Experts Pinpoint Three Big Trends They Think Will Drive Beauty Packaging Going Forward

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions relevant to indie beauty, we ask 14 packaging, marketing, design and branding experts: What do you think are three biggest trends in post-pandemic beauty packaging?

Julie Coughlin President and Owner, 2 Dot Packaging

1). One of the trends is for packaging to be e-commerce friendly since online sales have increased drastically in the health and beauty spaces. When product is arriving to consumers, they want it to be in a beautiful package and undamaged. It is very important that the design of the carton is done correctly since it will be handled at least double the amount as the typical retail setting.

2). Companies are looking for suppliers that are domestic and have sustainability in a time of crisis. There was and continues to be a lot of disruption in the supply chain. Having a company that is local and honest helps minimize this risk.

3). Product packaging remains a vehicle for communicating organizations sustainability contributions and values and aligning with consumer attitudes towards environmental goals.  Choosing a supplier that has eco-friendly solutions is key.

Hannah Palese Packaging Designer and Senior Graphic Designer, KBL Cosmetics

1). Non-plastic packaging. This type of packaging has been in demand for years now. However, post-COVID, we have seen a huge demand for sustainability in packaging. I believe this is due to an increase in awareness of how important our lives are and that people need to take action on saving humanity even through small things like packaging.

2). PCR packaging. Post-consumer resin has been in high demand. This is a type of packaging that uses recycled plastics to form new products. This how been trending due to customers not wanting to change the style of their packaging with adding in the sustainability factor.

3). Refillable and reusable packaging. This is a more unique approach to sustainable packaging. It allows for more creativity and new selling options within the brand. Also, it’s a sustainable option.

Jonina Skaggs Co-Founder and Art Director, Skaggs Creative

1). Reducing the amount of packaging. This trend is aimed at both cutting costs and reducing shipping costs now that e-commerce has exploded.

2). More sustainable/responsible packaging. Brands are going beyond just recyclability of the packaging and looking at compostable/biodegradable materials, and we see a big push for refillable containers.

3). The rebirth of the unboxing experience. Many brands realize that their website and package are the closest contact they will have with their consumers until retail makes a recovery, and have enhanced the experience while being mindful of the first trend. Including a personal note, social links and a QR codes for product reviews are far more common now. It's no longer, "here is your product, thanks for your order," but "thanks for your order, welcome to the family and how can we make your life better,” a conversation starter.

I believe that these are not trends, but rather will become established standards for packaging in the years to come with more innovative materials and approaches to sustainable/reusable packaging.

Kristen Van Veen Marketing Director, Creative Retail Packaging

1). Contactless Shopping. Contactless shopping was already on the rise pre-pandemic, but now more than ever, brands are implementing contactless practices in their business model in order to meet consumer demand. In fact, trends suggest that consumer behavior post-pandemic will see a rise in brand loyalties based on the ability to engage in more contactless shopping experiences.


Here are some packaging ideas that can help add value to the contactless shopping experience: free gift wrapping, tamper-evident shopping bags, personalized hang tags, and sequential barcoding printed directly on shopping bags.

2). Subscription services. Subscription services such as CauseBox, Nuuly and Rocksbox can apply to several business models, ranging from beauty to clothing rentals to jewelry. This trend has become increasingly popular during COVID and is predicted to continue to rise. According to Forbes, retailers have taken note of this shift, and data predicts that, by 2023, 75% of direct-to-consumer brands will have a subscription-based offering. Here are some ideas to spruce up your subscription services packaging: custom shipping boxes printed seasonally with unique designs, paper accessory bags instead of plastic/poly bags, and gift with purchase such as a travel bag or clutch.

3). Virtual consultations. The virtual fitting room was created to emanate the physical in-store changing room experience, but virtually. Through augmented reality (AR), buyers can try on clothing, accessories, makeup and more though overlaying the product over a mirror copy of the shopper. Some companies have relied on a combination of Zoom and shipping samples of the product as a means of providing a virtual consultation/try-on experience. Custom packaging ideas to augment your virtual consultation experience: resealable mailers, labeled bags with instructions for use, custom shopping bags or totes for in-store exchanges, and custom shipping boxes.

Neal Haussel Director of Strategic Business Development and Sustainability NA, Iggesund Paperboard

1). While there was definitely a bit of a pause in sustainability initiatives during 2020, 2021 sees brands even more intensely focused on limiting the environmental impact of packaging solutions. This has included, responsible sourcing (i.e., FSC certified paperboard) and strides to align with Europe’s Green Deal, specifically the EU Single Use Plastic or SUP directive, and get in front of government legislation in the U.S. by finding paperboard alternatives to single-use plastic.

2). With massive surges in an e-commerce landscape that were already trending up in a big way pre-COVID, brands are looking to find secondary packaging solutions that provide sufficient strength and durability properties to pass through logistics chains without incurring increased damage and defect while at the same time delighting consumers through unboxing.

3). Brands are focused on using packaging substrates that provide necessary hygiene properties so as to quell concerns about virus transmission.

