Unless you are a beauty hobbyist who regularly reads about skin care innovations, then packaging aesthetic may be the first or only thing you consider when shopping for new products. Everyone loves glass jars and bottles matching their bathroom’s color scheme, but understanding the relationship between packaging functionality and product degradation are essential to product efficacy. Wondering why your results are not matching the product claims backed by a solid ingredient list? Experienced cosmetic chemist Al-Nisa Ward explains why.
How important is packaging when it comes to skin care products?
Packaging is of primary importance to skin care products. It not only houses the formulation, but it is the first thing the consumer sees. It also conveys the message of the company. For example, packaging for a line founded by a dermatologist may have a clinical look with minimal design, whereas a natural line may have more rustic-looking packaging that is made from recycled materials. Equally important is that packaging maintains the integrity of the formulation and protects it from degradation.
Do you usually formulate around packaging or select packaging based on the formula?
Packaging is one of the parameters determined in the product profile, which is completed before formulating begins. So, I almost always develop a formula that suits the packaging that was chosen.
Jar packaging: Which ingredients are not stable or lose effectiveness in jar packaging?
Products that contain ingredients sensitive to light and air, such as vitamin C, are not ideally suited for jar packaging.
Dark bottles: Which products or ingredients are best kept in dark bottles and out of sunlight?
Again, sensitive ingredients like vitamin C, fragrances, and essential oils.
Glass packaging: Is glass packaging about aesthetic or preservation?
As with any type of packaging, it is about aesthetics or function not preservation. Glass is less reactive than plastic and may reduce the potential for water loss over time. However, if your product is not preserved properly from the start, packaging it in glass will not save it.
Airless packaging: What kind of ingredients require airless packaging to be stable?
Products containing ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, and other sensitive ingredients.
Pads and wipes: How well do AHAs and BHAs remain stable in pads and wipes?
Individually packed wipes maintain their efficacy very well because they are not repeatedly exposed to air. They are only used when you need them, cutting down on degradation and potential exposure to bacteria.
Roll on packaging: Can roll on tubes (e.g. eye products) deposit bacteria into the product? Which products are affected the least in this type of packaging?
If a person has bacteria on their skin and they use a roller ball, some bacteria can get into the product. However, the construction of the package limits the product’s exposure to contaminants. Also, if a product is properly preserved, any bacteria introduced will be killed.
Generally speaking, anhydrous products (products without water) would be least affected.
Transferring product: Can you introduce bacteria by transferring product into a different container?
Yes. If the container is contaminated or the utensils used to transfer the product are contaminated, then the product you transfer will be contaminated.
DIY products: What are great preservatives for those who make their own beauty products at home?
It really depends on the product. If it’s a natural product, then natural preservatives should be used. If it is just a mix of waxes and butters or oils, a preservative may not be needed at all. It also depends on the pH of the formula, which is properly determined by a pH meter. The preservatives I use are determined by the type of formulation I am creating. Each person’s home mix is different and customized to what they want. I would encourage DIYers to practice due diligence and research the best preservative for their product.
More about preservatives: Are there any type of formulas that never require a preservative?
I don’t like to use the word “never” in this case because it is so absolute. There are formulas that generally do not require preservatives, but it is really at the discretion of the formulator. Formulas that generally do not require preservatives are some antiperspirants, antibacterial hand sanitizers, and anhydrous products such as, face/body/hair oils, sugar/salt scrubs, and lip/body balms. However, there is a caveat. Anhydrous products that will be exposed to moisture (for example, sugar scrubs will be exposed to water from a shower and lip balms will be exposed to moisture from lips) should contain a preservative.
What is the difference between expiration date and shelf life?
Expiration dates are required for over-the-counter (OTC) skin care products (e.g. sunscreens, acne products, etc.). Cosmetic products do not require an expiration date. As part of their requirement to prove the safety of a product, companies are responsible for determining a product’s shelf life. Shelf lives vary depending on the product.
What do you consider premium packaging?
I consider airless packaging premium packaging. This type of packaging maintains the integrity of a formulation by protecting it from oxidation and contamination.