Not Just a Pretty Face by Stacy Malkan

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

As Alice, or in this case, Stacy, fell down the rabbit hole, she shares her story of self discovery into the very products she’s loved all her life. The same products that turned out to be nothing but a lie to take her money and likely even harm her health. What I thought would be a book about listing specific ingredients found in all kinds of beauty products and even everyday products, turned out to be a story about going down the rabbit hole, and discovering that none of the keys you are equipped with fit any of the locks around you. By the time you’re a third way into the book, you don’t want to put it down. Not to mention you’re a bit angry, or maybe very angry.

This is definitely not a list of ingredients and how they do you harm. However, some specific ingredients are discussed at length – for the purpose of asking the questions: why are some ingredients illegal in places like the European Union, and not the US? And why are there no organizations or institutions that can hold these manufacturers of so called “beauty” (more like “cancer causing”) products accountable for not following their own safety guidelines?

What this book is about is how major players in the cosmetic industry regularly use a wide variety of health-harming ingredients in their products, and then cover it up and lie about it. The author provides evidence and examples that this is so. Basically, many of the major cosmetics manufacturers you cannot trust. Instead, you either must be vigilant in reading and analyzing ingredients (assuming they are even available), or find brands that you can trust (such as Nature’s Complement).

This is a wonderful book, not only of one person’s self discovery, but also the history of how some organizations in the cosmetic industry came to be. I also learned of some organizations I had never heard of, such as the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics. I certainly should have been aware of such organizations, especially considering my line of business. But this only goes to show how much the big industry players will do to bury any safety concerns about their products.

I found it fascinating (and hopeful) that a small group of people can make an impact on billion dollar industries. While as a society we are far from winning the war with the giants who only care about the profits (at the expense of human health), this book gives me hope that I am not alone in my quest to make healthy products dominant. This book was a good reminder of why I started my business in the first place. Because politely asking major industry players to make non-toxic products proved to be fruitless, and only made me feel like I’m here all alone, asking for such products. However, unlike the women discussed in this book, rather than keep asking for such products, I just formulated my own. As Buckminster Fuller said: “You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.” And that is exactly what I have done.

With that said, this book shocked me in some instances. Because I long ago turned off my television, I don’t read magazines, and I click the x on the upper right corner on any website that tries to sell me what beauty should look like, I have in a way become disconnected from the world that most people see. Thus, I do not wear make up – ever – I don’t even own any. Nor do I buy any store bought personal care or cosmetic products. So to read in this book that there is an entire culture of Filipino women who use skin creams with dangerous chemicals in an effort to lighten their skin to look like the models they are exposed to, elicited anger in me I didn’t know I had.

Then to read about the fact that African American women spend a good portion of their earnings to make themselves feel acceptable to society via hair styles and other beauty products, at the additional price of harming themselves, angered me even more.

What is wrong with our society that we value a certain (artificial) look over reality? Why do we spend ridiculous amounts of hard earned money to make ourselves look like someone we’re not? That money could be better spent on eating organic healthy foods instead, to make oneself healthy from within, and reduce the amount of toxins put on ones body. People seriously need to learn some self love, self value, and self respect, outside the fantasy land that is advertised to them.

Sorry, I’ll get off my soap box. This is a very good read. It may make you angry. It will certainly make you think. It will make you run to your bathroom to look at ingredients and check them. It will make you question if you can really trust who you do business with; make you question the very brands that are found in your bathroom. It will make you ask yourself, whose beauty do you value? Your own, or what the big manufacturers want you to believe?

This book is not only an eye opener to the beauty industry, but also a story of hard work, perseverance, and even success.

If I could afford to do so, I would buy a copy for all my family, all my friends, and all my customers, and offer to pay them $100 each to read it.

For Health,


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