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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.

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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 the combination of glass, soap and water tends to be an accident waiting to happen; and
  • Gels with a pump dispenser, because 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 or fish out the remaining product, which is inconvenient and messy.


Packaging is extremely important when it comes to serums, because they usually have high concentrations of active ingredients. Therefore, the focus on serum packaging should be ingredient protection. 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. Although all products degrade over time, a good packaging choice will slow down this process. An appropriate analogy is an apple that has been bitten in to. Its skin is the packaging that protects it and, once the skin is ruptured, the apple begins to oxidize and turn brown.

Product consistency must also be considered when it comes to serum packaging. Serums can range from a liquid (almost waterlike) to a gel. Poor packaging for a thinner serum can cause product waste and 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, because 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 dispense most easily with a dropper, particularly those with a measured dose.
  • Thicker serums dispense most easily with a pump.