Airless packaging, which combines a container with a non-pressurized dispensing method, protects a product’s formulation from exposure to air. It is widely used, and not limited to luxury or prestige brands. For this reason, brands are putting extra effort into making sure a product stands apart from competitors. Suppliers suggest luring the consumers’ eye with a design that differentiates—and then score by combining “green” materials with airless components.
All types of products are found in airless packaging, including cosmetics, oral care, hair care, and especially skincare. “Requests for airless have been steady, from all types of brands,” says Seacliff Beauty’s marketing manager, Cody Salazar.
Products using airless packages often include skincare creams, serums, and lotions. Numerous suppliers offer various types of airless dispensing systems, for bottles, tubes, jars, and even compacts.
The “ease-of-use” of airless packaging is appealing to both brands and consumers. “Using an airless pump to dispense a product will make any product ‘feel’ prestige,” says APR Beauty Group’s chief executive officer John Shen.
The Use of Airless Is on the Rise
Analysts say the use of airless packaging is on the rise—and will continue. The global airless packaging market is forecasted to reach $5.9 billion in 2023, followed by $6.3 billion by 2024. An increase in the demand for prestige products is one factor fueling market growth, researchers say—and suppliers mention more.
Shen says, “The marriage between skincare and cosmetics has increased the demand for airless packaging. As more formulations containing sensitive ingredients are developed, there is a greater need for airless pumps. Plus, we see an increasing need for airless pumps for color cosmetic packaging, mainly for complexion products.”
B.I. Packaging’s David Chen agrees, adding, “Airless packaging is being used more for cosmetics, and also for natural formulations—and these needs are likely to increase in the future.”
SamHwa USA’s country manager, Philip Cho says the use of airless is consistently high from skincare brands. “We see a consistent demand for airless packaging for skincare, from both established and emerging brands,” he says.
Design is another factor contributing to the increasing use of airless packaging, as suppliers offer more options with unique looks and features that are appealing to brand marketers. “The continuous flow of innovative designs for airless packaging offers lucrative opportunities for market growth,” states Komal Sharma, senior research analyst, Allied Market Research.
Salazar also comments on design. “The rise in the popularity of airless packaging has led to an innovation in package design. The market now has a large diversity of styles in actuators and applicators,” he says.
Airless Provides a Range of Key Benefits
Aside from design and an airless package’s ability to protect the integrity of a formula, a major draw toward its use is the functionality. The team at Physician’s Grade chose an airless package as airless dispensing systems have the ability to evacuate approximately 95% of a product, near the end of its life.
Chris McGuinn, founding partner, Physician’s Grade, explains, “Consumers feel that airless pumps lead to less waste, so the appeal for us was our package’s ability to evacuate nearly all of the product. The use of an airless pump was purely a preference on our part, not a formula requirement. We based our decision on other product lines we’ve developed over the years and the feedback we’ve received from our customers.”
Physician’s Grade is a line of CBD-infused skincare products, and its Ultra Hydrating Luxe Lotion + 100mg CBD is in a plastic bottle with an airless pump. The body moisturizer contains 100mg pure CBD isolate, organic green tea extract, and several oils, including avocado, coconut, marula, lavender and peppermint.
The brand’s in-house design team wanted to convey an upscale, clean, professional look, with a minimal, non-gender-specific aesthetic. The moisturizer is in an airless aluminum bottle with a white body and matte silver aluminum cap and base. “Our clients have historically been physicians so having a clinical look was always important, but now we’re crossing into retail,” says McGuinn. The brand just launched at GNC stores across the U.S.
APR’s Shen also says that being able to use a product in its entirety is important. “We are seeing an influx of brands interested in airless pumps for this reason. Additionally, an airless package will lengthen the shelf life of a product, which also reduces waste,” he says.
Unlike Physician’s Grade, Shen says that the protective benefits airless packaging provides are a necessity for many brands. “Last year, we received lots of requests from Indie brands with natural formulations that require airless protection, since their formulas don’t contain a chemical preservative system,” he says.
