Preserving and protecting the integrity of products is a challenging task for manufacturers in the cosmetics industry. Packaging plays an integral role in this. To prolong the life of products and ensure a positive consumer experience, manufacturers must be confident that their packaging choices can guarantee the longevity of delicate products, which often means creating as tight a seal as possible, to prevent outside elements from interacting with the item inside.

Many creams in the sector are packaged in traditional jar formats, which although perfectly capable of protecting the product during transport and on shelf, are unable to prevent it from becoming compromised once the seal has been broken. With each repeated use, the product comes into contact with external contaminants, such as air, fingers and UV rays. While these elements may be essential parts of life for consumers, for cosmetics items such as moisturisers and face creams, they can be a manufacturer’s worst nightmare, causing expensive products to dry out well before consumers have finished using them.

Given the value of protecting cosmetics products from contamination, the industry’s growing interest in airless packaging should come as no surprise. Nowadays, airless jars, bottles and tubes are some of the most acceptable packaging approaches for skincare and haircare products, helping to assure both brands and their consumers that the cosmetic product will be good to the last drop.

What is airless packaging?

The Airless Packaging Association defines the technology as: “A non-pressurised, tamper-proof dispensing system combining a mechanical activated pump and a container which, after filling and airtight sealing, delivers the product with no air intake. The container is available with a soft pouch or a sliding piston.” It is not a particularly new phenomenon. In fact, the technology was first introduced on a large-scale in the mid-1980s, when toothpaste manufacturers adopted airless systems for technical and marketing purposes. But the cosmetic industry was quick to capitalise on the idea, driving further innovation in airless packaging.

Some twenty years later, demand for airless packaging has grown exponentially. According to a recent report by Transparency Market Research (TMR), the global market for airless packaging is projected to grow to reach $6.34bn, progressing at a CAGR of 5.5% through 2024.

Cosmetics brands have been pivotal in the proliferation of airless packaging. Many products sold in the cosmetics sector, including natural skin care creams, serums, foundations and other preservative-free formula creams are sensitive to exposure, which makes them an ideal target for a widely applicable packaging solution that counters the issue of excessive air exposure. As such airless packaging technology has been widely touted as the new future of cosmetic and beauty packaging.

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Airless packaging is a common option for skin care products, since air can cause the degradation of certain active ingredients. But, the appeal of such technology is not confined to air-sensitive formulations. Brands have also begun to employ airless jars, bottles and pumps for functional benefits, even when a product’s formula doesn’t necessarily require it. Compared with traditional formats, airless packaging provides manufacturers with enhanced functionality, allowing distributors to cut down on the amount of overall packaging material used. Moreover, according to TMR, precise airless dispensing features, such as airless pumps, allow shoppers to access and use roughly 95% of the contents in a bottle, which is much higher than can be achieved with traditional pump formats.

As stated by a TMR analyst, “The zero-wastage advantage presented by airless packaging alone is expected to revolutionize several industry verticals, especially the cosmetics industry. Several of the leading producers of cosmetics and personal care products, such as L’Oreal, Olay, Nivea, and Oriflame, are indulging in airless packaging and are gaining a highly positive feedback from users in terms of usable volume available in a given package.”

The silent salesman: using airless technology to create premium appeal

For packaging manufacturers, the challenge is to provide pack solutions that effectively protect products from outside elements until they are used in order to maintain their quality and efficacy. At the same time the pack also needs to deliver a positive consumer experience in terms of its looks and functionality. While cosmetics manufacturers may place high value on the internal functionality of airless packaging, for consumers encountering a pack on the shelf, the novel appearance of cleverly designed dispensing solution can be a persuasive purchase motivator.

Premiumisation in the cosmetics sector has provided significant opportunities for airless packaging systems. Premium beauty products are often costly purchases for consumers, which makes value for money a vital component for manufacturers. To stand out from the crowd, brands have to offer something more than a standard user experience; they need to provide a product worth paying more for. As the silent salesman of the cosmetics industry, packaging plays a crucial role in justifying a higher price point. There is a direct relationship between the quality and design of the packaging, and the perceived quality of the product. Consequently, items that unite functionality with high-quality aesthetics and a unique user experience can reinforce key brand characteristics that trigger an emotional response and convince the consumer to make a purchase.

Airless jars, such as the award-winning Slidissime design from RPC Bramlage, are a notable example of this trend, combining the necessary technical elements required to preserve and prolong the life of cosmetics and personal care products with eye-catching designs and decorative features that reflect a more premium product image an enhance on-shelf appeal.

Originally launched in 2013, the Slidissime airless jar has been adopted by a number of well-known brands, most recently by leading French organic cosmetic manufacturer Nature.cos for its high-quality skincare brand L’Atelier des Délices. The Slidissime jar is being used for the brand’s new premium products – Hydra Premium, Sensi Age and Jeunesse Premium – reflecting Nature.cos’s requirements for a superior quality jar that provides both airless protection and hygienic use.

RPC’s Slidissime jar incorporates an internal pouch containing the cream, which is accessed by an innovative ‘Touch & Slide’ pump. According to RPC, “the operation of the Touch & Slide pump is similar to a caress, delivering a unique customer experience”. With a simple caress of the finger on the membrane, the system dispenses a tailored dose of up to 0.5ml through a thin hole located at the edge of the pump. This hole immediately closes after each dosage, preventing excessive air intake that can dry up the formula.

The future of airless packaging in cosmetics

Airless packaging formats are likely to gain further ground as environmental concerns continue to influence consumer preferences and product development. For organic brands, the novelty of airless technology has neatly aligned with eco-friendly attributes in a way that sets products apart from their traditional counterparts, however, as more and more brands capitalise on the cost-efficient benefits of a format that allows for fewer preservatives and overall packaging materials, interest may grow even further.

Developments are not limited to jar formats. Since launching the techno airless glass (TAG) system in 2009, Italy-based cosmetics packaging manufacturer Lumson has been steadily pushing the boundaries of airless formats. A particularly noteworthy development for the brand was the introduction of GREEN PE, a material produced using sugarcane ethanol, an alcohol-based, renewable fuel, which Luxom has applied to its airless packaging formats. This combination, according to the company, helps to attain the goal of maintaining the technological integrity of the airless system while at the same time, being environmentally-conscious.

“There is still, however, a very high scope of growth left for the global airless packaging market,” explains the TMR analyst. “A lot of this lies in the growing demand for premium packaging and luxury packaging. The cosmetics industry especially is showing a positive inclination towards the greater use of premium packaging as it allows them to introduce several luxury cosmetic products with greater product appeal.”