Bottles and Tottles: Bottling Skin Care Products
Bottles and tottles are functional packages for skin care products, and the right decoration can convey specific brand attributes.By Marie Redding, Senior Editor
The majority of skin care products, from luxury to clinical items, are being put into bottles or tottles. The major advantage of a bottle is being able to choose from many different types of dispensers to accommodate a wide range of skin care formulations.
Decorating plastic bottles and tottles with different colors is a sure way to create a prestige look. Labels are also being used, as well as transparent bottles that make the color of the product inside a focal point. The following three skin care brands, Care, skyn Iceland, and SkinMedica, all use bottles, as well as some tottles, decorated differently, to convey a unique message.
Care by Stella McCartney is the first certified-organic skin care line to launch from a luxury fashion brand. The line debuted at Sephora stores in February. Cylindrical plastic bottles were chosen for all the products.
The products meet the requirements of Ecocert, which is an organic-certification agency recognized in more than 80 countries. In order to be certified, strict rules had to be followed during production. Also, the sourcing, labeling, packaging, and manufacturing processes were all inspected.
As a prestige line launched by a fashion designer, it was important that the packaging look luxurious. However, the organic formulations required the use of specific types of bottles and dispensing systems. Airless dispensers were used on a majority of the bottles.
At first, “organic” and “luxury” seemed to be an odd mix of concepts for a brand to market. However, the team at YSL Beauté made sure the packaging achieved the right look. “We used color, shape, and texture,” says a YSL Beauté spokesperson. “Combining high-tech packaging and dispensing systems with a luxurious feel was our greatest challenge.”
The line consists of eight products, including Purifying Foaming Cleanser and 5 Benefits Moisturising Fluid. Stock bottles were chosen. The plastic bottles are a light almond color, chosen to convey a natural feel. “The color we used is one often seen in McCartney’s fashion collections,” says the spokesperson. A high-gloss shine was used as a finish, making the bottles look and feel luxurious.
“We worked with a color specialist to obtain this custom shade. It was mandatory for all our suppliers to order this colorant exclusively from our supplier so that the color would be consistent on all of the components,” the spokesperson says. “It was challenging to adapt the colorant to the different types of plastics and components.” All the bottles have either transparent or opaque polypropylene caps, and all are decorated using a silk-screening process.
The color and finish used on the bottles succeeded in conveying the concept of organic “luxe” and also served a more important purpose. Since the color is opaque, it helps to preserve the sensitive ingredients, according to the spokesperson. “The type of packages, color, and dispensers we chose make it possible for these organic products to have the same shelf life as regular skin care products.”
Round paperboard tubes are used for the secondary packaging. The paper tubes are decorated with silver foil that has a mirrored look. “The outer packaging reflects the luxury of the brand and is so very Stella,” the spokesperson says. The label used on the paper tubes is a light almond color to match the bottles. It was designed to resemble raw linen.
Overall, these packages succeeded in combining aesthetics with functionality and achieved just the right balance of “organic luxe.”
Cool shades of blue and purple help skyn Iceland convey its concept to the consumer. The brand uses all stock bottles. “We wanted to use color because a line that is just plain white looks too sterile,” says Sarah Kugelman, president and founder of skyn Iceland. Kugelman’s goal for the packaging was to create an emotional connection with consumers. “Consumers make purchases based on emotion, and people are emotional about color,” she explains. The cool color palette also relates to the fact that the products contain ingredients from Iceland. In addition, some of the products are even formulated to have a cooling sensation on the skin.
Transparent plastic bottles show the color of the products inside, some of which are tinted different shades of blue. The design of the labels looks modern. Blocks of color are used against white, which presents a strong graphic image. Janco Press (Bohemia, NY) supplies all the labels, which are laminated for use near water.
Skyn is an Icelandic word that means senses, according to Kugelman. “The connection between the skin and the senses is our story, so it was important that our packaging appealed to all of the senses,” she says. To achieve this, the bottles all have rounded edges, and a few are molded from soft-touch resins. Other plastic bottles are frosted, which also adds to the “icy” look of the line.
Kugelman made sure all of the packages were very functional. “We’re a skin care brand that’s supposed to help stressed skin, so our packaging has to work properly or we’ll be causing stress,” she says. She tests all of the packaging herself before making any decisions, checking for leaks and for pumps that might be uncomfortable to hold or difficult to spray. Kugelman also made sure the cleanser bottle was squeezable.
Ray Jones, packaging consultant for IRS Packaging (Montclair, NJ), sourced the packaging. The Glacial Face Wash and Arctic Face Mist are in frosted polypropylene bottles molded from a soft-touch resin. The 6-oz Face Wash bottle and the 4-oz Face Mist bottle are both supplied by Fenton, Weber, and Jones (Getzville, NY).
The Face Wash bottle has a polypropylene cap in a natural white color, and the Face Mist bottle has a polypropylene cap with a pump spray. Both are supplied by Custom Bottle/Lerman Container (Naugatuck, NY). It was important that the Mist dispensed with a very fine spray. “Finding the right pump makes this product work,” says Kugelman. Both bottles are transparent, showing that the products are colored different shades of blue.
Bio-Intense Healing Serum is in a 1-oz plastic bottle with an airless pump and a polypropylene cap, all supplied by Cospack America (Edison, NJ). The bottle has a transparent frosted finish. It is decorated by AQL Decorating (Fairview, NJ) using metallic inks and silk-screening. Rexam Beauty (Purchase, NY) supplies the polypropylene bottles, caps, and pumps used for Anti-Blemish Gel and Anti-Stress Oral Spray. The Blemish Gel bottle is frosted and is decorated by AQL using metallic inks and a silk-screening process.
