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Right Product, Wrong Package?

By: Michelle Calvarese, PhD
Posted: January 2, 2014, from the January 2014 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

You’ve heard the saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” but can you judge a product by its package? You certainly can. Packaging can make or break the success of product. Knowing which type of package to look for can increase the success rate of that product at your skin care facility. (See Important Packaging Questions.) A large percentage of product returns are due to issues with product packaging. Some clients will even base their buying decision on packaging characteristics alone, such as appearance or whether the package is recyclable.

Product packaging is made up of both an inner and outer container. The inner container is the bottle or jar in which the actual formula is contained. The outer container is a secondary package or box. Some products have both an inner and outer container, while others only have an inner container. This article will focus on the inner container, which is made up of two components: the actual container, such as a jar, tube or bottle, and the dispensing method, such as a pump, dropper, flip-cap or spray.

Packaging considerations by product category

The type of product dictates what kind of packaging is necessary. In choosing a package, the following three variables must be carefully considered:

  1. Functionality;
  2. Ingredient protection; and
  3. Client experience.

Manufacturers can opt to put products through a packaging test to check the above three factors; however, oftentimes this very important step is unfortunately overlooked.


Cleansers can come in several formulations, 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. Therefore, packaging for cleansers should often 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?