville moved in with a friend in order to find stability) I truly admire her for overcoming great odds in order to be the success that she is today.  In addition, Somerville has suffered from severe eczema almost her entire life so she really does understand both the physical and psychological manifestations that skincare problems can have on one’s emotional wellbeing.

I love and wholeheartedly agree with Somerville’s philosophy about skincare and about being an esthetician.  I like the fact that Somerville sees a direct emotional connection to how one’s skin looks and also emphasizes the importance of leading a balanced life (good eating and exercise habits) in order to have healthy skin.  I think these sentences do a good job of summing up Somerville’s skincare philosophy:

Honor yourself and your skin.  After all, your complexion is constantly at work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  When you give back to it, you give back to yourself.  …  So make the time to take care of yourself, to enjoy who you are and your individual beauty.  … I truly believe that almost anything is possible in life, and believe it or not, it’s my career in skin care that taught me this.  So don’t throw in the towel just yet – or ever.  As a matter of act, grab that towel.  Cleanse your skin and begin to protect, hydrate, feed, stimulate, and detoxify your way to health and beauty.  Because the path to complexion perfection leads to more than just glowing skin; it will lead to a happier, better you.  (Pages 336-7)

It was writing like this that made me like this book. 


What I Liked About Complexion Perfection!


So first and foremost, as I already stated above, I really like and agree with Somerville’s outlook on skincare.  I liked hearing about how she treats and cares for her personal clients.  Somerville has a great upbeat attitude that I thought was refreshing. 

The information about skincare in the book is good – good but basic.  I didn’t learn anything new, but then, of course, I guess that is good since I’m an esthetician.  For non-skincare professionals looking to have a guide at home as to how to care for their skin this book will do the job.  I liked the fact that she had clear and concise instructions listed for all sorts of skin types and conditions.  For this reason you can simply use this book as a reference book if you want to know how to treat a particular skin condition (like acne, hyperpigmentation, or eczema).   There is information on common skincare ingredients and a clear explanation of how to care for your skin at home (including instructions for doing a home facial).

Chapter 6 of the book is entitled “Treatments That Transform” and gives very good information about a whole slew of facial treatment options from the basics like facials, to an explanation on four different kind of lasers, and explains the differences between injectables.  She even includes the estimated costs of different treatments which I think is great since it helps people understand how much they would be spending approximately if they wanted to try certain treatments. 

I also liked the fact that though Somerville has her own line of skincare products she doesn’t give them a hard sell in her book (which, in my opinion, is in direct contrast to what Paula Begoun does on her website and in her own books).  There is an explanation at the very back of the book on each product in Kate Somerville’s skincare line, and my book even came with a coupon for 10% off and free shipping on products ordered through her website.   Of course once I saw how much her products cost even with the discounts I decided to wait before trying any.


My Disappointments with Complexion Perfection!


The book includes a chapter all about diet and your skin.  I was happy that Somerville did not try to pass herself off as a nutritionist or medical dietary professional but instead included personal accounts of how diet effects skin and also advice of a doctor when it comes to food and its effects on the skin.  I don’t know how I feel about her passing out advice about supplements (she also sells supplements that claim to help certain skincare conditions) even if she did write the information in the chapter with the help of a doctor.  I never give my clients advise about diet since I am not a medical doctor or a nutritionist even though I do think there is a connection between the health of the skin and one’s diet.  For that reason part of this chapter made me feel uneasy.  I would definitely consult with a doctor or a nutritionist before taking any supplements to improve the appearance of your skin.  Somerville also sees a direct connection between the consumption of dairy and breakouts.  I am not so sure that things are so black and white when it comes to this issue.  Much more research needs to be done about the connection between acne and food before there can be definitive information on the subject.

But my main disappointment with this book comes from the makeover section which was the one section of book that I was most looking forward to reading.  Yes, the photos are glorious and add a great deal to the explanations provided so I guess I got my money’s worth there.  My problem was with the actual treatments the makeover volunteers received.  On average each volunteer received about four laser or light treatments and many received around four injectables as well (Botox, Restylane, Radiesse, and Juvederm)!  Anyone who received that many intense, expensive, and strong treatments would see the results that were presented in the book!  I longed for a makeover that did not include any of these treatments (or many fewer of them) and instead presented results that could be achieved by anyone even those without access to such sophisticated treatments and certainly for those without the means to invest in such treatments.  Yes, the home care regimes of each makeover volunteers are explained, but believe me – the dramatic makeover results had nothing to do with the volunteer’s new home care regime.  The results had everything to do with the power of lasers and injectables; the home care regimes are important for maintenance reasons alone.  It was upsetting for me to realize that though Somerville believes everyone deserves to have beautiful skin and feel great about their skin she is suggesting treatments that few people can afford.  Yes, Somerville is a medical esthetician (or a paramedical esthetician as she calls herself), but I wish she had at least for one person   presented in the makeover section who didn’t have one laser treatment or injectable.


