Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me


Book title: Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me

Author: Paula Begoun

What: This book is essentially a compilation various beauty products review (makeup and skincare). Paula Begoun owns Paula’s Choice skincare line. The number of brands reviewed by Begoun is massive. However it does not contain several products you may be already familiar with, such as L’Occitane, Sebamed, and only very few of mineral makeup brands (which is understandable, because the hype of mineral makeup and skincare is at peak just in recent years).

My review: In a nutshell, Begoun’s reviewing method is based on packaging, ingredients and the claim that a certain product makes. If the ingredient does not seem proven to support the claim, she would in turn rate the product with a sad-face rating (i.e., bad). So, notice that she is not trying the product one by one on her skin. Fair enough, because what works for her, may not work for you. On the same note, what have worked for you in the past, may not necessarily receive a good review from her.

This is the essence of my review: treat this book as an additional reference, and proceed with caution (I can’t stress this enough). The best way is still to try out the product yourself, then you can decide. Our skin is unique and we may have a completely different reaction to the same ingredient. There are many instances where I strongly disagree with her reviews, but that is more than expected. I have learned a lot by just reading her reviews, as she elaborates on her reasoning on why a certain product earn a good, average or bad rating. And not to forget facts such as using Benzoyl Peroxide and Retinol together is not recommended, as they negate each other. I definitely do not regret forking the cash buying this book.


  • Sometimes gives alternatives ($210 blanc de la mer the whitening essence of the uber-expensive La Mer brand is considered work as well, if not worse than the humble Definity and Regenerist products from Olay)
  • Easy-to-understand two-dimensional, three-tiered rating system (i.e., based on price and ingredient effectiveness)
  • Alerts you to expensive products (and more importantly, to expensive and average or bad products)
  • Rather comprehensive and relatively updated
  • Gives overview, an “at a glance”, of each brand
  • Repeatedly stressing a good point of sunscreen use
  • Cites her sources, so you can double-check yourself if you’re curious
  • Provides a summary of products that earn “Paula’s Picks”, which easy to navigate if you just want to know what products she deems best.
  • Includes a glossary of ingredients, very helpful to decipher the long ingredient list you often see on the back of a product container


  • Mainly focusing on skincare, and not so much on makeup.
  • Overly cautious, particularly on packaging type and what she calls “overly irritating” ingredient
  • Not a big fan of the so-called “natural” and “organic” ingredients
  • Very much leaning towards certain products and ingredients (mainly hydroxy acids such as AHA and BHA)
  • Over advertising her Beautypedia website and all of her Paula’s Choice products are rated excellent (well, naturally)
  • Immediately assumes that product with no sunscreen are bad. Some of us actually layer our skincare with sunscreen.

Additional facts:

Begoun’s Beautypedia website contains an updated version of the book. The book is updated and published annually, while the website is updated weekly. The website provides both free section and a section exclusively for subscribers (currently priced at $24.95 for one-year access). This is probably a good option if you do not have access to the book. You will get what is in the book, plus an updated line of products.