Part 1 of 4

Cosmetics and Personal Care Packaging: material solutions

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

material samples on display in the Material ConneXion library, a SANDOW company
material samples on display in the Material ConneXion library, a SANDOW company

Related tags: Cosmetics, Packaging and labeling, Unit load

The physical properties of packaging material can have as much to do with the success of a beauty product line as the formulation, distribution, and marketing do. Design expert Leslie Sherr weighs in on packaging material options.

Packaging makes a first and lasting impression on consumers, and, in the beauty business, that impression can be everything. For this, the first in a four-part series on contemporary personal care packaging, Cosmetics Design spoke with materials and design expert Leslie Sherr, who is also a co-author of the latest book series from Material ConneXion, a global creative design consultancy comprising a library of over 7,000 innovative materials. 

Sherr explains, “in the ever-competitive arena of beauty, health and wellness products,…materials are prime conveyors of a brand’s values and positioning. Well chosen, they contribute to differentiating a product through a uniquely tactile experience.”

Material considerations
When selecting materials for a contemporary personal care line, designers should take careful notice of these five qualities: sustainability, strength and flexibility, innovative dispensing, interactivity, and craft. Here, Sherr gives a quick definition as well as an exemplary instance of each.

  • “Sustainable materials and processes allow for an overall reduction in material waste. The “Dissolve” biodegradable toothbrush package, by Simon Laliberté of Atelier BangBang, disintegrates when it is run underneath tap water.”
  • “Materials of sufficient strength and flexibility allow a packaging design to fulfill more than one function, or to offer a form of advanced protection. Constellation Jade, a treated paper from Fedrigoni, is abrasion-resistant and can withstand extreme temperatures yet is supple enough to elegantly wrap around corners and openings.”
  • “Innovative dispensing systems. The Airopack pressurized dispenser for fluids and other high-viscosity materials eliminates toxic propellants by working with nothing more than fresh, clean air.” 
  • "Interactivity. For the German fashion brand Hugo Boss, the exterior of the Hugo Red fragrance bottle is coated in a thermochromatic ink that changes color in response to the heat of the user’s hand.”
  • “Craft. Fragrance and cosmetics packaging by Technotraf is machined from solid wood using high-precision tools able to produce complex surfaces.”

Discernable details
Each packaging material comes with a fixed set of tangible properties. That’s “the sensorial aspect,” ​Sherr tells this publication, “how the material feels as well as the associations it triggers; the cool rigidity of metal vs. the soft sponginess of rubber, for example.”

Putting those inherent properties to good use can make for a striking package: “The most compelling designs acknowledge, even in the subtlest ways, what makes a material unique,” ​Sherr affirms. “The challenge for packaging designers is how to perform at the intersection of business and brand, design and intimate consumer needs.”

Context clues

In the final analysis, “context is everything,” ​she tells Cosmetics Design.  

There’s a built-in vocabulary, different material properties signal luxury or value, practicality or whimsy, sportiness or elegance, etc. Those properties “also contribute to the context in which they are asked to perform," ​says Sherr, "be it a spa, gym, handbag or luggage. The exquisitely reflective lacquered surface of a lipstick container speaks to an aesthetic that differs from a design appropriate for an exotic hamman or organic Swedish sauna.”

In tomorrow’s instalment of this four-part Cosmetics and Personal Care Packaging series, Cosmetics Design checks in with Sherr about top trends and what’s coming next for beauty packaging.  

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