Warning: Major spoilers for “The Circle” below.
I, like so many other legions of binge-watchers with a deep, unyielding desire to escape actual reality in favor of reality TV, am obsessed with Netflix’s “The Circle,” a series that re-positions the traditional competition show framework around a proprietary sort of real-life social media platform (which, of course, is called “The Circle”).
Since premiering on the streaming network in January, “The Circle” — which has been compared to “Big Brother” meets “Catfish” — has become its own mini cultural phenomenon, a zeitgeist-y touchstone for those willing to admit they indulge in reality programming outside the Andy Cohenverse. Wired dubbed it “the best TV show about the internet”; critics the internet over generally loved it; the iconic Lauren Graham mentioned having “background binged” it during a recent New York Times interview.
What makes the show work so well, in large part, is its cast. Viewers are shown seemingly real-time coverage of each competitor’s daily existence, so watching “The Circle” can feel like hanging out with its stars on a personal, sometimes even mundane, level. Arguably, the most beloved of them all — by both fans and by his fellow “Circle” competitors, it turns out — is the show’s winner, Joey Sasso, aka “Broey Joey.”
There’s a whole lot for viewers to love about Joey: his earnestness, his empathy for his fellow players, his open mindedness, his love for his mom, his ability to prioritize consent without compromising on romance (see: his IRL meeting with Miranda), the fact that he’s just not sure which Jonas brother is which (same, honestly). But for me, Joey’s most endearing characteristic is his penchant for skin care.
One thing is for sure about Joey Sasso: Dude loves a skin-care product. And a hair product. And a quality toothbrush. And, it turns out, a keratin treatment. On “The Circle,” he’s shown doing an intense peel-off charcoal face mask and flipping his hair around rather violently while styling. There are also multiple glimpses of his well-stocked bathroom, which is brimming with so many products it could easily warrant its own Top Shelf — in fact, Into the Gloss even went so far as to analyze his routine via screen shots from the show. (That is exactly the kind of journalism I hope to see more of in the world.) But I decided to take things a step further… and slid into Joey’s DMs to see if I could get some intel from the primary source himself.
Sweetheart that he is (and, fellow “Circle” fans, I’m happy to confirm that he really, truly is), Joey generously obliged when I asked him to jump on the phone with me to go piece by piece through his entire grooming and self-care routines. Ahead, our conversation.
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One of my favorite parts of the show was watching you do your beauty routine and seeing all of the products you brought — I was very impressed by it. How did you first get into grooming and skin care?
I started getting really into it about two years ago. I was starting to see that you have to take care of your skin just as well as your body. I’ve been a gym rat essentially my entire life, and I just started to see as you get older, you really can’t stop yourself from aging, but you can do everything that you could do to fight it. So I started by just doing general research using normal drugstore products, but knowing myself and my addictive personality, once I go down that rabbit hole it’s just going to get worse and worse.
When you were first learning about skin care and figuring out what to use, where were you turning for recommendations and figuring out which products you wanted to try?
For me it was basically a mixture of Google and YouTube, and then just a lot of trial and error, comparing and contrasting things that might work for me, and because I’ve always been so into taking care of things like my hair, I would talk to my barber or my stylist.
What is your specific routine?
I make sure that every single day as soon as I wake up the first thing I do is that hot towel to the face. Then I do my entire regimen, and I do that also at the end of the night.
The Baxter of California Face Wash is just without a doubt the best I have ever used. It leaves your skin so soft, so smooth. Then after I do the face wash, I’ll do a Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleanser from Kiehl’s in the shower, and between those it just gets everything off your face and just so ready to be hydrated after that point.
Morning I will usually do the [Kiehl’s] Hydro Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum and the Oil Eliminator 24-Hour Anti-Shine Moisturizer. I’m actually right by my bathroom, let me go look. I got so many products, I just use so many. Then from there, I will use Sircuit’s Skin Anti-Aging Skin Resuscitating Serum. Depending on the day and where my skin is at, sometimes if I’m blow-drying my hair, I’ll actually just do the low, low setting and just hold it on my face for 25-30 seconds, just to dry my face out a little bit, because you know I’m using so many different oils and creams in a quick time period. You should wait a little bit longer to put them on, but I just want to make sure everything’s getting set in properly.
What about if you’re getting ready for a night out or special occasion, is there anything different you’d do?
