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Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter without Me, 9th Edition, Paula Begoun

September 28, 2012

How can one trust reviews of cosmetics written by someone who has her own product line? Yes, it defies logic, but come closer and let me tell you what happened to me.

I don’t read women’s magazines; I don’t particularly like magazines. I don’t watch daytime television, either, because I’m working. And I don’t care for daytime television for the same reasons I don’t like magazines: From one issue or episode to the next, they offer conflicting information. You know it’s true, even if you do like the magazines and shows.

The library is my friend. Since I got my first library card, I have used the library to research anything I want to learn. In 2005 or 2006, I saw a copy of “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter without Me” on the shelf and checked it out. I wasn’t expecting much, but it didn’t cost me anything. I’d never heard of Paula Begoun, but I do try to be an informed consumer. I figured that book couldn’t be any worse than other skin care books I’d read. I skipped over most of the beginning chapters and went straight for the reviews, and it hadn’t really sunk in there might be a conflict of interest until I was convinced I’d found a worthy source of information. Finally!

We have, in this edition, a brief overview of Paula’s rather checkered career and some chapters that discuss skin care and makeup industry claims, packaging, ingredients to avoid, ingredients to seek, and basic skin care regimes. These chapters are thorough but succinct. Then there is the good stuff: product reviews of many skin care and makeup lines. Not all of them, but a lot.

And it gets juicy. Paula doesn’t want you to waste your money. She doesn’t pan department store products altogether, nor gush over all drugstore products. In fact, whether you buy products from brick and mortar stores, or from television shopping networks, or that lady who rings your doorbell, you will find favorably and unfavorably reviewed products. And then it starts to make sense. You know that you have rarely or never liked every single product in a brand. You’ve purchased bad product thinking you were buying a good product because the other products were good. That’s the way it is with makeup and skin care products. I know it happened to you, because I don’t know anyone who hasn’t gone through this frustration. I will tell you this: This book is worth its price simply because you can dump those products you have right now that are irritating your skin, or just don’t do anything at all. You may become a bit irritated yourself, because like me, you think you are making informed decisions. Paula puts two indicators before each review. She uses smiley (or not) faces and rates products as BEST, GOOD, AVERAGE, and POOR. Make that three indicators because BEST products also get a check mark. There are about a gazillion reviews in this book. It’s a big book! But the reviews are short. The rating and a brief explanation are what you’ll find.

Paula and her team do not try every product personally. They are not human guinea pigs. Most of the reviews are based on ingredients lists. Paula has done her research, and continues to do so. She cites many sources that support her opinions. If she expounds on a topic, she doesn’t just say “clinical studies indicate” and leave it at that. She says what study, or what publication she found that supports the information she offers. You can check this yourself and read the material she actually uses to determine yourself whether she’s well-informed or off her rocker.

There is a condensed section at the end of the book that lists what Paula calls BEST products. Paula used to call the products she deemed most deserving “picks,” but that’s gone. You’ll find a categorized list of best products at the end of the book, and finally a brief explanation of why Paula is passionate about her do’s and don’ts.

The list of companies that use animal testing is absent from this edition, as is the cosmetics ingredient dictionary. You can consult her website for the ingredients dictionary. It would be a book on its own.

Now, let’s go back to that conflict of interest thing, shall we? Paula does review her own products, and of course, they’re BEST products. But you don’t have to buy them. In fact, if Paula is new to you, just skip the reviews of her products. You will find favorable reviews for products from many, many sources. I don’t think Paula’s reviews are perfect, but they’re pretty darn good. And I think providing consumers useful information about a wide range of products is still why she gets up in the morning. She could have stopped doing product reviews after she launched her own line, but she keeps pushing more and more information. In fact, you don’t even have to buy this book to read what she has to say. You can go to her websites for free. I realize this doesn’t seem rational, but that’s the crux of the issue when it comes to buying any product. Humans are irrational beings. It isn’t rational to sell cosmetics and review other lines and recommend someone else’s products, but Paula is a human being.

OK, now you know I’ve drunk the Paula kool-aid. This book isn’t my only source for product reviews because not all products are reviewed. There are also some excellent consumer reviews to be found on the internet. But DGTTCCWM is my reality check. It’s completely worth it to me, using the guidance found here. Not every product I buy is wonderful, but I’m not buying clunkers any more. I am ever the skeptic, and still, I give this book my highest recommendation.

You can purchase this book at Paula’s Choice or Amazon.

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