Bottom Line


Complexion Perfection! is a good, basic reference book about skincare to have at home.  If you are interested and can afford laser and light treatments this book is a great guide to what results you can expect from such treatments.  Certainly Somerville’s life story and career success will help others realize that anything is possible, and her positive philosophy about skincare will inspire many more.


Book Review: Simple Skin Beauty by Ellen Marmur, MD March 18, 2010



Simply put – this is an overall great book.  If you want to have only one book at home to refer to for skincare questions I would suggest getting this one.  (And of course keep reading my blog – wink, wink)

Once I began reading this book I found myself referring to it again and again in for both my blog and for my own knowledge.  The book is extremely thorough when it comes to addressing skincare issues – both cosmetic and health issues.  The book is clearly written in a personal and friendly manner making it an easy read  (I guess credit for the writing style should go to the co-author Gina Way). 

Dr. Ellen Marmur has pretty impeccable credentials so that does make it easy to trust what is written in the book.  There is A LOT of information contained in the book so you’ll definitely learn something new.  One of the goals of the book is to educate the reader, and the book certainly delivers on that count.


The Good Parts


The book explains in easy to understand terms just exactly how our skin works.  There are only a few illustrations in the book but all are a good addition, helping to supplement the text.  Dr. Marmur clearly explains exactly what a dermatologist does and what to expect during a visit to the dermatologist (chapter 6).  Perhaps for some people this chapter might seem a bit simplistic, but I was happy it was included in the book.  There is also a lot of explanation in the book about how a dermatologist can help you take care of your skin. 

One overall message in the book is that you deserve to feel good about how you look but there is no need to go overboard in the pursuit of beautiful skin.  To that end quite a bit of the book is devoted to understanding skincare products, skincare ingredients, skincare product formulations, and daily skincare routines.  Dr. Marmur doesn’t recommend very many products in the book; instead she tries to teach her readers how to read product labels so that they can decide if a product works for them or not.  She doesn’t give her readers “the easy way out” when it comes to finding skincare products, but she certainly does give the reader the tools to be better educated and informed about skincare products.  I also found it interesting that she suggests going a skin “detox” if you find that your skin is red or irritated.  I hadn’t really read about anyone else suggesting such a drastic tactic, and I found it intriguing.

Like many other books about skincare this book contains a chapter about the importance of sun protection.  It is a good chapter filled with lots of important information and advice.  Other good parts of the book include advice about common skincare conditions and concerns(acne, eczema, etc.) and good explanations about medical skincare treatments (chemical peels, lasers, and injectables).  It helps that Dr. Marmur has lots of experience to share with her readers and to back up the information she is presenting.


Room for Improvement


Though obviously I liked this book a great deal there were a few things that bothered me.  The format of the book is quite “jumpy” – for lack of a better word.  In between the regular text there are asides – true story type of explanations meant to enhance the text.  There are also lots of “questions”.  I don’t know if these are real questions or ones created for the book and certainly while they enhance the text a great deal the fact that everything is not integrated entirely is a bit off-putting.  In order to read everything in the book you find yourself “leaving” the text and looking at another part of the page.  Once you finish reading the aside you return to the text.  I wish there could have been a better way of organizing the information in the book.

From pages 103 to 111 there is a jumbled and confusing discussion about natural and organic skincare products and being environmentally conscious.  I was surprised that this part of the book was so poorly written and organized since certainly Dr. Marmur must have come across numerous questions from her patients about organic and natural products, and this part of the book does very little to clear up confusion over these issues.  Instead of clearly stating facts about the issue there is instead a long treatise about taking care of the environment.  Since the whole issue of natural and organic skincare products is controversial and misleading (see my post The Natural, Green, Organic Skincare Fallacy for more information) I wish Dr. Marmur had been more forceful and clear in this section of her book.

