Watching videos on YouTube and TikTok may be the most immediate way to glean beauty tips, but it’s hard to beat a reference book for clear, easy-to-follow information. Whether you’re looking for a historical or even anthropological take on a trend or beauty moment or you’d just like to understand beauty labels more clearly, there’s a book for that. A beauty book is also a great gift for the beauty lover whose makeup bag is already overflowing — it doesn’t hurt that many beauty books are stylishly designed (and just as striking an accent as a red lip or winged eyeliner).
Best books on skin care
Three of our experts recommended Skincare: The No-Nonsense Guide, by Caroline Hirons. “It’s just an absolutely brilliant skin-care A-Z with solid advice,” says dermatologist Dr Ranella Hirsch. “It doesn’t have pointless steps or impossible results, just practical, applicable and straightforward advice. Plus, Caroline is hilarious, so you’ll be laughing as you learn.” Makeup artist Keeley Wilson is also a fan, saying, “It’s my go-to skin-care book. It has loads of easy-to-follow advice on building your own perfect skin-care routine.” The book is designed to help readers understand what products do and build their own routines with confidence, and is suitable for skin-care rookies and acolytes alike. “It’s the best matter-of-fact book to address beauty that I’ve read,” agrees dermatologist Dr Corey L. Hartman.
If you’re looking to understand the science of skin care better and understand how products are formulated, three of our experts suggest Skincare Decoded, by Victoria Fu and Gloria Lu, the cosmetic chemists behind Chemist Confessions. “It breaks down seemingly complicated skin-care concepts into clever, insightful, and easily digestible portions without dimming down any of the science. I recommend it for professionals in the skin-care industry and for anyone wanting to take a deeper look into the products they’re using and the ingredients that make them work,” says Joyce De Lemos, co-founder of Dieux Skin and a clinical cosmetic chemist herself. Freelance beauty editor Jennifer Li also selected it, saying, “It’s a deep dive into understanding beauty ingredients and how they work. It taught me a lot about the basics of product formulation, and it was illuminating to see the formulator’s perspective of a product!” It’s also the pick of cosmetic chemist Esther Olu, who says, “It’s probably the best book I have read that breaks down complex skin-care science. It helps you understand marketing terminology better, the ingredients of skin care, as well as the needs and don’t-needs.”
If you’d like to sort through your essences and serums like a pro, freelance beauty writer Vanese Maddix recommends The Little Book Of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets For Healthy, Glowing Skin, by Charlotte Cho, founder of Soko Glam. “Over the years, K-beauty has become really popular in the U.K., and this book is a great way to learn more about how to achieve glowing skin, as well as having tips on creating your own skin-care routine and how to find the best products for your skin type,” says Maddix. “It’s super-informative with a great mix of visuals alongside. Every step is broken down in an easy-to-follow and fun way. Whether you’re learning about K-beauty for the first time or just fancy polishing up on your knowledge, there’s something for everyone.”
Best hair and beauty books
Ava Welsing-Kitcher, freelance beauty editor and columnist, selected Palette, by Funmi Fetto, saying: “It’s such a sophisticated and timeless book. Funmi’s built an incredible career by being one of the truest voices of guidance for Black and brown beauty lovers, and her dedicated space to the products which work for us is something we were long overdue by the industry. Packed with insider knowledge, innovative ways of use, and beautiful illustrations of high end and budget offerings, it’s something I always flick through when hungry for new discoveries.” Fetto has been a beauty editor for 15 years, working at Vogue, Glamour, and more, and in the book, she shares all of the tips and insight she’s picked up from being around the world’s top beauty experts.
Stylist and beauty director Shannon Peter says that while it may not be a traditional how-to beauty book, she’s always recommending Entanglement, by Emma Tarlo. “Granted, it doesn’t have handy tips and useful advice, but if you ask me, it’s equally as valuable,” she says. “It’s written by anthropologist Emma Tarlo and traces the role of human hair in different cultures and societies around the world. It unpicks the human hair trade, unpacks the sociological and psychological importance of hair, inspects just how it’s become such a prosperous economy, and also shares fascinating tidbits about the myriad uses of human hair. Did you know extracts of human hair were once used to make bagels?!” If you love a fun fact, this one’s for you.
For a coffee-table book you’ll actually want to leaf through, dermatologist Dr Mary Sommerlad recommends Pretty Iconic, by Sali Hughes. “It takes you on a tour of iconic skin-care and beauty products from the past 100 years or so. It has a great layout, lots of nostalgia, and it’s beautifully written — it’s part memoir, part love letter to all things beauty,” says Dr Sommerlad. The book explores how products like Johnson’s baby oil and NARS Orgasm blusher achieved icon status, and how these products have shaped the beauty world for good.
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