Practices such as dipping fingers into a jar of moisturizer or sharing lipsticks and color palettes with friends have been frowned upon for years by cosmetic users wary of bacterial spread—and suppliers and brands have responded with numerous solutions.
Now, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, when even touching your own face briefly is deemed verboten, hygienic applicators have become a priority for many consumers, and demand is growing.
“Consumers are and will continue to be more aware of hygienic practices than ever before,” says Lauren Goodsitt, senior global beauty analyst at Mintel. “A new segment of sanitizing products will likely emerge to keep both products and applicators exceptionally clean.” Goodsitt says, “Consumers will be more conscious of choosing applicators that minimize germ exposure and will look for sanitary ways to store their cosmetic applicators.”
Through consumer insights and brand partner feedback, Anisa Telwar Kaicker, founder & CEO, Anisa International, tells Beauty Packaging, “We know there is a major trend toward creating hands-free hygienic solutions for makeup and skincare application. With at-home skincare treatments and self-care being top-of-mind, consumers are starting to become more aware of hygienic application, hands-free methods for their routines and the importance of cleaning the tools they use.”
Jan Wilson. VP sales and development, TaikiUSA, finds, “In general, people are focused on health and safety. Consumers are looking for ways to keep their beauty tools clean and germ-free.” With this in mind, TaikiUSA offers “exclusive antimicrobial treatments that protect against bacteria.” Wilson explains, “This scientifically proven treatment can be used on brushes and sponges—creating an effective and lasting way to keep your beauty tools safe.”
At Cosmogen, Maud Lelièvre marketing & communication director, agrees. She tells Beauty Packaging: “We observe that consumers, more than ever, need to be reassured, to feel secure—and ‘safe contact’ is now essential as a new parameter for cosmetics packaging, alongside protection of the formula, and of course well-being, while being designed from an eco-responsible approach.”
Marrying Hygienic and Sustainable
As Lelièvre alludes to, “sustainable” and “hygienic” have both become key assets for products in the beauty world. Cosmogen offers a variety of solutions that meet these new requirements of “safe contact,” and which are made of sustainable materials. One of their latest applicators, Cosmoblender makes it possible to avoid any contact with the formula. New materials combined with antibacterial agents further reinforce this security, says Lelièvre.
Cosmoblender is available in two antibacterial solutions: 2+ and FP. The long-lasting PU sponges are intended to apply the foundation with flawless coverage and antibacterial effect (proven by independent laboratories, according to Cosmogen). To use: Wet the Cosmoblender before each use; press Cosmoblender to remove excess water, using a towel if necessary; then apply liquid foundation or BB cream.
Geka’s new mascara brush tenderLOOK is not only made of sustainable material, but it also single-handedly lengthens and separates lashes. The bio-based fibers are made from the 100% renewable castor oil plant. According to Stefanie Gunz, head of marketing, Geka, the triangular-shaped fiber edge of this new exclusive EOSgreendelta fiber improves the separation of each single lash for a “fanned-out” look. The pointed brush tip allows for precise application in the inner eye corners without smudging the skin.
“The market and brands are switching their focus from minimalism to a new luxury, which represents an approach more oriented to customization and further attention to the finish and texture of our products, giving an innovative perception of luxury and elegance.” observes Sara Zanafredi, CEO, Penelli Faro, which specializes in private label and contract manufacturing of makeup and skincare brushes. On the other hand, they’ve also seen increasing attention to green and sustainable choices. “Sustainability is now focused on reducing plastic pollution and encouraging a circular economy in addition to the general need for responsible behavior. At Pennelli Faro, we strongly believe that the clean and sustainable beauty concept, is now much more than a trend, but the starting point for any other future project,” says Zanafredi.
Looking to the near future, Ed Delia, of Delia Associates, a business branding and marketing firm, envisions a new corporate direction which he calls the “Purity Movement,” in which wellness, hygiene, and cleanliness become a business and societal mandate. He says, “Much like the sustainability movement, which started quietly but passionately, we can already find the ‘whisper’ of the Purity Movement in various progressive organizations and in more progressive economies.” Herein, says Delia, “lie potential ideas and opportunities as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which will have an impact on business environments and policies, the manner in which we provide services, and how consumer products are used, manufactured and distributed.”
