Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm?" by Perry Romanowski and The Beauty Brains

Every library/book store needs to have at least one book about going to the store to buy cosmetics. We have a few books of this nature, including older copies of the one about not going to the cosmetics counter without it. We also have books about how to apply makeup for just about every skin type, how to style/cut your own hair, and making your own beauty natural beauty products. So when I saw this title while reading reviews of possible titles to add to our library collection, I decided to pick it up. It had two things going for it at the time: length (only 194 pages including appendices and index) and price (under $20).

Last weekend I decided I would check it out and bring it home to have a better chance to look through it, hoping I could recommend it to our patrons. I try to do this as often as I can, but as one employee serving many, there's no way I can read each and every book that comes into my branch. There are a lot of patrons who think I do read them all, but those are also the patrons who are under the impression that I get to sit and read all day at my job, too. I try not to be too hard on them... Anyway, this little gem is just a completely fascinating look at all the stuff we use in our everyday lives to "beautify" ourselves. Heck, not even that - it talks about plain soap, for Pete's sake! I really only meant to thoroughly skim this book (I know, that's gotta be an oxymoron if there ever was one) but ended up reading it cover to cover.

So what's so great about the this book? The science. The "beauty brains" are never identified, but they obviously know their stuff. The author blurb on the back of the book states that it "is a group of chemists who have more than forty combined years of experience developing and testing beauty products" - and it shows. The nice thing is that they break down the science into plain English that all of us can understand. Think of this as Bill Nye for your bathroom, if you will. The book is divided into four basic sections: Hair, Skin, Makeup, and The Beauty Industry. Questions from real readers of their blog,, begin each subsection, and they do a brilliant but easy response to each and every question.

For example, did you know that there are only FOUR types of shampoo? Yep, I was amazed, too. I mean, walk into any store selling shampoo, and you know what I mean. There are many more than four choices, even taking into consideration the different brands! But the authors break it down for us mere mortals; all shampoos can be classified into one of four categories: deep cleaning, conditioning, baby, and anti-dandruff. Period. Yes, there can be a slew of different ingredients, and obviously a great range of prices, but all the stuff you've ever slathered onto your head to clean it? It falls into one of those four. Even better, did you know that baby shampoo is not a good choice for adult hair, even if you're looking for a "gentle" shampoo? Turns out the reason it's considered "baby" shampoo is that it doesn't contain as many surfactants (the things that actually clean your hair); great for those oh-so-tender baby eyes, but not so great for getting your adult hair clean. Who knew?

I love how the authors also debunk the "more expensive means it works better/has better ingredients" myth. In fact, there are some store products that are far superior to those found in a salon, and they break down why - you got it - scientifically. I also admired that they don't tell you not to spend your money on the more expensive products; they say it over and over again, that you should buy what you love and what you feel works for you - IF you have the money. But they do state that spending more money doesn't make all the claims of a product true.

They do a great job explaining how the industry works, too. Claims on products are vague on purpose (and yes, they ARE vague - take the time to really read them and you'll realize they never claim to get rid of wrinkles or make your skin younger, only to make it appear that way); companies have been taken to court over false advertising claims in the past. Sadly, they also explain that most products are limited in how much they might be able to do because they are cosmetics - not drugs. If a product really can physically change your skin, such as Retin-A, it's a drug, and that means you need a doctor's prescription for it. Again, it's all about regulation. Finally, they also debunk some of the "organic/natural" products out there. There is no regulation of any kind regarding who can label their cosmetics as "organic" or "natural", so be careful what you buy. And for those who feel those types of products would be better than the "man-made" chemical-laden types, the Beauty Brains are quick to point out that some of those "harsh" chemicals are there to prevent the growth of bacteria and such, which can lead to really "harsh" results! Better living through chemistry indeed!

I would highly recommend this read to anyone who uses any sort of product in their daily routine. Need more convincing? The subtitle of the book is "Top cosmetic scientists answer your questions about the lotions, potions and other beauty products you use every day". Yep, that would be me - I use shampoo, conditioner, and body/face lotion every day! And I learned a lot from this book, for which I thank the Beauty Brains. Knowledge is power!

No comments: