A Beginner's Guide to Choosing Containers and Packaging for Natural, Handcrafted Body & Skin Care Products

Containers and packaging play a pivotal role in sustaining the quality, preservation, and efficacy of natural body care products and herbal preparations.

Choosing the right bottles, jars, or other containers can significantly impact product shelf life and the user's experience.

This guide aims to demystify navigating the nuances of selecting containers, packaging, vetting suppliers, and making informed decisions tailored to your DIY herbal body care product needs.

Formulating your own natural skincare products is a rewarding endeavor that I encourage everyone to try at least once.

Identify the specific container and packaging requirements of the product.

  • To determine a handcrafted product's ideal packaging, consider the product's composition of ingredients, sensitivity to light, air, temperature, and intended use.

  • To determine the appropriate packaging size, assess the volume of the product. Choose a container that accommodates the quantity of your product and aligns with how you will ultimately use the product (a travel-friendly size, or a full family size).
  • Determine the ease of dispensing the product, resealing the container, and the product's consistency while stored (liquids, creams, powders).
  • Packaging and containers should resonate with your aesthetic preferences.

When formulating skincare at home, it's important to carefully consider the types of packaging deemed appropriate for the products being made.

Keep in mind the following factors to ensure that the packaging fits the product and maintains its quality and effectiveness over time.

  • Product ingredients and stability: Choose containers and packaging that protect the product from light, air, and moisture
  • Container material: Choose packaging that won't impact the product's safety and stability
  • Dispensing mechanism: When determining how you will dispense product from the container, consider the product's viscosity, its intended purpose, and how to ensure hygienic dispensing to prevent contamination
  • Size and shape: The container's size and shape should align with the product's usage frequency and storage requirements
  • Environmental impact: Formulators are generally encouraged to consider using recyclable, biodegradable, or reusable containers and packaging to minimize environmental impact
  • Cost and budget: Formulators should strike a balance between the quality, functionality, and aesthetics of containers and packaging with budget restraints to ensure a viable product has been created

Understanding the various types of containers and packaging available is crucial for formulators of handcrafted skincare products.

The choice of packaging not only affects the aesthetic appeal of the product but also plays a significant role in preserving its quality and ensuring its efficacy.

Different materials offer unique benefits and considerations in terms of sustainability, durability, and compatibility with the product formulation.

There are various container options for handcrafted body care products to cater to different needs and preferences.

  • Common container types and the products they are best suited for:

  • Jars: Creams, ointments, salves, scrubs, body butters, thick gels, masks, and pastes
  • Tubs and pots: Usually wider than jars; offer ample space for scooping out thick, dense product
  • Bottles: Lotions, toners and liquids, thin gels, mists, cleansers and washes, serums, oils
  • Vials and ampoules: Small, single-use glass containers for serums, treatments, and precise doses
  • Tubes: Cleansers, moisturizers, balms, masks, and pastes
  • Paperboard/cardboard: Soap bars, solid products, powdered products
  • Tins: Solid products like balms, salves, and solid perfumes
  • Bags/pouches: Salts, scrubs, sachets
  • Aerosol cans: Sprays, foams, mists
  • Boxes: Gift sets, premium products, customizable

Choosing the right packaging for handmade soap and skincare products is crucial for product preservation, sustainability, and branding.

The right packaging material can safeguard the product's quality, preventing degradation from external factors such as light, moisture, and air, thereby ensuring its efficacy and longevity.

Packaging material serves as the product's first point of contact. It can influence the perception of the product's quality, authenticity, and value.

  • The most ideal packaging material for handcrafted soap and skincare products requires careful consideration of factors such as functionality, aesthetics, sustainability, and brand identity.

Characteristics and Advantages of Glass Packaging:

  • Available in various sizes and shapes
  • Recyclable, promoting sustainability
  • Can be reused for storing hand-formulated products
  • It has a transparent or translucent appearance, allowing you to view the contents inside
  • Because of glass's inert nature, it is relatively durable and resistant to chemical reactions with the product, an ideal container characteristic for products containing natural and active ingredients
  • Glass offers UV, oxygen, and moisture protection, preserving the freshness and potency of plant-based formulations
  • Dark-colored glass (amber or blue) helps to protect light-sensitive ingredients like essential oils from degradation
  • Offers an upscale and luxurious presentation, enhancing the perceived value and premium quality of the product
  • May be costlier and heavier compared to plastic packaging options

Common Types of Glass Packaging:

