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Rummaging through guys’ bathrooms used to mean finding a combination of well-worn Neutrogena with sporadic samples of luxury skincare from masculine-skewed brands (or outright men’s offerings) like Kiehls, Malin+Goetz and Jack Black – many from hotels. Not anymore. With an onslaught of genderless brands, product innovation, greater self awareness and disposable income, men’s interest in skincare has risen 400% in the past five years.
As a female beauty writer who has seen her share of launches, I am always eager to learn about brands that stand above the rest with thoughtful products and novel brand ethos -- especially in the burgeoning men’s category. When I learned about the launch of Soft, a recent entrée to men’s skincare, my interest piqued. I immediately liked the essence of the brand and wanted to slather myself (and every man in my vicinity) with its solo product – The $36 Moisture Mask – to determine if we needed to make space in our medicine cabinet. Start rearranging.
Moisture Masks Made Modern
Soft is a men’s skincare brand geared toward men who don’t know where to start with regimens. While men’s skincare has evolved – or better yet skyrocketed, as it’s been beauty’s emerging disruptor for years and men’s personal care is predicted to hit $166 billion by 2022 – Soft founders Patrick Dolezal, Emily Farra, and James O’Dwyer felt brands were hyper-masculine, unduly minimalist or uber rugged to overcompensate for any inkling of femininity. Any notion of being soft – or expressive – was lost in men’s grooming. But rather than tackle the regimen as a whole, which can be overwhelming as a brand (and a guy), this trio gravitated to the one element of skincare that had physical (skin health) as well as mental (downtime) benefits, and is predominately absent from men’s skincare offerings: Masks.
While the founders leveraged Emily’s love of masks, they wanted to go beyond developing an incredibly hydrating product for men. The trio sought to create a brand moniker that has cultural relevance. While “Soft” once had a negative connotation – O’Dwyer recalls it being the term used if he didn’t hit someone hard enough in football – for modern men who are far more complex and in touch with emotions, the brand is changing the narrative. According to O’Dwyer, “Soft has traditionally been used as an insult…We really want to embrace that word and kind of flip it on its head, because soft is really a positive thing.” Given the continued influx of the “softboy” movement, where men are embracing their gentler side and challenging toxic masculinity, the brand’s approach feels spot on.
Despite being a start-up, Soft prioritized ingredient standards; the brand overcame obstacles to comply with EU rules that exclude 1,400 harmful ingredients (whereas the US has just 11). And in keeping with the low-maintenance appeal for men, The Moisture Mask – which Vogue has said is, “designed to deliver a soothing water bomb of hydration rather than a stinging tingle” – has transparent ingredients with no fragrant overtones.
Spectacular, buzzworthy ingredients Squalane (the plant-based emollient that locks in moisture and softens skin) and Hyaluronic Acid (which binds 1,000 times its weight in water for long-term moisture and smoother skin) are coupled with easygoing extracts (ginger and turmeric) for antioxidants that also brighten skin. And because moisture is its calling card, Niacinamide is a key component.
With a whipped consistency, the mask goes on smooth and, well, soft, and (for me) partly absorbs into skin before washing off easily with warm water after a relaxing 15-30 minutes. Unlike so many masks, it does not harden and peel off. Soft, as a brand, is not shy about revealing the softer side of men – and your skin. It delivers. For me, as well as my male friends and family that accompanied my trial run.
Soft Skincare Savants
Like the unique ingredients assembled to make Soft’s Moisture Mask, this innovative team leveraged their individual talents and career influences to jumpstart the brand. Emily Farra is a Vogue fashion writer, Patrick Dolezal has a background in biology and with James O’Dwyer’s tech experience, they banded together to collaborate with a lab in California to identify the ingredients needed.
According to Farra, “In the year-and-a-half we spent developing Soft, we must have tried every hydrating face mask on the market. Honestly, none met our lengthy list of requirements: clean formulation, deeply hydrating (without causing breakouts), luxurious, fast-absorbing, multi-purpose, easy to use, and affordable. The scents were always wrong, too; most masks were too traditionally "feminine"—flowery, sweet, perfume-y—or too masculine, with heavy notes of cedar, mint, or wood. We spent a lot of time finalizing our light ginger scent; it's revitalizing, fresh, and totally gender-neutral.” And, according to Emily, this same ambition will bring you future products. “Many of our friends and customers love [Soft] so much, they've asked us to create a daytime lotion or sunscreen with the same scent; both are on our list for the future.”
Apropos for the brand, there’s no overly macho beard oil to come. Soft is on a mission for men to establish skincare rituals they will enjoy, with products dedicated to them (rather than borrowed from women), all without any judgement.
So kick back, pour a drink and put on a mask from Soft’s ‘70’s inspired branded jar. You’ll be relaxed and hydrated in no time. Trust me.
Try Soft for yourself here.
5 More Reasons To Love Soft Skincare:
- You can wear the moisture mask for 15 minutes – or overnight. No rules. Your call.
- Squalane, one of the key ingredients, is an unsung hero now found in skincare thanks to its exceptional stable, safe emollient properties.
- While The Moisture Mask is not fragrant, which is good for skin sensitivity and not wanting to produce overtly feminine skincare, there is a subtle hint of lime and ginger. Think hints of a cocktail.
- You can share with your significant other. The unisex nature of the mask makes it compatible; We’re hoping your relationship is as soothing.
- You can buy a $42 Soft “Bundle” which, in addition to a moisture mask, includes deluxe Soft branded matches and a bundle of Palo Santo (wood sticks that, similar to Sage and Cedar, are widely used to clear negative energy and restore tranquility as well as calm emotions).