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What Is the Best Solid Perfume?

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist. Photos: Courtesy of the Vendors

Back in January, my boyfriend brought home a tin of Mr. Gladstone’s Cathay, a potent cologne with sandalwood and amber notes. We were both smitten. And I quickly began researching, and then pining for, solid perfumes online. After weeks of deliberation, I settled on Earth Tu Face Jasmine Perfume. I was initially drawn to its elegant seashell case, but the ingredient list ultimately sold me. The company’s “botanical balm perfumes” are made with skin-nourishing ingredients like safflower oil, beeswax, sunflower oil, and vitamin E. Not only would the fragrance make me smell good, but it’d make my sensitive skin feel good, too.

The jasmine perfume became my staple — something I looked forward to reapplying throughout the day. Each time, I felt like I was giving my neck or wrists a little sip of moisture. And the perfume’s subtle floral scent was perfect for everyday wear or buildable for going out.

I loved my Earth Tu Face so much, I found myself getting deeper into the solid perfume world. They’re compact, discreet (you can reapply in public), and leakproof. Why wouldn’t every fragrance lover at least try one? To find the prettiest, longest-wearing solid perfumes out there, I talked to 12 perfumers, podcasters, beauty editors, and writers who love them. Anne-Marie Guarnieri, creative director of Surratt, explained that solid scents generally don’t last as long as spray perfumes, which could be why they’re less popular. But she also said, “Stronger, more robust notes like amber, sandalwood, or spicier notes, those are going to stick around. It’s not so different from liquid perfume in the sense that the lighter the note is, the less of it you’re likely going to smell by the end of the day.”

Here, the best solid perfumes, ranging from robust fragrances that last hours to subtler light scents — all packed with skin-moisturizing ingredients. We’ve ordered this list from most robust wood and spice notes down to lighter florals.

We’ve written about Diptyque’s status candle and perfumes before, so we weren’t surprised that one of its scents was the only solid perfume recommended by three people we spoke to. Sable Yong, beauty writer and co-host of the podcast Smell Ya Later, likes that the warm and spicy scent “simmers down sweetly on your skin, to the effect of a golden sunbeam on some quaint European village’s cobblestone street,” adding that it’s “surprisingly potent” for a solid perfume. Beauty writer and co-host of the podcast Fat Mascara Jenn Goldstein says the complex scent with notes of clove cardamom is lightened up by fruity-floral notes, so it’s “not too heady or overpowering.” And Guarnieri notes that the packaging is “beautiful, it’s substantial, and it’s not meant to be tossed out when you’re done,” since the company conveniently makes refills.

Strategist contributor Kaitlin Phillips was gifted this solid perfume after purchasing her first investment evening bag and wanted to avoid “anything that can crumble or break, ever since I shattered a tiny, potent glass bottle of Régime des Fleurs fragrance in a bag.” Le Labo Noir 29 has been her signature scent, which she describes as a “darker fresh scent with hints of tobacco and cedar,” and the solid version is “made from a healthy combination” of sweet almond oil, coconut oil, and soybean oil. Plus, she says applying it out in public is “as innocuous as quickly applying hand lotion.”

Host of the beauty podcast Full Coverage Lindsey Kelk told us she purchased the solid version of Le Labo’s Santal 33 when she had plans to travel in 2020 and “was trying to fit my entire life into a carry-on bag.” Her trips got canceled, but she says the woody scent with notes of cardamom, cedarwood, and leather had her “smelling good for the 14 months (and counting) I’ve been stuck at home.” She notes that “the refillable metal packaging is as cool as you’d expect from the cult-favorite fragrance house” and it “feels reassuringly heavy.”

Guarnieri also recommends Artist by the French company Sabé Masson. It’s her all-time favorite scent and comes exclusively in solid form. It’s part of what makes it “extra special,” she says. Guarnieri describes it as “woody, spicy, with a tiny interesting bit of a grapefruit note in it.” She likes that it’s a “substantial size” but can still fit in every pocket, zip pouch, and bag.

“It smells like an actually well-formulated version of the earthy but smoky but spicy essential oil blend I (unsuccessfully) DIYed in college — Bohemian Luxury for the Adult Anti-Capitalist,” says beauty writer Jessica DeFino of Roots Rose Radish’s Cedarwood Myrrh & Clove solid perfume. Besides its smoky scent, she appreciates the natural shell casing it comes in. “There’s something very romantic about the fact that this exact compact can’t be replicated,” she explains. “Even if I reorder the same scent it won’t look the same.”

