How Covid-19 is set to change beauty packaging: part 2

In part two of its series, Luxe Packaging Insight looks into progress in the area of antibacterial surfaces and how sustainable packs will fare in a post-covid environment.
It’s no secret that antibacterial surfaces are set to gain in popularity in beauty packaging. Packaging supplier HCT has blended anti-bacterial additives into several of its plastics for some time. The supplier explains that a number of metals—silver, copper and its alloys, for example—have natural antimicrobial properties that it uses not only on its patented metal applicator tips, but on spatulas, airless cushion compact surfaces and even pump actuator heads. For the supplier, the key is developing applicators that complement airless packaging. “This is where having an antimicrobial surface on a cushion compact or on the actuator of a pump head will really help create a fully hygienic experience for the user,” Adrian Apodaca, global director of design engineering at HCT notes. 

Applicators and accessories featuring anti-microbial properties are indeed on the rise. Following Cosmogen’s partnership in 2018, beauty packaging company Asquan teamed up with French engineering firm Pylote last year to supply hygienic makeup brushes and mascara applicators to cosmetic brands in the US. Pylote’s patented antimicrobial technology incorporates mineral oxide microspheres into the accessories in a liquid state, before they are formed. The technology is said to provide natural bacterial and viral contamination protection; these brushes and other tools would not require cleansing or disinfecting during their entire period of use. Asquan unveiled a range of cosmetic applicators said to provide surface protection against coronavirus this May. Tests showed that Pylote’s technology destroyed 99.99% of coronavirus human strain 229E (which causes colds) on surfaces after 24 hours. However, Pylote says the technology had not yet been tested on a strain of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. Asquan’s range currently comprises makeup brushes, with plans to expand into mascara, eyeliner, lip liner and skincare applicators. 

Cosmogen notes that alongside the Pylote project, it has been pursuing other lines of research to make products safer, particularly sponges. So far this year Cosmogen has launched two references, the Cosmoblender 2+ and FP sponges, which it says contain two ingredients with proven antibacterial properties. Cleaner accessories can also simply come from their design. The retractable applicator brush for Guerlain’s l’Essentiel foundation, developed by Taiki Cosmetics Europe, is one example. The format allows the applicator to remain clean between uses, while its dense synthetic fibers mean that the formula to be applied directly onto the brush, eliminating the need to dispense the formula onto the hand first. Solutions that allow objects such as smartphones to be disinfected using UVC rays could also be an area of development for beauty packaging. 

The sustainability paradox 

Will the quest for more hygienic packaging have an impact on the development of sustainable packaging solutions? For market research firm McKinsey, hygiene concerns may take precedence over sustainability concerns—at least in the short term. “Because of the pandemic, there is a new appreciation by consumers and industries of the hygiene advantages plastic packaging can offer that seems to outweigh concerns about recyclability and plastic-waste leakage into the environment,” the consultancy noted in a recent report. Coupled with this is the demand for more protective packaging, such as monodose formats and airless packs. Developing protective packaging that meets consumer demand for sustainability is already a challenge that dispensing system companies are looking to tackle. “It’s a work in progress and there is no ideal solution that combines the advantages of a high level of protection coupled with sustainability. Protective packaging means multi-layers and multi-material distribution systems, so it’s complicated to produce, difficult or impossible to recycle and practically impossible to design refillable solutions,” explains beauty industry consultant Gérald Martines.

See the summer issue of Luxe Packaging Insight's sister magazine Formes de Luxe for the full report.