Updated 01/07/22. I’m continually looking for ways to enhance my life journey. That’s why I’m always on the search for the best skincare and health & wellness books. I’m blessed to have many industry friends and colleagues who can offer up recommendations (some of them have even written skincare and health & wellness books of their own!). In this post, I’ll share a selection of my all-time favorite books that help me look and feel my best.
My Favorite Skincare and Health & Wellness Books
1. How To Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life
By Frank Lipman, MD
My friend and fellow esthetician Joanna Vargas brought me to this book launch and I’m so glad she did. This unique handbook addresses six key areas of health & wellness along with practical everyday habits and practices to live your healthiest and happiest life. I’ve incorporated many of the recommended daily habits into my own life.
My Favorite Takeaways From The How To Be Well Book:
- Sugar is public health enemy number one. According to Dr. Lipman, it alters your hormones so you don’t register hunger the way you normally would, which makes you eat more. Sugar is everywhere! Protein bars, orange juice, BBQ sauce (I live in Austin and I get loads of that!), low-fat fruit yogurt, granola, and fruit smoothies all contain sugar. Also, sweet dessert wines have high sugar content. My go-to wine is Riesling but since it’s so sugary, I’ve been sticking with my vodka water with lemon, instead.
- Veggies should make up two-thirds of your daily diet. Eat the right foods and they will send instructions to your genes for good health. Eating the wrong foods, however, sends messages for disease.
- Close your eyes, clean your brain. Sleep is not a luxury; it’s an absolutely essential act of daily maintenance, and it is your ally in keeping your brain sharp and beautiful. When your sleep goes awry, it’s a clue that something about your lifestyle is asking to be adjusted, or that something else in your body needs attention.
- Get strong. Cultivating strength with exercise is key to protecting yourself against injury, especially as you get older. (I do a CrossFit-style workout five days a week and we do a lot with weights so I will be sure to keep this up.)
- 5-10 minutes a day on a foam roller works wonders for your body. It allows you to massage your muscles and tendons that your hands can’t reach. It’s excellent for flexibility, circulation, and oxygen flow to the brain. I have three different ones and they hurt so good. I’m addicted.
- Smile. Laugh. Repeat. When you laugh, you’re stimulating the release of endorphins which are considered happy brain chemicals. They are considered mood-boosters but also give the immune system a welcome boost. Some of you may know if you follow my personal Instagram account, I lost my husband to a short six-month battle with cancer. As you can see from the #thisisflorian tribute I did for him, he was a very funny guy. For 22 years, there was so much laughter in my world. Since laughter is the best medicine (and also a stress reliever), I must be extra conscious to look for opportunities to get that back in my life. I certainly know that Florian would want that for me.
- Adopt a pet. In study after study, Dr. Lipman says that pet owners are healthier and happier than non-pet owners. When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, we got a French bulldog puppy (after all, Florian is French) to provide him a special kind of comfort that only a furry friend could provide. I can assure you, she had been the light on his darkest days and is helping to bring some light back to me. Watch this video of when we first got Gypsy. So adorable. It was a special moment.
2. Glow From Within
By Joanna Vargas
Speaking of my dear friend and fellow esthetician, Joanna Vargas, she wrote her own book on skincare! It’s called Glow From Within, and it addresses everything from how a healthy diet affects the skin, to the efficacy of professional treatments, and how to choose the best products for your skin (she actually recommends many products from my own line!). This book is a great resource for anyone who’s interested in learning more about how the skin works and how best to care for it.
My Favorite Takeaways From The Glow From Within Book:
- Sun exposure is responsible for 90% of premature aging. When it comes to preventative aging, sun protection is everything. While other lifestyle factors, such as sleep, diet, and smoking, also account for premature aging, the sun is the biggest culprit of them all. That’s why I’ve been diligent about applying sunscreen to my skin every day, rain or shine, for years.
- The eye area is usually the first to show visible signs of aging. Because the skin around the eyes is thinner than the skin on other areas of the face, it’s susceptible to showing premature signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. Well-formulated eye creams are a MUST to deliver targeted ingredients to this area. Joanna actually recommends my Total Eye Repair Creme in this section since it’s formulated with an effective combination of peptides, antioxidants, and hydrating ingredients!
- Lymphatic massage can benefit the skin in a variety of ways. Lymphatic massage is a special technique that involves using light pressure and specific motions to encourage the movement of lymph, which is the fluid that’s carried through our lymphatic systems. Lymph contains oxygen and essential nutrients. It also takes away toxins and impurities, which is why encouraging its healthy movement can be beneficial. In her book, Joanna explains that it can help reduce puffiness, lessen the appearance of dark circles, and even reduce the frequency of breakouts! Joanna was kind enough to share her expertise on this subject in a blog post! Check it out to learn how you can give yourself a lymphatic drainage massage at home.