“This has been my favorite for quite some time now,” says Jaleesa Jaikaran, host of the podcast The Life of a Makeup Artist. The floral base of L’interdit is paired nicely with dark notes, making it “a classic” for Givenchy. Jaikaran adds that the solid option is perfect for her job as a makeup artist, which requires constant traveling.

For “the fragrance fan who gets bored easily,” Kelk suggests Jo Malone’s “really innovative” duos that “can be worn separately or layered together.” She especially likes the Refreshing Pair Duo, which features wood-sage and sea-salt scents. This pairing is also recommended by Goldstein, who told us that the particular combination “lends itself so well to the solid medium because the saltiness seems to mix with your skin when you rub in the solid perfume balm.” The result: “It makes you smell like a day at a windswept beach — one with real dunes covered in grasses and scrubby trees,” she says.

For a floral scent that’s “not overly feminine and not at all cloying,” Carlene Higgins, co-host of the podcast Breaking Beauty, suggests Diptyque’s L’Ombre Dans L’Eau. She notes that the “fruity-floral balm” with a rose base is “leveled out with a green, twiggy accord called ‘petitgrain,’” and adds that the scent is reminiscent of “shopping the lesser-trod nooks of Paris belonging to locals, where I’d often find a treasure to bring back home.” While solid perfumes prove to be carry-on friendly, she also likes that they “can be placed precisely where you want it. For me, that’s literally at arm’s length on my wrists, and sometimes on my ankles to bring about a mild and pleasant waft as I walk,” she says.

If you want a more straightforward floral scent, former Women’s Health beauty director (and a self-described “sucker for a floral fragrance”) Kristina Rodulfo recommends Jo Malone’s Peony and Blush Suede. She especially likes the solid version, because “the scent is more potent and lasts longer than a travel-sized spritzer or rollerball perfume,” making it her “go-to when I’m either traveling or on the go and need a way to touch up without lugging around a fragile bottle of perfume in my purse.”

Jo Malone sells a refillable palette container for its solid perfumes separately.

Diptyque’s Eau Rose was another floral scent recommended by Kimberly Waters, founder of Muse Perfume Shop in Harlem, and Ruby Buddemeyer, beauty editor at Cosmopolitan. Rose is the overarching scent, but it also has subtle fruitier notes. Buddemeyer says this combo makes it “fresh and fruity rather than overwhelming or powdery.” She also appreciates that its formula is “lightweight” and “blends perfectly when I tap it into my wrists.” Waters likes to use it “if I’m heading to the gym and leaving the gym and not going directly home … [it] allows you to refresh yourself and still have a good scent to you while you’re mobile, in absence of a shower.”

For more affordable solid perfumes, Tynan Sinks, co-host of the podcast Smell Ya Later, tipped us off to Lush’s scents. “Not many people know that Lush does fine fragrances, and if they do, they may not be aware of just how good they are,” he says. His favorite is the “lovely, bouncy” Rose Jam solid perfume. He describes it as “the Lush fragrance, the one where if you spend too long inside the store, you’re going to walk out smelling like it whether you like it or not.”

Chavalia Dunlap-Mwamba, founder and perfumer at Pink MahogHany in Longview, Texas, uses solid perfumes when she wants to “get a feel of moisturization as well as the scent.” That’s why she likes Los Angeles company Mélange’s natural beeswax and jojoba-oil base. She says it’s “really moisturizing for my skin — especially in this Texas heat and the change of seasons we’re experiencing right now.” Its solid perfumes also last longer than any other solid perfume she’s used, without feeling oily after application. “It’s soft and subtle, but I can still smell it after three to four hours.” Her favorite of their perfumes is the “nicely balanced” Pink Grapefruit and Jasmine scent that’s perfect for summertime.

For the most subtle of scents, Guarnieri likes these “super sheer, simple, and pleasant” single note solids by Kurochiko. Guarnieri explains, “They’re not like the ones from Diptyque or La Labo or the big perfumers that are more hard core. This is really a ‘for you’ moment and not for someone smelling you from afar.” She discovered the “lovely” solids while traveling in Japan and was drawn to their cute packaging. Her favorite is the Lavender scent, but she also owns it in Lily of the Valley and Rose. Since they’re so inexpensive, she thinks they “make an amazing gift.”

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What Is the Best Solid Perfume?