When the team at Colorescience was looking for a package with an applicator, they chose an airless one with a zamac applicator tip for the eye cream, Total Eye 3-in-1 Renewal Therapy. The zamac tip provides immediate relief to tired eyes, and helps the product glide on smoothly across that delicate area.
Kara Lara, product marketing manager, Colorescience, says, “We chose an airless pump to ensure complete evacuation of the product. It also eliminates contamination, unlike a doe foot applicator or typical jar, where the product is exposed during application,” she says. “Our goal in selecting this package was to make the product use experience as convenient and clean as possible—and to maintain the highest integrity of our ingredients,” adds Lara.
One supplier that offers an airless package with applicator tips is SamHwa. “Our spot-treatment airless package called the Touch-Up Airless has three different applicator options,” says Cho.
Customization & Standards
Many suppliers now offer airless packaging as standard or stock items, which makes them more affordable for smaller brands, and also makes them more readily available, faster. The right combination of decorating techniques and custom options will make any package look more high-end, including standards. Different types of decorating techniques coordinate with a brand’s design aesthetic, and visual cues will convey a specific message about the product to the consumer.
Nest-Filler’s project manager, Irene Kim, says, “Even a small customizable change on a standard component can make a brand really stand out from other beauty and skincare products on the market.” Nest-Filler offers brands a variety of ways to customize a standard airless package, including the actuator hole. “Our TPE Airless Jar components feature an actuator hole that a brand can customize to its logo. When actuated, the formulation comes out in the shape of the logo,” says Kim.
APR offers a wide range of standard airless options, including bottles, jars, and pumps. The company’s patented Concealed Nozzle Airless Pump offers a unique look, and is available in a range of sizes.
B.I. Packaging’s Chen says, “Many brands look for airless packaging that comes as standards, to save on mold costs, and they will focus on printing and decorating.” B.I. Packaging offers brands a large variety of standard options in airless packaging, including large bottles in PP, which are perfect for lotion.
The supplier just launched a new airless jar, and also has bottles with two separate chambers. “They are perfect for a skincare product with separate day and night formulas,” says Chen. “We also offer several types of airless jars,” he says.
Brands often turn to Seacliff for a customized look. “We customized a pump collar and over cap for a brand that wanted a unique look. We hear more of these types of requests lately, as the market is more saturated than it has ever been—and that is pushing brands to go above and beyond in design, to stand out from the crowd,” Salazar explains. “We also offer a near-limitless number of decorating techniques,” he adds.
SamHwa offers standard airless systems that can be customized according to a brand’s specifications. The supplier’s Pure Drop airless solution is a modular system that provides numerous aesthetic options. “Our airless engine is metal-free, and provides an excellent airtightness—it passes the 800 mbars vacuum test,” says Cho.
SamHwa also offers a wide range of airless jars, dual chamber pumps—and more. “We have hundreds of options,” says Cho.
Airless and ‘Green’
Being “green” is a way to differentiate from competitors—by making sustainability a part of a brand’s story. “Rather than focusing completely on aesthetics, some brands are choosing to demonstrate value in how well the product and package works—and also by saying where and how it’s sourced,” says Salazar. “The interest in “green” materials is at an all-time high, and we have embraced this trend completely,” he adds.
Seacliff Beauty’s partner in Europe, Eurovetrocap, offers a complete PP/PE airless package that carries the Ecocert seal. “It doesn’t contain any metal parts, and is 100% recyclable,” says Salazar.
Seacliff Beauty also offers many components made from PE and PET, including sugarcane resin, PCR and more. “We also offer airless packages that are designed to be refilled; they contain inner cartridges made from PP. ‘Green’ can be luxurious too,” he says.
Many other suppliers also offer “green” materials for airless packages that are offered as standards, as well as custom designs.
“We see many more requests for airless packaging that is also eco-friendly,” says Nest-Filler’s Kim. “Many brands were solely focused on using natural and organic ingredients, especially for skincare. Now, these brands often want to make sure every part of an airless package is recyclable,” Kim explains.
Nest-Filler offers several airless packaging options that are eco-friendly, such as its patented TPE pump jars. “This is a fully recyclable component. By utilizing TPE, we have created a pumping mechanism that removes the need for a standard pump engine,” Kim explains. A standard pump engine typically contains more parts, such as metal springs. “Since all the other parts of this package are PP, it makes the entire airless system fully recyclable,” she adds.
