Airless packaging – Good to the last drop

Airless packs are now available in a wider range of formats, boast better restitution rates and are increasingly sustainable. And such technology is now accessible to those creating products for the mass market

Airless packaging is becoming more accessible for cosmetics brands with increased functionality enabling it to be used for a wider range of applications. MJ Deschamps reports

While oxygen is essential to human life, it can also be a cosmetic product’s worst enemy. So for most cosmetics manufacturers, prolonging the life of their products means creating packaging with as tight a seal as possible. Hence the industry’s growing demand for airless packaging, helping to assure both brands and their consumers that the cosmetic product will be good to the last drop.

“Airless packaging protects the contents [of a cosmetic or personal care product] from degradation, particularly from oxidation,” stresses Benjamin Punchard, a packaging specialist at UK based global market research firm Mintel. He says demand for airless packaging is currently growing at an unprecedented rate as more products offer functional benefits requiring greater protection against external factors.

Kristy Hooper, Beauty and Personal Care Product Manager at US based global packaging solutions company MeadWestvaco (MWV), insists there are three factors that make airless systems especially valuable to the beauty industry. Firstly, she says, airless packaging fully protects beauty product formulations from contact with air, preserving their effectiveness and increasing longevity; secondly, it allows consumers to extract more of the product from the bottle; and thirdly, it allows smooth delivery and more accurate dosing of formulas, especially when it comes to highly viscous products dispensed through a pump.

“MWV expects the demand for airless products to continue to increase in the beauty industry, particularly for skin care applications such as anti-ageing cosmeceuticals… [which] contain formulations that are often highly sophisticated or complex,” Hooper says. “Overall, airless packaging has experienced significant growth in the last few years for the following reasons: advanced formulations or use of organic materials, reduction of preservatives, little or no product waste, high density viscous products that cannot be dispensed with a traditional pump, product protection and controlled dosage.”

Punchard agrees that anti-ageing and other products that contain antioxidants – and are therefore at most risk from oxidation – are the types of beauty products most frequently using airless systems today. “[Airless packaging] is likely to be more [common] where added value functionality is present… so skin care where we have anti-ageing, anti-wrinkle and other added value is where is it the most appropriate,” he says.

A spokesperson for Italian cosmetics packaging giant Lumson, a company that claims to have created the first and only airless system in the world using a glass bottle, adds that airless packaging offering more protection allows a “sensible reduction of preservatives.

“New, innovative and improved formulations need to maintain stability of specific ingredients,” she says. “The airless system helps preserve sensitive cosmetic ingredients such as vitamin C, retinol, etc from deteriorating [and] allows a reduction in preservatives, thus creating more organic and natural products.”

Most major cosmetic products will go airless, she adds: “Skin care formulas, anti-ageing creams, eye serums, liquid foundations, primers, hair care oils… there is essentially no limit if you want to put a product on the market that needs to be protected from air intake.”

When it comes to brands actually choosing and/or developing airless packaging, Hooper says that there are specific airless systems that work best with certain types of products. For example, MWV’s HVD dispenser is ideal for oral care or hair care products as its “unique design requires products be exceptionally thick in order for the system to work properly”. MWV offers a variety of airless packages that cater to different types of products, including the HVD Airless (with precise dispensing for high viscosity products) and the Aria Airless (a low output pump with a metal free fluid path).

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