Could solid cosmetics make the shape of the future when it comes to beauty routines? Thanks to them, it would be out with shelves of bottles and endless ingredient lists, and in with new-gen shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes and soaps that are light on packaging - and preservatives - for a revamped, 100%-responsible beauty routine.

Natural, eco-friendly, cost-efficient

In practice, what is presented as an innovation sometimes looks like a step backwards, with the solid bars of soap used by our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents slowly creeping back into bathrooms in recent years. And for good reason, since these soaps don’t need any plastic packaging and are kind to skin when they are formulated with care. For many consumers, this increasingly means “sticking to varieties that claim to be natural.

In fact, solid soaps contain virtually no water — unlike liquid shower gels — which is good news for the environment and which also means that there’s no need for preservatives. With soap, the endless lists of ingredients typically found in standard shower gel labels are largely simplified, which once again strengthens the consumer’s belief that the product is safer.

Another plus point is that the solid format is quite easily portable. They are also multifunctional, as specific versions can be formulated to be suitable for facial and body use. In the minds of consumers, they can therefore help cut unnecessary consumption.

A growing number of launches

Some of the oldest and best-known soaps are Aleppo soap and Marseille soap, which are mostly made from vegetable oils. Today, however, there’s a slew of solid soaps to choose from, that are each more fun and original than the next, just as the endless options from Lush, a brand known for its colorful solid cosmetics that come in all kinds of wacky shapes.

While there are plenty of options from specialist or niche brands (Lano, Seaweed Bath Co, Nubian Heritage etc.), recent months have also seen a growing number of launches from mainstream brands like Garnier (solid shampoos), and Love Beauty and Planet (soaps and shampoos).

And soaps aren’t the only products using this "innovative" format, since nearly everything in the bathroom cabinet can now potentially be switched to solid, from face wash to shampoo and conditioner, not to mention makeup remover, deodorant and toothpaste. In particular when do-it-yourself tutorials are mushrooming online.

Formulation challenges

But for brands, there are still many challenges. If these formats are attractive for the shower, the toilet and the hygiene, the skincare trials are still disappointing in terms of sensory appeal and attractiveness.