I am suspicious of any beauty product geared toward men, the implication of course being that so-called women’s products puncture the male id, and to be a man is to be a manly one — meat, sex, and sweat. I love meat, sex is way too complicated, and I like the concept of sweat. But who fucking cares? To live by gender stereotypes is to live by arbitrary restriction, and life is boring enough.
The other problem with men’s grooming products is that they are a marketing come-on, with ingredients identical to their women’s counterparts. The only difference, as one skin-care professional told me, is in the packaging, which is often in black, as if to lessen potential embarrassment and insecurity. If this shit were in red I wouldn’t touch it, dude. But black? Gimme all you got. Which brings me to West Skincare — a new product line aimed at men that sent me some samples to try out. The packaging, refreshingly, is simple: translucent bottles and jars, as a way of easing the stigma. And although the marketing may be aimed at men, the line’s literature openly states that despite the differences between men’s and women’s skin, there is no consensus on what works better.
The entire collection includes a cleanser, moisturizer, scrub, mask, and recovery cream (it also sells a six-pack of 100 percent bamboo facial cloths). I found several of these products to be quite good — not because they are geared toward men, but because they are easy to use and don’t profess to offer some secret ingredient of youth/inner zen/higher IQ from the volcanic rock of Sumatra. With some products, I feel like I need to go to graduate school to learn how to fully utilize them. The face can feel like a thousand-piece puzzle that, if you want to do it right, requires starting at 6 a.m. to finish by 11 p.m. (as long as you skip meals).
West’s are different — if you are a man (or woman) just starting out on the sacred pathway of skin care, they make a good beginning. No muss. No fuss. I particularly liked the “Core Collection” of cleanser, moisturizer, and recovery cream. Each was neither mussy nor fussy nor full of itself; they’re the kind of products you want to use when you are in an amorphous hotel room that makes you feel amorphous, and you don’t want to lug around a lot, and any feeling of beauty is impossible anyway. That’s why I’m going to start carrying the three when I travel (conveniently, they all come in a set sized for that, as well as in a full-sized set).
This is creamy and smooth, but also thin — and I mean that in a good way. Some cleansers feel like slogging through the swamp. The West product applies effortlessly. The texture is soft but with lots of lather, so a little dab will more than do you. It also smells like cleanser should, which is like cleanser. It isn’t perfume after all.
I like the moisturizer for many of the same reasons I like the cleanser. It is a product without pretension or false hope. It works into the skin easily and spreads nicely so there is no goop effect on the cheeks or forehead. It leaves no residue, is not oily, and just the right amount of creamy.
This has a neutral smell and the texture is light enough to sink into the skin without giving your fingers a workout. You can certainly pat it on, but being both paranoid and insecure, I tend to rub my recovery cream in. A mistake maybe, but I want to know the shit is really working into those pores of shame.
West suggests an up-to-three-times-a-day regimen — cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF (your own) in the morning; cleanser, moisturizer, and recovery cream post-sweat; scrub, cleanser, mask, recovery cream, moisturizer at night (it says the scrub and mask should be used up to three times a week). I would skip the post-sweat whether you sweat or not; twice a day requires enough vigilance, and will do you fine. Like the Core Collection products, I found the mask thin and easy to apply — which is why I wasn’t sold on it. When I use a mask I don’t want light, I want to feel like I am working a jackhammer through concrete, peeling away the vicissitudes of old age and mortality.
Here’s the full-sized set of West’s Core Collection.
And here’s the handy travel-size set.
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