  • Clear glass: The most common and versatile; high-end products
  • Amber glass: Brown glass provides the most UV protection; often used for products containing active ingredients and essential oils
  • Blue glass: Cobalt blue glass offers similar UV protection as amber; also used for delicate formulations and essential oils
  • Green glass: Emerald green glass offers moderate UV protection; has a natural, organic aesthetic
  • Frosted glass: Has a softer, more subtle aesthetic than clear or colored glass; portrays a sense of elegance and sophistication

Characteristics and Advantages of Plastic Packaging:

  • Available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors
  • Lightweight, durable, and shatter-resistant
  • Less ideal for products containing natural and active ingredients due to potential leaching and interaction with certain materials
  • Practical for lightweight products and items intended for travel or portability
  • Generally more cost-effective than glass or metal packaging
  • Plastic sheeting like shrink wrap can be used as a protective or sealant for products to be gifted or sold

Common Types of Plastic Packaging:

  • PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate: A transparent, lightweight, recyclable plastic, commonly used for bottles and jars
  • HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene): A sturdy, recyclable plastic known for its strength and resistance to chemicals
  • PP (Polypropylene): A versatile plastic known for its durability, flexibility, and resistance to heat. Recyclable with a low environmental impact
  • LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene): A lightweight, flexible plastic often used for squeeze tubes and soft packaging that offers good resistance to moisture. Not commonly accepted for recycling
  • PS (Polystyrene): A rigid, transparent plastic that's lightweight and has good clarity. Less commonly used for skincare packaging because of its lower impact resistance and limited recyclability
  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): A durable and rigid plastic that offers good moisture barrier properties for products prone to degradation from exposure to air or moisture. PVC has environmental concerns due to the release of harmful chemicals during production and recycling
  • PLA (Polylactic Acid): A bioplastic made from renewable resources. Biodegradable and compostable but has heat-resistance and barrier limitations
  • PCR (Post-Consumer Recycled) Plastic: Made from recycled materials, typically collected from consumer waste sources, which helps reduce the demand for virgin plastic

Characteristics and Advantages of Metal Packaging:

  • Aluminum and tin are durable and resistant to impact
  • Metal is highly recyclable and retains its quality through the recycling process
  • Provides excellent barrier properties against light, moisture, and oxygen
  • Offers a sleek, modern appearance and is often associated with luxury skincare products
  • Can be more expensive than plastic but may offer better protection for high-value formulations
  • Can be heavier than plastic, but lighter than glass

Common Types of Metal Packaging:

  • Aluminum: Lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and recyclable
  • Stainless steel: Strong, durable, and resistant to corrosion and rust; provides a sleek and modern look; reusable and recyclable
  • Tinplate: Steel coated with a thin layer of tin; provides corrosion resistance; lightweight, durable, recyclable
  • Brass: An alloy of copper and zinc; corrosion-resistant; often used for packaging components and decorative accents; can be recycled
  • Copper: Highly conductive with antimicrobial properties; may contribute to product preservation
  • Zinc: Often used as a coating for other metals like galvanized steel to provide corrosion resistance

Characteristics and Advantages of Paper Packaging:

  • Paper is lightweight, biodegradable, and recyclable
  • Versatile and easily customizable in terms of shape, size, and design
  • Absorbent, making it suitable for skin care products that contain powders and liquids like wipes
  • Paper allows air circulation for products that need to "breathe" to maintain their quality or efficacy
  • Conveys a natural, organic, or artisanal aesthetic
  • Generally more affordable or cost-effective than other materials

Common Types of Paper Packaging:

  • Coated Paper: Paper treated with a coating to improve its printing quality and smoothness. Has a glossy or matte finish
  • Kraft Paper: Sturdy paper made from wood pulp with a natural brown color and rustic texture
  • Foil Paper: Metallic, reflective paper typically made from aluminum
  • Textured Paper: Has a tactile surface with patterns or embossed designs
  • Art Paper: Smooth paper with enhanced print quality and color vibrancy
  • Cardstock: Thick, durable paperboard used for its structural support in boxes and cartons
  • Vellum Paper: Translucent paper made from treated animal skin or synthetic materials, often used for inner packaging and inserts
  • Recycled Paper: Paper made from post-consumer waste like cardboard and newspapers

Characteristics and Advantages of Eco-Friendly Packaging:

  • Shows a commitment to environmental sustainability
  • Complements the ethos of natural, organic skincare formulations
  • Reduces the carbon footprint and elevates a minimalist conscientiousness
  • Prioritizes the idea of ethical consumption
  • Encourages innovation and exploration within the packaging industry as demand for more sustainable skincare solutions continues to grow

