Beauty industry

5 Beauty Industry Packaging Design Experts Discuss The Balance Between Beautiful, Sustainable, and Achievable

Packaging design is a complex task at first and begins with the creation of the product itself. With the growing shift towards sustainability, plans are further complicated as consumers, brands and retailers step in, with the latter looking for the right balance to promote on-shelf and online. Here, we chat with a selection of design experts and their biggest challenges ahead. For more, please see “Ramping Up the Sustainability Conversation” on

The most important factor for packaging designers is to not lose sight of our primary obligation to our customer and to the consumer. Design beautiful, impactful and appropriate containers for perfumes, skincare and cosmetics that showcase the brand and product inside, while being as durable as possible. The goal may be sustainable packaging, but brands beware, there’s a fine line between achieving beautiful and creating sustainable. We must balance the two to fulfill our mission.

While we already have some great sustainability solutions in place, there is still a long way to go before we fully offset the long-standing issues caused by fossil fuel-derived resins, lifecycle energy inefficiencies, and recovery/ end-of-life waste management. The biggest challenge is matching the solutions to consumer expectations and brand messages at an acceptable price. Education will remain extremely important, especially between brands and their consumers. Potential Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations at the US state level and retailer mandates have added further pressure on brands to find genuine sustainable solutions. By working together and maintaining an open dialogue, we can collectively address these challenges and improve our industry.

It’s important for brands to keep the role that design plays in mind, not only to stand out, but also to educate consumers on their sustainability promises. Transparency is key to building trust, and design is key to communicating your brand values.

For brands, finding the right packaging and ways to use fewer materials without compromising quality or aesthetics is an ongoing challenge. Yet it also creates opportunities to discover even better solutions. For consumers, it’s all about accessibility. As more brands produce eco-friendly products that look good and feel good, making greener choices becomes easier and more appealing.

There’s a lot of learning and unlearning to do, you have to be prepared to shift gears and walk away from a solution if new research shows it’s not as viable as you first thought. As we invest more in understanding the processes of recovery, recycling, materials science and consumables, we will also have to adapt to what the research tells us. If the holistic impact is not positive, we need to improve it or look for a different alternative. Educating consumers along the way with what we learn will improve our progress. If consumers understand how to manage packaging responsibly, it is much easier to recover materials and put them back into the supply chain.

At a time when consumers find recycling confusing, brands need clear messaging and action. It is no longer enough for brands to say that they “do good”, they must prove it or else they will withdraw. Consumers are more powerful, better informed and savvy than ever and they want to see companies reflect their social practice throughout their brand experience, not just the packaging. Historically, the conversation around sustainability has focused on the environment, but it is now broader and encompasses aspects of economic development and social equity.

It is estimated that 70% of the carbon emissions associated with the beauty industry could be eliminated by switching to refillable containers. Brands need to scale up their efforts – start with improving reuse and expand their sustainability efforts beyond the shelves and seek cross-industry synergies in technology, supply chain logistics and open sources to ensure that sustainability initiatives do not are cheap for consumers and are quickly becoming mainstream.

For more information, please see “Making the ‘Eco-Transition:’ A Sustainable Cosmetic Packaging Update”