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Why Are All the Beauty Brands Selling Products in Stick Form?

Photo: Courtesy of Nudestix

Few beauty product formats, it seems, are quite as appealing as a stick.

Swipe-ons have been around in makeup and skin care for years, but lately, the stick-based beauty obsession seems to be reaching a peak. It’s popping up among more brands and product categories than ever before, including serums, body oils, blush, sunscreen, foundation, retinoids and more. And with convenience, simplicity and — let’s be honest — fun on their side, it’s not exactly shocking that sticks have gained such popularity, especially as product formulators have gotten more innovative with the ingredients they’re able to reimagine in the easy-to-use format. Read on for an investigation into the impressive capabilities of makeup and skin-care sticks, why so many brands are venturing into them — and the very best products within the category to shop now.

Diarrha N’Diaye-Mbaye, founder and CEO of Ami Colé, believes that makeup sticks simply have more versatility and blendability than liquid foundations, and they also provide a more natural finish generally. “[A foundation stick] can be taken on the go for quick touch-ups throughout the day and can be used to highlight and contour,” she tells Fashionista. These factors all inspired N’Diaye-Mbaye and the Ami Colé brand to launch the Skin-Enhancing Lightweight & Blurring Foundation Stick, a complexion stick that provides medium coverage in just a few swipes, earlier this year. 

Ami Colé Skin-Enhancing Lightweight & Blurring Foundation Stick

Photo: Alanna Slutsky/Courtesy of Ami Colé

“We chose a stick format because we wanted to be on the go with our girl, to provide her with a product that can allow her to show up as her best self from the time she leaves her home until the time she returns,” says N’Diaye-Mbaye. The stick format fits into consumers’ busy lives without requiring the finesse or application tools a liquid or cream product might. 

Priscilla Tsai, Cocokind‘s founder and CEO, turned to the stick format for a handful of her brand’s skin- and body-care products largely due to convenience as well. “There are so many times I haven’t gone to use a product because I was honestly feeling too lazy — it was sticky or messy or took too long to sink into my skin,” she says. This spring, Cocokind introduced a Ceramide Body Oil Stick and KP Smoothing Stick.

“Precision and convenience are two big benefits of delivering skin treatments in a stick form. For KP in particular, I read through so many reviews, and I knew from my personal experience that customers want a leave-on treatment,” says Tsai. “The leave-on format creates greater results versus wash-off products while still being gentle on skin.” As for the ceramide body oil, the brand touts it as an ideal moisturizing option for hard-to-reach areas, like the elbows or heels, and it offers a far less messy application process than other goopy creams and balms.

When formulating products into a stick format, texture is top of mind, and getting various formulas to work as sticks takes creativity and innovation from a development standpoint. “We had to find the perfect balance between a firm texture that would hold its shape, but still melt down and absorb easily upon application, without dragging the skin. This meant finding the perfect blend, ratio and quality of nourishing waxes and butters,” says Tsai. This is why both sticks contain ingredients like niacinamide, shea butter and squalane to ensure a smooth and non-irritating application.

Cocokind KP Smoothing Stick

Photo: Courtesy of Cocokind

Certain skin-care ingredients lend themselves especially well to the stick format. Dr. Margarita Lolis, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist with offices in New York City and Hackensack, New Jersey, says moisturizers and sunscreen are among the most popular.

“Moisturizers and sunscreen products are well-suited to stick formats because they can be formulated with waxes and oils that solidify at room temperature,” she says. On the other hand, active ingredients like AHA or retinol may be unstable in stick form due to exposure to air and light. This is why more potent skin-care actives usually remain in liquids or serums — but some brands are pushing these boundaries. Peace Out launched a Retinol Eye Stick in 2020 that features an encapsulated form of retinol to preserve potency. 

“Convenience and utility drive the market for skin care in a semisolid stick form,” says Dr. Serena Mraz, a board-certified dermatologist of Solano Dermatology and Associates in Vallejo, Calif. The only downside to stick products, compared to liquids and creams, is keeping them sanitary, she notes. “Avoid sharing your stick with others, or using it on unclean skin, and avoid using a stick on your face that has been used [elsewhere], such as the feet or ankles, for example.” You can also clean the surface of a stick to keep hygiene in check. Dr. Mraz suggests Gently scraping away the stick’s surface with a butter knife prior to the next use. 

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All of the experts consulted for this story agreed that one major benefit of stick format products is that they require virtually no education to use correctly; they’re about as fool-proof as it gets. Ahead, we’ve rounded up 22 of our favorite makeup, skin- and body-care sticks to shop now. 

Lys Beauty Higher Standard Cream Glow Blush Sticks, $20, available here

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Skin Barrier Repair Balm with Squalane, $31, available here

Ami Colé Skin-Enhancing Lightweight & Blurring Foundation Stick, $29, available here

Cocokind Ceramide Body Oil Stick, $20, available here

Pixi On-the-Glow Bronze, $18 $13, available here

Nudestix Nudies Blush Stick, $35, available here

Elf Cosmetics Daily Dew Stick, $8, available here

Ilia Beauty Skin Rewind Blurring Foundation and Concealer Complexion Stick, $48, available here

Hero Cosmetics Glow Balm Stick, $20, available here

Makeup by Mario Soft Pop Blush Stick, $32, available here

Merit The Minimalist Perfecting Complexion Foundation and Concealer Stick, $38, available here

Tula Rose Glow + Get It Cooling & Brightening Eye Balm, $38, available here

Supergoop! Glow Stick Sunscreen SPF 50, $30, available here

Yse Beauty Highlighter Stick in Vacation Glow, $39, available here

Peace Out Retinol Eye Stick, $28, available here

Being Frenshe Soothing Body Serum Stick with Magnesium, $17, available here

Anastasia Beverly Hills Beauty Balm Serum Boosted Skin Tint, $42, available here

Cocokind KP Smoothing Stick, $20, available here

Milk Makeup Cooling Water Jelly Tint Lip + Cheek Blush Stain, $24, available here

Live Tinted Huestick Multistick, $26, available here

Deinde Moisture-Locking Face Stick, $36, available here

Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Contour Skinstick, $32, available here

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