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The Top 5 Sheet Masks to Wear After Crying About Your Gender

So last Fall I had a flash realization that surprised literally only me; turns out I’m trans. I used to go by Ali, but now I go by Austen in most aspects of my life, and, largely, A.E. on the internet. I’m using they/them pronouns these days, and I identify as transmasculine and non-binary. I’ve been torn about whether to do a big ole thing on Autostraddle about it and largely I’ve come down on the side of “I’d rather rip my own skin off than do that big of a look-at-me.” On this day, however, the information is relevant. Because I’m going to give you a tiny bit of advice about crying and, specifically, crying regarding your gender. And I’m going to give it to you from my very own perspective because I feel like I am not the only one here crying about my gender, and you should know a) that you’re not alone and b) sheet masks can help.

I feel like I do almost nothing except cry about my gender. Morning, noon, night, at meals, in the shower, at work, while writing on my book, while playing computer games, while legitimately having unrelated conversations with some very confused cis people: it is my brand new full-time job to cry about my gender. Luckily for me, at the very same time all this crying was happening, I got really into skincare. While it was unrelated to crying about my gender, it was deeply related to gender. I needed ways to feel good in my body right the hell now, instead of longing to feel good in my body in the future. So I developed some intense themed baths and lotions and, yes, a crazy skincare routine. I made all choices based on what felt good, smelled good, made me feel good to spend time on. Anything I didn’t like to do, I simply… did not do.

I stumbled onto sheet masks because they are cheap and easy to work into a schedule when you’re just getting into this stuff—  you don’t even really get your hands dirty with application! All the product comes on a handy face mask that makes you look like either a cute little animal or a masked murderer, no in-between. While some naysayers and famous beauty product purveyors insist sheet masks do absolutely nothing for your skin, I am here to tell you that they still serve a purpose. Because I never really cared what they actually do for your skin; I care what they do for your soul. And the real story about sheet masks is that after your face is all red and puffy and worn out from crying for nine entire months about your gender, they feel fucking amazing to put on. Plus it’s a way to say hey, hello body that I have complicated feelings about, you are worth the three dollars and twenty minutes it takes to do this even right now when things feel real bad in here.

So without further ado, I give you: my top five sheet masks specifically for after crying, ranked, beginning with:

Number Five: A’Pieu Sweet Peach Sheet Mask

This peach-yogurt-face-situation smells amazing and that is how I make most of my decisions. It’s pretty multipurpose and not quite as hydrating as some of the other things on this list, but damn. Inhale deeply, maybe even meditate with this on your face. This one is perfect for having lightly cried.

Number Four: L’Affair Soothing Monkey

I purchased this monkey mask after reading Basic Witches, which recommends doing face masks with animals on them to imbue yourself with the characteristics of said animal. Since, at least in the realm of symbolism and story, monkeys are thought to be playful, I was like, hell yes, I will take a prayer for playfulness after crying this much about my gender. Gender should be about play, anyhow! And aside from that, this mask is labeled “soothing.” Pro-tip: when shopping for post-crying masks, the best categories to hit are “soothing,” “hydrating” and “relaxing.”

Turns out, the actual character print on this one is HORRIFYING. And that was HILARIOUS. Highly recommend when you’re reading to explore “hysterics” as a category of crying. Or when you just need a good cheer up.

Number Three: Sephora Orchid Eye Mask

This is a little bit cheating because it’s not a full sheet mask; the Sephora Orchid Eye Mask comes in just two wee patches that go where the dark circles inevitably are, just under your eye-holes. It’s perfect for when you’ve done far too many face masks because you’ve cried every single day this week, and you don’t want to put additional stuff on your face BUT your eyes are a goddamn wreck. Ignore the text on the package that says anti-aging, because we all know that’s total bullshit, there’s no such thing. Why did I pick this one, then, if not for the properties? Oh ho ho, I’m glad you asked. It’s because I like the smell of orchids and orchid-related products.

Number Two: Vita Genic Relaxing Jelly Mask (the green one)

I got real excited and opened this and put it on my face before photographing the package.

