Packaging may not be the superstar of the personal care world, but the value that innovative design can bring to a brand can be limitless. In an age where ‘unboxing’ videos are tops draws on Instagram and YouTube, a product’s container is no longer a component, but rather a necessary tool for a successful launch.
Great packaging can reinforce ideals, champion social causes, and define a standard for every other company to follow. Successful innovation has put brands into the Zeitgeist, and poor execution has lead to epic flops.
It is not often the first thing a customer thinks of, but package design still affects every use, every connection, and every attitude we have towards the brands that fill our shelves. Take a look at some companies that are leading the way forward in packaging design.
Helmm lays claim to being the world’s first refillable deodorant, providing a functional applicator that reduces plastic waste by 60% per unit. Deodorants and antiperspirant packaging has long been seen as one of the industry’s biggest waste products, owing to the amount of plastic to product ratio needed for the stick to work.
Even if a product’s components are recyclable (most aren’t) there is still an excessive amount of packaging that’s left over once the stick is gone. Instead, co-founders Zach Groffsky and Taylor Lane focused on designing a well-crafted (and stunning) piece of art that just so happens to live in your medicine cabinet. The inserts themselves are recyclable, with the deodorant’s formulation made from eco-friendly and natural ingredients.
Helmm hopes to not only reinvent the product category but use its packaging to reinforce a modern aesthetic and reimagine what prestige means for today’s man in personal care.
Keeping in the spirit of reducing waste, most beauty and personal care products rely heavily on plastics, due to the material’s low cost and easily moldable format. However, all of that plastic adds up — 70% of all U.S. plastic packaging waste ends up in landfills (not to mention what percentage gets lost in the ocean).1
So Seed Phytonutrients put their team to work and created a fully-compostable post-consumer cardboard container. Mixed with chalk (a natural antimicrobial) the package is water-resistant and designed to be used in the shower.
The L’Oreal-incubated brand worked with Ecologic Brands to design the unique packaging, working off of an initial pouch-in-paper-shell concept (the bottles are fitted with recyclable plastic liners and airless pumps). The container’s two halves are then pieced together through glueless, interlocking tabs.
Water-resistance is achieved through the mixture of minerals and paper, with heat pressure binding the paper fibers together. To top it all off, a package of seeds is inserted in between the cardboard and liner, so consumers are reminded to give back to the earth once the shampoo is gone.
As we’ve seen, interchangeable refill packs can help a brand’s packaging in sustainable ways, but they can also double as a sales strategy for the masses. Take, for example, fragrance warehouse Scentbird, who offers a subscription-based model for keeping a person well-stocked in cologne or perfume.
For about $15 a month, customers get an 8 mL refill shipped directly to them, and the online tools to manage scents, shipment frequency, and add on supporting beauty care products. Customers can choose from the company’s catalog of more than 500 designer names, all of which are customized to fit into their slimline atomizer.
Every aspect of the product — from purchasing to packaging is designed for an on-the-go approach, reinforcing the notion that fragrance isn’t a chore, but a self-indulgence we can have anywhere.
The universal refillable premise not only contributes to reducing waste but expands Scentbird’s consumer base, targeting those who are less committed to fragrances. With each bottle designed for only a 30-day supply, customers do not have to make long-term commitments to any particular brand or scent.
The cases — which come in colors like bronze, burgundy, and electric purple — are almost as fun as waiting for the month’s scent to arrive.
Packaging can usher into a new industry concept, as seen in Kao’s product launch, MyKirei. The brand was inspired by the Japanese philosophy of Kirei, which focuses on an aesthetic of beauty, cleanliness, and sustainability.
The name is not only apropos for its product line, but also the packaging it comes in — patented flexible film containers that use air pockets to shape the bottle into place and stand it upright. The bottles use 50% less plastic than comparable products and are recyclable via TerraCycle.
The flexible packaging also provides a water-tight design to prevent contamination, which incidentally leads to less product waste. The inner bag pulls itself inward as the package empties, allowing for more product to be used. (Traditional bottles can leave up to three times as much product behind.)
What’s more, the company offers the MyKirei product line in refill packs, so consumers can reuse the hard plastic pump. Kao hopes that this AFB — air in film bottle — technology can be further applied to more products in the future.
Innovative packaging can be used to address a consumer need as well, as seen in LBK Nails’ line of vegan nail polish. The unique caps contain a hinged PCTG plastic nail painted with actual LBK polish. Consumers can slide their finger under the synthetic nail to see how the color will look in real life.
What’s more, each nail is painted with the exact polish that’s in the bottle. By doing so, LBK helps to address the nuances and variations that can be seen between batches. The company’s manufacturing process is capable of painting one tip every two seconds as the bottles come down the line.
The cap also provides a sanitary benefit, as customers do not need to unscrew the cap to inspect the color inside the bottle. What’s more, the company believes it is providing retailers an extra layer of savings. Tony Kemeny Jr., founder of Kemeny Designs and LBK Nails, believes that stores lose up to 2% through maintenance costs related to customers damaging displays with polish or contamination through opening the container.
The company works with VEM Tooling for the molded caps and paints the nail tips in their Anaheim, California facility. They utilize proprietary robotic technology to create an efficient mass-produced packaging operation.
Packaging that goes beyond a functional use, and into one’s brand representation can be highly effective in driving sales. KKW Beauty found that to be true in their Body fragrance.
Kim Kardashian West — The brand’s principal and public face — chose a shapely glass bottle designed from a mold of her actual body. Leaning into her famous physique, the company designed a bottle that reminded one of ancient Greek or Roman statues.
“My home has all these sculptures in it,” West told Allure magazine in 2018.2 “We have these two big angels that are similar to the bottle as they’re just torsos with no heads.”
Although there has been a long history of perfumes in female-shaped bottles, KKW’s was a pioneer for it’s ability to so clearly blend their celebrity with seriousness in perfumery. The glass bottle includes a 100 mL satin silver XD11 pump and the outside is texture-coated to feel and look like sand.
Even the secondary packaging adds to the visual appeal. A collapsable paper box cradles the perfume and mimics a museum’s pedestal when unwrapped.
Our industry will always be an execution of art and formulation, one that uses packaging to drive beauty and personal care forward. From our early industry leaders and apothecary roots, package design has always presented a unique face to our personal care routines.
Companies find value in creating something that more than just a container, but something that inspires us, reinforces a brand’s uniqueness, and allows us to consider what’s possible for future brands.