This past summer, while perusing the bright white shelving of L’OVUE, the techy Korean beauty store on 32nd and 5th, I happened upon a Delphian sheet mask framed as less of a “sheet” and more of a sweater. From the packaging, the White Truffle Hydramax Knit Mask by Neogen bore the usual aesthetic trappings of its genre. It had an almost human, uncanny valley effect — that of Christiane Génessier in the French horror film Eyes Without A Face. It had rough, gaping holes where a person’s eyes and nose and mouth should be. It was limp, slathered in serum, and made skin-bettering claims that seemed difficult to measure: it brightened, enhanced radiance, and provided skin with “nutrition.”
Two points of difference cajoled me to make a purchase. Neogen’s vizard was doused in 60 milligrams of a concentrated essence: “the earth’s diamond, white truffle,” which sounded expensive. And unlike most sheets, which are made of fiber, cellulose or coconut pulp, the Hydramax had a knitted texture, something I imagined might resemble a soft, wintry pullover. An image on the cardboard packaging attempted to indicate this. In it, two knitting needles penetrated the top of the skull — their ends interlocking loops of white yarn — which gave the horrifying impression of a human face being literally stitched together. The graphic was ballsy and disturbing. The mask cost $6.
I bought two.
Back at my apartment, I tried the Hydramax right away. New York was sweltering and sad that day; I hoped (aware of my idiocy) that a self-slathering in truffles might ameliorate the gnawing malaise.
On tearing open the packet, it became clear this mask was not one you could wear standing up. Be it by design or accident, the Hydramax forced its wearer to remain horizontal, and relatively still. Its knitted surface, though thin when unfolded, was enormous, extending past the chin and halfway down the neck, and every inch was soaked in milky serum. I lay on my living room rug for the recommended 20 minutes (this extended to 30, then 35), my visage not dissimilar to H. G. Wells’ invisible man. The Halloweenish knit concealment felt like a cool, silken T-shirt, surprisingly comforting against my cheeks.
When I was done with the “self-care” (read: my podcast finished and I had to roll over to reach my phone), I deposited the one-use mask in the trash. To my delight, I was able to scoop enough excess serum from the leftover packet to moisturize my whole body.
The mask was exactly what I look for in an emergency moisturizer. I have an aversion to creams and lotions that add a greasy layer to the skin, or leave it with a damp, glistering shine — like a paper bag, wet from fries. The Hydramax had no grease-like residue, and its gentle knit-cotton material didn’t irritate my hyper-sensitive face. The scent, if it existed, was light and largely undetectable.
Its serum, with ingredients that include a bunch of flower oils, as well as peppermint and avocado oil, niacinamide (said to reduce blemishes, the appearance of fine lines, and even out skin tone), white truffle (said to aid the skin’s natural renewal process and minimize pigmentation) and propolis extract (a calming agent), was lightweight and hydrating and absorbed right into my face, leaving it visibly plumper and brighter. (I was a newborn!) This, along with the fact my skin felt markedly softer for a day or so, suggests the Hydramax is a decent winter treatment too. This is a mask for people who want to be coddled, or for those interested in partial mummification — but also in remaining alive. It is messy to apply, but I find that’s half the fun. For these reasons, and also because it is so very soft, there are now several stacked in my bathroom vanity.
Collages by Emily Zirimis.