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The Simple Joy of Beauty Masks

Pamper yourself, because nobody else will do it for you

Is it true that everyone, upon reaching their 30s, begins to worry about their face?

With the staggering amount of skincare talk on the timeline — much of it fiercely partisan — I’m sure it’s happening to people earlier and earlier. But, of course, as a man, I am far less bombarded with ads, articles and advice on the topic, removed from the pressure on women to maintain eternal youth. The fact is, I got to where I am through my own vanity. I know some gray hair on a guy is seen as dashing, so I don’t mind that, but I like my face the way it is.

The fight against age and wrinkles began with the basic stuff: an upgrade to nicer soap for cleaning, more regular application of a moisturizer with sunscreen (as a pale person in Southern California, I need all the SPF I can get) and, eventually, this overnight recovery gel that’s a real treat to apply before bed. Not a super complicated or outlandish routine — no foreskin facials, despite my colleague Andrew Fiouzi’s rave review — but it suits me, and I’m pleased with the results.

It was in the middle of developing this regimen that my girlfriend Maddie introduced me to one other product, which I find perfect for occasional and experimental use: the beauty mask.

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This, to me, is the fun part of pampering your skin. For 10 or 15 minutes, you get to pretend you’re at the spa. It’s ideal as a couples activity, too — if you’re gonna look temporarily goofy in hopes of glowing tomorrow, best to do so as a team. And there’s something about browsing the huge variety of masks at the drug store that I find immensely satisfying. What am I in the mood for tonight? What is my face telling me? Hydration, exfoliation, purification? A sheet, or charcoal, or mud? Maybe I want something with Vitamin C, or retinol… or both! Then you have the different scents and natural ingredients to pick from. Lemon, lavender, aloe and cucumber. Once our neighbor came over and we made a mask ourselves with avocado and honey. The post-application effect was rather Shrek-like, but that just made the radiant outcome even better.

Especially in the dark days of the pandemic, consumed by stress and uncertainty, the beauty masks provided a dose of calm — almost like a weighted blanket for your face. Whatever had happened in the hours prior, you could lie back and let a cool damp sheet erase the worry lines from your forehead, and convince yourself that you felt the toxins draining from your pores. I started buying them on a whim whenever I happened to be at CVS for something else, then popping them in the fridge for maximum refreshment. Later, after dinner, when we might have lamented the lockdown and being stuck in our apartment, I’d surprise Maddie with my new finds. We’d enthusiastically study the packets to choose which befit our moods for the evening.

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For the brief time it stays on, the mask practically forces you to relax and empty your mind of anything important — remarkable for a thing so cheap and widely available. I haven’t made the leap to yoga or meditation, but this ritual instills a necessary zen, and I’m very glad I came around to it. My regret is that I didn’t start a decade earlier. I could still look 25 years old! I realize none of the above is news to women, but dudes, I’m telling you, don’t waste another moment: Hit the pharmacy and spoil yourself with their most luxurious mask. Savor the experience at home. Then rest up, king — you’ll be fielding lots of compliments in the morning.