Thursday, November 08, 2007

Trade Secrets- Beauty Confidential by Nadine Haobsh- Book Review

I remember quite well when I started reading beauty blogs. The year was 2005 and I was beginning to think that in the internet era it was ridiculous to rely on beauty information from monthly magazines, because that couldn't possibly the latest and hottest, not to mention the feeling I always had about their first commitment being to their advertisers and not to the readers. I remember hearing some buzz about an associate beauty editor from Ladies' Home Journal who was busted for blogging about trade secret, thus losing both her job and the job offer from Seventeen magazine she has already accepted. I looked up her blog, Jolie in NYC, found it interesting enough and went on to pursue more beauty blogs.

I loved reading these blogs, many of them are now linked here, in the side bar menu on the right. They were fresh, updated daily, informative and fun to read. The best thing was the feeling I wasn't being fed press releases and PR purple prose, but was actually reading what real women had to say and getting some good, practical advice that goes beyond the recycled advice in many of the magazines. However, eventually I couldn't help but notice that since these blogs were so real and personal, the advice and point of view were too often inapplicable for me: Many of them were much younger than me, blonde, pale skinned, with a hair-straightening habit and a preference for aquatic fresh or fruity-floral scents (that was before I found some like-minded souls on the perfume blogs). I began thinking maybe I had something to add to the beauty discussion. That was the moment The Non-Blonde was born.

All of the above is meant to explain why I was so eager to read Beauty Confidential, Nadine Haobsh' book. After all, she achieved what most of us bloggers dream about: A book deal. The cover promises "The no preaching, no lies, advice-you'll-actually-use guide to looking your best". The back cover also mentions "industry secrets and insider tips". To be honest, what I wanted most to read about was not so much how to make a dye job last, but more about the reality of her former "The Devil Wears Prada" existence and especially about the transition from magazine editor to blogger.

The latter was barely touched, and I understand why. After all, the vast majority of her readers are not bloggers and are looking to buy the book for its Beauty Bible value. The stories from behind the scenes at the glossies are cute, but if that's what you want to read about, Nadine's former boss at Lucky magazine, Jean Godfrey June, has done a better job. Where Haobsh has the edge both on Godfrey-June and on Allure's Linda Wells, is in that she actually names the products, good (mostly) and bad. It's clear she has far less fear of advertisers, so she can tell us that she's not impressed with the performance of Creme de la Mer (why should she be? She's only about 27. Let's talk in a decade) and doesn't like Maybelline Great Lash mascara. Her list of must-have products is interesting and worthy, but I hope no one would really take it as the ultimate shopping list without first stopping to consider the small issues of age, complexion and actual needs.

Just as I have started my own blog because Nadine and others raved and endorsed products that were obviously wrong for me, despite her conviction in her all-encompassing knowledge, sometimes she's wrong. With all my love and respect for Nars products, their Orgasm blush in all its peachy glory looks ridiculous on me. And I'm not the only freak: My sister whose coloring is completely different than mine, pale and pink-cheeked, looks just as weird in it. So, no, Orgasm isn't universally flattering. Another bad blush moment in the book is the praise for Smashbox O-Glow. Looks like Nadine has missed the Beauty Brains post where they exposed the truth about this product. I expected her to know better than this (after all, I did).

Still, other than a few glitches, most of this book can be very helpful and informative, especially for those who are still searching for serious holy grail products, looking for makeup tips that actually work or a manual for maintaining their blonde (this is the part of the book I can't comment about. Everything she says makes sense, but I've never had so much as highlights and have yet to come face to face with a flat iron). I liked her myth-crushing approach to makeup and real life solutions, including good advice on products worth splurging for and what's better bought from the drugstore.

The tone of the book is chipper and sunny, pretty much like her blog, and is full with endearing anecdotes and stories from beauty mishaps to awkward moments at the salon and on the waxing table. I might not turn to her for skincare advice or perfume info (her list of favorites had me shake my head several times), but I'll probably come back to several of her makeup tips and quick fixes, and I'll never look at a a magazine's "how to get the cover look" the same way again (hint: they're lying through their teeth).

Here's a quote I loved from the book. It sums up everything I think and feel about beauty products:
"...that's all beauty products really are: indulgent, gorgeous, happiness-inducing luxuries that help take you away from your reality and transport you to another world, one where you're always beautiful, always feeling your best, and always smelling divine."


  1. The book sounds good! Never come face to face with a flat iron - I wish I didn't have to but with my new Bed Head hair dryer, at least the process is a lot faster!

  2. OK, here is wish 126 for 2008: I want a book deal, too ;-)
    Fragrant greetings

  3. On to my wishlist it goes :-)

  4. Very, very, very nice post! Thank you!

  5. La la la la la la...not listening to your review! I have this book coming in the mail...I'll read it first and then come back and read your thoughts.


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