Brushing Up on Beauty, Skincare—and More
Key assets in a consumer’s choice of a brush include the shape of the head, the quality and substance of the fiber and the ergonomics of handling it.
Mintel’s Goodsitt tells Beauty Packaging, “Applicators that make tricky beauty trends more accessible can help to drive product interest and clinch the sale. Consumers are not all skilled makeup artists and many do not have time to watch tutorials that teach them intricate techniques.” Therefore, she says applicators that bring those trends to life in a simple, easy-to-tackle manner will pique the interest of trend-driven consumers.
HCT Accessories, part of HCT Group, specializes in creating a wide assortment of premium quality beauty tools, and specializes in real and synthetic brush filaments. Diana Miao, senior director sales, HCT Accessories, says, “Utilizing HCT’s proprietary RS technology, enables us to mimic the wavelength of real animal hair, matching the texture and performance of the highest quality animal hair.” The G, G|B, S and P Collections are made to perform like real goat, squirrel and pony hair, respectively.
The G|B Collection is a new extension to HCT’s Unreal Series. Maio explains: “The G|B Collection was created to match the texture and performance of the most commonly used grade of goat hair, which is known for its ability to provide excellent pick-up. Similar to real goat hair, the G|B Collection filaments feature a wavy texture with tapered ends.” She says this design allows the brush to offer “amazing pick-up” for all powdered products, while soft to the touch. “As product is applied, the fluffy filaments move freely making it easy to blend product onto the skin, and create a smooth, even finish,” she adds.
The company is working with brands that are looking for applicators that not only focus on the face, but on the body as well, that go with their body oils and foundations. “That is what’s amazing about our Unreal Series,” says Maio. “It’s so versatile and can be used on its own or blended to create body applicators that fit your formula.” She says there are also brands that are looking to create applicators that gear more towards self-care: dry body brushes, natural stone rollers, guasha tools, scalp massagers, etc. “We’ve been able to work with brands to develop their ideal custom tool,” says Maio.
Anisa International holds more than 30 patents and trademarks, and collaborates with top global beauty brands. They recently launched a direct-to-consumer brand, ANISA Beauty, and own two manufacturing facilities focused on social and environmental responsibility.
Founder and CEO Telwar Kaicker says, “With skincare being the fastest growing segment in the beauty space, we’re investing in the development of thoughtfully designed tools that match market trends and will provide solutions to our brand partners.”
Anisa International’s newest launch is the Nova Skin Collection. According to Telwar Kaicker, “Its uniquely shaped ferrule combined with an intuitive contoured head shape elevates the performance of the formulas they are paired with. The collection features densely packed fibers that perfectly pick up the ideal amount of product but are flexible enough to apply without absorbing excess.”
Nova uses a revolutionary rocking motion, says Telwar Kaicker. She explains, “This unique shape creates a buildable application, gently pressing formulas onto the contours of the face without tugging or pulling. These tools are designed to elevate the performance of skincare formulas including serums, creams, gels and masks.”
Anisa International will soon be releasing the second generation of their skincare collection—featuring more than 20 new tools that showcase unique combinations of materials including silicone, one-of-a-kind fibers and cooling metals.
At Pennelli Faro, Zanafredi tells Beauty Packaging, brands are increasingly asking for brushes with specific features for their cosmetic products. “For this reason,” she says, “we design brushes starting from what they will be used for, and we are highly driven by conscious and responsible consumers’ choices, especially in components’ material.”
However, Zanafredi says there are also brands that, instead, ask for multifunctional and multipurpose brushes, suitable for performance with several different makeup products.
She says everything depends on what the brand target is, and what each brand wants. “We work to give shape to their ideas and show them new top solutions,” she explains.
“Our aim and mission is to completely customize our clients’ applicator, because the details of each brush are what make it unique.”
Garrett Hewitt International specializes in synthetic brushes with fibers customized to maximize performance of customers’ products. Jason Clerke, president, says, “We do this by being the only brush factory in the industry that has our own in-house manufacturing facility for synthetic fibers. Not having to buy fibers from the fiber manufacturers, allows us to design and manufacture products unique to our customers with our EvoFibers line.” He says they can adjust the flex, wave, diameter, softness, tip length and even add texture to give it the same performance as a natural hair fiber.