- Regular exercise can benefit the skin on a cellular level. I’m a huge proponent of consistent exercise, and the section on exercise in Joanna’s book really cemented it for me. She explains how the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin) thickens with age, which can contribute to a tough, textured appearance. At the same time, the dermis thins out, which can contribute to a sagging, hollow appearance. She references a study that found regular exercise (even when started later in life) can actually reverse this—thinning the stratum corneum and thickening the dermis! How cool is that?
3. Black Skin: The Definitive Skincare Guide
By Dija Ayodelle
Dija is one of the many industry professionals that inspire me on a daily basis, so I was really excited when I got my hands on her new book. This book starts with the history of black skin and then goes into how black skin differs from white skin and how there are cultural differences in the way black people treat their skin. It was really fascinating to read. From there, the book dives deep into all of the common skin conditions (hyperpigmentation being a big one), skincare myths, how to care for your skin at home, and more. Dija did a really great job with this book and I learned a lot. (Read more about common concerns for skin of color and how to address them!)
My Favorite Takeaways From The Black Skin Book:
- Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra (DPN) most often occurs in women. If you have ever noticed the skin of actor Morgan Freeman, you may have seen these dark bumps that are sprinkled all over his face. This is DPN, often referred to as skin tags or moles. While they are harmless, I didn’t realize that more women than men get them so that was interesting to learn. I’m really big into having smooth, bump-free skin but treatment for removal for black skin can be tricky and can result in skin discoloration. She provides a lot of great advice for minimizing pigmentation.
- Washing your face in the morning is essential for preventing breakouts. I love that Dija discusses the importance of washing your face in the morning and not just rinsing it with water. “Remember that the skin is an excretory organ, constantly getting rid of waste materials. This doesn’t stop whilst you are asleep. Overnight oils, toxins, old skin cells are on the move. This is why you have to wash your face in the morning, otherwise, you are slowly building up the perfect environment for breakouts and acne.”
- Black men have skin challenges due to shaving. Up to 85% of black men will deal with pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), also known as “razor bumps.” This occurs when the hair is freshly shaved and it curls back and penetrates the skin causing sore and painful bumps. Dija offers great advice on how to shave to try to prevent this issue.
4. The Beauty of Dirty Skin: The Surprising Science of Looking and Feeling Radiant from the Inside Out
By Whitney Bowe, MD
I love new discoveries in the world of science, and the power of the microbiome on skin health is a big one. This book is very interesting in regards to treating your skin from the inside out with diet, supplements, and natural remedies to treat skin conditions like blemishes. I’ve always believed that just topically treating your skin with products will only get you so far and this book supports that theory—but in a new and different way.
My Favorite Takeaways From The Beauty of Dirty Skin Book:
- Your gut is ground zero. Dr. Bowe says that her patients with the most severe skin conditions have gastrointestinal challenges as well. This is due to microbial inhabitants which can influence how your skin behaves as well as your ability to maintain an ideal weight.
- Microbiome: the collection of microorganisms living in a particular environment, such as a human body or body part (e.g., the intestine, skin, mouth, nose, genitalia, or urinary tract). Microbiomes exist throughout nature, from the ocean floor and forests to other animals.
- Probiotics can work in your favor. Dr. Bowe explains how probiotics can contribute to the regulation of the immune system by controlling stress and oxidation. While there’s still lots of research going on, probiotics may be able to play a role in affecting certain skin conditions since they could potentially support barrier function and counter harmful bacteria.
5. Skincare Decoded: The Practical Guide to Beautiful Skin
By Victoria Fu and Gloria Yu
What makes this book really great is that both Victoria and Gloria are skincare-formulation chemists so their perspective is very unique. What I really love about this book is how much detail they go into about the science behind how skincare ingredients work. This information is so helpful for both skincare professionals like me, but also for consumers as they make it all really easy to understand.
My Favorite Takeaways From The Skincare Decoded Book:
- Humectants, emollients, and occlusives all work to fulfill your skin’s moisturizing needs. Most everyone applies a moisturizer after cleansing as it’s considered essential for the health of your skin but finding the right one for your skin type can be challenging. Humectants, emollients, and occlusives are all essential for moisture-making but not everyone will agree with all three. I love how they break down each category and list what type of ingredients to look for based on your skin’s needs.
- Not all retinoids are equal. There is no buzzier ingredient than vitamin A retinoids yet this category of ingredients can be so confusing. They break down the different kinds of prescription formulas available as well as ones you can buy over-the-counter. I particularly liked how they called out retinyl palmitate, a very, very weak type of vitamin A and how it’s just not effective. The reality is if you’re going to use a retinoid or retinol (which you should!) you need it to work biologically within the skin to encourage collagen production and this one just doesn’t cut it.
- Location does matter when it comes to the sun. If you’ve ever seen me post about being on an airplane, you know how I always buy a window seat so I can shut the shade since you’re closer to the sun and the lane windows still emit a lot of UV radiation. In this book, they discuss this very point as well as other “sun-arios” that you may be overlooking like on a mountain or working indoors. I like this example: “Partly cloudy situations are funky because of the broken-cloud effect. Sometimes, when the clouds are scattered but still dense enough, they can actually scatter UV and cause the effects of the rays to be as much as 25% stronger.”
