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Beauty Packaging at the End of Permanence

Sarah Hoit
  • As more consumers are living on-the-go lives, they are making more and different demands of their products’ packaging.
  • Making products more lightweight but still luxurious is a significant trend, requiring collaboration between design, materials, manufacturing, branding and marketing.
  • Beauty packaging is often integral to the product, staying with it for long after purchase. That means it makes a bigger impression on consumers and creates a bigger opportunity to win them over with efficacy, ease of use and functionality.

My grandmother had a makeup table, a vanity of white lacquered wood that had the geometric curves and sharp lines of a 1960s spaceship. It was very groovy. But, as some love to say, times have changed, and this morning her granddaughter put on her makeup in the Chicago O’Hare airport.

Consumers change as individuals and as a group, with fresh routines and new needs informing their purchases. As color trends tell us what color is “it” for that season, consumer trends can tell us what “it” is that consumers are looking for below the surface. More than ever, we are on the go. DVD sales are down while streaming services are up, we lease rather than own, and we rent power tools for weekend projects. In short, we have reached the end of permanence.

The Effect on Beauty Packaging

Beauty and makeup occupies a unique position in its packaging. It has more layers than many products, primary packaging and secondary packaging, and the primary packaging stays with the product for the life of the contents. More than just a conveyance from shelf to basket to home, primary beauty packaging is inextricably linked with the product, dispensing, applying and storing for the entire product lifetime.

Every day consumers are using more and owning less. More and more people are living out of their bags and carry their makeup and beauty products with them. “Extended wear,” “16-hour color” and so on make good on the non-stop life of consumers, but what about the packaging?

If the new Nike football cleat is 1.1 ounces lighter than Adidas’ football cleat, and the MacBook Air is 1.5 pounds lighter than the MacBook Pro, the race to the lightest is clearly underway. Reducing weight offers many benefits—portability, material usage minimization, increased sustainability and lower costs. Water bottles now come with thinner walls, more reinforced ribs and laughably small caps. Many industries are subtracting to add value.

The Value in New Packaging

But can lightweight be luxurious? Very often, Material ConneXion’s clients come to us with a fully realized design, in established materials, and say “make it sustainable,” or “keep everything the same but make it lighter,” or something similar. Endemic change in packaging has to happen earlier in the process—design, materials and manufacturing are a fluid balance, the mastery of which can create amazing new products with incredible value.

Packaging design can look for innovation in materials to initiate the brainstorming and allow opportunities within the manufacturing process to guide the form and structure. How can thinking be shifted to a more holistic approach?


Ramlösa, a 306-year-old mineral water brand out of Sweden, lightweighted its packaging, switching from glass to PET, a daring move in the beverage industry where glass equates with luxury. The new packaging features elegant sweeping ribs that look like cut crystal, reduces weight by 90% and carbon footprint by 65%.

At a recent bottle manufacturing conference, engineers displayed brilliant design and manufacturing ideas to lower weights by fractions of ounces, exemplifying how disciplines can work together to serve mobility and the on-the-go lifestyle.


Material change is another clear method for lightening the weight of an established design.

InCycle from MicroGreen Polymers, Inc. goes to the extreme, decreasing weight in something already lightweight, the thermoformable film used for food packaging and beverage cups, tubes and labels. What could be done to lighten something already so tiny? Like the design of bottle caps, incremental improvement is the goal. Although they have smooth continuous surfaces on the front at back faces that typifies films, the inner layer of these films are foamed, incorporating air and removing polymer from the center.


The aforementioned materials cut product weight by cutting material—physically using less. However, there are other novel ways to get more from less.

Modular systems allow for personal customization and the elimination of excess by allowing brands’ product to carry only what they need with them. Single-use packets and disposable containers are a great way to take a much-loved product along for the day. A new converting technique allows for design freedom and user ease at the most primary level, taking “Tear Here” and turning it into “Tear Anywhere.”

For example, Magic Cut perforating technology from Asahi-Kasei Corporation creates uniform perforations in the sealed edge of a film packet, making tearing the pack open possible at any point along any of the sides.

The Wave of the Future

Providing the modern consumer the products they want and need is one thing, but in beauty, packaging is part of the product and can contribute more than a pretty face to its contents. Exceptional packaging that judiciously utilizes material selection and manufacturing processes to further design possibilities can support portability, customization and functionality in light of customers needs.

Getting everything they want is something the consumer has grown to expect. There is suddenly very clear value in the reduction or elimination of everything they don’t.

With a masters of science from the North Carolina State University, College of Textiles, Sarah Hoit has been a materials scientist at Material ConneXion since 2012. Her specialty in nonwoven textiles, liquid repellency and polymers have brought her to be part of consulting projects with Fortune 500 companies and to assist with library research for the sourcing of materials that are included into the worlds’ largest library. Hoit has also been invited as presenter for the Innovation Summit at MIT Media Lab, discussing “Obake System: Garment/Habitat through multifunctional design and Green Chemistry” and has been a student presenter for the graduate seminar “Base of the Pyramid Marketing for Sustainability.”

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