Airless packaging – protect & survive

Premiumisation in the cosmetics sector has been the perfect opportunity to secure a role for the airless packaging system. SPC takes a look at why and asks where this unique system could be heading next

Premiumisation in the cosmetics sector has been the perfect opportunity to secure a role for the airless packaging system. SPC takes a look at why and asks where this unique system could be heading next

Industy trade group the Airless Pack Association (APA) estimates the European market for airless systems at half a billion units a year, and the number is forecast to rise steadily.

“MWV expects increased demand for airless products in the C&T industry – particularly for skin care applications such as anti-ageing cosmeceuticals,” says Eva Martin Fernandez, marketing manager in Europe for personal care products, MWV. “Anti-ageing cosmeceuticals contain formulations that are often highly sophisticated or complex in order to provide real benefits. “Airless packaging is therefore ideal because it prevents air from compromising sensitive formulations.”

“The more sophisticated formulas become, the more they will need airless packaging,” adds Stefani Focolari, chief marketing officer, Lumson, and APA marketing team leader. “For the first time it’s not only a matter of design and communication codes. Airless packs are a necessity if you want your pack to have specific features and performance.” Reasons behind growth include: advanced formulations (eg containing ingredients that may deteriorate such as vitamin C and retinol) or use of organic materials; reduction of preservatives; little or no product waste (they offer exceptional bottle evacuation); high density, viscous products (which cannot be dispensed with a traditional pump); product protection; and controlled dosage. The combined pump and container also lends itself to sleek design so aesthetically this opens up a wide range of options for decoration and customisation.

The APA defines airless packaging 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 isn’t a new technology. The first airless systems were adopted on a large scale by toothpaste manufacturers in the mid 1980s for both technical and marketing purposes. But the cosmetics industry was quick to adopt the idea and develop it further. “In recent years packaging manufacturers have investigated how the solution can be leveraged in more and more ways,” says Martin Fernandez.

While the APA says airless packaging is the fastest growing product category in the cosmetics industry, it believes the market has also been polluted with a lot of lookalikes or with semi-airless or almost entirely airless packs. “The complexity of today’s cosmetic formulas means that airless packaging is essential in order to prevent sensitive and active ingredients from being compromised by oxidation. Only fully airless packaging can guarantee complete product purity,” says Lucyna Silberstein, president of the APA and ceo of MegaPlast.

MWV Adagio

This is why the APA last year introduced a trademarked logo, along with technical guidelines to ensure product quality. To be certified by the organisation and carry its ‘Airless certified by APA’ logo,’ products must comply with the APA minimum technical requirements chart ( The APA says it is a “badge of quality” guaranteeing total product integrity; protection against external germs; protection against oxidation; stability of innovative or delicate ingredients; a longer shelf-life with less or no preservatives; the use of more natural ingredients in the formulas; no product waste; precise and controlled dispensing dosage in any position; gas-free and easy to use packaging; and the possibility of dispensing high density formulas.

Jean-Philippe Taberlet, APA technical team leader and ceo of Lablabo commented at the logo launch during Beyond Beauty in September 2010: “Good airless packaging must assure that the product will be pure and efficient during use.”

Members of the APA are Lablabo, Lumson, Megaplast, Quadpack and Rexam, and the logo is only available for use by APA members and cosmetic companies buying their products.

Enhanced delivery

The latest development in this area from Rexam is the Nea Airless, which it says is neutral and airless, providing double protection for the most fragile and sensitive skin care products. “It offers smooth actuation and ergonomics perfect for luxury brands,” says Virginie Lemeunier, product manager, facial care for Rexam’s personal care division. In addition the company’s Prodigio is neutral and airless and includes its Clean Point technology, which mechanically closes the orifice until the exit point and prevents drying, drips, clogs and contamination. And for mini products, so often used for cosmetic products, there is the Sof’Airless 2ml and the Sof’Push 4ml promotional/mini piston package, “perfectly designed for skin treatments”.

Last year MWV introduced its Adagio pump for airless products, able to dispense 0.500ml of product. The Adagio is also available in an atmospheric format. The company also enhanced its Aria Airless system last year with the option of a valve seal to ensure cream-based products won’t dry out in the spout of the pump. A larger format 75ml has also been added to the Aria Airless range, to complement existing sizes.

Toly is also now offering a its T6 range of 15ml, 30ml, 40ml and 50ml sizes. Available in a range of shapes, Toly says it is targeting skin, sun and hair care brands. Qosmedix recently expanded its range of airless packaging to include a new family of 15ml, 30ml and 50ml pump bottles. And Quadpack recently supplied two types of airless, medical-style packs for Juliette Armand’s Skin Booster range offering cosmetic alternatives to plastic surgery, botox and chemical peeling. A syringe on one of the packs enables precise, hands-free product application, while a retractable pump features an actuator that sits flush with the lid until twisted to open, preventing leakage.

Lumson says it is the only company that has designed, developed, patented and manufactured an airless system with a glass bottle rather than the usual plastic. “The Tag System, which stands for Techno Airless Glass, is the ultimate packaging innovation, combining the beauty, preciousness and luxury of a glass bottle with the technical and functional advantages of an airless dispensing system,” says Focolari. The company has now developed specific decorative techniques for its airless system. The formulation is contained inside a pouch inside the glass bottle so the inside of the bottle can be sprayed (Glass Enhancer) as there is no product contact. Spray colouring the inside of the glass bottle with special metallic inks (Metallized Effect) produces different results. Recent projects include Korff’s RadianceSkin, a fluid foundation containing diamond powder, and the Prix Forme de Luxe 2010 award winning Essence de Beauté-Sublime Elixir for Dr Pierre Ricaud.

Ripe for development

“The more sophisticated formulas become, the more they will need airless packaging,” says Focolari.

“In addition to current applications for facial care we see great possibilities in hair care, baby care, sun care and more,” says Lemeunier.

“We really believe there’s an immediate opportunity for greater education to brand owners and even consumers on the benefits of airless packaging,” adds Martin Fernandez. “And with greater understanding comes a better market for developing new airless innovations.”

Ecological first
Airless packaging suppliers say airless systems already offer eco benefits because there is no waste and because formulations can be developed with lower levels of preservatives. Some systems can also be separated for recycling. But Ecolution is claimed by Promens to be the first green airless system. Launched at Luxe Pack in Monaco in October 2010, the system picked up the show’s first green award.
Protected by three patents, Ecolution is made up of an airless bottle and an airless dispensing system with a reduced number of parts (four), which Promens says contributes to a 30% reduction of CO2 emissions and a 30% reduction in packaging volume compared to a classic piston-based airless dispenser made of 12 parts. Made entirely out of plastic (polypropylene and polyethylene), it is completely recyclable.
“Thanks to AirFree technology, the Ecolution multi-layer co-extruded bottle can be produced in recycled raw material (post consumer recycled HDPE),” says Promens. The external layer, made from recycled PE, represents 85% of the total raw material weight of the bottle, while the internal multi-layer pouch is made from virgin PE. The pouch contains EVOH, a barrier material that blocks all odour migration and is said to guarantee the integrity of the formula.
“Consumer expectations have changed. Today they want simple but functional products and they want to buy sustainable products that preserve the environment,” says Promens.