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When describing today’s skincare habits—double and triple cleansing, 12-step K-beauty regimes, essences, ferments and whatnot—“simple” is the least likely word to come to mind. Yet Malin+Goetz, the New York-based beauty and grooming brand, has long prescribed a pared-down approach to taking care of your complexion. Its products are easy to use, and you only need a handful to get results. Fourteen years on, the idea still feels fresh.
The case for minimalism? Founders Matthew Malin and Andrew Goetz will tell you that simplicity is a luxury and a surfeit of products can be “positively baroque and intimidating.” On a recent morning in Manhattan, they were seated at their newish office near The Empire State Building. With its sleek surfaces, brilliant lighting and their cute Pug, Mr. Greenberg, lolling about, it was all convincingly on-message. The real-life couple comes across as funny, self-deprecating, and refreshingly outspoken.
Their brand was built on “a concept for a two-step regime regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, or your skin type,” Goetz, whose perpetual tan, cerebral glasses and urbane yet not too polished style are products of growing up in the city, said. “If you’re a modern couple, you might be shopping for products together.” Goetz also made the products a visual though utilitarian treat. With a design background and years honing his eye at furniture company Vitra, he uses typeface and colour to distinguish between beauty categories: blue text for skin care, maroon red for hair care and green for body care.
In cities like New York, bathroom space is precious, and urbanites crave effective products that are both versatile and handsome enough to sit out. Malin, a former beauty buyer at Barneys who also worked on several beauty brands, had skin issues like eczema and rosacea to fret about too. “Clean skincare is such a buzzword today, but 14 years ago when we launched we specifically didn’t use waxes and silicones as fillers not least because they can clog pores,” said Malin, who speaks in rapid-fire bursts and possesses a boyish demeanour. He pointed to the line’s Vitamin E Moisturiser that works as well on his sensitive skin as Goetz’s combination complexion.
That sort of ethos has extended to other products, like the brand’s best-selling eucalyptus-scented, aluminium-free deodorant, whose zingy scent is both medicinal and soothing. Goetz recalled taking years to formulate the product, which debuted about seven years ago. “We knew we didn’t want to do an antiperspirant for health reasons,” he said. True to the brand’s roots, they also chose to go the unisex route. “If you look at the antiperspirant market, it’s very divided. The scents are very much male or female. This one is about 50/50 between men and women.”
The company continues to define what a unisex beauty brand means today. Consider its latest innovation, Brightening Enzyme Mask, a gel mask and exfoliator in one that delivers glowing skin—precisely the kind of multitasker you imagine a couple squabbling over. If the women’s market is overly complex, Malin has found that the men’s beauty experience can feel “dumbed down”. As a customer, “I want someone to speak to me in an educated voice,” he said. “I don’t want to use something called beard lube. I don’t think that’s cool.” Besides, today’s guy is increasingly sophisticated. “Men are going to the gym more often and watching what they eat,” Goetz pointed out. “It’s a natural progression that you start taking care of your skin and hair as well.”
Bridging beauty between male and female has only become more effortless as the brand has grown from a humble Chelsea storefront to locations worldwide, including MECCA. Pointing to urban centres like Sydney, Los Angeles and London, Malin noted the needs remain the same. “We always say the greatest luxury in life is time,” he said. If you reduce to the basics of beauty, “a man needs to do whatever everyone else needs to do: that is to wash your face and moisturise it,” he added. “We’re really trying to instruct on the simplicity of how to really luxuriously take care of yourself every single day.”
Skincare: “Because I have some serious skin issues, rosacea, eczema and seborrhea, and use topical medications, I keep my regime as simple as possible. I wash my face with Grapefruit Cleanser, and use our Vitamin E Face Moisturiser, an oil-free moisturiser that offers deep hydration. Issues like rosacea respond really well to hydration but not necessarily to oil. Depending on the weather, I might integrate our Replenishing Face Serum twice a day. It’s full of sodium hyaluronate, which is a humectant and brings moisture to the skin.”
Shower: “I prefer the Bergamot Shower Gel, but we always have the Eucalyptus one in the shower because that’s what Andrew uses. I might use that if I get bored with Bergamot.”
Best travel hack: “If you forgot your shave cream or just didn’t have the room to pack it, we’ve always treated our hair care line like skin care. In a pinch, you can use the conditioner from our travel-sized Essential Kit as a shave cream.”
Skin and hair: “I have normal to combination skin. I love the Jojoba Face Scrub; I like the physicality of it, but it’s also super hydrating. Then I do my moisturiser depending on the weather. If it’s really hot and humid, I’ll just use the Replenishing Face Serum. If the seasons change, I’ll do the Vitamin E Moisturiser. I also use our Resurfacing Glycolic Face Pads more as I’m getting older. After the gym, I love using our Peppermint Shampoo and Cilantro Conditioner. If I need it, I’ll use our Lip Moisturiser.”
Grooming: “I shave every day, and I love our Vitamin E Shave Cream. It’s like a crème fraîche consistency and it’s not a foamy sort of thing. You’ll see the strokes as you remove it. But best of all it’s really a treatment shave. It’s got natural menthol, so it’s cooling and helps with razor burn.”
Best travel tip: “If you’re taking a flight from New York to Sydney, use the Detox Face Mask in the air. It’s a gel mask that foams and oxygenates. You don’t need water. You can tissue it off.”
Words by Bee ShapiroSeptember 2018
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