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10 Must-Read Makeup Books for Makeup Lovers

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10 must-read makeup books for makeup lovers by natalie setareh

This post was originally published on July 14, 2020 and was edited February 7, 2024.

Some of the books links are affiliate links, which when clicked/used, help me earn pennies on the dollar. Not only do these pennies motivate me to keep producing free, ad-free content for you but they show your support for my small business. 


The Top 10 Must-Have Makeup Books for Makeup Lovers


In case you didn’t know, I’m Natalie Setareh, a makeup artist and beauty coach dedicated to helping you make sense of makeup. If you haven’t checked out my website to see how I help people learn makeup or help makeup artists grow their business, head over to or check out my shop and poke around. I offer lots of different resources and digital tools to help you feel confident with makeup. 

And before I share my top 10 makeup books, I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know that my online course Learn Makeup in 5 Days is the perfect pairing for any of these makeup books. Inside this course, you’ll learn how to define your look, build a personalized skincare routine, apply an everyday, classic makeup look, and so much more. I’m super proud of this course and my students have all had amazing success!

Check out the course here >


learn makeup in 5 days course: makeup for beginners banner


A little bit about this list… 

They range from the more simple makeup guides for beginners to more advanced guides, some inspirational books about beauty, and even how to create your own natural cosmetics! When I think back to the books that helped shape my passion for makeup artistry, these are the ones that come to mind.

I am all about feeling empowered in ourselves. Makeup is a tool that helps us face the day (somedays). However, it seems like we are supposed to be born knowing how to wear makeup (which we’re not). I think that when you find a great book that gets your mind spinning about all the things that are possible, or that gives you a new perspective on things, it’s worth sharing with others. I don’t want to just keep all that goodness to myself, I want to share it with you!

Well, enough with the talk, I’m sure you’re eager to jump into the list. I hope you find something here that you will love, too!

1. Face Paint – History of Makeup


face paint, the story of makeup by lisa eldridge

by Lisa Eldridge

You might remember me sharing about Lisa Eldridge from this post. She’s a makeup artist who I’ve been following for a long time. And of course, when I personally think of makeup books, this is the first book that comes to mind. I love learning about makeup and seeing how it’s evolved over time. This book has truly made itself a staple in makeup artists and enthusiasts book shelves alike. 


In Face Paint, makeup artist and Lancôme global creative director Lisa Eldridge shares the entire history of makeup, from Egyptian and Classical times to the golden era of Hollywood. But it goes beyond just the history. The glossy photos in this full-color book are pure eye candy! In it, you will see how people have used makeup throughout history to add glamour into their lives and you’ll read all about the appeal of beauty icons like Twiggy!

This is not a how-to book, but it definitely shares some essential lessons. Lisa brings a different perspective for those who might be tempted to see makeup and fashion as “shallow” topics. This book shows us how rich and wonderful the world of cosmetics really is!


2. Classic Beauty – History of Makeup


classic beauty: the history of makeup by gabriela hernandez

by Gabriela Hernandez

Classic Beauty is a bit more comprehensive than Lisa Eldridge’s Face Paint. It dives a little bit deeper into the history and for that, I consider it to be a great reference book. Classic beauty shows how history has molded accepted beauty rituals and patterns and the changes in cosmetics over the years. I don’t know about you, but I find that kind of thing SO fascinating!

While you may miss in-depth tutorials, for those of you who are good at seeing looks and re-creating them on you, this is a great book!

I love the fact that the book is filled with images illustrating the evolution of makeup and beauty from the 1920s to today. This book is not just for makeup artists and educators, but really it would be interesting for any makeup enthusiast. Like Face Paint, this book also looks great on a coffee table!


3. Wild Beauty: Wisdom & Recipes for Self Care


wild beauty by jana blankenship

by Jana Blankenship

They say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s impossible not to judge this one. It gives you that soothing feeling, you just want to crack it open and get lost in this world. 

Wild Beauty is the perfect book if you want to try to DIY your own skincare and makeup products. I always turn to it whenever I want to play around and get creative with making my own blends. It has tons of recipes for using essential oils to make perfumes, room sprays, lip balm, face and body oils, bath salts, juices, tonics, and more.

If you want to go more natural and avoid chemicals, this is the perfect guide! The recipes are super easy, and there are lots of them, so you can spend a lot of time going through this book.  

Of course, before you can get started with this book, it’s important to understand your skin type and the types of formulations that work best for your skin type. Grab my free skin type guide here to make sure your skincare and makeup products are working for you and not against you.