“Nearly all our customers are asking for eco-friendly packaging and now they are asking for eco-friendly brushes,” says Clerke. “We have developed brushes that are completely biodegradable—the handle, the ferrule and the hair. When these brushes eventually come to the end of their life, they will biodegrade in a landfill in less than 10 years, leaving just nutrient-rich soil.”
Mascara: Always New Expertise
Mascara never loses its overwhelming popular appeal as an accentuator for eyes—and there is always something new.
Mascara applicators are a specific area of expertise for HCP, which maintains global manufacturing facilities. According to John Kurek, HCP’s vice president, global mascara product marketing, the applicators are part of the company’s complete beauty solution for mascara: twisted-wire/fiber brushes, micro-injection plastic brushes, stock and custom packs as well as extensive finishing and decoration capabilities, all to “ensure brands have a pack that is as beautiful as it is functional.”
With innovative brush styles and production facilities for twisted-wire brushes in Hinsdale, New Hampshire in the U.S. and Bechhofen, Germany, coupled with SIMP in Paris for easily customizable patented plastic brush designs, Kurek says, “HCP offers global brands a full solution for the desired lash look supported by strong engineering and technical expertise.”
Twisted-wire brush profiles can be customized to optimize application with variations such as grooves, twists and zig zag cuts; each has a different impact on the brush performance and the resulting makeup claim, explains Kurek.
HCP’s Lash Studios, located in several global locations, allow for collaborative developments and interactive design modifications to ensure the applicator delivers the client’s targeted performance application.
Geka, which owns a variety of patented manufacturing processes for molded mascara brushes, fiber filaments and brush grindings, says they focus on specific guidelines: accuracy, precision, and application performance
The company specializes in “perfectly matched solutions from brief to launch,” says Geka’s Gunz. She explains: “Our full-service packaging from one source comprises applicator, packaging, formula, lab expertise, graphics, finishing, filling and accessories all tailored perfectly to one another and to the brand’s DNA.
Gunz says recent requests from brands include different applicator shapes, flockings and colors. “However,” she notes, “we see only a few real archetypes of applicators.
Those are the ones which have been selected intuitively by the end consumers, simply because they work well. Our focus is not to overload the existing market but rather to expand the area of applications. This opens new fields of development and applications.”
MIXCreative and its founding partners specialize in twisted wire and hybrid brush technologies. Chris Tarling, CEO/president says, “With world-leading custom trim, shape, treatment and assembly machines, all in-house, clients get an experience nothing like the competition.”
The company is now focused on its patented CIMA hybrid technology, which Tarling says is “a complex large cavitation system of multi shape disks with full-automation in the U.S.” The core to the ZTIP patent surrounds the wire technology used and this is shared with/collaborated on with clients on a case-by-case basis.
Puffs, Flocks and Built-ins
Ease of use is an important selling point when it comes to applicators, says Mintel’s Goodsitt. She says products with built-in applicators that solve a specific beauty issue appeal to consumers trying to master beauty techniques (i.e., brow applicators that recreate the look of microblading, mascara wands or nail polish handles that help steady the hand, winged eyeliner stamps or stencils).
To this end, Tip & Blend Perfect Lips is a patented brush from Pennelli Faro “conceived to get perfection and absolute precision in lipstick application.” Zanafredi explains: “The brush allows you to reach the most difficult areas, like mouth corners, and let the lipstick be applied in two easy steps with intuitive gestures. The tip allows you to collect product and to draw the lip contour with a precision line application.”
The rounded part of the brush fills in the lips and allows full or ombré effects. It is also ideal for spreading lip ink, liquid and matte formulas, without any smudging. Further, it’s designed with a protective metal cap so it can be used as a pocket applicator—and “to guarantee total hygiene to avoid contamination and stains when folded.”
When it comes to puffs, the simple flat round or square slab that once topped powder compacts has been replaced by a multitude of colorful, enhanced, shaped, textured and infused successors.