Robin Albin Founder, Insurgents

Inclusive or Universal Design is based on the belief that, by designing products for special needs first (such as the visually impaired/blind), products work better for everyone else regardless of age, size, ability or disability, and might in fact inspire new ideas that don’t ordinarily exist—and give everyone else a better experience.

For example, for people who are visually impaired, distinguishing between beauty and hygiene products is a big challenge. Only judging a product by touch can be difficult, especially when packages are generically shaped without markings or braille information on them. Also think about the challenges of caps that pop off and can roll off the counter.  Victoria Watts, founder of VictoriaLand Beauty, is currently innovating new packaging that will incorporate a multi-sensory approach (sight, sound, touch) that will be a better experience for everyone. 

Claude Desmarais President, CYD Packaging

1). Speed to market. As the economy recovers from the pandemic, consumers are looking to go back to their previous habits, including shopping, one of their favorite pastime. As such, it is important for new indie brand launches to be fast-tracked, requiring local manufacturing whenever possible. This also includes especially R&D for product formulations since product is needed to select the primary packaging.

2). Eco-friendly/sustainable packaging. I do not believe that I need to elaborate much on that topic. Recyclable packaging ideally produced from PCR materials is becoming the norm, if not essential.

3). Separable packaging. Even if a jar or other packaging like a folding carton may be produced using PCR materials and is recyclable, the consumer must also be aware and educated to separate the empty packaging before disposing of them.

Allow me to give you two examples. 1. jars are often produced using two parts and then snapped together. These double wall jar parts are usually produced using two different resins, the outer part being PET and the inner part being Polypropylene. If that jar is disposed assembled, it will not be recycled, and end up in local landfills or eventually in the oceans. Packaging manufacturers are aware of this and are now offering refillable/easy-to-separate jars so that the consumer can do their part, separate and dispose of the parts.

2. Another example is gift boxes and food cartons that have plastic windows. Again, if the plastic windows are not removed from the cartons, the same unfortunate end result will be the same, landfills because of not being possible to recycle paper that has glued windows on them.

Coni Lefferts President, Creative Packaging Solutions

There are some changes that have come from the COVID that I believe will be with us far into the future. The packaging industry has for many years attempted to follow the requests of consumers, consumer product goods (CPG) companies, and government agencies to reduce packaging and be more sustainable. It is believed that the pandemic has brought this forward in the minds of the public faster and to a greater depth of concern because they are more attuned to what they consume and what happens to the packaging after consumption.  Sustainability is with us. 

Along with the packaging awareness, the consumers have been confined, locked up, restricted, practically imprisoned. This has already been exhibited with an escape mindset and a desire to overindulge. For this, we might see the opposite of light-weighting or minimalism—more of an explosion in luxury products packaged in obviously prestige materials. The consumer is taking the position, after all I’ve been through, I deserve a special treat.

They have become accustomed to ordering via Amazon or e-commerce, which has been reinforced by remote purchasing. Personal safety and hygiene are more important than ever and will continue, reinforced by the continued demand of wearing masks when in public.  Unboxing will continue to grow as a way to treat the recipient. The consumer is more comfortable receiving a purchase in their home delivered in a box than going out and into retail to peruse the products on shelf. Packaged products must fit into the distribution channels and perform their original intention, to contain and protect the product. Brand managers are aware of this and may need to make changes in the packaging components.

Christopher Skinner Founder, School House

Wherever you find growth, you find change and evolution. It is the truth for beauty and the reality for packaging. Sustainability and customizable componentry trends evolve as we grow our eco-conscious efforts as an industry. Decoration (deco) changes as we grow the industry's reach and appeal to new generations.

With COVID-19, change and evolution became an overnight react and respond. It has affected packaging in three trending ways:

1). Quality and safety. Today, we all need reassurance. We need to know that every safety precaution and quality assurance available to a brand's product and fill is actioned. For packaging, this means the increase in tamper-less secondaries and primaries, materials that do not pick up dirt, dust and fingerprints, and delivery systems that feel pre-dosed and fresh-the-first time.

2). Trial at home. With the consumer's inability to trial products and shades in store, online, and the uphill climb we have as an industry to educate the consumer on what products and shades are right for them, we've seen an increase in brands' test-at-home programs and trial-sized packaging: small, chic, economical, branding in bite-sized form.

3). Scan for more information. Until recently, most consumers did not understand nor participate in scan-for-more-information programs. Now that we're programmed to scan for menus and bar taps, QR codes have gone mainstream. It's a great way to immerse and educate consumers through your packaging with very little design fuss.

As we change and evolve or react and respond to packaging trends, one thing never changes. Success comes when you're focused, listen to your consumer's needs and feedback, and maintain malleability in packaging, in branding, in business and in life. 

Jonathan Rovner President, PPD&G

Within the marketing industry, the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new era of influencer packaging. With people mandated to work from home, “virtual” lifestyles have become the social and professional norm. In order to maintain a presence among consumers, brands around the globe are tasked with maneuvering their marketing techniques. The use of unique packaging has become the foremost practice to ensure brand survival in our new post-COVID environment.

