compulsive shopping

I Can’t Stop Buying Solid Serums

Photo: Kaleigh Fasanella

One thing about me is I’m never, ever without some sort of moisturizing agent within arm’s reach (sometimes even closer). That’s because my skin is lizard-level dry due to a chronic condition I was born with called Netherton syndrome. It’s genetic and so rare that it’s categorized as an “orphan disease,” or a condition that affects fewer than 200,000 people nationwide. I often compare it to eczema because, in my case, the symptoms are similar: perennial rough patches, chronic irritation, allergies, and very reactive and easily inflamed skin overall.

While my moisturizer of choice changes depending on how I’m feeling, I’ve recently become obsessed with solid serums, a category of skin care I hadn’t even heard of until a month ago. Often found in stick form, solid serums are an amazing alternative to their liquid counterparts because while they’re still brimming with powerful actives to target a variety of skin concerns, they’re more sustainable because they’re waterless. And they’re spillproof, making them ideal for touch-ups and travel.

My curiosity was first piqued when I was working on a profile about the new French pharmacy–inspired brand Bonjout Beauty, which launched in May with a single product: Le Balm, a waterless solid serum infused with lipids and a whopping 68 active ingredients that aim to help hydrate, regenerate skin cells, and repair barrier damage. I almost bought it on the spot, but after seeing the $120 price tag, I decided to do some sleuthing first. From there I found two other options that were a better fit for my budget: Hero Cosmetics’s Superfuel Serum Stick, which comes in a convenient twist-up, and Acure’s Seriously Soothing Solid Serum with blue tansy, an ingredient famously excellent for sensitive skin (more on both later). Since then, my collection has only grown — as a beauty editor, it’s kind of my job to try them all.

Below, a brief breakdown of the solid serums I can’t stop reaching for — plus a few that are on my list to test out next.

This solid-gel serum glides on seamlessly and absorbs within seconds yet still manages to do a top-notch job of nourishing my parched skin. Powered by a blend of soothing and hydrating ingredients — including hyaluronic acid, calendula flower, green microalgae, and lactic acid — the gentle formula tempers redness and reduces flakiness around my nose and mouth. Also worth noting: It has a subtle cooling effect that feels really refreshing.

This guy has more of a jellylike texture that wiggles and bounces when you touch it, which I find extremely satisfying. I use it right after cleansing on inflamed-skin days and it helps calm the redness considerably, thanks to the aforementioned blue tansy, which is also responsible for giving it its pretty ocean hue. It also contains vitamin E, rose-hip-seed oil, and shea butter, all of which are extremely nourishing and keep skin moisturized. While it initially feels a little oily on the skin, I find that it still sinks in quickly and doesn’t leave me feeling greasy.

After reading some rave Sephora reviews that called this one a godsend for eczema, I bit the bullet and bought Tatcha’s iteration of the solid serum stick. It didn’t disappoint. A day after it arrived, I came down with a nasty cold, and my nose went through the wringer — I continuously slathered the squalane-infused formula around my schnoz throughout the day and it helped with the rawness tremendously. Post-recovery, I’ve also used it around my lips and eyes whenever the skin’s feeling dry and tight. My fine lines look way less noticeable, and my complexion is generally plumper and healthier-looking.

This one is definitely the most similar to Tatcha’s, as it has the same delicious balmy consistency and contains hyaluronic acid. It also has glycerin, probiotics, and coconut oil for added TLC. I love that the formula is totally non-sticky, fragrance-free, and delivers an instant brightening effect. I’ve even used it as a makeshift highlighter on my cheekbones before, and it worked beautifully.

The Bonjout Beauty team sent me a sample of its luxurious solid serum, but after using the formula for a few weeks, I can confidently say I’d buy my own when I run out (though a little does go a long way). It has myriad benefits — from hydrating and soothing to repairing damage — plus, it’s just impossibly lovely to use, as it applies so effortlessly and feels like butter on the skin in the best way possible. It’s never sticky or greasy, and leaves me with a gorgeous, healthy glow that even my family commented on while I was home visiting, which never happens.

This translucent, soap bar–esque solid serum has been on my radar for a couple of weeks now because of the unique jelly texture and the fact that it’s packed with several clinically proven ingredients such as amino acid, vitamin C, and squalane. Together, these can reduce redness and strengthen the skin barrier, two benefits I always look for in a skin-care product. It’s also plastic-free and refillable.

I’m a big fan of peptides in skin care, so I’m curious to try this formula that’s packed with them. Made with naturally sourced, vegan ingredients, including peptides and watercress extract, the clear balm formula claims to smooth fine lines and wrinkles as well as uneven tone and texture (all of which I could use help with).

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

I Can’t Stop Buying Solid Serums