Paula Begoun is the funny, informed and candid friend every woman needs. Her book, "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, an Eye Opening Guide to Brand Name Cosmetics," cuts through beauty babble and hype and evaluates more than 30 major cosmetics companies on the performance of their line of products. The $10.95 paperback cost can eventually be recovered by heeding some of her smart saving tips.
Ms. Begoun's information is subjective, based on personal forays through department stores and drug store racks. She has her prejudices, but she backs her suggestions with comparisons of beauty product ingredients -- what they are and what they can, or cannot, do. The list of cosmetics companies is comprehensive, including expensive lines such as Borghese and Chanel and budget-priced Cover Girl and Maybelline. Her message after all the cleansing, moisturizing and painting is that high cost does not guarantee a product's performance.
Ms. Begoun pulls no blusher brushes. She pans a $16 Borghese mascara as difficult to apply, smeary and flaky. She praises Almay mascara priced under $3 as among the best on the market. Her evaluations on foundations and eye makeup are complete and complex. Some of her "best buy" favorites are worth noting.
* The best under-eye concealers were found at the drugstore because they worked as well, or better, than expensive products. Concealers by Almay, the Body Shop, Cover Girl, Fashion Fair, Max Factor, Maybelline and Revlon are highly recommended.
* Any lip pencil priced more than $6 is a waste of money.
* All price ranges have excellent mascaras, but it is silly to buy the most expensive when cheaper will do. Among best buys and favorites are wands by Almay, L'Oreal, Max Factor, Maybelline and Revlon.
* Natural hair brushes are the best tools for applying eye makeup and shadow. Art supply stores have a large selection at all sizes and prices.
Every woman's search for the best skin-care products leads through a maze of chemical jargon and complicated and expensive beauty routines. Ms. Begoun's observations on skin-care products are a revelation. Here are some points to keep in mind in the pursuit of younger looks.
* There are no beauty products with miracle ingredients that will prevent or erase wrinkles. That's a fact. (This does not apply to Retin-A, which is a drug.) A lotion or cream that helps the skin retain moisture will make skin feel and look better for a while, but no topical application can change skin structure.
* Drugstore skin products can be just as effective on your particular skin type as expensive products. Check labels, you will find more similarities than differences on the ingredients listed. Many fancy lines are owned by the same company that makes the budget version. For example, Revlon owns Borghese, Alexandra de Markoff, Max Factor and Ultima II.
* There is no product which will minimize pores permanently. If using a toner or skin freshener makes you feel good, shop the budget lines.
Saving In Style welcomes questions and suggestions. Write Vida Roberts, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.