Cosmetics Made Absolutely Simple - Book Review

We received a new book from Allured called Cosmetics Made Absolutely Simple.  It’s a basic introduction to the field of cosmetics and is a translation from a Japanese version which was published in 2009.  Overall, the information in the book is excellent.  The book represents a significant departure from other Allured books in that it is cartoon illustrated and has color throughout.  Definitely not the type of book one would expect.cosmetics made simple

Book layout

Cosmetics Made Absolutely Simple is presented in 6 sections including sections on the cosmetic industry, the biology of skin and hair, cosmetic technology, cosmetic chemistry and the future of the industry.  Each section is broken up into chapters but really they are too short to be considered as such.  The format of each “chapter” is two pages.  One page has a description of the topic while the other page has an illustration that further describes the text.  For an introductory work on the subject it is an interesting and effective way to present the information.

The first section covers the cosmetic industry.  It includes a definition of cosmetics worldwide, a brief history, and some good, up-to-date worldwide cosmetic market data.

The second section goes into surprising detail about skin and skin biology.  From the cartoony illustrations you wouldn’t expect the type of details that you get but each chapter in this section is packed interesting factoids.  While the bulk of the chapter is about skin it also covers hair, nails, and the perception of color.

In the third section the chemistry of cosmetics is reviewed.  The author covers all the basic technologies such as surfactants, polymers, fragrance but also includes more detailed discussions on foam and water.  The choices of what to include and exclude are somewhat unclear but the information provided is interesting.

The fourth section focuses on the way that specific cosmetic formulations work.  It covers skin moisturization, hair conditioning, color cosmetics, nail products and more.  The topics are covered in a very high-level way and no specific formulations are given.  However, after reading this section the beginner will have a good overview of how most cosmetics work.

The fifth section deals more with product development describing topics such as product stability, testing and safety.  While the information is good this section seems less organized than previous ones and it may have been better to combine the fourth and fifth sections.

In the final section is titled cosmetics of the future but it is more focused on current technologies.  This section would have been better called functional cosmetics as it goes through the product topics that hadn’t been covered thus far such as oral products, anti-aging, anti-acne, and more.  Only in the final pages is a discussion on cosmetic future to be found.

Who is this book for?

The book is definitely an introduction to the industry and is a very high-level review of it.  However, a lot of detail can be found on many of the topics and I learned a number of things that I didn’t explicitly know.  For the veteran formulator this book provides a great review, a filling-in of details you might not know, and is a great reference.  It is most useful if you ever need to describe complicated cosmetic science topics to a non-scientific audience.  I know I’ll adapt some of the treatments of topics in future presentations.

For the beginner it is a great overview but this book only provides a start.  It is detailed but it leaves a lot out.  If you are looking for a book that will teach you to become a formulator, this one is not it.

Perhaps the most appropriate audience for this book are the people in your marketing group or other non-formulators who are interested in how cosmetics work.  It is a valuable book to have on the shelves of any cosmetic company.  And at the low price of under $30 US, it’s well worth the purchase.

Overall Impressions

While you wouldn’t know it from the cartoonish design of the Cosmetics Made Absolutely Simple, the information found inside is surprisingly comprehensive.  If you are looking for a quick overview of the industry that has lots of illustrations and is relatively easy to read, this book is worth getting.

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