Useful Beauty Books

1. Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me by Paula Begoun

You don't need to read this book from cover to cover since it's packed with over 1000 pages of product mini reviews and it works as a fantastic reference guide for checking up on your favourite products, assessing potential purchases, and understanding how these products work. There is a substantial 78-page "introduction" including why we need to care more about the products we buy, what goes in them, and how that can affect us, along with skin care "rules to live by." The reviews are precise, upfront, and brutal; Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me can help you make confident shopping decisions based on professional advice and bare bones analysis of ingredient lists. This is a companion book to The Beauty Bible so if you're looking for a book to help pick exactly which products to buy and which ones to avoid, rather than an intense break down of the entire beauty industry, this is the one you need to read. The Beautypedia website is an online version of the book, which contains similar information including all the reviews and is regularly updated.

2. No More Dirty Looks by Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt

The initial 20 pages veers dangerously close to scare mongering and then evens out into more palatable reading material. What defines this book is its concern with clean products as opposed to green products, taking care to highlight the difference clearly by defining (with academic research) why certain ingredients would be best avoided and why. While there are a few pieces of questionable advice (they argue certain synthetic ingredients are irritants.. and then suggest rubbing tea tree oil on your scalp and suggest using natural oils as a substitute SPF - scary advice indeed) there are also a lot of factors that make this book well worth reading. If you're concerned with ingredients, both synthetic and "natural," in your beauty products and you want to learn more and discover alternative options, this book is the one you need to read. No More Dirty Looks offers great healthy eating advice, a list of alternative products to use, and offers up a quick reference "ingredients black list." However, take this book with a pinch of salt and don't be tempted to throw away all your beauty products until you have read the following three books.

3. Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? by Perry Romanowski

Insightful, informative, and reasonable this book dispels myths, calms fears, and provides answers. Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? is broken down into easy-to-read sections dealing with hair, skin, make-up, and the industry in general. Commonly asked questions are followed by answers provided by cosmetic scientists in a calm, informative manner. Unlike No More Dirty Looks, which was written by journalists, Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? was written by cosmetic scientists who offer unbias advice on specific brands, their products, and the ingredients they use. While nowhere near as indepth as The Beauty Bible, Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? is a great starting point for anyone interested in learning more about the industry starting with the most commonly asked questions.

4. The Beauty Bible by Paula Begoun

An incredibly informative book, The Beauty Bible covers everything you could ever dream of in regards to the beauty industry. Paula Begoun discusses how the industry works from the ingredients it uses to the studies it uses to "prove" a product works; brands, marketing, cosmeceuticals, advertising, fear mongering are all included; Begoun discusses natural vs synthetic, what those terms really mean and how they affect products; everything from hair, nails, make-up, skin care, even cosmetic surgery is covered along with solutions to common problems and myth busting. Incredible "truths" that almost everyone believes and recites religiously are dispelled, while technical terms are explained in detail with little bias. The claims in The Beauty Bible have been extensively well researched providing citations of studies and while a little dry due to the technical nature, anyone with an invested interest in beauty should read this book above all others.

5. The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

Possibly the most important book you could ever read on beauty; The Beauty Myth discusses the relationship between beauty, female identity, and the obsession with physical perfection that is trapping the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred. Full of huge ideas with an intense feminist manifest, The Beauty Myth makes for enlightened reading. Whether you agree with Naomi Wolf that beauty is a construct built to oppress women, everyone would benefit from having a little light thrown on the subject and new ways of thinking about the industry. While there are flaws and criticisms to be made of the writing style, it's a worthwhile read about the unattainable ideal of female beauty and how this affects our culture, our minds, and our bodies.