Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry | Book Review

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As I began learning more about the ingredients used in beauty products, it seemed like a natural progression to read Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, by Stacy Malkan, New Society Publishers, copyright 2007. I purchased the Kindle version on Amazon for $10.31 and read the entire book in two and a half days.


The author, Stacy Malkan, is one of the founders of the Campaign of Safe Cosmetics, which is “a coalition effort launched in 2004 to protect the health of consumers and workers by securing the corporate, regulatory and legislative reforms necessary to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.”[1. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: About Us] I frequently visit the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website and the corresponding Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. They provide a wealth of information regarding cosmetics ingredients and their health effects and are invaluable resources for selecting safer makeup and skin care products.

This book covers the formation of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, as well as their on-going efforts to improve the safety of beauty care products in the U.S.

Right from the prologue, I could relate to the author and her teenage days hanging out in the makeup isle of the local drug store selecting which new potion would make her beautiful.  I always loved reading the makeup ads in Seventeen Magazine to see what new products were on the market. I would collect makeup items, but hardly ever wear them. Somehow just purchasing them seemed to be enough to boost my self esteem.

I eagerly read from chapter to chapter, interested to see what I would learn next. The book covers:

  1. The links between chemical exposure and disease,
  2. Chemicals linked to birth defects in body care products,
  3. Breast cancer activists’ efforts to get cancer causing chemicals out of beauty care products,
  4. Building the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database,
  5. The most toxic beauty products,
  6. Pink-washing,
  7. Teen activists working for change,
  8. How the cosmetics industry has responded to consumer groups demands for safer products,
  9. Behind the scenes look at the thought process of the cosmetics industry,
  10. Finding alternative natural products,
  11. The future of cosmetics, and
  12. What you can do to make a change.


If, like me, you have read almost every page of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website, much of the book may seem like a review. There were a couple chapters with new-to-me information. If you have not scoured their website, the policies and poisons of the cosmetics industry may come as quite a shock.

The insights into chemicals in cosmetics and their health effects were supported by many scientific studies. Although, the book also stresses the lack of safety studies, leaving us unsure whether many ingredients are safe for use on our bodies. The author pushes for the precautionary approach, with which I agree. Rather than waiting until it is too late and many people have become sick and died, stop using ingredients once they have raised red flags of safety concerns. Comparisons were also made to the regulations adopted by other countries, showing just how far behind the U.S. is in protecting consumers.

Some people may baulk at the idea that most of our main-stream beauty products are toxic, but I was already accepting of the idea that many of the products we use daily are contributing factors to cancer and developmental problems.

If you are considering switching to safer more natural cosmetics but need an extra push, this book may do the trick. I know many people are busy with their day-to-day lives and do not feel like they have time to understand the ingredients list on the back of their eye shadow or mascara, but what if changing your beauty routine could help you avoid a devastating disease?


Rating 4 Stars (4 / 5)

I recommend that anyone using conventional beauty products read Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. But, especially if you are planning to become pregnant soon, please read this first! Even if you do not agree with it 100%, it is better to know what you are putting on and into your body than to take an “ignorance is bliss” stance.

If after you read the book you are inspired to clean-up and green-up your beauty routine, you are in just the right place! You can find reviews of natural beauty products, as well as DIY recipes, here on Natural Beauty Lifestyle.


You can support Natural Beauty Lifestyle by purchasing Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry through my Amazon Affiliate link. There will be no extra cost to you, and I will earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

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  1. […] launch party included a short presentation about the toxins in conventional beauty products, what inspired the formation of Beautycounter, and how you can get […]

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