Another day, another installment of Instead of [BLANK], Try [BLANK]! If you gain one useful habit from my poorly neglected blog, it should be to pH test your products to maintain the health of your acid mantle. If you gain two habits, it should be the pH thing and that jar packaging is LITERALLY THE WORST.
Jar packaging is dumb and ineffective and tantamount to storing your products in a dirty mop bucket.
Jar cosmetics impart a feeling of luxury and dose of glamour to even the most lackluster vanity. The heady blend of opening a beautiful jar and smoothing on the lush, fragranced concoction within can be too much to decline. Beautiful packaging, aromas, and textures carry an intangible value based on the joy the user gets out of using them; that value can sometimes compromise good judgment when it comes to skincare. The fact remains that spending money on products in jars is about as fiscally effective as dousing your cash in lighter fluid and striking a match.
Effectiveness vs. Stability
Antioxidants are your skin’s best friend. They aid in skin-healing, promote cellular turnover, and fight oxidative damage caused by free radicals (i.e. the cellular wear-and-tear that accelerates the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles). Unfortunately, the ingredients most beneficial for your skin (including antioxidants such as retinol, Vitamin C, Vitamin B complex, Vitamin E, and ferulic acid) are also the most susceptible to instability. Such ingredients break down when exposed to air and light and must be packaged with care in order to maintain their shelf life.
Air Exposure, Photodegradation, and Flushing Your Money Down the Toilet
In a jar, the contents are exposed to air and light as soon as you remove the lid. What remains in the jar begins to break down and lose efficacy. Air exposure and photodegradation render useless some costly and otherwise potent ingredients. Even formulas that encapsulate certain ingredients for stability aren’t equipped to protect them from breaking down in an unsuitable environment. If such products were packaged in such a manner as to diminish light and air exposure, it would reduce waste and save money by extending the life of the product (more time on the shelf = more stable product on your face = less spoiled product in the trash) and improve the skin’s condition by maintaining product efficacy. The results are visible in both the mirror and the wallet.
Hygiene: Because Infections Are Totally Gross
Very few consumers use a sanitized or single-use spatula to spoon out product every time they use a jar. After all, if I’m the only person using the jar, then I don’t need to worry about other people contaminating it, right? I can dip my fingers in, take the product I need, and slather it on my face with wild abandon.
In reality, I handle money, touch door knobs, and use touch screen electronics all the time. While I always make an effort to wash my hands before applying product to my face, there is still the possibility of cross-contamination from debris under my nails, in the folds of my knuckles…you get the picture (side note: I firmly believe that everyone should read about the germs lurking under their fingernails, get grossed out and mildly paranoid out about it, buy a nail brush, keep said nail brush next to the sink and use it religiously).
The moral of the story: if you don’t want to slather your face with bacteria and other microbial contaminants, you may want to steer clear of jar-packaged cosmetics.
I would strongly suggest buying products packaged in air-tight tubes or pumps with opaque plastic or tinted glass exteriors. But what happens when you fall in love with a product that is exclusively packaged in jars?
I took a break from NYFW in February to stop by MUJI and pick up some affordable pump bottles, pictured above. They come in three different sizes (one, two, three) and five color options. I also grabbed a small kit with a pipette, a spatula, and a small funnel to help with re-potting some products. The new rectangular bottles impart a clean, minimalist vibe on my bathroom vanity and I could not be happier with my purchase!
Another option for those obsessed with CeraVe (or any other 16 oz cylindrical tub) is to purchase a pump lid. I’ve found three options on Amazon (one, two, three) that work on CeraVe tubs, Cetaphil tubs, and some tubs of conditioner.
Jars are a poorly engineered vehicle for most cosmetic needs and the equivalent of a highway junction truck stop for microbial contaminants. Yet consumers are more likely to buy products in jars for aesthetic reasons, so manufacturers package more products in jars. The feedback loop goes on and on ad infinitum. If consumers educate themselves about the benefits of other modes of packaging, they may vote with their wallets and cut back on purchasing jars; in turn, manufacturers will be forced to provide more effective packaging options. Such industry-wide change may be a pipe dream, but it’s my pipe dream. In the meantime, there are companies like Paula’s Choice that provide education materials about effective packaging and strive to provide packaging options that are best suited to their products.