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Review of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist by Debra Jaliman M.D.

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When I was in my early twenties, my beloved Aunt Judy advised me, "A good skin and a good figure, that's what a woman needs."

We were conversing in the kitchen, preparing dinner together, so this bit of feminine wisdom was just a casual mention. But she was in her fifties and still boasted both qualities, so I took her words to heart. They sparked a lifelong commitment to taking excellent care of my complexion and my body. That same week, I undertook a meticulous habit of using sunblock every day.

A few years later, my first pregnancy wrecked my carefully tended complexion. I was enthralled by the wondrous, delicious creature who was my new daughter. I was equally determined to repair the damage done by pregnancy hormones. I had read that a pregnant woman produces more estrogen during the nine months she's pregnant than a non-pregnant woman does in decades. My face, stippled with pimples and depressions, showed it.

A girlfriend with lovely skin recommended Dr. Debra Jaliman, and I took myself to her office on one of those precious days I had a babysitter. I waited anxiously in the exam room, wondering if the doctor would be able to help me. The door opened and in walked a gorgeous woman wearing a white lab coat over a leather mini-skirt -- and a very pregnant belly. I could only applaud her feminine confidence. I knew immediately I'd come to the right place.

My first baby is now a graduating senior from college, and I've been Dr. Jaliman's patient all these years. I have remained in her care for the same reason that I use the multiplication table: because it works.

It was with pleasure, as a happy dermatology patient with a complexion I like, that I requested a review copy of Dr. Jaliman's book Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist (St. Martin's Press, March, 2012).

First, let me attest: almost the first order of business in Dr. Jaliman's office is to ensure proper face-washing technique. After two decades, when I come in for an appointment, she still asks how I am washing my face, and what I am using for cleanser. So, as a long-time patient, let me assure the general reader that Skin Rules meticulously documents Dr. Jaliman's actual advice. She practices what she preaches in this slim, smart volume.

The book itself is a pleasure to read. It's concisely and elegantly written. There's not a wasted word in this book, nor an infelicitous one. Every one of the 77 rules is spare, practical, and instantly understandable. The rules come with product recommendations at all price points; Dr. Jaliman does not expect that her readers are all millionaires with an endless supply of money for dermatological goodies, whether they be procedures or creams.

The tone of this book is as empathetic as it is pragmatic. Rule 42 gently advises, "Don't Despair If You're Over Thirty and Breaking Out -- Nobody Needs to Know." Rule 39 reminds us, "Acne Doesn't Just Ruin Skin; It Can Ruin Self-Esteem, Too -- Just Ask Any Teenager." It's important to remember how vulnerable people feel when they don't look their best, how adolescents in particular suffer from that vulnerability, and how much self-esteem can be improved by simply clearing up acne. Some people would like to dismiss dermatology as purely cosmetic, but there's a deeper level here. Our appearance is inextricably entwined with our feelings of self worth.

Sometimes a medical condition results in skin problems, and Dr. Jaliman notes that in several places. In rule 33, "Legs and Feet Need Extra Care," she mentions having diagnosed hypothyroidism in patients by observing dry, cracked heels and referring the patients to an endocrinologist. The skin isn't its own separate, isolated system. It's integrated into the body as a whole, and often reflects underlying disease.

I've set this review within the context of my own feminine beauty regimen, but it's a book for men, also. There's advice on shaving, hair loss and tattoo removal.

With a title encompassing the word "secrets," a reader hopes for the scoop on what's hot and really works. The book doesn't disappoint. Rule 61 "Freeze Fat, Don't Suction It" discusses the latest cryolipolysis techniques, and the machines that really do freeze off the fat.

At the back of the book is a resource section that lists products, injectables and lasers. It's probably worth it to buy the book just to have this well-researched list of products and procedures that actually work.

This is a gem of a book that I'll keep handy on my book shelf -- unless my second daughter, now seventeen and seeking out her own beauty tips, spirits it away so that I never see it again.