The Cosmetics Cop

Posted on May 3rd, 2010 by Gina

Paula BegounPaula Begoun, the Cosmetics Cop, has been my hero for many years.  She single-handedly created the only encyclopedia of the $50 billion cosmetics industry.  She and her team have analyzed, tested and reviewed over 35,000 products and there is just nothing they don’t know about skin care and makeup products in the US.  Period.

But Paula takes the “cop” part of her job quite seriously, and I believe, like other tough cops, she is suffering post traumatic stress disorder.  After 30 years of exposing deceptive labeling, distorted claims and advertising gimmicks, she’s a little, well, testy. Consider this opening to her blog a couple weeks ago:

“Exhaustion has set in big time. I’m tired of saying so much about the cosmetic industry as I watch it endlessly spiral out of control in an ugly tangle of lies, half-truths, and just plain idiocy…”

You are my hero, Paula, but geez, lighten up. Today we sing your praises, and make sure that everyone knows all the resources you have to offer.

Her reference book, “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me” is currently in its 9th edition, despite the fact that she swore in her 8th she was never going to do this again.  Each volume contains the latest skin care research, and more than 1,300 pages of product reviews in alphabetical order.  She adds little happy or sad faces next to the name of the product so we don’t have to actually read the review if we don’t want to.  It will take up more space than that dusty old Webster’s, but you will never go to the cosmetics counter without her again.

Beguon has several different websites and the branding gets confusing, but they all offer a little something different.

  • is her reference book online, and requires a subscription of about $24 a year.  It has the added bonus of being updated constantly, and featuring special reports on newly introduced products, “Paula’s picks” and the animal-testing status of most companies.  Best of all, Beautypedia is available in an IPod app, so you can take it to Sephora with you.
  • is her general website where she promotes herself and sells her own skin care line, Paula’s Choice.  A few LookinGood members are using her products now, and like them so far.  Stay tuned.
  • Her blog is called and this is where Paula gets to rant in print about ‘endless spirals’, but also subjects like eye cream and popping pimples.

Lastly, she has an online radio show every Thursday night at 9 ET, 8 CT and 6 PT.  She and her long-time collaborator Bryan Barron present a weekly theme or a guest and take callers who have questions about skin and makeup.  Subjects range from wrinkles to wraps, but the show is a little like listening to your mother lecture you about standing up straight – for an hour.

Paula Begoun is my hero but, much like my mother, she has no sense of humor (my mother’s computer is broken, obviously).  Even her products come in drab little white bottles that look like the lotions you take home from the hospital.  Nonetheless, she has done womankind a justice by indexing and reviewing all those products, and keeping the cosmetics companies honest.  Someone has to do it – it might as well be a curmudgeon.

2 Comments on “The Cosmetics Cop”

  1. LookinGood

    An empty threat, loving cousin. I have waaaay too much dirt on you…

  2. Your favorite cousin

    You better hope your mothers computer isn’t working. Luckily, I’m a little short this month and I am
    willing to accept a bribe for the preservation of family unity.

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A short history of cosmetics

150BC Romans use yellow eye shadow.

The Romans preferred to use gold-colored eye shadow which was made from saffron and painted onto the area around the sides and under their eyes. Then they used powdered wood ash to color their eyelids black. This gold color was quite significant at the time because they saw themselves as the rulers of the Mediterranean.