I found it interesting that Dr. Marmur repeatedly wrote in her book that she wore little to no make-up since the cover photo of the book shows her with TONS of make-up, particularly eye make-up.  I thought this was very ironic.  Why couldn’t she be photographed looking more like she claims she does on a daily basis?


This Book Made Me Think About How To Wash My Face


Dr. Marmur is one of many dermatologists who suggests “washing” your face only with water.  When I had read this before it was completely confusing  and even strange advice to me, but once I read Dr. Marmur’s explanation about why you should do this I began to rethink my previous held ideas.  Now I see that rinsing one’s face only with water in the morning, and I emphasis only in the morning, is actually a good idea for some people.  (For more information about how to wash your face see my post Is There A Correct Way To Wash Your Face?)


If You Read Only One Chapter in this Book


If you only want to skim this book be sure to read the chapter about skin cancer (chapter 7).  It is by far the most thorough discussion on skin cancer in any book I have read by a dermatologist (and yes, I have read quite a few).  The information about skin cancer – its causes and treatments –  was enlightening and thought-provoking, even scary.  A definite must read especially for people who don’t think they need sunscreen on a daily basis or who, god forbid, actually still use tanning beds.


Bottom Line


Simple Skin Beauty is a book well worth reading.


Paula “The Cosmetics Cop” Begoun: Friend or Foe to the Skincare Consumer? February 23, 2010

If you are interested in cosmetic and skincare products you have probably come across Paula Begoun’s best-selling books and even visited her website.  In my estimation, Begoun is the best known and most prolific consumer advocate working today who concentrates solely on critiquing and evaluating the cosmetic and skincare industry.  Begoun and her staff are constantly turning our product reviews (of make-up, hair, and skincare products), answering questions from consumers, and researching ingredients.  In addition, Begoun even has her own line of skincare and make-up products (more about that later).

Paula Begoun has written numerous books of which the best known was are Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me and The Beauty Bible.  I own the older editions of both books; new editions of both books (8th and 3rd respectively) have just been published.  You can find all of Begoun’s books at your local chain bookstore.  If you spend some time on Begoun’s website and sign-up for her weekly email updates it is obvious that many, many people admire her and turn to her for seemingly unbiased advice about the cosmetic and skincare industry and its products.  For all of Begoun’s positive work I still have some issues with her reviews and some of her statements about skincare.  I’ll elaborate below.

The Good

The cosmetic and skincare industry certainly needs a reality check, and I applaud Begoun for devoting her career to being a consumer advocate, to helping educate the public, and to helping people make better choices when it comes to buying skincare and make-up products.  The cosmetic and skincare industry is based upon hype, false hopes and promises, unattainable beauty, youth, and even in some cases out right lies.  It is great that Begoun and her staff try to cut through all the lies and illusions in order to help the public make educated choices about what make-up and skincare products to buy and how to take care of their skin.   Another hallmark of Begoun’s work is how well researched it is.  She always cites her sources (which I greatly appreciate) and it obvious that she and her workers are really looking into subjects from numerous perspectives before publishing their opinions.

The Beauty Bible has a great chapter all about why sun protection is so important.  In addition the book explains very well how to see through all the hype of the cosmetic industry so that you base your consumer decisions on facts instead of marketing claims.  There is mostly thoughtful information in the book about how to care for all the different skin types.  I even thought that the discussion about animal testing, at the back of the book, was interesting and a worthwhile addition to the book.  This book can be a good resource for information about skincare.

Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me contains tens of thousands of product reviews.  It is exhausting just to look at.  Begoun conveniently labels and rates her reviews with faces – smiley faces for great products, neutral faces for so-so products, and faces with frowns for products she doesn’t like.  If she considers the products a good buy there is a check next to the review.  Prices and  a brief explanation about why the rating that was given to the review are included.  Product companies are listed alphabetically so it is easy to find the review you are looking for.  The book includes skincare tips, ingredient explanations, and an explanation of how the product evaluations were done.  Certainly this book is the most exhaustive collection of product reviews currently available.

As someone who likes to play with make-up but is very far from being a make-up artist, I greatly appreciate Begoun’s make-up product reviews.  I find those reviews helpful so that I can spend my money on the right products to get the results that I want.  I appreciate her research about skincare ingredients, and I do find myself looking up what she has to say about different ingredients before making my final decision on how I feel about the ingredient.  I think her research, which is well done, is a definite help to anyone who wants to be better educated about skincare ingredients and formulations.