Yes, actually, one of my favorite tools is my blackhead pore vacuum sucker, which I got off Amazon. I’d bought one before and I wasn’t really happy with it. I kept hearing people talking about the blackhead vacuums being so good, so I was like OK, I gotta get one, and I ended up doing some research and I ended up finding one that comes with three different light settings. and I have very, very bad blackheads, it’s just one of those things, it doesn’t matter at a certain point how much I do, I’ll always have them. I bought the blackhead vacuum and it was absolutely amazing, so what I’ll do on a Saturday night — man, it’s like a two-hour routine, it’s insane. I will do the face wash followed by the pore cleanser, and then from there usually I’ll shave my face, make sure everything is stripped, and I will do a Black Charcoal Peel-Off Mask from PureHeals, which seems to be one of the best ones.
Is that the one you’re using on the show, very notably?
Yes, that’s the one I’m using on the show. Once I started using that one I’ve never switched.
Back to the blackhead vacuum — tell me more about that.
That’s one of those things you really have to be careful when you’re starting to use; if you don’t use it correctly it could end up looking like maybe you got hit in the face, because your skin can have such a reaction of getting black and blue and red. But for me, I find my skin’s so used to it, I’m on the highest setting at all points and times. My God, it’s unbelievable the amount of people I’ve turned on to this thing. They just get absolutely disgusted in the best way with the stuff that comes out of their face.
There are so many different ones on Amazon, and I had to do so much research. It’s Westfy Blackhead Vacuum Dermatron 8-in-1 Microdermabrasion Device.
On the show you seemed to have a pretty elaborate hair routine. Can you walk me through that? It seemed like there was a lot of… movement.
Oh God, my hair is so thick, and naturally my hair is so curly. My entire family has got such curly hair, so what I have to do is I have to get my hair relaxed every other month. But I’m not always up on that regimen, so because my hair gets so curly it takes longer to do it. When you’re putting products in and trying to style it it can get so clumpy, which is like the worst feeling, especially if you don’t have a good blow-dryer. So I do this head-twirl thing that just like loosens it up. I don’t know, it might not do anything, but in my mind it accomplishes a lot.
What hair products and tools are your favorites?
For a pre-styler right now I’m really into the Baxter of California Hard Pomade Cream, and I’ll do that before I start blow-drying. As far as the main product, right now I would say the one I’ve been kind of religious to over the last couple years is this company called Lockhart’s — they’re out of Michigan, I believe. They’re a family business, and they have a couple of products that I use, but the one I use the most is Goon Grease. It’s absolutely amazing. Their other product is called Fire and Brimstone, it has a nice shine, nice hold. Those products are specifically for people like me who really have thick, thick hair and it kind of gives you that old-school greaser sort of look, but I like that because you don’t have to use as much product, you get a nice buildup throughout the week. I also think Ocean Clay by Shehvoo is absolutely great. That pomade addiction is a serious thing.
You had a lot of products with you on the show — how did you pack all of that to bring with you?
When I travel, I do not travel light, because I’m the person who’s like, ‘What if I need this? What if I need that?’ and if I don’t bring it, that’ll be the one time that I’m gonna need it. I had, I want to say, a whole suitcase that was just products. Usually if I’m traveling, I have anywhere from three to four [toiletry bags] just completely filled to the brim, not including shower products. You don’t expect a woman to pack light, why am I going to pack light? I’m going to make sure I have everything I need.
I pack everything when I travel, too, and I once had all my products taken from me at security at Heathrow because they’re really strict about the liquid limits there. Have you ever run into that issue?
Oh my God, no. I would be devastated, heartbroken and crying. I would not let that happen. That’s really all I spend money on. That’s like my happy place, that’s my fun time.
Where do you shop for beauty products?
For me, Amazon really always has a lot of stuff, but I’ll usually go to the mall and hit up the Kiehl’s store. Also there’s a store right down the street from my apartment within walking distance, it’s called Nigel Beauty Emporium and that’s where all the YouTubers and makeup artists go. They have a really good selection, and if I’m looking for new pomades and creams they have such a fantastic selection.
Do you use sunscreen?
No, I don’t really use it that much.
Do you have a signature fragrance?
Normally I’m a guy who if I’m wearing a certain type of cologne, it’ll usually be the same cologne for a year to two years, because maybe it’s like an OCD thing. You know that feeling when you walk into a room and someone just stinks like cologne and it’s terrible? I feel like that happens a lot if you use something for the first time or if you’re newer to it, whereas I feel like if you get your body used to it it just becomes kind of part of your smell when you’re around people. So for me, I’ve been on the Dolce & Gabbana brand for, I want to say, a year and a half at this point.
