In 2019 I picked up a skincare book from a hotel lobby in Cambodia. I bought it for myself when I was home to read all over again. I have read many skincare books since, but this one remains my firm favourite.
The book was The Skincare Bible by Dr Anjali Mahto, and it set my career as both a blogger and journalist onto a new path. My interest in skincare had been brewing for a while thanks — in equal parts — to my first wrinkle, and the opportunities I had to review new aesthetic treatments as a lifestyle writer.
Now, less than two years later, I have two qualifications and regularly write about skincare, treatments and products as both a journalist and content creator. I have read extensively about skincare, in books, magazines, and online, and yet The Skincare Bible remains my favourite book and my go-to reference guide for ingredients (along with the Milady Skincare and Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary fourth edition — an education textbook).
Earlier this year Caroline Hirons released her skincare book and I saw its cover all over social media as skincare enthusiasts excitedly announced they were reading it. I read it too, and I am quite disappointed to write that I wasn’t impressed. In fact, out of five of the most popular skincare books I’ve read her’s is my least favourite. So I thought I’d explain why, and then give reviews of other books I’ve read and preferred.
Skincare: The ultimate no-nonsense guide by Caroline Hirons, reviewed
The author, Caroline Hirons, is somewhat of a skincare celebrity in the UK. She started blogging back in 2010 and now has over 500k Instagram followers, 250k YouTube subscribers and regularly appears on TV as a skin specialist. So the fact this is my least favourite of the five books will probably shock a lot of people, but there was a lot in the book that I completely disagreed with.
She says all foam cleansers are bad, yet encourages the use of flannels (which are generally far too rough on the skin). She says it is wrong not to wash your face in the morning, even though I know countless dermatologists and aestheticians who advocate it for those with dry skin. She also writes that you shouldn’t use retinol around the eyes, nose, chin and on the neck… Wildly untrue.
I think my biggest issue with the book is how prescriptive it is. She talks about skincare and declares all of these “truths” as if there is a one-size-fits-all approach to skincare. Because — while I disagree with those things listed above — I would never tell anyone they are wrong for following them if they find it works for them. While we try to squeeze people into skin type groups and inform as well we can according to that, the fact is everybody’s skin is different and all specialists can do is guide them to finding the best practices for them.
There is plenty of other information about skin biology and skincare in the book that is valid and useful but, because of her overly prescriptive approach, sweeping statements and sometimes questionable brand recommendations, I think it is best avoided completely. Especially when there are other books I prefer, like The Skincare Bible (at my top spot), written by a dermatologist.
The Korean Skincare Bible: The ultimate guide to K-beauty by Lilin Yang, Leah Ganse, Sara Jimenez, reviewed
This book gives lengthy explanations of all the different products out there, as well as guiding you through both basic routines and the famous 10-steps. It fails, however, to give much (if any) explanation to the science of skincare or different skin types and conditions and how routines should vary accordingly. While it will help beginners to understand everything from essences to eye cream application, it could be a tad overwhelming. It was also written by the Miin Cosmetics company so, unsurprisingly, felt more like a marketing campaign than a “skincare bible”.
Ultimately, it will teach you a lot about different products, but it won’t teach you about skin and the science behind it all — which is far more important as understanding products will naturally follow.
The Skin Nerd: Your straight-talking guide to feeding, protecting and respecting your skin by Jennifer Rock, reviewed
This book went too far the other way and isn’t always easy to digest. You’ll definitely need to be a skincare nerd with pre-existing knowledge to enjoy and understand it — there is a lot of lengthy text and scientific detail. It covers skin biology, nutrition, skin types and various conditions (with chapters dedicated to acne and anti-ageing), with ingredients, products, and routines all thoroughly explained. It even talks you through popular trends such as K-beauty, jade rolling and clinic treatments à la mode. It’s a great book and you’ll learn a lot, but it lost points for pushing certain brands repeatedly — including the author’s own cleansing product — and making a few recommendations I don’t agree with (like using retinol in the morning).
Love Your Skin: The ultimate guide to a glowing complexion by Abigail James, reviewed
This book is great for anyone keen to make their approach to skincare part of a holistic lifestyle. The biology, science and skincare practice you need to know is all there, along with DIY mask recipes and all the Dos, Don’ts and FAQs. There is a strong emphasis on natural skincare, which is very popular at the moment, and a huge chunk of the book is dedicated to lifestyle choices and influences. There are skin-specific yoga moves, foods that balance hormones, ‘beauty-boosting’ recipes, and discussion of how gut health, inflammation, stress, sugar and sleep all affect your skin.
The Skincare Bible: Your no-nonsense guide to great skin by Dr Anjali Mahto, reviewed
As I said, I have read this skincare book multiple times, refer to it frequently, and it remains my firm favourite. It is so easy to read yet contains complex science. The first chapter is titled ‘A Crash Course in Skin’ — which pretty much describes the entire book. It is absolutely wonderful for beginners and aficionados alike.
It debunks common skincare myths and industry jargon, while drip-feeding expert information from beginning to end. You’ll finish with a clear understanding of skin biology, skincare science, what your skin needs and what other skin types need, all while being able to recount numerous ingredients for various issues from pigmentation to puffy eyes, acne to rosacea.
Perhaps most importantly, it will make you a much more astute skincare shopper. It doesn’t recommend brands or products, but armours you with the scientific knowledge of ingredients to be able to make your own, well informed choices.