ICYMI: Solid perfume is having a moment. While the wax-based fragrance is nothing new in terms of innovation, beauty buffs are realizing the intimate allure of solid scents thanks to their TSA-friendly forms and, in some cases, skin-nourishing benefits. So much so, in fact, that the term, “solid perfume recipe” has amassed over 7 million views on TikTok.
While beauty DIYs are on still on the rise since the pandemic, you don't have to turn your kitchen into a chemistry lab to get your own delicious-smelling solid perfume. Albeit harder to find than traditional liquid fragrance, many brands do sell solid options that are just as good, if not better, than their spray counterparts. And, not to mention, they won't ever spill in your purse. Imagine that...
What is solid perfume?
Solid perfume is exactly as it sounds: It’s the solid form of a fragrance. “Solid perfumes are a fine fragrance blended into an oil or wax base,” says Lee Howes, who leads the perfume category at Lush.
Glossier’s Director of Packaging and Product Development, Emily Trillaud, adds that solid perfumes aren’t made with alcohol, which may be more appealing to some shoppers. “Solid perfume is created by melting down waxes and/or butters, blending them directly with the fragrance oil, and cooling the mixture back to a solid state,” she explains. “They are similar in consistency to a solid lotion bar or a lip balm.”
While solid perfume is having a resurgence thanks to its pocket-, purse-, and travel-friendly design, Trillaud reminds us that it’s not a new concept. “While it may sound novel, this fragrance format has been around for centuries, and is [just] experiencing a renaissance in popularity as of late,” she explains. Despite more DIY formulators hopping on the bandwagon of solid perfume, many big-name brands have yet to venture into the category and some, like Le Labo, have actually pulled out of it altogether.
Is solid or spray perfume better?
Like so many things, it’s subjective. “It depends on what the wearer is looking for from their fragrance,” Trillaud says. “Is longevity important? Is discretion important? Sillage? Portability? They are incredibly different formats, each with their own set of strengths.”
Where classic perfumes, complete with an alcohol-based formulation and an atomizer, allow for a scent trail (aka, the waft you get when someone walks by), Trillaud says that solid perfumes are more intimate. “The anhydrous wax base of a solid perfume quite literally melts into skin on application and holds the fragrance close, almost like it's a part of you,” she explains. “Instead of being surrounded by a cloud of scent like a traditional atomizer perfume, you get friendly reminders throughout the day when you catch a whiff of your wrist.”
This doesn't mean a fragrance stick or balm won't be smelled by passerbys—you'll just have to work a little harder than you would spritzing a spray. To get the most out of your solid perfume, Howes suggests warming the surface where you want to you put it with your finger to melt the oils and then applying it onto your skin.“We recommend applying to your pulse points—your neck, just behind the ears, your wrists, all the usual places to apply perfume—where the warmth of your skin will allow the fragrance to be slowly released," Howes says.
Now, if you’re wondering which is better for travel, there’s no comparison. “Solid perfumes are perfect for travel because of their compact nature and their leak-proof non-liquid base,” Trillaud says.
8 solid perfumes to throw in your purse ASAP
Smells like: You—The scent is designed to smell a little different on everyone, putting the “personal” in “personal fragrance.”
The Glossier You Solid is the most popular solid perfume on the market, by a long shot. The castor oil- and synthetic beeswax-based fragrance is infused with warm, woody ambrette seed, musky ambrox, bright, spicy pink pepper, and powdery, floral iris. It’s a solid perfume that’s designed to play with the wearer’s natural chemistry to create a scent that’s uniquely you (hence the name)—and it’s earned over 6 million views on TikTok for that very reason. It’s also a more sustainable option since the compact case can be refilled over and over again. (The brand sells refills separately for $20.)
Smells like: A grove of Mediterranean fig trees.
The Diptyque Philosykos Solid Perfume comes in the prettiest little compact illustrated with fig trees as a nod to the name of the scent. The synthetic wax-based solid perfume features notes of fig leaves, fig-tree sap, fig-tree wood, and black pepper, making for a woody, aromatic appeal. While the Diptyque Philosykos Solid Perfume is the most popular scent from the brand, shoppers can five other popular fragrances, all of which are available in refills for $40 each.
Smells like: Warm, salted caramel.
Derek Lam’s 10 Crosby perfumes have been a fan-favorite since debuting in 2017 and were directly inspired by the sights and sounds of Lam’s favorite New York City Street. The sticks are sold in five scents, (Blackout, Rain Day, Drunk on Youth, Silent Street, and 2 AM Kiss) each formulated to invoke the feelings of the very scenes they were named after. While each scent has its perks, 2 AM Kiss remains the fan-fave, with its spicy notes and hints of amber and fig, which together give it a warm, woodsy profile.
Smells like: Musky patchouli with notes of black pepper and vanilla.
Lush is a one-stop shop for solid perfumes as almost all of their scents are sold in solid form. Of the 12 scents offered, the mischievous Lord of Misrule is a top pick thanks to its sweet, peppery profile. It’s also nourishing on skin, thanks to a blend of jojoba oil, castor oil, and safe synthetics that won’t irritate or disrupt your skin barrier. It’s extremely compact, but does come in a recycled glass jar, so it’s possible to shatter it if not careful.
Smells like: A summer garden ripe with fresh flowers and fruit.
If you’re looking for a perfume with serious portability (that won’t get your fingers dirty at that,) then give the Givenchy Irresistible Eau de Parfum Solid Perfume a try. Shaped similarly to a lipstick, the solid scent features a fruity, floral profile with hints of rose, pear, and ambrette. The case alone is worth adding one to your cart and makes it easy to throw into your purse or carry-on bag when you’re on the go and want to zhuzh up your signature scent. Just pop off the lid and swipe on your wrists, neck, or collarbone.
Smells like: “Happiness incarnate”, according to the website.
The Aerin Joyful Bloom Solid Perfume is another great choice for anyone craving a fruity, floral fragrance. Brimming with notes of bergamot, blackcurrant, rose, pink pepper, and sandalwood, it has a welcoming warmth to it that feels like summer in a compact. And, speaking of the shiny gold compact: It’s gorgeous.
Smells like: A creamsicle.
If you’re shopping on looks alone, the TONYMOLY Pocket Bunny Perfume Bar is worth considering. The solid perfume tubes are similar in size to a tube of chapstick and feature an adorable cartoon bunny face. As far as scents go, shoppers can choose from “Juicy Bunny” (bergamot and lemon), “Bebe Bunny” (bergamot/orange), and “Bloom Bunny” (amber and musk.) At $12 a stick, you might as well bring home all three rabbits.
Smells like: Warm, sandy beaches.
This sweet almond oil-based solid perfume is designed to bring images of a beach to mind. With notes of cedarwood, patchouli, and eucalyptus, it’s a warm, sun-drenched fragrance perfect for summer or any time you find yourself looking to embrace a vacation mindset. Doesn’t hurt that the compact makes for a chic accessory, either.
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