Before that it was Vince Camuto, which I loved as well, and when I run out of the D&G I’ve got the Versace cologne I bought about six months ago on sale, and oh my God, it smells so good, so I’m actually kind of excited to run out of the D&G and get onto the Versace one because it smells fantastic.
What’s the most money you’ve ever spent on a beauty product?
It actually sounds so frivolous, but it’s true: I buy toothpaste on Amazon, it’s AP24 Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste. I use that every day and I think I buy them in packs of five or seven, and that might have been $200. My toothbrush is a Philips Sonicare, it was the newest one that came out last year, the best one they had. I want to say that was like a $400 toothbrush, but it was so good.
What about now that you have your “Circle” winnings — are any of those going to be put toward a beauty splurge?
I don’t think so, just because I’m so used to just bartending and doing what you have to do to get by, like anyone who works any sort of job, you sort of figure out what you have to spend to live, what you have to spend for personal life stuff that you enjoy. I’m just a person that really enjoys taking care of myself, so I’ve always found a way to get the things that I need.
People might see me going shopping and buying stuff in bulk and think, oh that’s so much money, but I’m like, ‘Dude, look at it like this: If you’re spending and going shopping four times throughout the year, you’re spending that throughout the year, where I’m getting it in one shot and it’s all said and done.’
How have fans reacted to seeing your beauty products and routine on the show?
I can tell you for a fact, most of my DM requests are for me to do skin-care videos, which is cool because it’s just as many men as it is women, which I think is awesome. I know not as many men are into skin the way that I am, and they’ll be like ‘Yo, help a brother out! What are you using? What’s your routine?’ It’s so difficult to get back to people, so I think at a certain point I’m going to probably shoot a video of me doing my routines.
Is there anything else you do for self care? Do you do any spa treatments or facials or anything?
I’ve actually never gotten a chemical peel or stuff like that that I hear people talk about, and I would love to, I just think those things can be so expensive. Right now I’d rather have the products myself at home and have my routine. I just think [doing an at-home routine] is a time of reflection, of thinking about what you’ve got to accomplish, and you always put yourself in the best state of mind to tackle everything that’s going to confront you the rest of the day.
Would you ever be interested in creating your own beauty product or brand?
Yeah, definitely, for sure, if that opportunity ever arose. I would definitely love to have my own products out there. I think for me what would jump out to me before even skin would be hair, just because I’ve always been into my hair and I have such an idea of the type of products that I like. Especially knowing that I have such thick hair that requires a certain type of product — so many can be middle of the road to really poor — so I’d want to make sure that if I did it it would be something I’d really use and that would work.
Have you had brands reaching out to you to collaborate since being on the show?
Yeah, there have been a few people who have started to reach out, but the conversations haven’t gotten past a real general sense yet. The thing that’s cool about it regardless is to have these companies that I’m actually a fan of know that I use their product and see if there’s anything that we can do together down the road. But if I do work with a brand, I’ll really be the kid that will tout that and be so happy, because I only will work with products that I do really love and use.
Is there a product or treatment that you would never try?
The only thing that sort of creeps me out — and I don’t even know the name of it — and I’m sure it’s fantastic… and it looks great. I see videos online of people getting the top layer of their skin taken off with, like, a scalpel? Do you know what I’m talking about?
Oh yeah, dermaplaning.
Yes! OK, yes. That looks — oh, my God, it looks so satisfying to watch it, but just knowing how I am, I don’t know if I’d be able to do that. I’d be sitting there like, my whole face is in this person’s hands. If they sneeze or if I sneeze and there’s one cut and something goes wrong, this could go from a fun teen comedy to a really dark horror film in like five seconds. So that’s one thing that I would not think I would do.
If you had to give product recommendations to your fellow “Circle” players, what would you have in mind for each of them?
Oh, with Shoobs, well if he was gonna style his hair, he definitely couldn’t use the stuff I use, because his hair is far too thin. I would give him something, probably like an Ocean Clay, my Shehvoo product that I use, depending on what kind of style he’d want to do. Someone like Chris, I feel like me and Chris could definitely do a peel-off together. Seaburn would just be fun to do anything with because he’d make it so entertaining. I want to say with Sammie I could also see me and her doing peel-offs, but I think for her what would be most fun is to use the blackhead vacuum because I feel like we would both just be cursing a lot and laughing and jumping up and down and freaking out about the stuff coming out of our faces.
I would like to watch that as a reunion episode, please.
Oh, my God, wouldn’t that be great? C’mon, someone needs to make that happen!
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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