I purchased this mask to make myself feel better after having cried to my therapist about top surgery for fifty entire Earth minutes. I then tried to go out and have normal human social experiences; this went okay, but then I came home and cried in my wife’s lap DIRECTLY before I went to sleep for, like, quite a while. I put this mask on the next morning to repair the feeling of having dehydrated my body and face and whoo boy, yes, I recommend this mask for the morning after a before-bed cry. Even though it was just chilling in my apartment, normal-room-temperature-style, it felt naturally cold when I took it out and put it on my face. It’s also less a liquid and more a jelly (surprise), so in terms of hydration, this feels a little like pulling out the big guns. Or shall I say, the big super soakers, since we’re talking hydration?

Number One: Innisfree It’s a Real Squeeze Mask Manuka Honey, specifically one that you’ve stuck in the fridge

Straight from my fridge, I have an emergency stash of them.

This is my absolute, number one, you-have-cried-for-hours sheet mask. Most of my intense skincare routine is made up of Innisfree products, so I’m in the shop a lot. I got an impromptu pro-tip from one of the folks who works there because she’d seen me in there a bunch buying a metric ton of these: if you stick sheet masks in the fridge, they restrict your pores and make them look smaller. Is that bullshit? I have no clue, I frankly can’t see the difference but I also had to memorize my own eye color and I had it incorrect for years. What I do know is that, when you’ve cried for hours about your gender, a fridge mask feels AMAZING. On the plus side, you usually don’t have to rinse off sheet masks, so if you’re too sad to add steps, you can just RUB THIS SHIT IN. Bonus: smells like honey because it’s honey.

In summary: crying might be inevitable right now for you. It is for me. But as much as we’d all like to uninstall our feelings, alas, we cannot because we are not computers. We are human people with bodies and faces and genders! So while you’re doing all the work with your therapist and your community and your own internal self, grab a couple of sheet masks because you goddamn deserve it. And one last pro-tip! Don’t forget to do the internal hydrating mask: drink water after crying this much, you will feel instantly more equipped to deal with your gender.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. i love sheet masks and cry a lot, only occasionally about gender but definitely about a lot of other stuff, so thank you for this article

  2. This very relevant to my needs as I’ve cried over my gender and over a girl. There is one cd that made me cry about both at the same time, and had to stop listening to it. So, now I can listen to this album, wearing a fresh face mask while crying. How great! Thank you. Also those show curtains are very cool and queer!

    • My wife picked out those shower curtains. Her main goal was to make the rare cis dude visitor uncomfortable while peeing.

  3. i have been crying all day and i deeply love sheet masks so thank you for this article, i feel very seen. sending love ?

      • i also found the innisfree manila honey mask in my stash and popped it into the fridge and WOW you are a genius ???

  4. Austen you are so great and so are sheet masks really ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

  5. this is very relevant bc recently while crying about my skin AND about how much I’ve been crying, I had to cry in my doctor’s office and say “I THINK I NEED TO TRY HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL”, which was something I absolutely did NOT want to try BECAUSE OF MY GENDER

    now my skin is amazing and I’ve never felt this Not Shitty ever in my life before it’s INSANE and I’m still dysphoric about eating Even More Estrogen every morning but, ya know WHAT, hormones don’t have a gender. so like. fuck it

    • deffo gonna try out some sheet masks tho bc my #1 thing against masks in general is the part where i have to wash it off my face and somehow get water all over the bathroom in the process

  6. Hi AE, I hope that between the therapy and the sheet masks and the crying things feel better for you soon. Your wife sounds awesome; what better criteria could there be for choosing shower curtains?

    Question for the people on here who speak better French than I do: am I the only one who thought “masque yeux orchidée” was hilariously bad French? Like some intern was vaguely aware that you put adjectives after nouns and then just looked up a literal translation for each word in “orchid eye mask”? I see so many things on products trying to look fancy that seem to me like Clueless Intern French but I am never sure if it was just because my actual decent French competence was awhile ago or maybe it’s a dialect I was never competent in or whatever.

    Happy linguistic nerding-out and sheet-masking to all and to all a good night.

