Facial Masks: For Men Who Seek a Skin-Care Edge

Facial Masks: For Men Who Seek a Skin-Care Edge
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

A FEW MONTHS AGO, Jordan Savage’s girlfriend convinced him to try a face mask. The Los Angeles couple went to a local Sephora to choose some purposeful-sounding goop—a house-brand Green Clay Mask ($8 each), which purports to purify and minimize pores—and made a night out of it. The 31-year-old film producer, a skin care novice with an oily complexion, saw positive effects immediately and has since gone on to purchase masks on his own.

For many men, the idea of spending 15 minutes plastered in a damp, papery sheet mask or sealed in the grips of a gritty clay mask is becoming less alien. Tara Foley, CEO and founder of Follain, a skin care chain with stores in Dallas, New York and Seattle, has seen an uptick in converts who start by borrowing masks from their partners, then buy their own. Alex Penfold pilfered from his wife Jen’s mask stock for years before creating the “Bro Mask,” an emphatically male-marketed sheet mask that’s larger to envelop a man’s broader face and comes in two parts, so bearded men can skip the bottom part and avoid getting the sheet mask stuck in their whiskers. Since the product’s May launch, said Mr. Penfold, sales have doubled each month.

One finance executive finds that a nightly masking pays off.

Still, Annie Jackson, who co-founded the San Francisco-based cosmetics chain Credo, pointed out that male maskers tend to dwell in big cities, where unabashed preening and pore-cleaning carries less of a stigma. She finds that her male customers are looking for purifying or detoxifying masks, particularly gravitating to a charcoal mask from Georgia brand One Love Organics ($49 for a 2.1 oz jar), which Credo claims will “clarify your complexion and extract dirt and debris.”

But don’t take such marketing at face value. “With big skin care companies you’ve got to be skeptical,” said Dr. Bradley Glodny, a New York-based dermatologist. “I wouldn’t trust the reviews and what the claims are. You’ve got to try it for yourself and see if it helps you.” To find a mask likely to address your needs (assuming you can articulate your skin’s “needs”), Dr. Glodny advises, learn what tasks individual ingredients perform. For example, calendula oil (from the marigold flower) and sulfur are anti-inflammatory and reduce redness, while charcoal and clay can “dry up impurities” and hyaluronic acid can help hydrate skin.

GLOW BROS A slightly fratty moisturizing option. 100% Hydrogel Bro Mask, $28 for 4, jaxonlane.com
GLOW BROS A slightly fratty moisturizing option. 100% Hydrogel Bro Mask, $28 for 4, jaxonlane.com

Evan Wells, 37, who works at a financial software company in San Francisco, uses Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial mask ($80 for 50 mL), featuring multiple exfoliating acids of the “ic” variety, including glycolic and salicylic. He finds a nightly masking pays off: “When I wake up in the morning I can just tell that my skin is plump and fresh.” Dr. Glodny, however, cautioned that such sensations can be fleeting. “A lot of [masks] will only help in the short term,” he said, adding that masks don’t necessarily make skin healthier. But after a few spa nights with your girlfriend, your relationship might be.

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