Beauty Packaging: When it’s what’s on the outside that counts

STORY BY Marlo Gorelick

Published: May 17, 2013

There are hundreds if not thousands of cosmetics lines. Many women have drawers filled with beauty products.  Where do all the cosmetic containers go when the makeup is gone or expired?

What price beauty?

Twice a year, beauty lovers throw their bank accounts open as they scour beauty chains’ semi-annual sales for some of the most coveted and high end products.  Recently I was drawn to the 175 year old luxury brand, Guerlain, best known for its Shalimar perfume and Meteorities powder; but it wasn’t the beautiful textures and finishes to which I was attracted.

Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder

Guerlain’s packaging is so amazing-- a curved, gold-plated mirror in which a lipstick, lipgloss or mascara sits.  So beautiful & elegant, I could picture the faces of those around me at future events I’d attend--eyes wide, mouths drooling! I looked at the colors offered in the line, searching for one I liked--all that for the privilege of a case and mirror for $49.50.  Then I thought, “What am I going to do with this case when I’m done?"


My mother always said, “Everyone likes a nicely wrapped present.”

It turns out Guerlain does sell a mascara refill to use in its glorious case, but that still doesn’t account for the lipstick and gloss.  And what am I supposed to do with 5 empty aluminum containers from my latest beauty addiction, Fresh’s Sugar lip treatment? While “Fresh creates modern alchemy by fusing innovative, natural ingredients with time-honored beauty rituals for a sensorial experience that is as indulgent as it is effective,” there hasn’t been much thought given to the product’s by-product.


“The future belongs to those who smell it coming!”

Thankfully some companies have given thought to the future of its containers.

  • Origins encourages customers to drop off empty cosmetic containers to its stand alone shops and department store counters. Since the start of its recycling program in 2009, “Return to Origins Recyling Program” has recycled over 34,000 pounds of packaging.

  • Mac Cosmetics’ Back to MAC program allows you to bring in or mail 6 empty containers for recycling in exchange for a free lipstick, lipglass or eyeshadow (excluding donation related lines).

  • With a vision of connecting beauty, environment and well-being, Aveda is “the first beauty company with 100% post consumer recycled (containers) for skin care and hair styling.” As the first beauty company using 100% certified windpower for manufacturing, Aveda has a cap recycling program in partnership with 1600+ schools.

“Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear”

As bands of beauty lovers research items to try at future beauty semi-annual sales, hopefully they’ll make their lists and check them twice, considering the afterlife of the containers.


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