About Solid Scents

An explanation of solid scents, and the pros and cons of solid vs. liquid

a collection of perfumes, candles, dried flower petals and wax on a tabletop

What are solid scents?

Solid scents are skin-safe aroma materials (fragrance oils, aroma chemicals, essential oils, and/or absolutes) mixed with waxes and carrier oils to remain solid (or really, semi-solid) at room temperature. Beeswax is a classic solid perfume ingredient that imparts a lovely honeyed sweetness, but there are plenty of solid fragrances made with candelilla or soy wax, so vegans can enjoy them, too. Solid scents are thicker than a lotion or cream, but not as solid as a candle. They melt just enough with body heat and friction to be applied to skin or hair. Many have moisturizing properties, though that is not their main purpose.

The first solid scents, made thousands of years ago, were balms or unguents that were poured and stored in bowls or small pots. You can still find or make solids in this form today, but increasingly, solids in the 21st century are designed for portability and convenience. Most are either in stick form and housed in a twist-up tube, or in tiny compacts, slide-top aluminum tins or jars just wide enough for dipping a finger. Some solids are produced in refillable palettes that hold multiple pans of scents designed for solo wear or blending with the other scents in the palette.

Solid Scents vs. Liquid Scents

Each fragrance medium has its merits. This blog is focused on solid scents, but I love and use both liquids (alcohol-based or oils) and solids. Here are some pros and cons for each medium.

  • Solids are portable and travel/TSA friendly.
  • Solids can be applied discretely, with the swipe of a fingertip or solid stick.
  • Solids have gentle sillage (the scented aura that surrounds a fragrance-wearer), stay closer to the skin and are less likely to disturb others.
  • Solids are more likely to come in reusable or zero waste packaging.
  • Solids are an affordable choice for building a fragrance wardrobe.
  • Solids can be packaged in attractive jewelry pieces like rings, bracelets and locket necklaces.
  • Longevity and sillage on solids varies as widely as it does with liquid perfumes.
  • A large collection of solid perfumes takes up very little physical space.
  • Solid fragrance packaging offers protection from light and helps preserve the integrity of the scent.
  • Solid fragrances can melt in high heat, such as a hot car on a summer afternoon.
  • Buying or selling used solids is not something I recommend, for hygiene reasons.
  • The availability of solid fragrances is somewhat limited.
  • Many solid perfume makers offer sample sizes.
  • In the United States, TSA limits the size of liquids to 100 ml/3.4 oz. Glass perfume bottles are fragile and heavy, limiting their portability.
  • Dabbing or rollerball are discrete application methods for liquids, but most perfumistas (including me) prefer spray bottles, which are not discrete.
  • Liquid perfumes generally have bigger sillage.
  • Delicate top notes are generally expressed better in liquid perfumes, especially in alcohol-based fragrances.
  • Some liquids are available in refillable bottles, but most perfumes have a crimp-sealed top, and used bottles and boxes go to the landfill.
  • Liquid fragrances are available at every price point, with eau de parfum and parfum concentrations being the most expensive in a fragrance line.
  • A large collection of liquid fragrances takes a significant amount of space to store or display.
  • Liquid fragrances need to be stored carefully, away from light and heat.
  • Partially used spray bottles of liquid fragrance are safe to buy and sell.
  • More fragrances are available for purchase in liquid format.
  • Samples and decants are readily available for most liquid fragrances.