----- [Advantages, Disadvantages and Eco-Friendly Beauty Solutions] -----

Currently, there is clamor worldwide to use sustainable packaging in the cosmetics industry, largely driven by consumer and e-commerce trends.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic started, beauty products had been using up billions of plastic units yearly, accounting for a huge portion of environmental waste. Additionally, much of the material used in their containers comes from virgin sources, so there’s also some concern about cosmetics depleting natural reserves.

Fabric is a sustainable packaging type that can be used on soap

Should small business owners join in the dialog? In this blog, we shall discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using sustainable cosmetic packaging and explore ways to make it work.

What Is Sustainable Cosmetic Packaging?

Sustainable cosmetic packaging consists of beauty product packaging material that later on gets processed according to the 3Rs—reduce, reuse and recycle. Other important characteristics are biodegradability and being organic.

“Refillable” also comes to mind because “reuse” can mean something else, like “repurposing.” Bottomline, the goal for substituting these materials is to lessen the volume of single-use packaging in the industry.


What Are the Upsides of Using Sustainable Materials for Packaging Cosmetics?

The most obvious benefits of using eco-friendly cosmetic packaging mostly pertain to the business’ green marketing and production aspects. They are outlined below.



Promising Marketing Prospects 

Thanks to decades of media coverage, consumers have a heightened awareness of environmental issues. This has been a reason for various countries to create eco-protective programs and for companies to be more conscious of what they put in their products.

Like we pointed out in our blog, Green Shipping with Eco-Friendly Packaging, Americans have consistently supported green marketing. Even during economically trying times, green businesses are known to experience fewer financial problems than others. This was proven again amid the COVID-19 pandemic by surveys from McKinsey and Company, Deloitte and others. Americans associate eco-friendly choices with health protection.

Around the world, sustainable cosmetic packaging is supported by 7 out of 10 consumers, and the same proportion is willing to pay more for a shift. Overall, eco-friendly cosmetic packaging has a market ready to welcome it, and the shift may be worth the risk.


A Chance to Have A Good Market Share

In 2018, L’Oréal introduced paper bottles for skincare and bath products. Unilever joined in the year after by marketing TRESemme shampoo in recycled black bottles. Then there’s Sephora-retailing startup Aether Beauty, which has always distinguished itself as an eco-friendly cosmetics company. These are just some of the trendsetters fanning the green flames within the industry.

Small businesses are in a good position to get a bigger market share if they make the switch this early. Inexpensive, generic sustainable packaging materials are widely available, waiting to be transformed by creative design. New entrepreneurs can capitalize on the increasingly popular idea before the shops get saturated.

Loreal's paper cosmetic packaging


Customer Loyalty

Environmentalism is a popular advocacy, and one of the best ways to retain customers and keep them engaged in a brand is to identify with their causes. Using sustainable cosmetic packaging speaks about a company’s commitment to go green. Doing so helps spread some word-of-mouth advertising, which can boost online sales by as much as 60%. 


Contribution to Efforts to Protect the Environment

Using sustainable packaging helps minimize greenhouse gas emissions—the so-called “carbon footprint”—which add to global warming. It also helps reduce waste and conserve natural resources for the next generation. Companies that implement environment-friendly policies not only sell more, but they also help take care of the planet. Green marketing is always received well by the public.


Immunity to Supply Chain Disruptions

The US imports virgin raw materials from various international sites. Consequently, when a global-scale calamity like the COVID-19 pandemic occurs, supply chain disruptions paralyze local businesses.

Learn More:

Recycling used packaging materials can be done locally to enhance access to raw material supply, prevent shortages and keep customers from switching to other sellers. This way, businesses are less affected by international logistical barriers.

recycling plastic

Small business owners have lots to be optimistic about by using sustainable packaging. The cosmetics industry seems to be ripe for it.

What Are the Downsides of Using Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Packaging?

Despite its advantages, switching to sustainable cosmetic packaging may be a challenge to small business owners. Eco-friendliness is not as easy to implement in the beauty industry as in other trades, like the food business. Some of the biggest reasons are the following:



Sustainable Cosmetic Packaging Is Not Always Pretty

Recycled packaging commonly comes discolored. Incomplete segregation of colored waste materials is mostly responsible for this, and clarifying additives cannot clear up the stains completely. This makes them less ideal for making luxury cosmetic packaging, where strict color standards have to be met.


Materials Are Not Always Strong

Sustainable packaging is sometimes too frail for cosmetic retail. Paper can only be recycled six times before its fibers completely give way and lose functionality. Bioplastic can be degraded simply by prolonged exposure to air, which oxidizes it. Post-consumer resins need virgin plastic to reinforce weak spots. These issues need to be addressed, or unboxing a beauty product will be a total wreck.



Recycling Cosmetic Packaging Is Not Always Cheap

Advanced technology is necessary for processing some types of used cosmetic packaging materials. For example, not all of Unilever’s black bottles can be recycled, so the company employs infrared scanners to sort out those that can. Elsewhere, recycling post-consumer packaging requires multiple clearing and mixing steps, so it is not always straightforward. These measures ensure that packages look attractive and are easy to use.


Low Participation in Recycling Programs

Everyone can talk big about protecting the environment, but not all are willing to do something tangible about it. In fact, only about a third of plastic waste in recycling bins actually gets recycled, while the rest ends up in US landfills. It seems that the convenience of single-use packaging trumps the massive effort needed to recycle. Sourcing post-consumer materials will continue to be difficult as long as the status quo remains.


