Thursday, October 27, 2011

Creating products: Packaging and preservation

Originally posted on October 14, 2010...

I've written a lot about packaging in the past, but I'd like to share with you a study I read recently on the value of packaging and preservation.

When we're packaging our products, we need to think of the end user, how she will treat the product once it reaches her house or car. We need to consider how she might contaminate the product, especially those found in jars or screw top containers.

This study used poorly and well preserved products to maximize the contamination of the products. The chart on page two of the PDF should make you shudder. The contamination of both the unpreserved lotion and shampoo on day one found levels too numerous to count!

This study tested the contamination of shampoo with three different caps - the screw cap, the flip top, and the slit cap (or disc cap). The screw cap containers had the most contamination (29%) followed by the slit cap (21%) and the flip top (0%).

The study also tested contamination of lotions with three different caps - the screw cap, the flip cap and pump. The screw cap tested very poorly (79%), the flip cap tested poorly as well (39%), and while the pump tested the lowest (10%).

So what does this mean for us? It means we need to preserve our products well with a good and reliable preservative, add an anti-oxidant to retard rancidity, and follow good manufacturing practices like heating and holding for everything we make. And it means we need to choose our packaging well. Leave the screw caps for maple syrup and other cooking goodies, and go with the disc cap, flip top, or pump every time. Malibus might be a good choice - they didn't study those - as it's unlikely your end user will leave it open for the beasties to feast!

An aside on cap types...originally posted July 16, 2009

Again, form should follow function when it comes to caps. What are you dispensing?

Disc cap: Ah, the humble disc cap. It's good for pretty much every product with its tiny opening that allows surfactants, lotions, toners, and all your other products to come out with a squish! It's not great for thick lotions - like a foot lotion - or sugar scrubs.

Good for: Thin to medium lotions, surfactant mixtures, toners, serums, shampoo, conditioner, leave in conditioner.
Not good for: Thick lotions, sugar scrubs, anyhydrous creams or butters.
Downside: Could be hard to get every drop of lotion out of the bottom.
Upside: Readily available, works with almost every product.
Verdict: A staple of your bottle collection as it will work with almost everything.

Pump bottle: You can generally find two types of pumps at the supply shop - the treatment pump and the regular pump. The treatment pump is intended for smaller bottles and products you might want to use sparingly - serums, facial moisturizers, expensive lotions - and you'll generally find them on bottles 4 ounces/120 ml or smaller.

The larger pumps are great for thin and thick lotions, surfactant mixtures, and anything else you want to dose out. They work well when you might be going back for more - for instance, for foot lotion - because you don't get the container incredibly messy! They are simply not suitable for something like a toner - something primarily made of water - because they won't pump it out properly.

Good for: Lotions, creams, surfactant mixtures, hair care products.
Not good for: Watery creations, sugar scrubs, anhydrous butters.
Downside: More expensive than disc caps. Not suitable for thick scrubs.
Upside: Get out every last drop.
Verdict: Pump bottles are great, but can add up to $1.00 to the cost of a bottle.

Spray cap: I do love the spray cap. It's ideal for thin, water creations like summer or cooling sprays when you want to cover a larger area or don't feel like rubbing something in all that well. I love it for toners and other facial products - spray on, wipe off, you're done! If you want to monitor your dosage of the product - leave in conditioners, for instance - it's a great way to ensure you don't use too much as you get a little tired pumping the spray! They're great for products using oil or cyclomethicone bases (like perfumes or body sprays) as well.

Good for: Water creations, like thin lotions, leave in conditioners, anti-frizz serums, perfumes, all liquid oil creations (like an after bath spray).
Not good for: Medium to thick lotions, sugar scrub, anhydrous butters.
Downside: Sprayers can be expensive. Not suitable for thick creations, like lotions.
Upside: It sprays!
Verdict: Sprayers are fantastic for products that contain at least 80% to 90% liquids.

You can use turret caps - the ones that you have to lift up - for various things, but I find them a little hard to find. I like to use those for very liquidy things like toner or thin lotions. And orifice bottles, which are suitable for dispensing essential oils or serums.

And this brings me to jars! I love jars for my body butters, intense conditioners, scrubs. and whipped butters, but there's a good chance the end user - which is mostly me and my friends - will contaminate it somehow. Good instructions on your jars - wash hands before using, do not let water drip into the scrub, do not let the dog lick it - can help ensure your end user is using the product the right way. But let's be honest, there have been times when you want to slather on a little body butter before going to bed and you haven't washed your hands in a few hours...what do you do there? Good preserving won't wash away all your sins, but it will certainly ensure you see numbers that aren't too numerous to count when it comes to contaminant counts!

Packaging links...
Choosing the right container for your product. 
Alternatives to bottles.
Non-container options and labelling.


Tom said...

Susan the link to the study on packaging just gives a blank page, any way I can get a copy of the study

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tom. I just clicked on it and it works. Dropbox can be a pain sometimes. (BTW: Are you using a newer version of Adobe Reader? I find that if I click on something and don't read it right away, it'll be a blank page. Try reloading it and see what happens. Such a pain!)