I joined a book club last year for the first time ever. Considering what a bookworm I am it feels surprising this didn’t happen earlier, but then I googled the average age of book club participants and it’s basically full of retirees. So it looks like I’m a bit ahead of schedule. Although I’ve temporarily paused my participation during lockdown (the last thing I want to do after spending 10 hours on Teams work calls is dial into a Zoom call in the evening), it’s been a fantastic way of discovering new books, so I’m looking forward to re-joining come summer. In the meantime I’ve been smashing my 2021 beauty resolution to read more beauty books. Hot on the heels of my last reading list blog post, here are what my book recommendations would look like if I set up a beauty-dedicated book club.  

Great Skin by Ingeborg van Lotringen

Ingeborg van Lotringen (no I don’t know how to pronounce her name either) knows a thing or two about beauty: award-winning beauty director at Cosmopolitan UK for 14 years, now a freelance beauty journalist writing for various newspapers and magazines, she’s trialled her fair share of skincare products. She doesn’t tip toe around skincare concerns and offers straight talking advice based on her own experience and 25 years of talking to beauty experts. Great Skin is divided into three parts: the first provides you with direction on how to achieve a basic skincare routine, the second covers actives you may want to add to address specific skincare concerns, and the third tackles issues within the industry and related to skin problems, from the haziness around ‘natural’ in beauty to acne and pigmentation. I learned something new in each of the three areas without this book ever feeling boring, heavy or condescending. Inge keeps the pace lively and her recommendations concise, with a one-line, key take out at the end of each chapter, if you really want to whizz through the book in 10 minutes (why though?). What I’m taking away from this read:

  • Treat your skin as delicate in the first instance – very sensible advice and one that I listen to a lot more in my thirties than in my twenties.
  • The INCI will tell you everything you need to know – couldn’t agree more. The ingredients list on the back of every beauty product will tell you how natural or organic it is, if you’re just paying for pointless filler, the amount of actives present and you can have a good guess at concentrations too depending on how far down the list they’re positioned.
  • Niacinamide is the ingredient that does it all, with an ideal dosage between 2 and 5% – definitely an ingredient I’ve taken more notice of in the last 12 months thanks to its glow-giving properties, tackling uneven skin tone, addressing mild acne with its anti-inflammatory properties and boosting collagen production

An easy to read, informative book if you’re serious about your skincare. RRP £10.99

The French Beauty Solution by Mathilde Thomas

This book and I didn’t get off to a good start. I went in with a positive outlook though: written by the founder of Caudalie, one of my favourite brands, and celebrating the French attitude towards beauty, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. But the introduction got me in a huff: French expressions sprinkled throughout (‘Mon Dieu!’, ‘Et voila’, ‘beauty is an art de vivre for French women’), illustrations of French Vogue Emmanuelle Alt-style Parisians (no they don’t all look like that), pitting the French approach to beauty (pleasure and prevention) against the American version (pain and instant gratification), it seemed to be piling on the stereotypes. But being half French and having grown up in Paris, I’m not really the target audience. As a New York Times bestseller, it was written when Mathilde Thomas moved to the US to launch Caudalie there, hence the comparisons.

Once I had the context I enjoyed every single chapter of this ode to French beauty (well, all apart from the one about the 3-day grape detox – just reading about fasting made me hungry) and this book would make it to the top of my beauty book club reading list. The illustrations may be cliched but they are also aspirational, and if I didn’t consider it a sacrilege to cut pages out of a book, I would frame a few to create a Parisian display. The French/American comparison may be a little simplistic but many observations ring true:

  • French women learn what suits them best and stick with it. They may play with trends but they won’t be slaves to them
  • The secret to that effortless French style? French women can’t be bothered to spend hours preening, there’s too much wine to be drunk and fun to be had
  • ‘The pleasure principle’: your beauty routine should make you feel good at the same time it makes you look good. This is where the glass of red wine comes into play in practically every chapter for its antioxidant benefits but also because it’s a great way to enjoy life!
  • The importance of having a dermatologist – not just seeing one when there’s a problem but for regular check-ups, feeding into the principle that French beauty is about prevention, treatment and long-term investment

This book makes me want to book the first flight out to Bordeaux to sip red wine on a sunny terrace after spending the day at the Caudalie Spa. RRP £17.00

Back Chat Beauty by Lisa Potter-Dixon and Sophie Beresiner

Out of the three books this is the easiest to dip in and out of, and presents as more of a coffee table book, with its stylised imagery and visually presented information. It will give you a light introduction to real beauty basics, so this really feels targeted at true beginners, without overwhelming with anything more technical than how to create a winged eye. Witnessing the banter between Lisa and Sophie it sounds like this book must have been fun to work on: exchanging first date make up tips, how to do a smokey eye, their favourite wedding looks and products to help you survive the rush-hour commute. For that reason it would make quite a fun book club read. There are some firsts for me here: until Back Chat Beauty I’d never come across beauty recommendations for when you’re giving birth – could’ve come across as ridiculous, but the light-hearted and playful approach makes it work. My favourite section? The pre-holiday prep, because right now I really want to pack a suitcase and go somewhere. Anywhere. RRP £14.99

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