Susie Rushton: Beauty Queen

Saturday 26 April 2008 00:00 BST

Paula Begoun's quest to uncover the truth about skincare began with a bad case of teenage acne. "I visited countless dermatologists, tried hundreds of products in all price ranges, and I still had acne. How could that be?" asks the pundit known by viewers of American primetime television as The Cosmetics Cop. Fast forward 25 years, and, following a career as a make-up artist, Begoun now has a legion of fans that log on to her website and buy her handbook, an indispensible guide to almost every cream and lotion on the (American) market.

Called Don't Go To The Skincare Counter Without Me, the 1,100 page tome has just been published in its 7th edition, and for any woman who has ever wondered about the extravagant claims made by beauty brands, it makes for fascinating reading. From Almay to Yves Saint Laurent, she analyses both the cheap and the ludicrously expensive by the same criteria, considering "active ingredients", packaging and value for money.

It is a subjective guide, however, and Begoun's test results – garnered from her own trials and those of her friends – will not match everyone's experience with a product. For Brits, there's the obvious irritation that, say, Boots or Superdrug products aren't reviewed. None the less, in a market becoming crowded with £150 moisturisers and serums, Begoun's book offers some hope of balance. She has smart things to say about the texture of products, the efficacy of their so-called "miracle" ingredients, and is a stickler for proper jars and bottles. At the back of the book, there's a lexicon of skincare chemicals that will have you examining every jar in your bathroom cabinet. By the time you've finished browsing, this book will make you fanatically loyal to certain products – but very disillusioned with the rest.

Available from, around £15

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