The Bad

At times I have been confounded by Begoun’s skincare advice and upset that such a wide audience of people was receiving this advice.  Begoun actually began her career as a make-up artist.  When she refused to sell products she didn’t believe were effective her career as a consumer advocate began.  It should be pointed out that Begoun never trained as an esthetician and certainly has never had any medical training.  She is an extremely well-educated, but self-educated, lay person who has made an interest in cosmetics into a very successful career.  I certainly don’t believe that just because Begoun is not a licensed esthetician or a physician that her advice is no good, quite to the contrary at times.  But I do think there is a big difference between someone who examines skin up close on a daily basis (and touches it) and their knowledge compared to someone who deals with all these issues in a simply theoretical way.  There is a huge difference between talking about skin versus caring, looking at, and touching it.  Certainly when it comes Begoun’s reviews of products I find that the lack of actually using and trying the products versus just looking at ingredients in order to evaluate the product is a big issue.  I disagree with some of Begoun’s product reviews for that reason.  Some products she pans I have used with great success and recommend them to my clients.  I haven’t done a scientific study about this but I would say that her product reviews lean toward being generally neutral to negative.  Now is that more a reflection on her exacting standards or on the sad state of cosmetic and skincare industry?  I don’t have an answer for that.

Begoun is extremely opinionated on every cosmetic and skincare topic and product.  I guess you need to be to that way in her line of work, but I find her attitude a bit off-putting at times.  I generally think that you need to stay open-minded when it comes to skincare issues.  There are always new products and research to discover.  You need to able to bend a bit in order to stay abreast with the latest findings.

Begoun has declared war on fragrance in cosmetic and skincare products.  Yes, it is true that fragrance can cause irritation and people with sensitive skin should look for products that are fragrance free but should all fragrance be banned from make-up and skincare products?  I don’t think so.  But when I read Begoun’s The Beauty Bible I think I figured out why she is so against fragrance.  Begoun suffered from severe eczema for many years, and so I believe that her hatred of fragrance is purely personal.  I wish her own personal issues wouldn’t loom so large over her reviews.

Another bit of advice that Begoun gives just annoys me.  She writes the following in The Beauty Bible (page 190, 2nd edition):

“If you have dry skin, dry, wrinkled skin, or dry areas (like on the cheeks or around the eyes), you need a moisturizer; otherwise you don’t.  It’s that simple.  If you don’t have dry skin or you have normal to oily skin, you can obtain many of the benefits moisturizers contain (antioxidants, anti-irritants, water-binding agents, natural moisturizing factors) in a well-formulated toner.  Avoiding using a cream-, lotion-, or serum-style moisturizer when you don’t have dry skin can help prevent breakouts and feeling greasy and shiny through your makeup by midday, and encourage your skin to do its natural exfoliation.”

I couldn’t disagree more!!!   Even if you have breakouts you definitely could feel that you want to use a moisturizer.  It is very wrong to tell people that if they use a moisturizer they can cause breakouts.  I know few people who don’t need a moisturizer.  As a matter of fact, many dermatologists even say that a lot of the skin redness and irritation that they see on patients could simply to relieved by using a good moisturizer.  I have never been able to figure out why Begoun continues to give the above advice.

Begoun began her career as a make-up artist so it was strange for me to read her come out against experimenting with eyeshadow color in her chapter about make-up.  Since make-up washes off it is a great medium to experiment with and cosmetic companies certainly offer plenty of color options with which to do so.  I feel that once again this is a personal preference of Begoun’s passed off as fact.  I wish she would encourage “free thinking” when it comes to make-up colors.

The Ugly

As I have already mentioned Begoun has her line of skincare products called Paula’s Choice.  Full disclosure – I use one of her sunscreens and love it.  I also have a client of mine using one of her BHA lotions nightly with great results.  Yet I do have an issue with a consumer advocate having her own products particularly because Begoun shamelessly self-promotes.  In Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me she even goes so far as to review her own products!  Not surprisingly she gives all her products her highest rating.  I found that ridiculous, self-serving, unnecessary, and even slightly unethical.  I turn to Begoun for unbiased reviews; I don’t need her to review her own products as well.

