Hawthorne left me squeaky clean, but with mixed feelings
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Most women I’ve met during my lifetime have bathroom countertops covered in beauty products. It’s a place I affectionately call the lotions-and-potions corner. I think, rather than magic, these women seek ritual, using a special blend of these products in order to impart a unique glamour. That’s what I kept thinking about when I was recruited to review Hawthorne. The company’s advertising comes across like it creates tailored products, sort of like a Glossier for men.
I admit that I was lukewarm about the idea of bespoke bathroom products at first. But after looking at Hawthorne’s website, I saw a selection of male Instagram models endorsing the subscription service and was filled with determination to reclaim the six-pack abs of my college years so I could also pose for pictures with products I was sent. Like this guy:
After that, I was sold and dove into this project with both feet.
To get Hawthorne products, you need to first take a survey. It starts off with some basic questions, asking about your skin and hair types (I selected that I have “dry” skin and “oily” hair). Then it gets into your personal hygiene practices, such as the frequency you shower. Easy. Finally, there are some nitty-gritty questions that I had some trouble with. How do I like my soap? Answer: I want it to clean me enough so I won’t be shunned by society. (Of the choices, I selected, “moisturizing.”) I was also asked what a night out for me looks like, and I didn’t see an option for “searching aimlessly for my dignity.” (I chose “Dinner.”)
There was a question that kind of irked me. It asked where I work, and it had options like creative industry, startup office, and performance arts. It seems very clear that Hawthorne seeks a certain type of clientele. I get that if you work in a hospital, there are certain body products you avoid, but the whole list feels a bit too elitist for my tastes. I wanted to choose “other” and put down that my job consists mostly of unloading appliances off trucks and washing laundry by the boatload, just like my Chinese forebears would have wanted. However, I put down that I split my time between lab and warehouse duties.
When you complete the survey, Hawthorne presents you with a list of recommended products, based on your selections.
Hawthorne is a subscription service and how often you get a delivery is dependent on how you answered the survey. You can get up to a selection of six products. There’s a discount if you accept the whole order or you can opt to select individual products at an increased cost. Shipping is free as long as your total order is more than $25. Here's what I got furnished for me for this review, and what it would cost if you bought it:
Total cost of the first order: $144, discounted from $164 because my order included everything Hawthorne suggested.
Everything Hawthorne sent lived up to what it said on the packaging. The body wash contained an oatmeal exfoliant and the shampoo had a delightful minty scent. At no point did I feel like I had been cheated.
The issue comes with the finer details. Everything worked, but nothing came across as truly tailored. I have no doubt that the algorithm chose products based on my survey answers, but it felt like there were a very limited number of choices. Also, at four or five times the cost of regular body wash and shampoo, it’s a tough sell for me.
However, the colognes were the nail in the coffin. Quite frankly, no one around me liked the scents very much. No one at work liked the Work scent and most people did not like the Play scent. One woman said I smelled like her dad. At first, it didn’t bother me, but then a 60-year-old man told me that he had a cologne that smells just like mine. There’s nothing wrong with wearing an age-appropriate scent, but I’m 30—not old enough to be a co-worker’s father.
The bottom line is that an algorithm handled the selection process and it shows. Once you remove the bespoke aspect, Hawthorne becomes a bath-product subscription box—one that’s a little pricey, but fine. What Hawthorne provides is a gateway for men to explore the huge world of bodycare products they’ve been ignoring all these years. If you're ready to pay attention, feel free—it'll just come at a cost.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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