Nest-Filler also offers spring-less airless pumps, which are metal-free; and PCR (post-consumer resin) pumps. “We have a variety of airless packages that can be made with different blends of PCR, combined with PP, PET, PE and HDPE.
APR offers several eco-friendly options, including airless packages with PCR bottles. “We can also add finishing touches by using components made from locally sourced, biodegradable bamboo,” says Shen.
B.I. Packaging offers several “green” options, including lightweight designs, and fully recyclable airless systems, without metal springs.
Yonwoo/PKG offers an airless solution called the “One Material” pump. “Every part, including the spring, is made from PP,” says Kelly Cunningham, marketing, Yonwoo/PKG.
Airless Pouch Technology—and Glass
Airless packages may contain different types of dispensing technologies—a piston system or a pouch. In a pouch system, the product is contained inside a plastic pouch, which is then placed inside the container. Lumson offers both types of airless technologies.
Lumson’s airless jar, which features pouch technology, is used by Avene for its DermAbsolu moisturizer.
Lumson also offers glass airless packages. The supplier’s TAG line utilizes a pouch system. “We can produce the pouch with EVOH materials. This is a high-barrier, multilayer pouch inside the bottle, which offers a high level of protection for formulas that require this,” explains Cécile Pompili, marketing manager, Lumson.
The glass bottles can be customized, in a variety of styles, using custom overcaps, collars and actuators.
Pompili says, “Customization is so important for premium brands, as packaging and design are fundamental to a brand’s positioning and objectives. We can decorate using a multitude of finishes—including an internal spray coating on the cavity of our glass bottles—and then the exterior can be decorated as desired.”
Lumson’s airless glass packaging, as well as all of its airless packaging solutions, was designed with sustainability in mind. “We integrated sustainability into our designs. After use, our packaging can be disassembled to be recycled, and the glass is easily separated from the plastic parts,” Pompili explains.
SamHwa also offers a pouch airless system. “Our pouch airless system provides various flexibility for formulations, and decoration options for brands. We believe that demand of pouch airless packaging will be consistent going forward because of the high restitution rate and its ability to dispense various viscosities,” says Cho.
A Child-Resistant Airless Package
The team at Yonwoo/PKG says it has received multiple requests for pharmaceutical packaging—so it has developed an airless package with a child-resistant cap, called the CRC. “Plus, the CRP—child-resistant pump—is in its final stages of development,” says Yonwoo/PKG’s Cunningham.
Yonwoo/PKG’s child-resistant options will be offered as standard packages, but the supplier also works with brands to create custom molds. “Sometimes we receive requests for complete custom airless packages—from start to finish,” says Cunningham.
More often, the team at Yonwoo/PKG fulfills requests to customize an existing airless package. “We often work with brands to slightly modify a package. For instance, we can create a custom over cap with an embossed or debossed logo, or use different neck finishes,” Cunningham explains.
Final Tips: Avoiding Compatibility & Filling Issues
Do issues involving compatibility and/or filling occur more frequently with an airless package?
“Compatibility tests for airless packages are basically the same as for any other package,” says Yonwoo/PKG’s Cunningham. “In most cases, Accelerated Stability/Compatibility Studies are conducted as part of routine GMPs,” she adds.
However, there are a few tips to remember. “Contract packagers often cost jobs at or near the label claim of net contents. Then, they may try to “save” money by optimizing filling at that level. Unfortunately, many airless packages are designed with more headspace than conventional bottles. “‘Headspace’ is the volume over the stated label claim,” Cunningham explains.
This means more product is needed in each package in order to achieve optimal “Pumps to Prime,” and overall pump function. “Any air trapped inside the bottle during filling increases the risk of high pumps to prime, spitting or partial dosing and voids,” says Cunningham.
Seacliff Beauty’s Salazar says filling can be an issue as well, and any type of dispensing system should always be tested with your product formulation. “Test, test, and test again!” Salazar says, explaining, “Airless pumps have to be filled atmospherically and cannot contain air bubbles or they will not dispense the product.”