And lastly, none of Begoun’s books have indexes.  Is it too much to ask for a book that is so full of information to have an index???  I don’t think so.  I find myself wasting lots of time trying to find information in The Beauty Bible because of the lack of an index.  I also find the format of “the best product summary” in Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me to be hard to read.

Bottom Line:  I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to stand by it – Paula Begoun is doing important and needed work as a consumer advocate but don’t take her word as the final word on cosmetic and skincare products.  Use her as a reference and do your own research as well.

For another perspective  on Paula Begoun read Caroline Hirons excellent post with her take on the good and bad when it comes to Paula Begoun.


Book Review: Free Gift with Purchase by Jean Godfrey-June February 9, 2010

I love, love glossy magazines.  I particularly love glossy fashion magazines.  If I am reading a magazine I tune the rest of the world out; so please do not disturb me while I am holding a glossy fashion magazine.  I began reading Teen and Seventeen in junior high and by high school I was happily reading Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. These days my two favorite glossy magazines are Allure and Lucky.  I like Allure because of the make-up tips and amke-up looks, the skincare articles, and the other articles they have about beauty (or really our perceptions about beauty).  I like Lucky for the clothes that are featured,  the way the clothes are styled, the fashion tips, the fashion website recommendations, and the fashion trends that are predicted.  The one thing I don’t care for in Lucky is the make-up and skincare advice.  I consider it uninteresting and pedestrian at its worst.  So it is interesting that I would chose to read and review the book featured here since it is by the Lucky beauty editor, the person who is responsible for those features that so annoy me in what is otherwise, in my opinion, a wonderful magazine.  But I have always been very curious about a few things – just how to magazine beauty editors choose the products that are featured in their magazines?  Do these women really know anything at all about skincare?  Why should I listen to their advice?  Once I became an esthetician I was pretty much no longer interested in skincare product advice from magazines.  Of course, I am still interested in articles about new ingredients, formulations, and skincare discoveries, but choosing products?  Thank you very much but I’ll do that on my own.  (I do have to admit that I am still a complete sucker when it comes to hair care products.  My shower currently has a product that Allure raved about a few issues ago.  I believed everything I read and went and bought the product.  Alas it does absolutely nothing for my hair.)  Yet I know many women who take the skincare advice of fashion magazines very, very seriously.  As such I actually see fashion magazines, at times, to be “working against” me.  Not so much that they give people advice that I would wish they would only hear from me but that they give out wrong advise on so many occasions.  For example, last year Jean Godfrey-June, the author of the book being reviewed here, wrote in her monthly Lucky column that she felt that too many women were doing too many unnecessary and harsh treatments to their skin (like chemical peels) and thus thinning their skin.  She then recommended a cream that would be a cure-all for those woes.  I disliked the tone of the piece and the message.  Yet now I have just read an entire book by the same author.

I wanted to read Free Gift with Purchase: My Improbably Career in Magazines and Makeup in order to both confirm my suspicions that beauty editors – a. really know nothing about skincare and b. to find what working at a magazine is really like (and yes, of course I have read The Devil Wears Prada).  I did get lots of inside information about magazines and plenty of gossip as well (if you are a fan of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York City” you will want to read the parts about Kelly Bensimon).  Of course, I wish that all the people mentioned in the book were named instead of just hinted at.  I want to know which famous actress lives with Godfrey-June in the suburbs of Manhattan.  I want to know which famous European fashion designer has a strange and disgusting obsession.  But nevertheless the book did satisfy on that end.  I do wonder why Godfrey-June felt the need to devote an entire chapter to describing the suburb she lives in and how she is different, yet the same, as everyone there.  And if I hear one more time that nursing makes you super skinny after pregnancy I will scream (page 196). 

This book to me was a quick and easy and enjoyable read, but it was also chockfull of what I consider inane and unhelpful “advice”.  For example please turn to page 53 to learn that you need to take all formal wedding photos the day BEFORE your actual wedding.  Pray tell – how are you logistically supposed to pull that tip off?  And what kind of tip is that anyway?  Or see page 163 in the book to learn that you should only use Creme de la Mar (an extraordinarily expensive face cream) on your radiation burns while undergoing cancer treatments.  Or to buy nail polishes, lipsticks, lotions, and perfumes to hand out to hospital and nursing home staff in order to bribe them into giving you (or your loved one) better care – see page 35 for that tip.  But for all of those ridiculous tips Godfrey-June does make a number of important points in the book:  nothing gets rid of cellulite (page 86), her list of skincare ingredients that actually work is very up to date (pages 228-229), and finally her advice that the best present you could ever give a new mother would be to hold her baby so she can sleep is very, very true (page 196). 