4. Eat Pretty Live Well


eat pretty, live well, a guided journal

by Jolene Hart

I know this is technically a food book, but you can’t deny the fact that eating healthy is one of the best ways to look and feel your best.

Eat Pretty Live Well will show you how when you eat nutritious food, your skin will start to look better, you have more energy, and you feel much better about yourself.

According to Jolene, to eat pretty is to choose delicious, healthy foods that help you look and feel better. To eat pretty is also to live well, optimizing your health and happiness with a balanced, beautifying lifestyle. She includes a helpful A-to-Z directory of more than 150 radiance-boosting foods that you can start working into your diet.

On top of that, the book also features an awesome 40-day food diary that you can use to start living your most beautiful life as well as a bunch of fun charts and lists to fill out, prompts for self-reflection, recipe cards, de-stressing techniques, sleep tips, and more. It’s fantastic!


5. Color Theory For Makeup Artists


color theory for the makeup artist, understanding color and light for beauty and special effects, katie middleton

by Katie Middleton

Color Theory For Makeup Artists is an absolute must-read reference book for aspiring and professional makeup artists! 

I strongly believe that a basic grasp of color theory is absolutely necessary for even an everyday makeup application and this book goes deep. If you’re a makeup beginner or have no desire to become a professional makeup artist, you may want to skip this book. 

P.S. If you want to get a little bit more familiary with Color Theory and Makeup, check out my interview with Terri Tomlinson. She created the flesh toned color wheel (a must-have in every pro makeup kit) and she lists out some of the ways to apply color theory to your makeup look. 

In Kattie Middleton’s book, she helps professionals and beginners train their eyes to understand and recognize distinctions in color. Since everyone has different skin tones and undertones, understanding how color theory is applied to makeup can really help you step up your game.

You will learn how to mix flesh tones using only primary colors, you’ll find out the reason for variations in skin colors and undertones, and you’ll be able to identify flattering shades for the eyes, lips, and cheeks for all skin tones. I really feel that anyone who wants to learn more about color theory and how it affects the quality of your makeup should own this book.


6. Skincare: The Ultimate No-Nonsense Guide


caroline hirons skincare the ultimate no-nonsense guide

by Caroline Hirons

This highly anticipated book is not only a #1 Best Seller on Amazon, it’s often referred to as the new skincare bible.

Skincare: The Ultimate No-Nonsense Guide is a holy grail book by skincare authority Caroline Hirons. In it, she reviews skincare routines, shows her recommended routines with step-by-step photos, goes over common skin conditions, recommendations, and she debunks the many myths we’ve all come to believe about skincare. I like to think of this book to skincare as my book is to makeup, no-nonsense!

I recommend this book because the information in it is so good, but the aesthetics of this book are truly one of a kind as well. The pages are so smooth, the content is extremely easy to read… it really is one of a kind.

No pressure, but you should definitely get this book. After all, beautiful makeup is even more beautiful on a fantastic skin!


7. Makeup Your Mind: Express Yourself


makeup your mind, express yourself by francois nars

by François Nars

No makeup book collection is complete without this book. I guarantee you’ll first be drawn in by the beautiful cover (I sure was), but it goes so much deeper than just great visuals. It’s full of amazing inspiration and ideas for different makeup looks and styles!

The book begins with some quick little tips on eyes, face, and skin, which I found to be really helpful. But, it’s not a manual that teaches makeup to people who are true beginners. There are steps to recreate looks for those who already know how to use makeup brushes and palettes, but it’s definitely designed for people who already know the basics and want to learn new techniques and get inspiration for new applications.

Another thing I absolutely love about this book is the variety of models. There are more African-American, Middle Eastern, Latin American, and Asian women included. I always say that every skin color of every gender should be celebrated, and Nars seems to agree! Check out this post on the most inclusive makeup brands >



8. Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual: For Everyone from Beginner to Pro


makeup books bobbi brown makeup manual

by Bobbi Brown

No makeup book list would be complete without a book from Bobbi Brown. The Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual is another staple in my rotation.

While yes, some of the information in it is a little bit dated, I still consider it to be one of the greatest reference makeup books out there (next to mind of course!). In it, Bobbi Brown compiles her 25-plus years of makeup styling experience into a complete (and gorgeous) makeup manual.

This book addresses everything from nutrition and how it affects your skin, to applying concealer correctly. It covers skincare basics and every aspect of makeup application – from how to find the right color and type of foundation to how to apply eye makeup perfectly to suit your eye color and shape. 

