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The importance of compatibility

Not many people understand or even realize that when buying a cosmetic product, the packaging it comes in must fulfil not only the role of receptacle (the container that holds the product) and billboard (providing brand and marketing messages), it must also function as a storage medium. To ensure a product lasts as long as it can in the home or other location without added measures (refrigeration and such), many products can only be put into specific materials that will not interact negatively with them and ensure they remain efficacious from first use all the way through last.

Companies invest a lot of time and money in testing, as it is in their best interests to make sure products are kept safely. Hence, normal testing procedures follow a simple paradigm that is held to be sacrosanct by many cosmetic firms and are offered by packaging firms to ensure perfect compatibility.

First and foremost, there are clear "do-s" and "don't-s" with regard to materials and product formulation. This is based on common industry knowledge and millennia of trial and error, though recent technological advancements in plastics, cosmetic formulations and other new materials over the last 100 years have made complete security without testing impossible to guarantee.

A simple example is the spring found in the dispensing pump of many personal care and cosmetic products. Traditionally, the small bit of metal in the pump has not been an issue, but of late, many new, organic formulations seem to interact negatively with the spring, causing discolouration and other issues. The simple solution being used by many contemporary firms is to offer a pump where the spring is contained within a small, isolated part of the pump around which the product flows and dispenses, without ever coming into direct contact with the metal.

Companies, therefore, spare no expense when it comes to running compatibility tests. Normally, these are done over a set period of time of no less than 8 or 10 weeks, with products stored at various temperatures (a standard room temperature or slightly higher, between 35 and 45). This ensures the product and packaging will be given enough time to interact as if they were in the home, even if that home should happen to be one without the benefit of air conditioning. The rise in temperature also tends to offer an accelerated degradation process of the product, which should indicate whether it can withstand a shelf life of a maximum of 3 years. Results confirm whether there are changes visible according to a number of criteria:

 

  • Leakage - After testing, does the packaging still offer the same level of protection from leakage?
  • Deformation - Does the packaging with the product in it still hold the same shape it had when it came off the line?
  • Delamination - When referring to packaging that offers numerous layers as added barrier control, have those layers begun to peel or disintegrate?
  • Colour - Do either the packaging or the product contained show signs of discolouration, making either less attractive to the consumer?
  • Scent - Does the product show any signs of having altered it's fragrance due to time spent in the packaging or due to interaction with an element?
  • Appearance - Is the consistency of the product the same or is it more/less viscous? Are there any nodules forming (clumping)?

 

Regardless which criterion is considered to be the primary yardstick for the tests, all the points mentioned need to be addressed by firms that seek to offer a viable solution to the consumer that will not go bad shortly after purchase.