Refillable packaging options are proliferating in the luxury perfume and cosmetics market. With their emphasis on functionality, practicality, safety, and—especially where luxury brands are concerned—aesthetics, new possibilities are emerging. The burgeoning bulk market, meanwhile, is presenting its own set of logistical challenges. Our Trend report from sister magazine Formes de Luxe presents the latest developments in the beauty refill market.
Hermès, Dior, Chanel, Lancôme… the leading prestige brands all now offer refillable lipstick, hence the need to develop more sophisticated mechanisms. Aptar has done just that, with its Private Refill, a personalized lock-and-key type system that prevents consumers from using one brand’s refill in another’s case.
The “key” is a custom base and the “lock” its corresponding shape that the refill snaps onto. Both designs are unique to each brand. Axilone has applied the same concept to a new lipstick model that also plays on the mono-material aspect and is available in 100% recyclable, laser-engraved PET.
Other brands are opting for more luxurious multimaterial cases that consumers will keep longer. Dries Van Noten (Puig) uses a refillable mechanism by Albéa wrapped in the designer’s colorful prints. Made by PVL Beauté, the cases consist of eight to nine components, depending on the model, materials mix, and decorative techniques: marbled, mass-dyed ABS, dye-sub printed PBT, imitation leather, metallized rings, zamak engraved medallions, etc.
Dries Van Noten
The new Phyto-rouge Shine by Sisley comes in a more classic packaging of gold anodized aluminum (including the refill tube) with white screenprinting. Plastic inserts are still required for the various elements to click together correctly and protect the lipstick. The supplier, TNT Global Manufacturing, boasts its quality standards that ensure the packaging’s longevity.
Axilone; Albéa; Bormioli Luigi
Finally, original alternatives include Bormioli Luigi’s refillable glass lipstick case, and Aptar Reboul’s simple sliding case that Lush has been using in an all-metal version since 2019, which could be made in different materials to attract brands in search of new gestures.
Minimalism & ecological aspirations
Refilling is an inherently simple concept, and this simplicity could become a goal in its own right. To emphasize the scientific dimension of Lancôme’s Absolue The Serum skincare, the brand housed the refill in a drawn-glass vial suggesting the world of chemistry. Pearly pink lacquer and screen printing remove any risk of aesthetic austerity. Lancôme’s choice to use glass instead of plastic is worth noting: it’s a first for this type of application, according to Flacopharm, the company that manufactures the cartridge, which slips into a 40% PCR molded glass bottle by Verescence.
Envases’ sturdy aluminum containers are finding more and more prospects on the refillable packaging market, where they’re either used as refills, especially in fragrance (Parfums Dior’s Sauvage, for example, equipped with Techniplast’s system), or as bottles to be refilled, such as for Kérastase’s new shampoo line Le Bain, which comes in recycled aluminum bottles that can be reloaded with Arcade Beauty’s 3D Pouch doypack. Made with an aluminum-free resin formula, the latter pack consumes less plastic than other bottles on this market.
Digital brands are launching interesting concepts based on sustainability. The startup 900.care offers a personal care line positioned to ride the solid cosmetics trend. Delivered in cardboard boxes, the recharges, most of which are manufactured by VPI - Faiveley Plast, are intended to be used in packaging made of recycled plastic that consumers keep: shower gel in sticks that are dissolved in a bottle, chewable toothpaste tablets in a dispenser that opens via a rotating ring, etc. The stick deodorant features a technical innovation: the refill in its cardboard sleeve inserts cleanly and quickly into the stick. The cardboard is held between two internal components, so the product can slide up and down.
Refillable jars have become a fixture in packaging. Case in point: Albéa’s Bayonet model, which features a removeable pod with an easy twist-and-lock system, and Lumson’s RePlace line, featuring glass containers and PP inner cups that intuitively clip together and require no additional components.
Other manufacturers have tackled the niche in their own ways. For a body cream by L’Occitane, VPI - Faiveley Plast developed a refill in PP that clips onto an aluminum jar via two notches. The brand notes that this solution saves more than 40 tons of plastic each year compared with the previous generation product.
Meiyume has developed several models, including a PET jar with a PP refill (recycled and virgin plastic) that can be assembled with the push of a finger thanks to a patented design: mini protrusions on the top of the capsule slide into specially engineered recesses on the external shell. Another reference is a stamped aluminum jar with a partially hollow base where the plastic refill is positioned by fitting into small notches and removed by pushing up on it. A more luxurious version exists in extruded aluminum with a hollow base where a label could be glued and made visible under the capsule.
Glassmakers like Verescence, Pochet du Courval, and Bormioli Luigi are also entering the niche with glass jars equipped with glass refills, each with their own assembly systems.
Verescence; Albéa; VPI
Protective, easy application gestures
Techniplast’s RT-Twist technology, a mainstay in fragrance, enables consumers to easily refill empty bottles. The cap on the refill requires no handling and connects to the neck of the open bottle. An integrated sensor regulates flow and automatically stops it when the bottle is full, preventing overflow.
The system, adopted for the 150ml version of Phantom by Paco Rabanne and its 200ml refill is unique in that it features a spray cap, a relatively complex component that isn’t normally removed from the bottle. Here, the manufacturer, VPI - Faiveley Plast, has made it removable, while working to make the gesture intuitive and sensory.
Airless packaging for skincare is going refillable with the same concern for protection. The refillable version of Quadpack’s Regula Airless line uses a patented snap-on ring to secure the refill inside the bottle: a clockwise turn locks it in place and a counterclockwise turn unlocks it; this counter-intuitive movement is intended to reduce the risk of accidental disassembly.
For Gaïa, Aptar’s airless system, the refill is inserted through the bottom of an external shell, and an audible “click” signals that it is securely in place. To remove, one presses the spring-loaded base. The pump is not disposed of as it is integrated into the external casing.
Cosmogen’s ReUse line features airless tubes, sticks, and bottles equipped with different applicators (brushes, metal tips, massage tools, etc.) that are intended to be kept, then attached to the head of a new container. Texen’s multiuse pen, meanwhile, also comes with several applicator types and is reusable thanks to a cartridge inserted via the pen’s base.
In addition to home-refill products, a bulk market is developing in the beauty sector, generating a need for reusable or returnable packaging, reorganized points of sale, and a specific supply chain aimed in particular at guaranteeing hygiene and product traceability.
By virtue of its antimicrobial alcohol content, perfume adapts easily to this context, which explains the proliferation of perfume fountains in the selective market. Techniplast has made several contributions to the trend: the company recently provided Valmont with a machine based on its RT-Plug system that uses the air intake produced when the spray button is pressed to refill bottles through the pump, which is fixed and cannot be unscrewed.
Refilling skincare in-store is less straightforward; these often viscous formulas are prone to contamination and drying out. A proponent of zero-waste, the French brand Cozie has developed its own refill technology: kept in a pressurized bag protected from air and light, each formula is distributed via an individual opening in the refill machine, eliminating the risk of formulas mixing or stagnant residue building up in pipes. Its machines (the Dozeuse and the Dozette) are now used by other brands and distributed through a dedicated division. Cozie is also known for its deposit system: glass bottles and jars (by Lumson and Embelia) brought back to stores (in exchange for a deposit of €1.50) are transported to a washing center and then put back into circulation. One reuse cycle is said to reduce the CO2 emissions produced by the manufacture of new packaging by 79%. The non-reusable caps and pumps are sent to alternative recycling channels, such as TerraCycle and Lemon Tri.