At The Penthouse Group, a 68-year old family owned and run company, Steven Ostrower, president, tells Beauty Packaging they have transformed from a U.S-based manufacturer of powder puffs into a global supplier of beauty tools. “Our strategic advantage,” he says, “is our ability to lead with innovation as the need for applicators is ever changing.”
Ostrower says, “Today, the brands are constantly challenging us to help them differentiate themselves from competitors.” He says this has led the company to create new patent pending shapes, source new materials and to infuse their applicators with additives such as CBD oil, bamboo charcoal and hyaluronic acid. “For many years,” says Ostrower, “we have led the sponge category with our exclusive anti-bac formula that provides protection for the life of the applicator. Today, in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have challenged our R&D team to develop an anti-viral treatment that should be available by summer 2020. Our facilities are ISO 14001 certified and follow the strict and hygienic protocols throughout all phases of manufacturing and administration.”
Recently, The Penthouse Group launched a plush Japanese style velvet powder puff with Shiseido for use with a loose powder. “Traditionally, these puffs have not been used in our market so it was exciting to take the plunge into this luxurious world,” explains Ostrower. “The puff is an essential tool for achieving sheer ultra-natural coverage that sets the makeup and smooths the texture of the skin.” In addition, Ostrower says, “Other major cosmetics companies have been noticing the superior pickup/payoff of powder from this style of velvet puff, and we expect this innovation to become more widespread and popular in our market.”
Cosmopak specializes in wire, tpu, tpe, silicon applicators for various types of products, including brushes, doe-foots, paddles and mascara brushes. Chris Suda, director of operations, says they are receiving lots of requests for sustainable, recyclable applicators, non-flocked.” One of the supplier’s recent introductions is a color-injected tpe stem and applicator.
Anna Ishutina, sales director, Cosmopak, says simple/curved/prolonged doe-foot applicators are most requested for lip glosses and liquid lipsticks.
HCP offers a wide array of flocked and brush applicators that are suitable for a number of product types, such as lip gloss, liquid lipstick, concealers, eyeliners, cream eyeshadows, spot correctors and other cream or liquid products. Aspects such as the applicator shape, material, flock adhesive, flocking length and density are all selected for optimum product performance,” says Christelle Godefroit, product manager, HCP.
HCP’s European facility, in Bechhofen, Germany, offers special flocking options including “double-flock” and “power-flock” applicators. Innovative double-flock technology offers a high-performance applicator to enhance makeup results. According to Godefroit, this is ideal for the majority of shapes of applicator, as “the dual-length flocking creates a superior environment to hold bulk—giving extreme coverage to the lips.” Extra dense ‘power-flocking’ gives an ultra-sensory experience due to the larger surface area of the applicators, which are very flexible for a gentle and smooth application.”
Geka´s new lip applicator, delightfulCHARMER, features a spoon-shaped design with bulk reservoir. The formula can deposit in the reservoir zone making it very easy to apply, according to Geka’s Gunz. She says, the rounded tip is perfectly adapted to the lip contour. It is available in different flock length and softness.
As mentioned, Cosmogen offers a number of solutions that meet the requirements of “safe contact.” In addition to the Cosmoblender applicator discussed previously in this article, they also offer many other packages. Lelièvre says, “Whether it is a pack with integrated applicator (such as Squeeze ‘N, Cosmo +, or Tense), a formula in a jar, tube or airless bottle with separate applicator (i.e. spatulas, brushes, Cosmoblender etc.), and a massage (roll on, fresh pearl, ridoki) or hygiene (cleansing ball) accessory, the solution exists at Cosmogen and allows great creativity for brands, for which the differentiation and desirability of their care and makeup, remain key words.”
For example, the Squeeze ‘N range, launched in 2006, is characterized by an on/off system, allowing the user to open, distribute, close, apply the formula and then wash the applicator. The Tense tube, launched in 2015, also allows you to apply formulas without any contact with your hands, especially on sensitive areas around the lips or eyes. It has been redesigned so that its tip is removable and therefore washable. Silicone brushes and washable spatulas followed. “The evolution of materials, their combination with antibacterial agents (i.e., Cosmoblender), further reinforces this security,” says Lelièvre.