If you’re looking for a book that will work for beginners and more experienced makeup lovers, this is the one. It has everything you need to know, and offers step-by-step pictures and instructions. She walks you through the steps to put blush on the cheeks, apply foundation, lipstick, eye makeup (from Asian eyes to smokey eyes), and many other steps. 

If you are a makeup student, I think this is one of the absolute must-have makeup books for you to invest in. It’s really helpful and detailed, and it includes everything you will need plus more!


9. Making Faces


making faces by kevyn aucoin

by Kevyn Aucoin

This is another must-have book in my opinion. Kevyn Aucoin, America’s preeminent makeup artist on the 1990s, shares his secrets on the basics of makeup application and technique and how to use the fundamentals to create a wide range of different looks.

Making Faces book includes 200 (!!!) color photos and sketches, mostly drawn by Kevyn, to illustrate how to apply makeup. It’s an excellent choice for people with a passion for the industry and/or people with intermediate to advanced makeup skills.

Aucoin also gives a great introduction at the beginning of the book which focuses on tools, face shapes, etc. It’s loaded with interesting information! Kevyn’s tips and techniques are timeless and accessible. If you’re going to be a makeup artist, this is the book for you. I believe that if you can practice and master the looks he teaches you, you will be able to handle pretty much anything the industry throws at you.


10. Be Your Own Makeup Artist: Unleash Your Inner Beauty


be your own makeup artist unleash your inner beauty by natalie setareh

by Natalie Setareh

Last, but not least, here’s my favorite makeup book of all times: Be Your Own Makeup Artist. I am so proud to have written and published this book, and am SO honored that it has made it’s way into cosmetology school curriculum.

But, this book is about so much more than just choosing the right makeup and learning how to wear it. It is a comprehensive makeup guide for makeup beginners, created for everyone, gender-neutral, and that considers every skin tone. Besides, Be Your Own Makeup Artist is full of beautiful pictures and sketches to help you understand everything, even if you’re a true beginner.

What Makes Be Your Own Makeup Artist Different From The Rest?

I really wanted to create a no-nonsense makeup book written for non-beauty professionals in the 21st century. Be Your Own Makeup Artist is for anyone who wants to learn how to shop for makeup and understand the what, where, why, and how behind their perfect makeup application (not a one-size-fits-all look).

5 Secrets You’ll Learn In My Book >

This book is for the person who wants to look as fantastic as they feel. You’ll learn to approach makeup as a choice and a means of expression, not a need. There is no fancy vocabulary or industry jargon to decipher. Everything is simple and easy, just the way it should be!

contouring and contour application inside of be your own makeup artist

What Makes This Book Special?

1- It’s not funded or backed by beauty brands…

It’s worth mentioning that all of the recommendations I make in the book are based on my real-life experience as a makeup artist and beauty coach. There are ZERO sponsorships, affiliate links, or kickbacks in this book because I believe there’s enough of that to wade through. You don’t need more “experts” telling you what to buy just so they can earn a commission. I want to discover the products and techniques that really work for YOU. 


2- It’s more educational vs. aspirational…

A lot of the books on the list above show you completed looks and explain in text how to accomplish these ‘looks’. I teach you how to select the right products for you and where to apply them (through graphs). If you think a book may be too advanced for you at this time, check out this post I wrote specifically for makeup beginners. I spell out my 4 step framework and everything you need to know to get started. 

Read Makeup for Beginners: A 4-Step Application >


3- No “models” or heavy photoshopping…

I wanted to use everyday people in my book and made sure the photographer didn’t photoshop too much. You need to see what makeup looks like in real life which is easier said than done.


4- Written Inclusively…

I wanted to make sure anyone could pick up this book and learn how to wear makeup without feeling marginalized. Makeup is for everyone. This book was even listed as an approved resource for trans teenagers (a huge honor if you ask me) read more>

In Closing

There are so many different books to choose from — don’t get stuck trying to pick one over the other. Buy or check out one that calls out to you and get started. You’ll know pretty soon into the book whether it’s a good fit for you. If it’s too hard, scary, complicated — find another book.

Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below!

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Any of these makeup book will pair perfectly with my online course, Learn Makeup in 5 Days. Sign Up For the Course today >  Natalie Setareh Makeup For Beginners Learn Makeup in 5 Days Online Course

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Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can't put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you're doing it from a position of correction.

kevyn aucoin