Category Archives: Packaging

Right product, wrong packaging?

Packaging Considerations by Product Category



Cleansers can come in several forms such as gel, cream, milk, oil or foam. Most cleansers have low concentrations of active ingredients, or none at all, since the majority of the product washes down the drain.  Packaging for cleansers therefore should focus more on functionality than anything else.  Does the cleanser come out easily?  Does the dispensing device clog? Does too much or too little dispense at one time?

What to look for

  • Creams and milks work best in a plastic bottle or tube with a flip-cap or pump.
  • Oils work best in a plastic bottle with a pump that dispenses a measured dose so too much oil does not come out at once.
  • Foam cleansers need to be packaged in what is called a “foamer”—a bottle with a specialized pump that turns liquid into foam.

What to avoid:

  • Glass packaging.  Cleansers often end up in the shower and glass, soap and water tend to be an accident waiting to happen.
  • Gels with a pump dispenser. Thicker formulations may clog the pump. Thicker cleansers in a pump can also lead to product being out of reach of the pump pick-up tube.  Clients will have to turn the bottle upside down (which is very tricky with a pump) or fish out the remaining product in another way.



Packaging is extremely important when it comes to serums since they usually have high concentrations of active ingredients.  The focus on serum packaging therefore should be protection of ingredients.  Air and light are the two biggest enemies to a serum’s integrity.  Ingredients that oxidize such as vitamin-c and retinol need the most protection to slow down the oxidation process. In fact some say that using an oxidized product does more harm than good.  If a product turns brown or changes in consistency, it has most likely oxidized.   While all products degrade over time, a good package choice will slow down this process.  A good analogy is an apple that has been bitten into.  Its skin is the packaging that protects it.  Once the skin is ruptured, the apple begins to oxidize and turns brown.

Product consistency must also be considered when it comes to serum packaging.  Serums can range from liquid (almost water-like) to a gel.   Poor packaging for a thinner serum can cause product waste and likewise poor packaging for a thicker serum can make it difficult to dispense.

What to look for:

  • Any vitamin C or retinol product should be in a dark or opaque bottle to slow down oxidation and other damage accelerated by light.
  • Airless pumps also slow down oxidation since there is virtually no way air can enter the bottle.  Standard pumps dispense product by pumping air into the bottle to displace the product.  Airless pumps use a mechanism to dispense the product so no air enters.  They can look very similar however so you may need to check with your vendor if you are not sure which type of pump it is.
  • Thinner serums best dispense with a dropper, particularly those with a measured dose.
  • Thicker serums dispense most easily with a pump.

What to avoid:

  • A vitamin C or retinol product in a clear container.
  • Thinner serums in a pump.  It may be difficult to control dose and they may dispense too quickly.
  • Thicker serums with a dropper dispenser.  They may coat the dropper and make dispensing messy.  If the serum is oil-based it may also coat the threads of the container, which compromises a tight closure.



Creams also can contain active ingredients that need to be protected, but they generally do not contain as many as a serum.  Creams vary in consistency from a light, whipped product, to a gel-cream to an extremely dense cream.  The consistency of the product should determine whether it is packaged in a pump, tube or jar.

If a cream contains several active ingredients, light and air should be kept to a minimum as in the case of a serum.  Airless pumps can be used if the cream has a thinner consistency. Tubes can be used for thicker creams. Airless jars are now becoming more popular for thicker creams to minimize air exposure but also to minimize bacteria transferred from fingers.  Airless jars use the same technology as an airless pump and dispense a measured amount of cream by pressing on an inner piece of plastic that covers the cream. The container for creams also tends to help define the brand more so than other product categories.  In other words, it can give the perception of a spa/luxury brand or a clinical/medical brand.

Since creams can take so many forms, functionality and protection should be considered, but a good client experience should be the packaging focus.

What to look for:

  • Opaque or dark bottles or tubes with ingredients prone to oxidation.
  • Airless jars for creams with higher concentrations of ingredients prone to oxidation.

What to avoid:

  • Jars with a small “mouth” or opening.  This can make it difficult for the client to reach the product (particularly if they have long nails).