How to Test Your Cosmetic Packaging, and Staying Sustainable
Packaging can often become an unwelcome hassle when developing a skin or hair care line, so it pays to take your time in choosing the best option before launching your product. This means weighing your options and testing them thoroughly while ensuring you stay true to your brand. Let’s discuss ways you can (and should) test your packaging and how to choose more sustainable packaging along the way.
Choosing Your Packaging for Skin Care Products
There is a ‘chicken-and-egg’ cycle that happens when you are picking your packaging. Before you talk with your formulation team, you’ll want to know a few basics, including how you want the product dispensed and the size you want to sell. And, too, you want to factor in the minimum order quantity and the time to get your packaging to your manufacturer. So once you can provide basics to your you’ll then start working on the material choices you have. Formulas with a high-level of essential oil or that include Vitamin C will need different packaging material than a sensitive-skin, unscented lotion. Once your formula is in process and you have a good idea of the percentage of Essential Oils and alcohol are in your product, it’s a good time to start testing which type of material can withstand your ingredients. I recommend starting with this blog to familiarize yourself with packaging materials your particular products will need. Essential oils can be corrosive to commonly used plastics, so make sure you order samples once the formula is set.
Aluminum and glass, in general, can withstand most ingredients, however, they have their own disadvantages. Aluminum tins and bottles are prone to denting, especially the lids of tins. Although it is lightweight, this tendency to dent can make it feel less high-end. It is also harder for your manufacturer to deliver a beautiful, perfect shelf-ready product when the tin lits are dented.
Glass, although more of a sustainable resource than plastics, is heavy and less uniform. This means it costs more to ship (and also contributes more to shipping emissions) and the nature of a glass bottle means that it is hard to fill to a uniform weight or volume every time. Labels sometimes need to be hand-applied as glass can be uneven, and this adds to your costs. It is also more fragile, often requiring a different protocol for manufacturers to work with it including the use of extra packing supplies, often bubble wrap (more plastic). However, it does read as more high-end and looks great with things like serums and perfumes.
Testing Your Packaging
First off, get ready to be a scientist! You’ll be conducting packaging tests and will need to keep notes so you can draw the right conclusions and prefect you picking inappropriate containers in the future.
Now you’re ready to go. You’ve chosen the right material and the right look for your new product, but there are many ways to test it first. Order samples of label materials with some type of printing on them and dig in!
Waterproofing. Make sure that your labels on your packaging, and the overall packaging itself, is completely waterproof. This is especially true if you are using the product in the bath or shower.
Sun/UV and Heat. Keep your filled packaging in direct sunlight to see what happens to it, the product inside of it, and the label and ink. We also recommend keeping a filled sample in an incubator or by a heat vent to see how well it holds up to heat over time. This also goes for cold and freezing temperatures. While you’re at it, try leaving the container upside down to test leaking at different temperatures.
Let it sit. In some instances, only time will tell. As soon as you can, fill your desired packaging with your product and just let it sit, ideally for several months. You can then see if there is any distortion in the shape of the bottle or if an ingredient has an unusual reaction. We recently were testing sugarcane-based bottles but found they quickly warped from contact with essential oils. As a side note, this was a big disappointment as we’re always on the lookout for more sustainable packaging options.
Test it how it will be used. Whenever we are considering new packaging, we fill a sample and box it up exactly as we would to a customer, and then send it to a location across the country. For example, we aim to cross the Rockies and potentially pass through somewhere very warm (like Las Vegas) or cold (the Midwest in winter does the trick!). Then we mail it back to ourselves to see how well it survived its journey, whether any oils leaked out, and if any dents or cracks appeared. If you can’t get someone to mail it back to you, just mailing it from your own town or city back to your home address is still useful.
Don’t forget your manufacturer. Not every package can be filled by every manufacturer. And some packaging will cost more to fill because of hand-labeling, hand-filling, or other services. Send your packaging to your manufacturer before you buy to make sure they can fill it and that you know what, if any, additional service fees you’ll encounter. Remember each time the bottle has to be touched you’ll be incurring labor fees. Even something as simple as adding a sticker on a lid or the bottom of a jar will add to your per-unit costs.
Single-use plastics are one of the trickiest and frustrating aspects of the cosmetic industry, but there are steps you can take to ameliorate this impact. For example:
- If you are sticking with plastic, post-consumer resin is a recycled form of common plastics that are available in many jar and bottle sizes. Although the variety is somewhat less, these are great viable alternatives to standard containers. Just search for PCR in the search bar of packaging sites.
- Another good idea is to ask your packaging supplier what their sustainability practices are and how they recommend recycling their products. Then share this information with your own customers, and encourage them to reuse them before even getting to the recycling stage.
- Once the package has been chosen, consider what else you can do to minimize material use. Forgo the unnecessary (though admittedly cute) retail box and opt for a fold-out label instead.
Consider Refillable and/or Bulk Packaging
Bulk: Sell your standard 1 or 4 oz product, and then also supply refill sizes holding perhaps 16 oz for the customer to dispense as their initial product is used up. This is a growing trend and an easy way to immediately reduce waste. Consider which of your products have a long enough shelf-life to work with this, and whether the larger containers should be a different material. For example, a serum will be used very slowly, but shampoos, conditioners, and body and face washes are ideal in bulk sizes.
Refilling Customer Packaging: This last option is a little trickier for us as a manufacturer — and one that we have struggled with. However, as a retailer, your customers can come to your brick and mortar or pop-up shop with their old (clean) packaging and simply refill it from your larger bulk containers. This gets rid of the shelf-life issue while still reducing the use of plastics.
Choosing your packaging can be overwhelming, but take each test one step at a time. Ask your friends, and customers if you have them, how they feel about your chosen packaging and what matters to them. For some sustainability will be key, for others they may feel your new choices aren’t in line with your brand. Because packaging can often make or break a new line of products, work with your designer, manufacturer, and supplier to find the solution that fits you best. Let us know in the comments if you have any favorite suppliers, materials, or suggestions!
Looking to Innovation
Being a sustainable beauty company is a great goal and one we strive to reach. Our philosophy is that we will be continually reducing our footprint as new technologies and options arise. The good news is that help is on the way.
According to a May 2019 report published by Reuters. A link to the full report is at the end of this article.
With a greater number of brands and products entering the beauty market, innovation, packaging efficiency, and demand for product differentiation are some of the factors leading the market growth. Many companies are looking for sustainable and eco-friendly packaging for cutting down waste, which is generated by cosmetic packaging.
Recent trends show that rapid investment in cosmetics and toiletries, demand for beauty products, such as facial moisturizers and cleansers, and different pack shape strategies provide growth opportunities the cosmetic packaging market. Consumers mostly prefer lightweight, durable, portable products such as perfume and cosmetics for easy carrying purpose. With the increased focus on health, brands and retailers offer innovative beauty and personal care products, which are designed for the consumers. Cosmetic manufacturers need to emphasize on cosmetic packaging as it plays a key role in retaining existing customers and attracting new ones.
Balancing your brand, consumer experience, sustainability desires and the reality of what kind of packaging is on the market — and then making sure your product and packaging are a good match — is work. But you can get through it by exploring options, relying on your packaging partners, and of course, experimenting with different options.
Do you have a favorite sustainable packaging tip? Do you have other tips for ensuring your packaging and product work together? We’d love to hear.