Recycled Packaging Materials May Render Some Cosmetics Unsafe

Not all plastics and metals are safe to recycle. Microscopic cracks in disposable beverage bottles can breed bacteria, particularly if they’re made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Rust and other evidence of corrosion can be tough to remove, and their residue can spoil makeup.

Additionally, there are post-consumer materials that cannot be completely cleaned of their old additives. One example is Bisphenol A (BPA), a substance added to plastics to improve their quality. It may leach into food and other products, causing hormonal imbalance. 

All of these can render beauty products unsafe, so companies must be careful when using sustainable packaging.


The above considerations have to be factored in before a cosmetics business can go green with its packaging. Consumer dissatisfaction may result if they are ignored. 

What Can Small Business Owners Do to Heed the Call?

Small business owners will find that all of the above difficulties can be eliminated to ease the switch to sustainable cosmetic packaging. The task is not simple, and the changes may not be huge at first, but neither is it impossible to accomplish. Some of the potential solutions are outlined below.



Choose a Reliable Sustainable Packaging Supplier

Some packaging suppliers have their own recycling programs or have partners that do. Many of them possess technical know-how in proper waste segregation and processing, which lets them create better-looking recycled materials. They can help you find the appropriate wrappings for your cosmetics.


Use Non-Toxic Strengthening Additives

A wide range of non-toxic additives can help strengthen recycled items.

For example, poly-lactic acid (PLA), a biopolymer, can be made sturdier with the addition of clay, silica powder (talc) or rosemary oil. PLA is plant-derived and safe to use. However, air exposure can degrade it without these additives. Meanwhile, starch and other plant polymers can be used as paper strengtheners. These steps can help create durable and sustainable cosmetic packaging materials.

Conversely, one can reformulate cosmetics such that they will need less water, e. g. by creating powder forms of liquid makeup. This helps extend the lifespan of paper-based and other types of biodegradable packaging.



Go Ahead and Invest in Technology

We previously mentioned that most cosmetics buyers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. So indulge them and get expert opinion in choosing the right technology. It may be good for your brand in the long run.


Promote Sustainability

The problem here is not a lack of awareness but inadequate community effort. Being more proactive in promoting sustainability may help.

You can incentivize recycling among employees. You can also start a recycling program in your locality and endorse it using your social media account. Engage your customers in an environmental discussion. Doing these promotes your products and cause. At the same time, it also ensures that waste is reduced and more post-consumer packaging is reused.


Choose Safe Materials to Recycle

Finally, with regards to packaging material safety, you always have better choices in this matter. There are plenty of substances that are safe to recycle and okay to use on cosmetics. Some of them are listed below:

  • Paper—this is found in a lot of beauty products, where it is used as a cosmetic label or outer packaging. Using cardboard to house cosmetics is an ancient concept, and the FDA certainly does not have objections to it.

Save up to 70% OFF on these Blank Cosmetic Labels!

  • Polyethylene—one of the most common petroleum-derived plastics in post-consumer resins is polyethylene. It is FDA-approved as well and is found in stretch wrap, food cling wrap and soft tube labels.

Get 10% OFF on Stretch Film Wraps at enKo Products!

  • Polypropylene—we have discussed this material several times, particularly in our blogs about the facestock, inexpensive food packaging and BOPP labels. Polypropylene is another petroleum-derived plastic. It is the substance of most shampoo and lotion bottles, lunch boxes and rigid container labels. It is FDA-approved, safe to recycle and present in some post-consumer resins.
  • Bioplastics—PLA and cellophane are two biodegradable plant-derived polymers available for packaging beauty products, although there are plenty of others to choose from. Bioplastics can also be obtained from animal products, like chicken feathers and milk proteins.
  • Fabric—may be used as outer packaging for soap and various other beauty products. It is soft, easy to design, non-toxic, safe to reuse and widely available.
  • Metals—copper, stainless steel and aluminum are usually found in makeup palettes. They can be recycled safely as long as they’re free of contaminants. The precious metals gold and silver are inert, and they’re mostly used for making luxury cosmetic packaging.
  • Glassbrown bottles are commonly used for scented oils, hand moisturizers, perfumes, liquid soap, etc. Glass jars are also used frequently in the industry. Glass is also FDA-approved, safe to use and can be recycled without problems.

Two frequently used plastics that do not belong on this safe list are PET and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

  • PET—most disposable water and soda bottles are made of virgin PET. They are safe to use the first time. However, once the beverage is consumed, it is common to find tiny breaks in these plastic bottles, which develop with crushing or rough handling. Bacteria can accumulate in these cracks, which may contaminate cosmetics in turn.
  • PVC—PVC is included in California’s Proposition 65 list because of its cancer risk. You have to put product warnings on your labels to use this material on food and cosmetics.

Small business owners can choose from our safe list here to plan their sustainable cosmetic packaging strategy. Additionally, as we previously mentioned, they are encouraged to seek advice from local packaging makers who also engage in recycling.

Remember that, with sustainable packaging, less waste is produced, and more virgin resources are preserved for the next generation. So taking these small steps is not only good for marketing but is also an investment in the world’s future.

Print Custom Labels at Home with your Laser or Inkjet Printer!

Laser & Inkjet Printer Labels

: 100 / pack

: 1″ x 4″ &  1-1/3″ x 4″ & 1″ x 2-5/8″


There is an increasing demand for sustainable packaging in the cosmetics industry. The need for companies to heed this call was highlighted by recent changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The move has advantages and disadvantages, so it merits careful thought. It is challenging but doable, with a little effort.

Like & follow our social media pages to see more updates and promotions !

Leave a Reply