It is a beauty fact well known that, when it comes to make-up, anything in a stick format is the easiest to deal with. Remember how easy it became to apply a seamless base once we got our hands on Bobbi Brown’s Foundation Stick? Or when Clinique’s Chubby Stick upped our smoky-eye game in a three-minute swoosh? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that the stick revolution is back and, this time, it’s coming for our skincare. From cleansers to exfoliators, serums to SPF, there’s a new raft of stick-shaped skincare products hitting shelves and the good news is they will speed up our morning routines.
So, what is stick skincare? Put simply, it’s moisturisers, oils, cleansers and even toners in solid balm form and popped in a handy, twist-up stick. Originating from Korea, you use them exactly as you would your regular skincare. And, thanks to our ongoing demand for speed and ease, more and more skincare brands are getting on board. It's hard to avoid the hype around Frances Prescott's brilliant Tri Balm (an all-in-one stick cleanser, exfoliator and moisturiser) and brands such as Yes To, Origins, Coola and Earth Tu Face have also recently launched sticks. In fact, sticks are set to dominate the skincare market over the next few months.
“Travel-friendly stick products enable a more playful, seamless form of application for consumers on the move,” explains Victoria Buchanan, strategic researcher at The Future Laboratory, a role in which she explores the forefront of beauty trends to predict what's next for our bathroom cabinets. Far from just another useless gimmick packaged up under a faux cloak of “innovation”, sticks have genuine benefit. Requiring little more than a quick swish of the wrist to apply and mitigating the risk of spillage, sticks are also great for travel — One Step's Oil Cleansing Stick was a godsend on a recent trip to France.
Their multi-functionality also helps. “Consumers want products that can truly be called ‘multitaskers’,” says Victoria Young, general manager for Europe at Yes To — the latest skincare brand to bring out stick moisturisers and cleansers. “These days, products need to perform at least two functions and be mess-free.” For example, Yes To has just launched a solid, moisturising, coconut-oil stick that can be used on your face, lips and body, meaning you needn’t use a separate face oil, lip balm and body lotion.
So, the question is, do sticks have the power to replace our entire existing skincare arsenal? I collated a routine made entirely from skincare sticks to see if these portable wonders really do live up to the hype.
The Cleansing Stick: One Step Oil Cleansing Stick, £15
First up – cleanser. I swiped this solid oil cleanser over my entire face on dry skin (it took a few swipes to get it going) and left it for a few seconds to “melt” into my skin. Using my fingertips I massaged it in little circles, getting into all the nooks and crannies and taking it over my eyelids to shift my mascara. It took a flannel and plenty of face-splashing to remove it but I was pleasantly surprised at the results — nearly every last scrap of make-up was gone, and my skin didn’t feel tight or uncomfortable. As long as you rinse well, it's suitable for all skin types, even oilier complexions.
The Exfoliator Stick: Yes To Coconut and Energizing Coffee 2-in-1 Scrub and Cleanser Stick, £9.99
The suspended coffee grains within Yes To’s exfoliator stick make for a suitably scrubby texture that doesn’t feel abrasive, but rather gently nips away at dead skin cells. The grains take no more than a splash of water to rinse away, but the nourishing coconut-oil base remains, leaving my skin feeling soft and supple. I’m still partial to an acid exfoliator, which tends to dissolve dead skin, rather than buff it away, but will return to this stick of buttery, gritty goodness the next time my skin feels flaky — although I advise you keep your usage to no more than once a week.
The Toner Stick: Ilia Cucumber Water Stick, £38
Imagine layering your entire face with cucumber rounds and you might just about understand the refreshment that comes from a full-face scribble of Ilia’s water stick. It contains cucumber pulp to depuff under your eyes, aloe extract to hydrate and calm skin post-cleanse, as well as chicory root, a powerful anti-inflammatory. Apply after cleansing and before serum. I’m so taken with it, it’s actually started to replace my face-mist habit.
The Serum Stick: Earth Tu Face Skin Stick, £30
Being oil-based, this serum stick isn’t ideal under a full face of make-up (you’ll probably find that your base slides right off), but it is a really great night-time moisturiser. The olive oil nourished my cheeks, while the beeswax acted like a skin sleeping bag, locking in moisture. It also contains geranium, which is brilliant at fading post-spot hyperpigmentation (where patches of skin change colour after you’ve had a blemish) and you can use it on the body, too – perfect for dry shin touch-ups.
The Mask Stick: Yes To Grapefruit Vitamin C Boosting SnapMask Stick, £11.99
With a pink tinge, it really felt like I was colouring in my face with this mask, which promises to brighten dull and knackered skin. It’s pretty waxy in texture, but dampen your skin first and you should find that it spreads on easily. After a couple of minutes, it sets to a dry layer (which is thankfully more comfortable than a face-freezing, muscle-contorting clay mask) – give it five minutes then wash off. I’m more of a serum-drenched sheet mask kind of person myself, but I did enjoy the glow that came from this stick’s grapefruit-sourced vitamin C.
The SPF Stick: Coola Mineral Sport SPF 50, £23
We all know that SPF is a daily must, but its application really lets the side down: think pools of greasy cream dribbling between the fingers only to end up as some kind of ashy tint on your skin. Coola’s stick version, however, is the right density to sweep on with ease, but it kind of melts under the skin’s warmth, melding with (rather than masking) the face and limbs. It’s spenny, but worth it.