I appreciated Godfrey-June’s honesty in describing her awkward physical stages, her failed beauty experiments, and embarrassing moments while doing her job, but really I read this book to have my curiosity satisfied about how exactly beauty editors go about their jobs.  And indeed my curiosity was satisfied.  According to the book beauty editors receive an enormous amount of free make-up and skincare products (Godfrey-June estimates that she receives between 50 to 200 free products a day), are wined and dined all the time by make-up and skincare companies, and receive on top of all the free products numerous free gifts from these companies.  Doesn’t sound like a bad job, right?   At least Godfrey-June recognizes that she has a job many, many people see as either  frivolous and silly or enviable (it all depends on how you feel about beauty products).  So does Godfrey-June really know all that much about skincare?  Not really – she is a journalist who has always written about the beauty industry so yes, she definitely knows more than your average joe about make-up and face creams but her advice, or that of any other beauty editor, should not be substituted for the knowledge of a trained individual (such as an esthetician or a doctor).  Godfrey-June says that the products that make it into fashion magazines are the best products, as decided by the beauty editor, and no amount of free gifts or meals will bribe them into endorsing something they do not love.  She does point out though that instead of sending beauty editors lots of free gifts if you will really want to get their attention buy lots of ad space in their magazines. 

On a personal note I had to cringe when I read three times in this book variations on the theme that facials are unnecessary, estheticians only try to sell you products, and facials just stress Godfrey-June out (pages 227, 203, and 202 respectively).  Though Godfrey-June does point out that a good esthetician can make a world of difference for a person’s skin (pages 226-227) I was upset, once again, to see my profession derided in print.  I am not the type of person to tell you that every esthetician is a miracle worker, but I can tell you that the vast majority of us take our profession very seriously and are knowledgable and capable people who can greatly help our clients improve the look and health of their skin.  And we certainly don’t receive the freebies that Godfrey-June does in order to recommend products.

Bottom Line: If you are a glossy fashion magazine devotee or simply love creams and make-up you’ll enjoy this book.  If you watch any sort of reality show on Bravo you’ll definitely enjoy this inside look into the world of celebrity make-up artists and hair stylists.

Further Reading:


Book Review: The Mind-Beauty Connection by Amy Wechsler, MD January 27, 2010


The first thing I would like to say about this book is – I loved it!  If you are at all interested in the connection between your skin and everything else that is going on in your life – stress, lifestyle choices, etc. – this is the book for you.  If you are wondering how to set-up a skincare regime that you can integrate with a healthy lifestyle (a healthy physical and emotional lifestyle) this is the book for you.

Dr. Wechsler is both a dermatologist and a psychiatrist (according to her she is one of only two such people in the country.  I assume the other one is Richard G. Fried who wrote the excellent book Healing Adult Acne), and her dual choice of professions certainly shines through in this book.  I loved that this book wasn’t simply about skincare or how the skin functions but instead addresses the effects of stress and lifestyle on your skin and overall health and happiness.  Simply put – Wechsler wants her reader to feel good about themselves and their healthy skin will follow.

As already mentioned Wechsler is a psychiatrist so her book is pretty interactive; she wants her reader to really give their skincare routine and issues some thought.  As such the book begins with a questionnaire so that the reader can determine how they really feel about their skin.  But the book isn’t all questions, plenty of answers are provided as well.  The book contains clear, concise advice about daily skincare routines, has good product suggestions (though as with all product suggestions don’t take Wechsler’s word as the final word on which products to use; take some time to do your own research on products before buying), and plenty of good tips.  I found two tips particularly helpful.   One tip is that you should have three separate towels in your bathroom – one for your face, one for your hair, and one for your body.  You don’t want products that you use on one part of your body getting to somewhere where they shouldn’t be (for instance hair products getting on your face and clogging your pores).  Another tip Wechsler gives is to moisturize your face before you body so that the lotion you use on your body doesn’t accidently clog the pores on your face.

The crux of Wechsler’s book is her 9 day program for optimal skin, body, and emotional health.  She clearly outlines her program and how each new step, on different days, will help you achieve your goal of having a happy, healthy life.  Some of the aspects of the program are spending more time outside (I thought this was a refreshing reminder how we take the outdoors for granted), seeking connections with friends and family, pampering yourself, and remembering to reflect on your week.  The great thing about this program is that it is definitely within reach.  Wechsler never asks her reader to give up too much too quickly or make unreasonable changes.  Instead she advocates for self-reflection, self-love, and relaxation.

