From the Bookshelf: Beauty, The New Basics by Rona Berg

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I would say I can't believe it's been a week and a half since I last posted, but I can because I've been worrying about it every day since. Neglecting my blog bothers me like I never thought it would, so you can imagine how busy I was to not have been able to post. School, a babysitting gig, and work all piled up and even though I'm now on spring break, I've barely had a chance to catch my breath.

But I'm back now, with something truly special.

I don't know about you, but beauty books feel redundant these days. Between the incredible numbers of YouTube videos on makeup and skincare as well as the whole trove of information you can find online, a book dedicated to beauty seems superfluous, especially to those in the know. I devour beauty information through my computer all the time, so whenever I visit the Beauty and Grooming section of Barnes & Noble, it's all things I've heard before. Flipping through the books available can feel like the same regurgitation of what I already know, or is something that would be so much better understood through video. (Makeup application and hair styling are never coherent in print form).

I stumbled across this in the crowd of the same old beauty book, flipped through it, and immediately was so excited that I bought it on the spot. (You know it's a big deal when I don't have the patience for Amazon's discounted prices and free two-day shipping).

This book, despite being published 12 years ago (!), is outstanding. Just when I thought I couldn't learn anything new from a beauty book, Rona Berg knocks me over the head with the most thorough, informational and comprehensive beauty guide I've ever seen.

She really breaks down all aspects of beauty in a way that is approachable for everyone, providing the kind of information the average girl on YouTube or beauty website can't cover, or at least not in the same way. Berg unpacks the beauty industry in a critical and incredibly informative way--showing what brands are owned by what companies, how to read the ingredients label of a product, and the relationship the cosmetic industry has with the FDA. Barely ten pages in, and I was hooked the moment Berg broke down the price of a skincare item compared to the manufacturing cost.

It's not a copyright infringement if you can't read the text...right?

The elaborate section on skincare (a full 82 pages!) is unquestionably her finest, and one I've already marked numerous tips from. For someone like me, her thorough lesson on how to cleanse and moisturize your face was trivial, but Berg quickly heads into facials, AHAs, and UVA/UVB rays with extra tips all over the pages. She leaves no stone uncovered, and this book feels more like an accessible, easy textbook than anything else--the kind of textbook you actually want to read.

The general set-up of each of her chapters is an introduction to that area's basics, before heading into the details someone with more knowledge would be interested in. Through makeup, hair care, color, and styling, bath and body, hands and feet, and the spa, Berg absolutely nails it. The attention to detail in this book is really fabulous, and it's presented in the most approachable way--she gives specific product recommendations, a full and easy summary at the end of each section, as well as timelines of beauty history for us beauty nerds. Did I mention the DIY at home remedies she provides, as well as a glossary of terms and a salon recommendation list at the back?

But one of the most remarkable things about this book is that  it was completely ahead of its time. We're only just now starting to get into dry brushing, and yet Berg was all over it 12 years ago. (She actually claims that dry brushing your body regularly will make moisturizing unnecessary--buying a brush tomorrow!). She's got the skinny on gel nails, dry shampoo and acids ranging through glycolic and lactic. The content doesn't feel dated.

But the examples she presents do. Throughout the book, Berg provides product and salon recommendations, and while some of them are still alive and well, some are either discontinued or no longer carried where she says they are. (Bourjois, once at Sephora, is now no longer stocked in the U.S., for instance). Even though Berg takes the time to offer websites that provide more information on a given topic, even those are no longer current.

I'd love to see an updated Beauty, The New Basics, with pages of YouTube links and people online to learn from to supplement Berg's material. It would also be a good opportunity to discuss newer technological advancements, and she'll have the chance to write a beauty book that includes eyebrow threading. (More than a little peeved that she left it out!).

Still, even if it is out of touch in a few places, Berg has written a wonderful book. I really can't imagine how you could conceivably not learn from reading it, and you learn in such an easy, clear way.

Berg calls herself a beauty journalist, and I agree with the title--this book is a testament to her incredible amount of cosmetic experience, as well as her skills as a writer. 

I've actually started fangirling over her, and have every intention of sending her a fan letter (which I haven't done since Justin Timberlake wore an earring). 

No matter what your feelings toward beauty books, give this one a try.

It won't disappoint.

It feels wonderful to be blogging again!

Look out for my March Favorites post this Thursday!

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