For a lot of women, beauty and skincare go hand in hand. When you start playing and experimenting with foundation, bronzer, and powders, you quickly realize that you need to prepare your canvas for the after effects. This is where cleansers and moisturizers join the roster of products decorating your shelfie. Typically, this chain of events is a bit different for men. Men aren’t necessarily taught how to properly care for their skin, especially when situations such as balding join the narrative. A plot twist such as balding can create insecurities and perhaps a twinge of embarrassment for men, leading them to pull the proverbial sheet over their gleaming heads. Karamo Brown, culture expert on Netflix’s Queer Eye, has made a career out of empowering men to reclaim their masculinity and redefine it. Beauty, fashion, and communication all play a role in a man’s identity and society’s view of them.
“The thing that we fight against on Queer Eye is the idea that masculinity is linear. What’s amazing about our show is that people constantly–men from around the world–will say that before the show they thought they couldn’t talk about their feelings, look at their beard or hair in a different way, or explore fashion. They literally look at all five of our categories and say, prior to this, I was like, no,” Brown says.
Brown recently launched MANTL with Peter Ricci (MANTL CEO), and Irene Kong (MANTL Chief Product Officer), both Honest Company alumni. The men’s personal care brand aims to encourage men to embrace and actually execute a skincare regime, while improving their self-esteem.
“The beauty industry has always given women a space to talk about their concerns and their needs and what’s affecting their self-esteem. The beauty industry has not given men that same space,” Brown says. “A man’s self-esteem is so affected by the way they look. We see it on Queer Eye. People cry with us and we cry with them. No one is giving them products to actually help them and also tackle their self-esteem. So, MANTL is both a line of products and a community, which is really big.”
Brown emphasizes the idea that skincare and grooming doesn’t have to be complex (although, there is nothing wrong with spending an evening partaking in a face, hair, butt, and foot mask.) but there are a few basic hero products a man can utilize, especially if they are a bit lighter on top.
“We all know men who are balding or thinning. They’re on this journey that goes up and down and all the messaging they’re getting is saying that you don’t look attractive, you’re not going to get the girl you want, you’re not going to have the life you want, or you’re not going to get the career,” Brown explains. “When we were co-founding MANTL, it was about figuring out how we can counter that message so that men’s self-esteem can start to be built [up] and they can feel open about having a conversation.”
MANTL launched in February 2020 with four products: Face + Scalp Cleanser, Face + Scalp Age Defense Moisturizer, Invisible Daily SPF 30, and No-Shine Sheets. “We made our first products simple. When your skin is more moisturized, it takes away those age spots that make you feel older. When you have a SPF on, you don’t wrinkle as much. When you use our blotting pads, it takes out the oil and makes you look younger and fresher. So, when you have a grooming routine, it makes you more confident,” Brown says.
Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Kong tells me that MANTL’s dual purpose is part of the brand’s DNA, and is actually engrained into the name itself. “The phrase, ‘take the mantle’ means to move forward and be confident, so we have that in our copy. But also, the mantle in your skin is what protects you from environmental stresses and bacteria and dirt and everything. So, if you don’t have any hair on your scalp to protect you and you’re out in the sun all day, you’re damaging your mantle which is so important,” she explains.
From the simple and effective products to the marketing, MANTL is a vessel to help men redefine their masculinity and take control over their own self-esteem. “I can’t wait to introduce these products to all of our Queer Eye heroes. Like literally, this is my most exciting thing,” Brown tells me, adding that his co-star, beauty guru Jonathan Van Ness, has been especially supportive of Brown’s latest endeavor. “We all are very supportive of each other and we had a little bit of a conversation. [JVN] knows me and he knows everything I do is about building self-esteem. That’s my area: what’s going on with your mind and your heart. And that’s why this is not just a grooming product, it’s also to help make you feel better about yourself.”
So, of the four hero products, which one stands out the most? The Invisible Daily SPF 30, according to Brown and Kong. The product is clear, making it the go-to SPF for a man with facial hair to avoid any white residue, and it can be easily applied to the face, neck, and scalp. Yes, it works and is easy to use but Brown adds of the brand’s message in general, “At the end of the day, if people don’t feel better about themselves, then what’s the purpose?”
MANTL is available on mantlmen.com now.