Wechsler spends quite a bit of time in the book discussing stress and its extremely negative impact on your life and skin.  After reading that section of the book you should definitely be motivated to give meditation at least a try for one evening.  The book includes clear advice about aging and anti-aging products.  Once again, Wechsler asks her reader to fill out a questionnaire about how they really feel about aging in order to help them determine the best course of action to take in order to either slow down that process as much as possible or embrace what is happening to your body.  As in most books about skincare this book also includes chapters about skin disorders such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, rocasea, and cold sores.  There are also chapters about sun protection and skin cancer.  The back of the book has a chart that lists skin issues and which treatments are available to treat them.  I especially liked the information contained in appendix A which had a chart of “dos and don’ts” for your skin and life divided by age.

All in all, I highly recommend this book.  Wechsler takes a refreshing and original approach to caring for your skin.  Well worth reading.


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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.


Book Review: “Nourish Your Skin and Body with Traditional Chinese Medicine” January 13, 2010


For some time I have been very interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  About six years ago I had a very positive experience with acupuncture which made me even more curious about Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Once I started learning to be an esthetician I wondered if there were any books available that would discuss Traditional Chinese Medicine and skincare.  I found  Michelle O’Shaughnessy’s book Nourish Your Skin & Body with Traditional Chinese Medicine to be a comprehensive introduction to the subject of Traditional Chinese Medicine as it relates to skincare. 

My first comment about the book would be – I want more!  I wish the book was twice as long and went into greater detail.  Having said that it is a great introduction to how Traditional Chinese Medicine principles and philosophies can be applied to taking care of your skin.  The information in this book is certainly not limited to use by the trained professional.  Anyone interested in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and skincare will find useful information this book.

What made the purchase of this book extremely worthwhile for me was the pressure point massage or the facial acupressure massage as it is called in the book.  Each step of the massage is clearly outlined and explained.  Each step also has an accompanying photo.  I tried the massage both on myself and on a client who suffers from acne.  As estheticians know a “regular’ facial massage might be too stimulating for a client suffering from acne.  Estheticians usually do some sort of pressure point massage on clients who have acne.  The client that I tried this facial acupressure massage on really enjoyed it and found it very relaxing.  I plan on incorporating some of the pressure points from the facial acupressure massage into my “normal” facial massage that I do on most clients.

Though the book is only 162 pages it manages to cover a wealth of topics including (but not limited to) the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chinese herbs (with photos – very helpful), tongue diagnosis, an introduction to acupuncture and facial acupuncture, and recipes for soups that nourish and help the skin.  I found the chapter about the meridians of the body very interesting.  As it will become very clear from reading this blog I am personally very interested in acne so I found it fascinating to read about the ren meridian.  This meridian is in charge of most female issues.  Women who suffer from monthly breakouts on their chins can “blame” this on an imbalance in the ren meridian.

Bottom Line:  A great introduction to how Traditional Chinese Medicine relates to skincare.  The facial acupressure massage is wonderful!  You don’t need to be an esthetician to take advantage of this massage.  Anyone can practice on themselves.

Links and Extras:

I purchased my copy of Nourish Your Skin and Body with Traditional Chinese Medicine through at a reasonable price.  I was surprised to see the price for the book when I looked for it today on  A little research lead me to Michelle O’Shaughnessy’s clinic’s website.  Through her website you can purchase her book Traditional Chinese Medicine: An Esthetician’s Guide.  So what is the difference between that book and the one I have reviewed above?  The book I own was published in 2009 and is 162 pages long.  The book that can be purchased through Michelle O’Shaughnessy’s website was published in 2008 and is 132 pages long.  Without having seen the second book I cannot really comment about how different they are.

I found it very interesting to look at the blog section of Michelle O’Shaughnessy’s website.  The case study presented in the blog is fascinating.  I just wish the blog had been updated.  The last entry is from almost two years ago!

One final note.  Michelle O’Shaughnessy will be speaking at the Face & Body Conference in Chicago in March, 2010.

If anyone has had any experiences with Traditional Chinese Medicine as it pertains to skincare I would love to hear from you.


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