Beginning in October 2019 and running through the end of the year, Olay will offer its best-selling Olay Regenerist Whip moisturizer with a refill pod that fits right in the jar. From October to December, shoppers will thus have the option of purchasing a recyclable, refillable pod of the moisturizer, as opposed to its usual plastic jar. If this is successful and appealing enough to the consumer, that would save “over 1,000,000 lbs of plastic”, stated the brand in a release.

Olay Regenerist Whip Face Moisturiser with refill pod (rendering only, not...

Olay Regenerist Whip Face Moisturiser with refill pod (rendering only, not final packaging - photo: © Courtesy of Olay)

In practical terms, during the trial time period, consumers will be able to purchase the refillable Olay Regenerist Whip package that contains one full jar of Olay Regenerist Whip and one refill pod of moisturizer that can be placed inside the jar once it’s emptied. The package will be sold and shipped in a container made of 100% recycled paper and will not contain an outer carton in order to reduce the use of paperboard. The pods themselves are made of polypropylene and are also recyclable, depending on local recycling guidelines.

Global move

Plastic waste has become a major area of investment and concern for beauty brands over the past few years, with multiple companies testing out more sustainable packaging options and initiatives. Earlier this year, Procter & Gamble-owned hair care brand Herbal Essences joined forces with waste management giant TerraCycle to launch a series of bottles comprising 25% beach plastic, while Kiehl’s Since 1851 unveiled a limited-edition version of its signature ‘Rare Earth’ mask in April alongside John Legend, presented in new, lower-plastic packaging. REN Clean Skincare has pledged to become completely "zero waste" by the year 2021, and personal care conglomerate Unilever recently unveiled a three-part plan to target plastic use in the US, including a pledge for 50% of its plastic packaging to be made from post-consumer recycled (PCR) content by the end of 2019.

As demand for environmentally friendly products is increasingly growing, refillable solutions, which have already been tested for a long time by some luxury fragrance brands,
are gradually conquering the skincare category. Ranges like Absolue by Lancôme and Or Rouge by Yves St Laurent recently opted for such solutions, confirming the alliance between luxury and the concept of product refillability.

Suppliers are particularly aware of the trend and are developing different standard or tailor-made packaging options. “A refill is not necessarily viewed as low-end. There are a lot of beautiful things to be done. Consumers should be able to find luxury in this refill, even if it is only seen once,” explains Raul Cervantes, Personal Care Market Manager of Albéa. For Absolue by Lancôme, a refillable product developed in collaboration with Heinz-Glas, for the main jar, the bottom of the cup designed by Albéa is embossed with the Lancôme Rose to relay the brand’s codes in the tiniest details.

Most recently, the trend also hit the makeup segment with French colour cosmetics brand La Bouche Rouge Paris pioneering the move with a reusable and refillable luxury lipstick packaging, or with Lush’s brand-new rechargeable and recyclable plastic-free lipstick.

Beauty brands may find it beneficial to act proactively rather than letting consumers taking the initiative - with potential backlash for brands perceived as not going fast and far enough. The beauty industry is one of the most visible (it gathers one third of all interactions on social media), it comprises some of the best known and most powerful brands in the world, who might lead the way towards more virtuous and durable consumption models,” said beauty packaging expert Gerald Martines. “What is at stake is largely proportionate to the magnitude of the challenges: it is no less than inventing tomorrow’s really durable beauty, while generating engagement and new levels of brand loyalty,” he concluded.