Can a Face Mask Redefine Masculinity?
Soft, a skin-care brand marketed toward men but meant for unisex use, purports that it can. Four W editors put the moisturizing mask to the test.
It’s well known by now that makeup, and skin care especially, are categories no longer limited to women. Plenty of male influencers—Manny MUA, Patrick Starr, Bretman Rock, etc., etc.—have created online empires from their use of beauty products.
That’s old news. The new wave is unisex makeup and skin care, and the New York–based brand Soft is riding it. Although technically billed as a men’s brand looking to redefine grooming for dudes, the creators, Patrick Dolezal, Emily Farra, and James O’Dwyer, specify that their products can be used by all people, no matter their gender identity. In the end, it’s all skin. We had four editors put Soft’s Moisture Mask to the test, and give their honest answers.
Kyle Munzenrieder, Senior News Editor
What’s your relationship with men’s face masks? Have you ever used them before? Growing up, I assumed the Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque, available at every Publix and Walgreens in Florida for less than $4, was a product that just magically existed in everyone’s bathroom. I would use it occasionally, when I felt the need for some self-care or when I had budgeted too much time to get ready for something. Upon moving to New York, though, I was mystified by not being able to find it anymore (Queen Helene’s website says it’s only available at two midtown Fairways and the absolutely cursed Park Slope Co-op). So I haven’t regularly used any mask since, but have picked some up randomly here and there. As for whether or not those products were specifically for men? I’m not sure. If the product covers my very large face, then I just assume it’s meant for men too.
Do you moisturize? What do you look for in a moisturizer? What is your moisturizing routine? My moisturizing routine is probably more about how my skin feels rather than how it looks. I don’t want it to feel dry and chapped, and I don’t want it to be burned by too much sun. I use various products over time, but honestly, it’s usually some drugstore Olay stuff with built-in SPF 30 that’s my most used. When it comes to products, I’m looking for value, wide and convenient availability, and effectively doing the job I’m to understand it does.
What do you think of the Soft face mask product? Would you use it again? The mask has a light medicinal smell, and when I put it on, it gave me that slight (and in this case I mean very slight) tingle that drugstore acne products from my teenage years have conditioned me to associate with: it’s working. The label highlighted hyaluronic acid, which is a product I know I’m supposed to be using for some reason or another, but have never actively sought out. So that was exciting for me. Though, when trying to smooth the product out across my face, I was surprised by its thinness. I guess that’s not a bad thing, but this is not the thick face paint of a mask that tempts you to snap an embarrassing Instagram Story. I left it on for about 20 minutes, and things felt fine. I wasn’t constantly reminded I was wearing it. When I washed it off, it did exactly what the name suggests. My skin did feel notably more soft to the touch (and still did the day after). I felt some distinct tightness in certain areas of my face, though, most notably on my cheekbones (and I swear I still did the day after too). Maybe that would go away as my skin got used to the product, but, like I said, I value how my skin feels over how it looks, especially in a moisturizing product.
The product’s marketing as something that could redefine masculinity, however, may have left me feeling dryer. I’m not looking to skin-care products to help define my identity, and am not entirely sure society’s notion of masculinity is what is keeping certain young men from using any skin-care products at all in the first place. Was this really a problem? Has anyone seen American Psycho?
That said, I’ll probably use the product again from time to time, with maybe a little bit less on my cheekbones, but I will definitely be heading to one of those midtown Fairways to pick up a bottle of Queen Helene as well. It’s four bucks, unisex, and does exactly what I expect it to.
Michael Beckert, Visuals Editor
What’s your relationship with men’s face masks? Have you ever used them before? I use face masks all the time, but I’ve never used one that’s marketed specifically toward men. The binary isn’t real—catch up, face masks!
Do you moisturize? What do you look for in a moisturizer? What is your moisturizing routine? I moisturize all the time. My go-to is the Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Cream—it’s superhealing and really thick, so it moisturizes the deeper layers of your skin. I moisturize every morning and night after washing my face with Glossier’s Milk Jelly cleanser. Sometimes I use Drunk Elephant’s 1% retinol at night, but it can wreck your skin’s natural balance, so I don’t use it all the time.
What do you think of the Soft face mask product? Would you use it again? It definitely left my face feeling smooth, but almost too smooth…sort of like a glazed donut. I would use it again, but maybe only once a week.
Tilden Bissell, Digital Designer
What’s your relationship with men’s face masks? Have you ever used them before? While technically not this product’s target audience, I gave it a try anyway. As far as face masks go, men’s or otherwise, it’s safe to say I’m seriously committed: my bathroom is a shrine to everything from Biologique Recherche to the tiny packs I stress buy in the Whole Foods checkout line. I typically gravitate more toward the resurfacing, clay, or vaguely sulfurous-smelling but absurdly effective, so a moisture mask is also fairly new territory.
Do you moisturize? If so, what’s your go-to? What is your moisturizing routine? I’m obsessed with Babor’s Moisturizing Cream, I have the 5.1 formula (a lighter daily moisturizer) and 5.2 (a richer formula for extra-dry winter skin). It’s quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever put on my face, and I’ve told no fewer than six people to go buy it this winter. My friend also made me a reluctant convert to the Cosrx Snail Mucin, but that’s just for occasional use for a little extra hydration.
What do you think of the Soft face mask product? Would you use it again? First off, this mask smells great; it lists ginger in its ingredients list, and it comes through. The product itself has a silky texture—you can definitely feel the shea butter in it, and a little bit goes a long way. I left it on for about 30 minutes as I went about my Tuesday night routine (i.e., cooking with my roommate) and it stayed in place, but still came off easily with a washcloth and warm water. Afterward, my skin felt refreshed and significantly more, well, soft, though I did notice some extra T-zone shininess the next day.
Soft was a great pick-me-up for tired winter skin, plus it’s perfect for the often neglected areas like the neck and décolletage. Though I think if you’re prone to especially oily skin, you might want to take a pass: it’s a super-rich formula that might cause breakouts in more sensitive complexions.
Diego Hadis, Copy Director
What’s your relationship with men’s face masks? Have you ever used them before? I’ve used face masks before, but not necessarily ones marketed to men. Usually I’ll try whatever my wife is using.
Do you moisturize? If so, what’s your go-to? What is your moisturizing routine? I moisturize around my eyes every day, with Dr. Hauschka Daily Hydrating Eye Cream, but I probably don’t moisturize my whole face as often as I should. When I remember to, it’s usually with a moisturizer from Dr. Hauschka, either the Rose Day Cream or the Quince Day Cream. (From time to time I’ve used my wife’s Susanne Kaufmann Moisturizing Spray Harmonizing as well). The main things I look for in a moisturizer are that it’s organic and paraben-free, and that it won’t clog my pores.
What do you think of the Soft face mask product? Would you use it again? I would definitely use it again, but not the three to four times a week that the instructions prescribe. I found it to be great as a preshaving treatment, though: I’d apply the mask, leave it on for fifteen to thirty minutes, then wash it off and lather up. I got pretty smooth shaves every time.