Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

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):

 

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:

 

 
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