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Application and Execution

Jeff Falk

The trends toward eco-friendly products, as well as offerings featuring sophisticated formulas of multipurpose ingredients and value-added benefits, have been well documented over the past two years. Though distinctly different, both are equal opportunities for manufacturers of applicators and dispensing systems to innovate, thus actively participating to ensure that the ideals and intent of the initial trend are translated effectively across the components of any given product.

For color cosmetics, notably mascara, applicators have a role in communicating the natural and high science brand messages.

The Impact of Naturals

Organic Monitor expects the international market for natural and organic cosmetics to generate approximately $7 billion in sales in 2007. Darrin Duber-Smith, president of Green Marketing, Inc., stated that the natural personal care market has been growing at a rate of 15% annually for the past 10 years; in contrast, the personal care market as a whole has grown at approximately 3% annually.

Natural cosmetic product launches have multiplied from a few hundred in the early part of the decade to several thousand each year. Along with the rise of natural products, heightened environmental sensitivity has pushed sustainability into the mainstream of beauty, translating into a commitment to environmentally sound products, components and processes throughout the supply chain.
Consumers are growing evermore aware of what their personal care products contain, and that awareness carries over to every aspect of the product, beyond the ingredients. The boon for marketers and suppliers is that this ethical consumption translates to increased spending, as evident in the growth of the market.

It is therefore only logical that marketers reinforce this appeal through packaging, considering the environmental impact at all stages of the supply chain. At the same time, it stands to reason that a company committed, at any level, to producing and marketing natural products would seek to translate that commitment into every aspect of its product packaging. While considering major primary and secondary components, it can be easy to overlook applicators.

In fact, even as the industry moves toward natural ingredients, the overall percentage of truly sustainable packaging used for these natural products is small.

For natural color cosmetics, specifically, demand and opportunities for growth are high, and marketers are finding new options in this sector to foster expansion. Mineral makeup has proven to be a growth area within the color cosmetics segment, and has moved across distribution channels. Natural and eco-conscious applicators can reinforce the popularity of and a consumer’s attachment to natural makeup brands, with technological advances allowing these components to become, ironically, more natural.

Calling it a response to the latest market trends, Cosmogen, which specializes in dispensing systems and applicators, launched a line of eco-friendly brushes (face powder, blush, eye shadow, eyeliner and lip contour) made from PLA and natural hair at
HBA Global Expo, in September.

“The sleeve is made with PLA and we add particles of wood, so in a wet environment it will biodegrade completely,” said Christian Vivier, vice president, marketing and sales, Cosmogen. “We used a water-based glue, and the decoration is water-based. We have nothing like lacquering. Throw it way, and it will disappear. The speed of the degradation depends on the amount of [moisture] it is exposed to.”

PLA is, in fact, beginning to be utilized more often in unlikely packaging components, and as restrictions to its use are overcome, brands ask more from it.

“We listen to our customers. Many of these innovations, even if they don’t know it, are given by our customers themselves,” said Vivier. “We listen to what they [want]. In France, especially, there is much competition—always pushing for innovation and [points of] difference. They want something that the other one doesn’t have, and we are pushed to always deliver something new.”

Suppliers have been responsive and supportive as the volume and demand for eco-friendly materials grows. Innovations to make these materials more user-friendly are anticipated, and suppliers and packagers are already integral in supporting a natural brand’s message, understanding the appropriate utilization and feasibility of materials made from renewable resources and recycled materials—or simply using materials that are recyclable, when appropriate.

There are cases in which packaging such as PLA isn’t compatible with a product. In these cases, packagers and suppliers provide valuable counsel, educating stakeholders regarding other environmentally friendly options. Because eco-friendly packaging, as a whole, is in its relative infancy, its increased use requires continual research and education.

The Challenge of High Tech

While consumers have shown strong interest in natural color cosmetics, eye color, mascaras and eye liners have been more innovative in terms of color and effect than other products in the segment, according to a July 2007 study of the market’s potential conducted by investment banking firm The Mercanti Group. (It is important to note that natural cosmetics for eyes, though not as prevalent as in other color segments, are available.)

Mascara is a complex product due to the many variables in both formula and application.

Durable and clump-free added color is no longer the sole consideration; consumers are purchasing multidimensional and multifaceted mascara that enhances color, volume, curl and length.

Though formula is always important, mascara, in particular, is a product in which packaging—especially the applicator—is integral to the product’s performance.

For example, brushes with elastomer bristles allow flexibility during application to separate lashes; while angled brushes lift each lash and infuse them with mascara; yet they are also designed to deliver buildable volume and collagen-enhanced formulas.
Additionally, brushes must be engineered to uphold the specific claims made by the formula; therefore, the fiber diameter, type and count all play a role. Variables in any of these aspects impacts performance. Fiber density, for example, impacts the density of mascara in specific segments of the brush. Wand length and wiper requirements, which control the amount of mascara loaded onto the brush, are additional variables in the seemingly simple applicator.

Multiuse tips and double-sided applicators also complement formulas. Alcan Packaging Techpack, for example, offers three new standard, double function applicator tips. Available in HZ foam or rubicell, the tips are shaped specifically so that application of eye makeup can be best suited to outer contours, upper eyelids and arches.

Servicing multiuse brushes, Risdon introduced a double-ended mascara mechanism, the “mascara duo,” that contains two plastic bottles joined together by an anodized metal connector. The bottles offer two different types of mascara brushes, each specifically designed for its eye product and formula for proper application and performance.

Because application is being made to a sensitive area, feel is also important to evaluate. Alcan Packaging Techpack offers brushes with a flexible section between the handle and the ferrule, allowing for more accurate application using a lighter touch, with more diffuse and even deposit of product. Risdon introduced FlexTouch, a series of flock tip applicators designed to provide more surface coverage, combined with a softer and more flexible feel.

Innovations from suppliers and packagers have clearly allowed formula trends to become viable products with long-term possibilities. Whether those trends lead formulas back to nature or into the future, compatible packaging requires forward thinking and a high level of understanding with regard to both the trends themselves and the nature of the formulas.

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