Common Types of Eco-Friendly Packaging:

  • Biodegradable: Packaging made from paper, cardboard, bio-plastics that decompose naturally over time, or materials derived from renewable resources
  • Compostable: Sustainable packaging designed to break down into organic matter when placed in a composting environment
  • Minimalist: Using fewer, simpler packaging materials and resources; providing adequate protection while reducing waste
  • Plant-based Plastics (Bioplastics): Alternative to conventional petroleum-based plastics made from renewable plant sources like corn, sugarcane, or potato starch
  • Recyclable: Materials such as glass, aluminum, PET, and HDPE plastics can be recycled and developed into other products
  • Reusable: Packaging and containers designed to be refilled and reused multiple times
  • Upcycled: Packaging made from materials that have been repurposed or recycled from other sources (like wood, paper, textiles)

Closures are crucial for product integrity, contamination prevention, and user convenience.

The skincare industry commonly uses the following list of closures, which are readily available for DIY enthusiasts.

  • Screw caps: Ribbed and smooth; accommodates jars and bottles
  • Flip-top caps: Also known as snap-top, disc top, and hinged caps, convenient for one-hand operation; typically for capping bottles but some jar styles are available with flip screw caps
  • Pumps: Provide controlled dispensing from bottles; airless pumps minimize the product's exposure to air
  • Airless pumps: Designed to minimize product's exposure to air; typically consist of a piston or diaphragm that pushes the product upward as it is dispensed from a bottle
  • Droppers/dropper assemblies: Glass or plastic dropper bulb and a pipette or dropper tip; offer controlled dispensing from small bottles, usually glass
  • Spray pumps: Mist, stream, or aerosol; should come with a protective cap; fine mist sprays provide even application and are also known as atomizers
  • Roll-on: A glass bottle with a rollerball applicator at the top
  • Cork stoppers: A bung-style closure used to seal bottles, tubes, and vials

Skincare products are packaged in containers that come in a variety of sizes to cater to different needs, usage patterns, and preferences. Common sizes are:

  • Travel/Sample/Trial Size: Small and tester size, usually smaller versions of the full-size

  • Typical size range: 5 ml to 15 ml (or 0.17 oz to 0.5 oz)

  • Mini Size: Slighter larger than travel, sample, or trial size; usually sold as a part of a gift set or bundle

  • Typical size range is 15 ml to 30 ml (or 0.5 oz to 1.0 oz)

  • Full Size: Standard size for most skincare products

  • Typical size range is 30 ml to 100 ml (or 1.0 oz to 3.4 oz)

  • Jumbo or Value Size: Larger than standard full-size and cost-effective for regular use

  • Typical size range is more than 100 ml (3.4 oz)

  • Economy Size: Typically the largest packaging option for skincare products

  • Typical size range is more than 120 ml (4.0 oz) and above

Alternative materials like fabric, cellophane, wood, and basketry can serve as ancillary presentation materials for the containers previously mentioned.

  • Types of ways fabric can be used as packaging:

  • Drawstring pouches
  • Fabric wraps
  • Fabric bags
  • Protective sleeves
  • Ribbons, bands, and embellishments

  • Types of ways cellophane can be used as packaging:

  • Bags
  • Protective sleeves
  • Wraps
  • Sealable pouches
  • Sheets cut to size for custom packaging

  • Types of ways wood can be used as packaging:

  • Boxes
  • Trays
  • Pots and jars
  • Lids and caps can be paired with glass or metal containers for a unique look
  • Tags and labels

  • Types of ways baskets can be used as packaging:
  • Wicker: The classic basket option
  • Bamboo: Lightweight and sustainable
  • Rattan: Ideal for organizing multiple products in gift sets
  • Seagrass: Has a coastal or bohemian aesthetic
  • Nesting: Efficient storage

Purchase packaging and containers for handcrafted body care:

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Medical Advice Disclaimer:

The information in this blog article has not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases or conditions. This article provides the reader with practical information regarding handcrafted soap making, based on basic soap-making science and ancient anecdotal practices of health and beauty. In no way should the contents of this article be regarded as medical advice. It is recommended that the reader perform a patch test before using any formula described. The author and all invested parties will not be held responsible for any allergic or adverse reactions, contraindications, or ill effects from manufacturing or using any products described in this article.

©Michelle Morgan, The Anointed Bar, LLC


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