The minimalist label design didn’t leave much room for copy, and long explanations are usually the norm for skin care products. Skyn Iceland’s product benefits are explained on the cartons, and the copy is used as a design element. “We had to use a lot of space to explain our concept, about how stress affects the skin. The placement of the copy gets people to read it,” says Kugelman. Ares Printing and Packaging (Brooklyn, NY) supplied and decorated the cartons.
Since the company was formed in 2005, its size has tripled, according to Kugelman. The brand just launched on QVC in January, and the number of Sephora stores that carry the line has doubled this year. “We’re still trying to create a voice for the brand, and the packaging has allowed us to show what skyn Iceland is all about,” Kugelman says.
Customizing a Line
SkinMedica recently repackaged its entire line, switching from stock packaging to custom molds—while staying within budget. The new packaging was designed by the structural branding company, 4sight. SkinMedica is marketed as a pharmaceutical brand, and its new design had to be unisex. Now, its silver color and sleek design appeal to consumers of all ages, while also sending the message that the products are serious, clinical formulations.
Custom-designed bottles and tottles provided the solution SkinMedica needed for its new packaging. In the past, different-colored plastic jars were used for many of its products. Now, bottles with airless dispensers and tottles with flip-top caps have proven to be much more functional. “The switch to bottles and tottles definitely enhanced the functionality of the packaging,” says Sara Sweeney, senior product manager, SkinMedica. “The inverted shape of the tottle allows the product to flow out more quickly. Also, many of the bottles incorporate oval-shaped airless pumps, making it easy for users to dispense the recommended dosage,” she says.
When 4sight first began the repackaging project, the company looked at the sales of each product separately. SkinMedica has more than 50 different products. Volumes just weren’t high enough to justify the price of a custom package for any one particular product. Designer Stuart Leslie, along with his team at 4sight, grouped products according to package size and functionality requirements. This resulted in approximately seven different types of packages that were needed to accommodate SkinMedica’s creams, lotions, and serums. “Minimizing the number of necessary components gave SkinMedica the ability to develop custom packaging within its budgetary constraints,” says Leslie. He was able to deliver a custom line for about the same price the company had been paying for stock.
Besides cost, there are other benefits to using the same-shaped package for several different products. It can be a major influence in persuading consumers to purchase more than one product, according to Leslie. “Now, consumers see the line as a family of products meant to be used together as a system. The original packaging had no commonality,” he says.
The slender, cylindrical shapes of SkinMedica’s new tottles were designed to resemble lab equipment. Facial Cleanser and Replenishing Lotion are packaged in these tottles. “We were inspired by the types of graduated cylinders used in labs,” says Leslie. “These are scientific products formulated to change the structure of the skin’s cells. The shape of the packaging had to convey this message,” he adds.
The plastic bottles and polyethylene tottles in SkinMedica’s line are colored to resemble matte silver metal. It took some time to achieve the right color.
The packaging is tinted with pearlescent and metallic pigments. A light silver-gray color is used with a platinum pearlescent finish. “Finding the right blend of additives was a challenge. We wanted it to have just the right amount of sheen in order to convey a level of sophistication and prestige,” says Leslie. He used color swatches first, and then evaluated color samples on bottles under five different lighting conditions. The graphics were silk-screened onto the tottles.
The cap was another detail that wasn’t overlooked. “You might think a cap is the simplest part of a package, yet it has the most dramatic impact to the user,” says Leslie. To shorten the development time, a stock closure was used—but it was altered with a custom modification. A thermoplastic elastomer disc-shaped trim was co-molded on top of the bottle and tottle closures. SkinMedica’s logo was molded into the rubber. The caps have a built-in silicone valve, and some open with a flip-top.
The newly modified cap was not only aesthetically important, but also very functional when it was used on the tottles. Since the tottle stands on its cap, the rubber causes it to make a soft sound when it is placed on a hard surface. The user hears a quiet “thump,” rather than the “click” sound that plastic makes. This sound gives the user the impression that the package is more substantial. “Tactile cues help to further reinforce the message that this is a premium line,” says Leslie.
Understanding manufacturing capabilities has been an important asset to the team at 4sight. Since SkinMedica’s new bottle and tottle shapes could be manufactured on high-speed equipment, it made a huge difference in production costs. “When a design conveys a brand’s attributes and can also be manufactured cost-effectively, that’s a true measure of a packaging success,” Leslie says.
Final Tips from Suppliers
Bottles and tottles will no doubt remain the packaging of choice for skin care lines. A few suppliers we spoke to wanted to share a few design suggestions.
“In terms of decoration, think classy, not flashy,” advises Karina Weber, marketing and sales coordinator at Weber International (Vaudreuil, QC, Canada). “A high-end skin care line needs to convey the fact that it’s to be taken seriously and is not a gimmick. Clean lines and simple design elements will always convey an upscale message, even on a stock bottle,” she adds. Many of Weber’s customers are using minimalist decoration on bottles and tottles. She also feels that matte finishes can sometimes look a little more prestige than shiny ones.
Helga Arminak, president of Arminak and Associates (Duarte, CA), feels that simple stock bottle shapes work well for skin care brands. “When a skin care line wants to look more serious or pharmaceutical, that usually means no complicated decorations or funky shapes, which is why stock bottles can be perfect. Clean shapes and simple graphics help convey a serious message,” she says. Arminak also feels that many of her customers don’t realize how great a full label can look, even on a prestige product. “Shrink-wrapping can make a bottle look phenomenal. It’s a complicated process, but I feel that not enough companies are taking advantage of it,” Arminak says.
No matter what type of packaging you choose, when your design conveys the message behind your brand, you can’t go wrong.