When Emily Farra introduced her boyfriend Patrick Dolezal to the world of face masks, it opened his pores, and mind, to a new level of self-care that many men aren’t traditionally accustomed to.
They teamed up with cofounder James O'Dwyer to create Soft, a new men’s skincare line offering thoughtful products with a modern view of masculinity.
During their research process they learned that none of the men’s skincare labels James and Patrick found offered face masks. They agreed men were missing out: a mask has numerous skincare benefits. But they particularly enjoyed the idea of adopting a daily skincare ritual. “What’s better than relaxing after a long day with a mask, a cocktail, and a record?” they wondered.
The trio also were of the view that traditional men's skincare labels fell short in many other areas, including messaging. Namely, they didn’t promote the importance of wellbeing; instead, they were hyper-masculine, severely minimalist, or oddly rugged, as if to overcorrect for the “feminine” or “soft” stigma around skincare.
So they set out to build Soft as a men’s brand for the modern, open-minded guy–or literally anyone, as a brand that values inclusiveness. Here the trio behind Soft gives us a sneak peek into their skincare startup.
Tell us more about the inspiration behind Soft.
Soft is a line of thoughtful skincare products with a modern view of masculinity. We created this brand in 2019 as an alternative to the masculine "men's" brands out there. We didn't connect with them, and we knew we weren't alone; culture is changing, but men's skincare isn't keeping up. Just as importantly, we wanted to offer a superior product—one that's luxurious, clean, vegan, cruelty-free, and affordable.
What’s your favorite product?
Soft's Moisture Mask is packed with hyaluronic acid, squalane, niacinamide, and turmeric extract to hydrate, calm, and nourish the skin. It's a multitasking hero—because skincare doesn't have to be hard.
What are the benefits of having not one, not two, but three cofounders?
As a self-funded, three-person team, we aren't afraid to experiment and go bold with our creative and business goals. Even in a crowded market, our branding and point of view feels unique and memorable. The three of us also bring a separate skill set to the table: James is an engineer and logistics whiz who coded our entire website; Patrick holds a Master's degree in biology and worked with a chemist to custom-develop our formula; and Emily is a writer and editor for Vogue and handled all branding, marketing, and copywriting duties.
Every startup needs a North Star to stay on track. What’s yours?
Our mission is to redefine the men's skincare and wellness market and help men (or anyone who wants to use Soft!) with the knowledge and confidence they need to care for, improve, and protect their skin.
Your company is not only on a mission to reject the common traits that can contribute to toxic masculinity, but to support your community at large as well. Explain how BeSoft.NYC gives back to its hometown city.
We believe brands should play an active role in their communities and give back whenever they can. At the height of the pandemic in New York, we diverted 100% of Soft profits toward buying masks and PPE for local hospitals; this continued for several months. Through our own sales and a GoFundMe donation page, we raised more than $20,000 and were able to place a huge order for N95 masks from overseas factories.
Tell us more about why you feel so connected to NYC:
Emily's sister is a NICU nurse and experienced the PPE shortages firsthand, so it became very personal to us. We also gathered N95 masks from local businesses and residents who didn't need them. It was incredibly rewarding to step up and help, even in a small way, and it really opened our eyes to the ways a brand can be a force for good.