6. Skincare: The Ultimate No-Nonsense Guide
By Caroline Hirons
Love this book so very much from my friend, Caroline! This is true to her, written with her usual funny wit and without any BS. She’s a straight-shooter in everything she does and says. What I really appreciate about this book is it’s such an easy read. Even with all the information that’s presented, it’s very digestible and enjoyable.
My Favorite Takeaways From The Skincare Book:
- How to apply product properly. No one really ever talks about this very basic information so I really appreciate that Caroline addresses this. Essentially, you don’t want to be warming and rubbing skin products into your hands because then less of it goes on your face. Instead, she demonstrates nicely in pictures how to apply and distribute a product into your hand so that it is ready for application on your face. (Page 62)
- How much product to use. Again, not something that most professionals talk about but should! Caroline’s mantra is “grip not slip. Your face shouldn’t feel greasy or slippery.” So essentially, she recommends less than more when it comes to applying, and in her book, she has great pictures of exactly how much product should be used to be effective and not wasteful. “Moisturizer: Depending on your skin and face size, two blueberries or three if you’re a dry pumpkin head.”
- Always invest in serums. When asked, “Where should I spend most of my money?” Caroline says confidently, “The answer is always, always serums.” She recommends serums since they contain high-performing ingredients that treat, correct and repair.
A big thank you to Caroline for mentioning me and my skincare line in her book! Watch this video of Caroline interviewing me.
7. Younger: The Breakthrough Anti-Aging Method For Radiant Skin
By Harold Lancer, MD
This book covers almost all aspects of aging and how to look “younger” but I particularly like how he dives into genetics. Ultimately, we all have a genetic predisposition that we must understand and accept. I also like how he discusses the skin-mind connection and how important it is to manage stress in the quest to have healthier-looking skin.
My Favorite Takeaways From The Younger Book:
- Everything rusts with age. I’m no stranger to the free radical theory as I’ve talked about this on my blog for years but a good way to think about it is like rust on an old car. Just like how oxygen (air) creates rust, this too changes our cells and contributes to premature aging. He drives home the point of how important it is to use topical antioxidants both morning and night and even uses the example of how an apple turns brown. You can see the apple experiment I did to show how oxidation occurs and what will help.
- Look at your family tree. Genetics plays a big role in how your skin behaves, particularly as it relates to pigment (skin tones). How much pigment you have in your skin will contribute to how your skin will age. He touches on the famous Fitzpatrick Classification Skin Typing System, which was developed many years ago and was the inspiration for creating my skin type philosophy. Interested in learning more about genetics? These three genetic facial features will guarantee you’ll look younger longer.
- Food as hormone replacement therapy. Oh, those hormones. When estrogen levels begin to fall, aging happens. Natural plant estrogens can be helpful for any time of hormonal imbalance. He shares a list of the best estrogenic foods which include: alfalfa, apples, carrots, cherries, black-eyed peas (be sure to eat these on New Year’s Day for prosperity, it’s a Southern tradition), eggplant, licorice, papaya, rhubarb, sage, soybeans, and others. Read about hormones and how they affect your skin.
8. Cosmetic Chemistry
By Florence Barrett-Hill
I think it’s the best skincare book for getting nerdy about skin. It’s written for the esthetician and skincare professional to understand ingredients and their role in formulations and how it relates to specific skin conditions. As someone who has taken cosmetic chemistry classes at UCLA for many years, this book plays a great supporting role in my life-long quest for continuing education about science.
My Favorite Takeaways From The Cosmetic Chemistry Book:
- Not all alcohols are drying. There is a group of complex alcohols known as fatty alcohols, which exhibit emollient and occlusive properties. They allow a product to have a smooth velvety feel and help trap moisture into the skin. Common fatty alcohols include cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, isostearyl alcohol, and decyl alcohol.
- The oil migration test. Not all “oil-free” moisturizers for cosmetics are oil-free. Some contain oil-like synthetics that could provoke acne-prone skin. The trick is to dab a small sample of lotion onto a piece of good-quality stationery (imprinted 25% cotton fiber). Leave it for 24 hours, and then hold the paper up to daylight and check for oil rings. The extent of migration will correspond to the percent of the oil in the cosmetic.
- Oil-based products should always go on after water-based products. You might be using your face oil all wrong.
9. Skin Care Practices and Clinical Protocols: A Professional’s Guide to Success in Any Environment
By Sallie Deitz, L.E.
I’ve used a lot of these teachings when I give clients peels, microcurrent, and LED treatments.
My Favorite Takeaways From Skin Care Practices and Clinical Protocols Book:
- Enzyme, chemical, and layering peels. This was my favorite chapter of the book. After all, you can never have enough education on performing peels safely and correctly. It’s pretty technical so I won’t go into any details here on the blog.
So, there you have it. These are some of my favorite skincare books to read. People ask me when I’m going to come out with a book of my own. Well, I have no plans for that as of now, but my blog has everything I would put in it if I was ever to write one!
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”