If you’re a Goodreads worm like me, you probably already have the first Saturday of November circled in a heart on your calendar. That’s because it’s one of the best holidays of the year: National Book Lovers Day (it’s celebrated in August, too). While I’m celebrating by reading my copy of Gone Girl for the seventh time, I’ve also found myself revisiting my favorite beauty bibles. It’s from these tomes that I learned how to apply makeup—my copy of Making Faces still has smudged black eyeliner all over the front cover. To this day, they still provide valuable lessons whenever I need a refresher on beauty basics, a lesson on daring makeup experiments, or simply inspiration for a timeless classic look. Here are the top three beauty books to add to your must-read list now!
From one of the most recognizable names in mainstream makeup, this is the classic application 101 guide. Don’t let the title fool you—Brown’s book is all about the basics. It all starts with a comprehensive brush guide to discern what all those angled bristles actually do, as well as a shopping do’s and don’ts list. “Do shop in the daylight for foundation; don’t equate dermatologist tested with better quality,” writes Brown.
Then comes the real story: separate chapters devoted to application for face, lips, and eyes with special attention given to a diverse range of different ethnicities and facial structures. Brown’s book is good at dissecting the artistry of different techniques—the shading, the contouring, the little details—that make a day look subtle and an evening look more dramatic. There’s a chapter for every life stage as well, from teenager to mature skin, and even a section devoted to makeup during pregnancy. With this book, Brown, like always, has us covered.
Kevyn Aucoin believed that every person was beautiful and that makeup was merely the tool for discovering and unleashing one’s inner radiance. It’s been little more than a decade since the too-soon passing of this makeup legend, yet Aucoin is still regarded as one of the great masters of our time. This book makes it clear why his legacy endures.
Dotted with witty commentary and personal reflection (including a back-page letter from Aucoin’s grade school teacher, who worried about how often he requests to use the washroom), Making Faces opens with an in-depth but user-friendly instructional manual. Within you can learn how to apply every shade of makeup along with guidebooks to achieving colorful, dramatic, or neutral looks. (The author gets bonus points for using his beloved mother and sister as models.) The latter half then provides a whimsical look at makeup’s transformative powers. Using his celebrity muses like Nicole Kidman, Courtney Love, and Shalom Harlow, Aucoin makes over each one into stunning and almost unrecognizable prototypes like the Ingenue, Starlet, and Anarchist—and gives play-by-play instructions on how to recreate the looks. Fourteen years later, it’s still a wonderful source of beauty inspiration no matter what mood fits your beautiful self on any given day.
Westmore Beauty Book—A Complete 1950s Guide to Vintage Makeup, Hairstyling and Beauty Techniques
published 1956 (original), 2009 (reissue) | on Amazon
From Elizabeth Taylor to Marilyn Monroe to Brigitte Bardot, there was no lack of stunning movie stars in the 1950s. It was the golden age of beauty, sophistication, and class. But, to get the best glamour shots, you had to be glamorous, and there was no one better for this than the Westmore brothers. All four siblings worked as directors of makeup and styling at various movie studios, and filled this book with their best-kept secrets on how to ace makeup, hair, and health. There’s even a section on learning “personality” which includes advice on “poise” and “social graces”—gotta love that. These were the men who literally created the movie star, and their book brought the big screen to the lives of everyday housewives.
The pages are chock full of how-tos as well as questionnaires and diagrams to illustrate the nuances of vintage pin curls and dramatic rouge. Although some of the book could be laughed off by today’s standards (create an instant face lift with rubber bands and surgical tape?), much of it reads like our mothers’ best practices. Until recently, the Westmore Beauty Book was out of print but with a 2009 re-issue, it’s become a desired title for modern Betty Drapers.