The new beauty bar buzz

Liquid formulations for skin and hair are being reimagined as eco-chic bars and sticks

Scrubd Lemongrass & Lime Soap Block, £17

 While creams, gels, serums, mists, foams and all manner of liquid products may still be the familiar bathroom cabinet staples, the beauty industry has been busy concocting a more solid plan for the future. A new generation of potent bar and stick formulations is coming up, and it seems to be meeting modern desires head-on. 

These practical, often multitasking, solid products not only streamline the beauty routine, they fit nimbly into gym bags, weekenders and carry-ons. They tend to require fewer preservatives – better for your skin – and come with a conscience too: a commitment to reducing water wastage and plastic packaging. 

Milk Makeup Hydrating Face Mask, £21, from

“Stick cosmetics took the spotlight last year,” says Sarirah Hamid, founder of the beauty trend forecasting consultancy Pretty Analytics. “Since then, we’ve seen an influx of solid formulations for both skin and hair and, alongside it, a reignited appreciation for soap bars.” 

The joint benefits of being environmentally conscious and time- and travel-friendly certainly chime with current attitudes. According to research by the market insight agency Mintel, 48 per cent of adults in the UK want their beauty routines to be quick – and nearly a quarter demand that they have minimal environmental impact. 

In the past, solid meant simple, and not necessarily in a good way. But today it doesn’t mean compromising on results – or longevity. “Stick formulations can actually last longer,” explains Roshida Khanom, Mintel’s associate director of beauty and personal care. “They’re often more concentrated and only need a small amount of water to be activated, which gives them an increased shelf life.”

Like so many recent beauty trends, the solid-formulation movement originated in South Korea, before being adopted by forward-thinking US brands such as We Are Wild. Founded by anthropologist and epidemiologist Sally R Kim, the all-solid beauty line is produced in Korea and based in Oregon. With the tag line “recreation skincare”, Kim reflected her desire for products that work with an active lifestyle, tackling the inflammation and dryness she experienced as a result of being outdoors.

We Are Wild Solid Water probiotic toner, $24

“In terms of efficacy and potency, solid products really do stack up when compared to liquid formulations,” says Kim. “Solid products are less likely to change their chemical nature or ingredient stability, whereas the form of liquids can alter rapidly – especially if they’re in contact with other substances such as moisture from wet fingers. 

“Solid skincare can also be more sanitary,” she adds. “Applying liquids requires the use of fingers or a tool, which means you can lose some of the product and transfer bacteria to the skin.”

The hero of Kim’s collection, the antioxidant- and probiotic-packed Solid Water toner, is designed to work like a hydrating, cooling mist – reimagined in stick form. It can be used before applying make-up or to refresh it, and comes in sleek, minimal packaging that can be slipped into even the smallest of bags. 

No mess, no fuss is also the mantra of high-end “beautility” brand Milk Makeup. Its bestselling Hydrating Face Mask capitalises on this year’s trend for CBD products and contains exfoliating kaolin oil, hydrating plant oils and soothing aloe in a concentrated mask stick. Swipe it on two or three times a week – wherever, whenever – and the hands-free ease of applying what would otherwise be a messy mask is an awakening to say the least. 

Herbivore Botanicals Bamboo Charcoal cleansing bar, £10, from