Like the average person who grew up in the hellscape of American capitalism, I am not immune to a gimmick. And that’s exactly why I found myself intrigued by the idea of Oscar Mayer’s new bologna-themed, moisturizing face masks, intended to tap into the nostalgia of those times that you acted like a total freak and put lunch meat on your face to amuse your friends.
I was not the only person enticed by the lure of lunchmeat-themed skincare products — the masks sold out in a matter of hours on Amazon, according to CNN Business, becoming one of the top-selling new items in the beauty category. There was something uniquely compelling about the sheer absurdity of Oscar Mayer making a foray into the skincare market. I imagined marketing executives sitting around in an hours-long meeting trying to figure out ways to make the brand seem relevant on social media, and out of sheer boredom one of them put a slice of bologna on their face and a stunt was born.
Though I did not snag one in the initial retail launch, I was able to obtain a bologna face mask from a publicist for Kraft Heinz, the multinational food conglomerate that owns Oscar Mayer, and set out to sate my morbid curiosity about whether or not a company that purveys processed meats could actually make a decent skincare product. More than that, I wondered if it would inspire those feelings of bologna-faced lunchroom nostalgia, or simply provide a brief, if silly, distraction from the mundanity of being stuck inside my apartment during yet another COVID wave.
To be sure, this product’s branding is spot-on. The packaging looks just like a package of Oscar Mayer deli meat, the key exception being a message printed in large red text on the back that reads “DO NOT EAT BOLOGNA MASKS.” The mask itself looks like many other sheet masks of its type, made by Korean company Seoul Mamas, which produces similar products for top tier brands like Neiman Marcus and Ritz-Carlton Spas. The mask itself is constructed from a bizarrely slick “hydrogel” that’s infused with ingredients like witch hazel, a common astringent toner, hydrolyzed collagen, and whatever the fuck polymethylsilsequioxane is, among other ingredients.
When I removed it from the package, the first thing I noticed was the smell. I admit that I was slightly disappointed that Oscar Mayer hadn’t really leaned in and made the mask smell like actual bologna, though in hindsight I imagine no one would want to try it if it reeked of an old sandwich. Instead, the scent was lightly floral and pleasant, something you might expect in a typical skincare product not inspired by a paste of ground-up pork parts.
The mask’s light pink color, on the other hand, was much more evocative of my elementary school lunch box. It’s pinker than real bologna, but still looks unsettlingly like the flesh of something that was once alive,