Don't Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me — A Review

by Katy on June 28, 2008 · 2 comments



I first heard about Don’t Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me a number of years ago. A couple of women at work were raving about it, and I remember enjoying an inner smugness about my own makeup-free beauty.

I rarely wear cosmetics, and pretty much consider it a waste of money, time and synaptic activity. (We can send a man to the moon, so why are we spending time engineering new lip liners?) 

Fast forward to age 40.

My casual prettiness is showing its age, and my kids are entering the pre-teen complexion-angst age.

I want to go buy some face creams and pimple-goo, but have no idea where to start. I don’t want to waste my money on products that don’t live up to their claims.

A quick trip to the library, and enter Don’t Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me by Paula Begoun, with Bryan Barron (Beginning Press).

Begoun’s message quickly won me over.

“Consumers (including myself) deserved better. I wasn’t anti-makeup — just the opposite — but I was (and am) anti-hype, and against misleading information.”

Consumer rights? That’s right up my alley!

The 2008 seventh edition, is a seriously heavy debunking of false scientific cosmetics claims. It weighs in at a staggering 1187 pages.

Every single product from all the major cosmetic lines, as well as many of the smaller lines, are analyzed. The reviews are based on ingredients, percentages, packaging, (light infiltration can deactivate some products), pH, appearance, price — All reviewed in spectacular detail.

“Natural” and “organic” claims especially piss her off.

“Natural ingredient claims are not regulated by the FDA. Although the FDA has tried to establish official definitions and guidelines for the use of terms  such as “natural,” its regulation proposals were overturned in court. Therefore, cosmetics companies can use the ‘all natural’ term on ingredient lists to mean anything they want, and almost always it means nothing at all.”

Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

Poison ivy face mask, anyone?

Other interesting points:

  • You don’t need different moisturizers for the different areas of your body. Eyes, hands, face, etc.
  • You can’t just stick to one brand. No one product line receives across the board recommendations. 
  • The number one thing to prevent skin damage/aged appearance is sunscreen vigilance.
  • The $1 lipstick I prefer for those rare occasions calling for my “fancy face,” is actually very highly rated. (Way to go, Wet ‘n Wild!)
  • The best treatment for pimples and blackheads is just a generic tube of benzoyl peroxide.
  • A regular washcloth cleans your face just as well as a store-bought abrasive scrub.
The book ends with a summary of recommended cosmetic products. So if you’re looking for something specific, you can simply flip to the back.

The upshot of this book? I ended up buying a $3.50 tube of benzoyl peroxide for my son and a huge jug of sunscreen for myself.

Thank you, Paula Begoun!

-Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Update: I had e-mailed a copy of this review to the Don’t Go To the Cosmetics Counter Without Me website, and received this helpful reply:

Dear Katy,

Wow! Thank you for sharing this with me. I will make sure Paula sees it. She will be delighted (as am I) that you discovered and are getting such value from the book. As you can imagine, it is a monstrous task to conquer, and we’re very proud of it.

If I may I’d like to point out that your mention of benzoyl peroxide for acne is great, but it is not going to help blackheads. Blackheads are unrelated to acne in the sense that there is no bacterial component to them. That is why blackheads do not respond to benzoyl peroxide like acne lesions do. The best product for blackhead control is a well-formulated (meaning pH-correct) beta hydroxy acid product with salicylic acid. You’ll find a list of the best options in the “Best Products” section of the book.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Cat July 7, 2008 at 8:46 pm

Actually, I thought the same thing for years – that benzoyl peroxide would not work on blackheads – but I’ve found that it actually does work on mine!


Kendal February 23, 2011 at 7:22 am

I use mostly-natural Australian-made hemp seed oil soap and moisturiser for face and body – it’s amazing, nothing has made my skin feel better. Throw in a weekly scrub made from brown sugar and lemon juice and my skin care regime is complete.


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