    • Hi ! French girl here. “Masque yeux orchidée” does sound horrible and like someone just put three random words together but it is not technically wrong ? I don’t know how to explain it because it sounds terribly wrong to my french ears but as it is not a real sentence, it works. The more satisfying thing would be “Masque pour yeux à l’orchidée”.
      Honestly, if “yeux” is not preceded by “des” or “les” or something like that it always sounds really weird.

  7. AUSTEN this piece is perfect! I’ve been doing my fair share of Grad School Crying and it’s very useful to know how to be nice to my face afterwards.
    Also once I came back from A-Camp I realized that glitter is amazing, and so sometimes I put on holographic highlighter just to feel shiny and invincible in my own house. These little things matter so much.

  8. I am so here for crying x skincare tips and am literally crying about my gender (and other things) right now so this is highly relevant content.

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you a thousand million times for this. This is precisely what I had no idea I needed right now, after several days of crying about my gender.

    In my case, gender crying usually happens around my period, because most of my crying happens around my period. It turns out my specific anti depressant has been shown to cause extreme mood crashes and suicidality before periods–but I have only just been told this, despite having spent the last couple of years telling medical and mental health professionals that I get super sad and suicidal right before my periods. Also, when I got home and tried to research this correlation myself, I couldn’t find anything. Which made me do a lot of feminist rage crying about how fucking sexist medical research is. Then some queer rage crying because every time I’ve said help, I think my hormones are trying to kill me, my GP has said “Ok so you’re concerned about effective contraception.”

    But yeah, this time round, I suddenly realised that–well, I assumed most cis people must, like me, hate their gender sometimes. All cis people must surely have times when they feel like their gender is a trap, a hell, a hideous trick, right? If a fairy offered them the magical ability to switch genders at will, surely all cis people would say yes yes yes? Like, the only reason cis people aren’t trans is because most of the time they are able to cope with the level of gender dysphoria? Or it’s only an occasional thing, not an all the time thing, or it only sometimes rises above a whisper to a roar? I assumed everyone felt this, because I can’t remember when I haven’t. It feels so natural and inevitable for me. My gender doesn’t hurt all the time. It doesn’t hurt every month, even. I think I’ve gone a couple of years at one point without caring too much. But it comes round again and again, this feeling that being a woman is an unbearable suffering, and something I’m desperate to escape.

    What’s different this time is that I’ve finally, finally realised that no, not all cis people feel this. Most cis people don’t feel this. I’ve realised that these feelings are something I am allowed to pay attention to and ask questions about and think about.

    The alarm and grief these questions cause my partner–that’s something they get to think about and ask questions about. And my own confusion that someone might be attracted to me because I’m a woman when I’m not sure I am a woman, I can think about that too.

    All of which is a really long winded way of saying that, boy, do I ever need sheet masks, and boy, did I ever need this article, for helping me laugh at the shitfest of gender and for helping me feel a lot less alone. Thank you again.

    • Hey friend. I had a lot of those realizations as well. Like, what do you mean cis people don’t usually say loudly and often that they wish they could wish their tits off. I’m cis and I think that all the—oh. For me, finding my way through that meant coming out as trans. I hope you find a way through these feelings that is good for you, whatever that looks like whatever that means about your identity. In the meantime, the community will be here for you. And so will sheet masks. <3

  10. Anti-ageing isn’t always bullshit, unless you are very literally referring to going back in time. Retinol and its harsher (prescription-only) friend retinoic acid will slowly fill in fine lines and coarse wrinkles, though you have to be very careful to look after your skin, particularly to use suncream, if you use them.

    Unlike witchcraft…

    • I tried retinol for a while a couple years ago and I never moved past the point where you stop getting every zit your skin has ever thought about having? Rock on to ANYONE who can use a retinol, though, I really had high hopes for its impact on my forehead lines.

  11. wow am i late to the game here but am SO INTO this article, ty for sharing all of the bits of it

  12. I’d like to congratulate you on identifying gender and the reason behind your crying, because personally my reasons are always im tired, or a man told me off on a train, or i missed my bus. Invariably the real reason is gender and you’ve gone straight to the point. That’s some real work there!

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