Emerging from the height of the pandemic, we have experienced an immense surge in the marketing budgets of our current clients. Many have come to realize that they are now required to present engaging packaging that sparks social media interest.

There is a rising trend among clients serving industries that focus on personal appearance, such as cosmetics, skincare and cosmetic surgery. Once a scarce commodity, time itself became an abundant resource while the main form of human interaction has pivoted into Zoom calls and video conferences. This is resulting in people becoming more aware of their appearance and are now more inclined than ever to “fix” it. These circumstances have created a window for brands to market their cosmetic products and services far more competitively than in the past.

As a result of COVID-19, manufacturing that previously took place overseas has remarkably shifted to domestic production. Due to the impact of the virus, countries that were often used for outsourcing packaging production are no longer viable options due to lack of resources and staff in conjunction with unprecedented shipping costs and delays. These conditions are exacerbated by increased duties/tariffs imposed under the Trump Administration, leaving companies more inclined to keep their manufacturing on U.S. soil. 

Sharon Eucce CEO, Packaging Chic LLC

Is it a trend or is it a standard operating procedure? Any reference to eco-friendly, green, reusable, refillable or sustainable packaging is still going strong. After ordering so much online during COVID and having to deal with the trash of the shipping box, brands are designing products and packaging that are refillable, reusable and that they can claim are earth-friendly in some way.

E-commerce remains a strong area for packaging—a trend or standard? When it comes to direct-to-consumer e-commerce, brands can benefit from adding other sensory facets to packaging like texture, fragrance, color, anything else that involves more of the senses. These moments must reflect the brand’s personality fully.

Consumers have had more than a year sanitizing, cleaning and being cautious. Packaging and product designers will want to keep these new concerns in mind because consumers have acquired new sensitivities to what's acceptable. Frustration-free and clean packaging will be in demand after COVID.

Another on-the-horizon area for brands is customization of packaging and product. We see it in products like custom color and foundation. Customization can be brought all the way to the packaging as well using variable data and digital printing on cartons and shippers. Data collection and packaging suppliers who can increase their tech capabilities will be the pioneers.

Ashley Scorpio VP of Partnerships, Hawke Media

The three biggest trends in packaging post-COVID are surrounding hygiene, sustainability and e-commerce.

Given the nature of the pandemic, it’s important to consider consumers’ hygiene concerns with packaging and ensure the virus is minimally viable on the packaging surfaces for your products or that they have an outer film or wrapper that can be peeled off. As herd immunity is out of reach and we are over a year into the COVID crisis, these concerns are likely here to stay. 

Meanwhile, sustainability is increasingly important to the conscious consumer across age demographics, in particular for millennials and gen Z. Offering less packaging for your products, refillable containers that can be sent back and sterilized as well as recyclable or biodegradable packaging materials, plus the ability to make your order carbon neutral, are key ways to incorporate sustainability in your packaging and products. 

With the rise of e-commerce and direct-to-consumer models, it’s important your products are well-branded and ready to ship as unboxing is a key part of the customer journey. One way to achieve this that is cost-effective and sustainable is merging primary and secondary packaging wherever possible.

Yeonji Kong Creative Director and Founder, Pipopappo Design

1). Hygienic packaging. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of hygiene to consumers. They want the product to be touched by as few people as possible during the packaging process and in store. Once people start prioritizing hygiene on packaging, hygienic packaging will be a constant priority even after the pandemic has eased. Brands and makers will need to find a smart line between sustainability and hygiene when it comes to product development and promotion.

2). Price reasonability and the need for less packaging. Due to the pandemic, there have been shifts in consumer behavior both by category and by channel. Consumers have become mindful about what they want to spend their money on. This has caused an increase in only buying what is necessary such as grocery and household supplies and taking price into consideration more than when people are shopping at offline stores. And many consumers say they plan to continue online shopping even when brick and mortar stores reopen.

3). Sustainable packaging. The COVID-19 pandemic drove the growth of e-commerce. As e-commerce rises in popularity, people's expectations for packaging are increasing, too. We once thought the pandemic made people think less of sustainability on packaging while hygiene became the most important thing because of the fear about spread of the virus. However, sustainable packaging continues to remain front of mind for consumers, especially as packages continue to get delivered to their door day after day.

Michael Wu Chief International Marketing Manager, Zhongsha Eafa Plastic Co. Ltd.

1). Higher internet shopping demands require easy, quick and readily designed packaging. We are making more paper eyeshadow palettes with sleeves rather than plastic ones with folding cartons.

2). Hygiene demands make packaging with easy, clean surfaces and better handling methods [important]. We haven't had particular requests from clients asking for extra hygiene treatment packaging yet.

3). More environmentally friendly material should be taken into consideration. This is closely connected with high demands for e-commerce as more boxes and packaging are needed for internet shopping and delivery. More PCR and sugarcane raw materials are asked for by clients.

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