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Due to the rapid growth the beauty industry has seen in recent years, beauty brands must stand out from competitors to survive.

In the age of Instagram, there is greater pressure than ever for packaging to be beautifully designed and feature in perfectly-crafted photos that generate free advertisement for the brand. But to fulfil the promise of superior quality, cosmetic businesses must also ensure their product packaging is sturdy and practical.

Many customers now invest in costly skincare and beauty products to follow the latest trends. But this often means that they want to make the most of them, even once the items have expired.

Findings from a recent survey conducted by We-Pack suggest that almost a quarter of consumers continue to use expired cosmetic products until they run out. While 17% of people said they ignore or don’t check expiry dates on cosmetics, a further 17% keep using the product until it appears ‘off’.

But what factors are essential to uphold the product’s quality and optimise its shelf-life? Here are four essentials:

1. Choose An Appropriate Packaging Material

Glass packaging is often used for perfume, makeup and skincare products. It prolongs a product’s shelf-life by stopping moisture from seeping through. Protection from oxygen exposure can be extended further with airtight seals. However, glass is more expensive and, because of its fragility and heaviness, difficult to transport.

Sarah Ward, sales manager of We-Pack, says: “There are a variety of materials that can be used but glass and plastics are most common. Aluminium is sometimes used. Anything paper-based should be avoided for liquid products to prevent leakages. But paper sachets can be used for powder cosmetic products.”

Products containing sensitive ingredients such as antioxidants and vitamins can degrade quickly when exposed to air and light, so must be stored in airtight containers. Dark and opaque glass also protects products containing antioxidants against UV light.

Plastic is lightweight, low-cost, flexible and has hygienic properties. However, it is susceptible to absorption which causes strong scents to escape, making this material most suited to products with a short shelf-life. Although the risk can be reduced by using airtight seals and barrier layer coatings, it does not compare to the near-perfect natural barrier of glass.

Dr Emma Meredith, director-general of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), explains: “Cosmetics packaging is unusual in that it must be durable as most products are in use for several weeks, months or sometimes years. Packaging is also integral in enhancing the performance of the product—a good example is aerosols.”

Metal cans and tubes are sometimes used for packing cosmetics like mascara, as they are durable and protect against germs and high temperatures.

To enhance the safety of their cosmetic products, brands must follow the EU Cosmetic Regulation, which entails conducting a product safety report.

2. Consider The Aesthetic Appeal Of Packaging Materials

Once the practical elements of the packaging material have been considered, companies should also choose a material that enhances the visual appeal and attracts the target market.

Luxury products are often packed in glass because of its aesthetic appeal, high quality, clean finish and weight. Frosted glass can also make cosmetic packaging appear more high-end.

However, plastic is often used to contain accessible, everyday items as it is more durable. To attract younger consumers, plastic can be manufactured in bright colours for a fun and creative appearance. But plastic can also emulate premium designs with a clear, glass-like finish.

3. Follow Labelling Requirements

Under Article 19 of the EU Cosmetic Regulation, labelling for cosmetic products displayed on the packaging, product container or in an enclosed leaflet, must include:

  • Name and address of the EU Responsible Person
  • Country of origin for products made outside of the EU
  • Pack size
  • Best before end date or period after opening (when applicable)
  • Warnings and precautionary statements
  • Batch code
  • Function of the product
  • Declaration of ingredients.

Failing to display a product’s expiry date on the packaging could result in a legal dispute. Products that are past their shelf-life may only lose quality and effectiveness, but expired products can sometimes cause irritation and bacterial infections. 

Although one in six people that took part in the We-Pack survey said they didn’t know cosmetics had expiry dates, 17% of respondents reported throwing out expired cosmetics immediately.

Dr Meredith adds: “Packaging for cosmetic and personal care products must protect the products during manufacture and transport, provide easy, safe and efficient use by the consumer as well as provide all legally required information, including directions for use.”

4. Protect Products From Damage During Transit

Protective packaging makes sure that cosmetic products arrive in perfect condition when shipped in bulk. This can include:

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Quality checks must be carried out before transportation to identify risks that could lengthen the process and increase delivery costs. This includes ensuring product openers are securely fastened to prevent leakages and contamination.

While design may be what initially attracts consumers to cosmetic products, if the contents become compromised or damaged by the packaging it can be detrimental to a brand’s reputation and future sales. Fulfilling this duty in-house requires employing staff with the relevant qualifications, investing in the correct machinery and dedicating time to prevent recalls and legal issues. Otherwise, brands may benefit from outsourcing the job to a contract packing company.

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