Roberts Beauty has a large assortment of stock applicators, but Kristen Corso, director of marketing & product development, says, “Our real specialty lies in creating custom applicators that deliver a unique and memorable user experience.”
She tells Beauty Packaging, “Multi-material applicators seem to be popping up more and more, combining familiar elements of the traditional with trendy innovative properties.” She says brands are searching for variances in size, both larger and smaller than traditional applicators as well as interesting textures that add to the sensorial experience.
Roberts recently launched a line of thermoplastic elastomer molded applicators that have rubber-like characteristics that can replace classic flocked applicators, providing in-mold, flock-like textures for a refreshed user experience. “The range of TPE applicators can also be washed or wiped clean to help with good hygiene,” says Corso.
Virospack’s Massage Applicator Dropper is “the first dropper with a massager tip,” says Rosa Porras, marketing and communication manager. It´s a dropper whose pipette ends in a tip made of zamac, which Porras describes as “a completely harmless and dermatologically tested material, with a cold effect for providing an instant cooling effect to the skin.” It´s a 2-in-1 applicator with an innovative design. The dropper with the metallic tip can be classic or with a push button, and decorated as the brand chooses, such as spray printing, injected color, metallized, metal shell—all in the company’s own facilities. The pipette is PP and incorporates the metal tool at its end, with an original drop-shaped design for “a pleasant massage and better results.” The novel dropper was awarded the “Best Innovation in Packaging for Skincare for ADF-PCD 2020.”
Qosmedix has stepped in with a disposable solution—and one that’s sustainable at the same time.
The company offers a wide selection of applicators ranging from makeup sponges to brushes and a comprehensive line of disposable applicators. Sari Sternschein, vice president of marketing, says Qosmedix was founded “on the premise of helping our customers attain the highest level of sanitary makeup application.” She says the importance of single-use applicators in the industry is heightened even more now with the outbreak and widespread impact of the coronavirus. “We feel it is our responsibility to source products that will not only satisfy trends and demand, but that are also high-quality, made from sustainable materials and promote safe hygiene,” explains Sterschein.
She explains: “Qosmedix’s line of disposable bamboo applicators addresses three pillars that are prevalent among today’s top beauty brands: high-quality, sustainability and safe hygiene.” The handles are made from eco-friendly bamboo. This renewable resource grows in abundance and biodegrades over time, says Sternschein. “In addition, using bamboo reduces the amount of plastic waste we are generating. Single-use applicators and individually wrapped applicators will be more important than ever following the Covid-19 pandemic. Retailers, beauty brands and professional makeup artists will need to ensure there is no risk of cross-contamination between clients.”
No doubt applicators of all types will continue to take on additional status moving forward. Touchless, hygienic formula application will remain paramount. But sustainability and ease of use will also be key factors for consumers and brands. Not to mention growing demands for customization and syncing of package and product. Opportunities abound for suppliers and brands innovating and developing these 21st Century tools.
According to Ed Delia, of Delia Associates, “Somewhere, right now, experts are envisioning a regulated ‘standard’ icon of cleanliness—similar to the immediately recognizable recycling logo. “Being Clean” will have its own standards and iconography to rival “Being Green.” And the ultimate will be a potential mash-up of products touting an integration of both properties.”
We’re eagerly waiting to hear about an antimicrobial lipstick in a biodegradable tube…
Keri Blair, senior national artist, MAC Cosmetics, North America, knows a lot about applicators and consumer interaction. She shares her insights on customer obsessions, why brush care is key—and more in this Online Exclusive: Applicator Tips & Tricks from a MAC Makeup Artist
Covid-19 has changed the shopping experience. While shopping online has temporarily fulfilled consumers’ appetite for purchasing, consumers want to test, engage and buy in real life. This is why retail display innovator RPG and sampling specialist Arcade Beauty have collaborated in numerous ways to provide the cosmetics industry with innovative, hygienic, single-dose testing solutions for retail. Arcade’s LiquaTouch on a card, is the supplier’s wearable fragrance sample. Cards can be removed one at a time by the shopper.
See our Video Q&A: Dr Bryce Rutter on Post-Pandemic Packaging Design