... underneath the pretty pink cover and clever title of this book is an incredibly well-researched examination of the checkered history of beauty culture around the world, and analysis of how power dynamics of gender, race and class are at play in the the beauty industry ... Nudson lays bare the different ways makeup empowers, subverts and protests while simultaneously reinforcing beauty standards that individuals fight to get out from under ... Nudson reveals tenacious perpetuation of capitalism in the beauty industry.
Journalist Nudson offers a strong argument that makeup affects everyone, whether they wear it or not. She digs into the history of cosmetics, and thoughtfully explores signals that can indicate class, status, power, or wealth, not to mention sexual desire or gender identity ... Despite this, she offers readers engaging historical accounts and profiles of past trend-setting beauties and entrepreneurs.
The book's greatest strength is its inclusiveness in studying the modern makeup industry's impact on people from many cultures, gender identities, and racial backgrounds. An entire volume could have been written on makeup's role in LGBTQ+ communities, but because Nudson cast such a wide net, her book tends to skim the surface of each issue rather than provide in-depth analysis. The result is interesting, but may also leave readers wishing for more, especially on makeup as a means of power. It also would have been welcome had the book used more images, given the visual nature of the subject matter ... While at times this book can feel jumbled because of how much content it seeks to cover, the topic and analysis are welcome and insightful, and the global nature of the coverage is especially appreciated.
Full of intriguing anecdotes and trenchant commentary on the relationship between conventional beauty standards and misogyny, classism, and racism, this is an invigorating examination of the 'rules and assumptions that govern appearance.'