10 pet peeves consumers hate about beauty packaging

March 14, 2016

7 Min Read
10 pet peeves consumers hate about beauty packaging
Does your personal care package help the consumer get all the product out?

Denise Herich

Constructive criticism: No one really enjoys hearing it, yet from time to time, it seems everyone can benefit from a bit of gentle critique—including beauty brands. And one place where this sort-of critique can be most beneficial is with your packaging. 

To help you ensure your packaging is fully optimized and meeting the needs and wishes of your beauty consumer, we asked a group of women to tell us their biggest pet peeves with beauty packaging and why. From the joys of pumps which get every last bit of product out to the frustrations of hard-to-read unit cartons to just plain annoying bottle, jar or tube sizes—she is speaking her mind, and what she has to say is invaluable to your brand.

Pet Peeve #1: Not being able to get every last drop of product out of the bottle, jar or tube.

As tempting as it may be to opt for that fancy tube that looks beautiful, if it’s not also functional—and if she can’t empty it of nearly all the serum, moisturizer or cream it contains—she is going to be very frustrated.  Seventy percent of beauty consumers admit that packaging that causes them to toss away product is one of the most frustrating aspects of beauty packaging, and we can understand why. Beautiful jars or tubes may be what caught her eye, but what keeps your consumers coming back for more are the benefits and results it delivers to her skin. Make sure your packaging can deliver her the very last drop, and you will be top of mind when she nears replenishment.

Pet Peeve #2: Pumps or openings that allow product to ooze or spill out during usage, which then forms a hardened plug or crust. 

More than 51% of beauty consumers told us this is one of the most frustrating aspects of beauty primary packaging, and with good reason.  Similar to the frustration of not being able to get every last drop of product out, losing valuable face cream or serum due to oozing or seepage not only becomes a mess to deal with or keep clean, it also represents a reduction in the amount of times your consumer can use the product as it was intended…and a reduction in her chances of seeing a great result. It may be only a slim amount of product that is actually being wasted, but to her—it represents a major frustration. 

Pet Peeve #3: Your bottle, pump or tube is difficult to use. 

During product development, the entire team may have fallen in love with what you think is the most gorgeous, innovative, fantastic primary packaging ever to grace the beauty shelves—but make sure to test this out with real women. If the pumps are difficult to push, or the jar too big for the average woman to hold in one hand, or the tube a type of plastic that isn’t easy to squeeze, you risk frustrating your consumer.  Hard to push, pump, squeeze or manipulate components ranked as among the most frustrating aspects of packaging for 55% of women, and it’s a frustration that she isn’t likely to forget, which could sway her purchasing decisions later on or when it comes time to replenish.

Pet Peeve #4:  Not including usage instructions or directions on your primary components.

It may seem obvious—and like the kind of requirement no beauty brand would ever overlook—but beauty consumers nevertheless report not including directions on primary packaging as one of their pet peeves. Women are busy today, and many don’t have extra minutes to spare on themselves, let alone on fretting over how to use their favorite new beauty product because they tossed the box away without reading the directions. From the most complicated facial peel product to the most basic moisturizing cream, she wants some guidance from you at every touchpoint, and making room for brief instructions on your bottle, jar or tube is a must.

Pet Peeve #5: Not being able to tell when you are about to run out of product.

In this age of high-tech plastics that are available in nearly any hue imaginable, the problem of product obscurity due to opaque packaging is nevertheless a hot button for consumers. Whether this obscurity is caused by solid colored plastic or glass, which cloaks the contents, or by labels that conceal product levels, being unable to easily and quickly determine how much product is left in a bottle, jar or tube is frustrating—and consumers don’t like it.  

If opaque packaging is your preference, consider creating an indicator or measurement on the packaging, which would help consumers understand how much product they have left, and eradicate their irritation at unexpectedly running out of their favorite cream.

Pet Peeve #6: Flimsy components.

Perhaps a surprise, another packaging pet peeve our survey revealed is flimsy components. Whether it is caps that are not durable and break easily, or are too flimsy to work properly, primary packaging that isn’t sturdy is a potential issue. Given the potential number of ways a consumer could (and likely will) interact with your product—pulled twice a day, every day, from a drawer or medicine cabinet; tossed into a gym bag; stuffed into a suitcase for a trip—coming up with an option that meets both your aesthetic wishes as well as her practical needs is a good way of staving off her frustration. 

Pet Peeve #7: Components that are not user friendly.

Although this may sound obvious, beauty consumers don’t want to have to struggle to get their new products open. Caps that are too tight or that require a struggle to loosen can be a source of major annoyance for consumers, and more than half of all women queried indicated that difficult-to-open caps are one of the most frustrating aspects of beauty packaging.  This peeve goes hand in hand with not being able to get nearly every drop of product out of the bottle, jar or tube because it makes consumers struggle with something that is supposed to be easy and—basically—effortless.  Making her work hard to use your product is a good way to make her seek out other options.

Pet Peeve #8: Text that is difficult to read on either primary or secondary packaging. 

When asked to rate the most important aspects of either unit cartons or primary components, nearly half of all consumers told us that ease of reading the name (or other information) on packaging as most important, which makes sense.  From a functional standpoint, consumers should love using your product because the packaging is easy to understand and use. If she has to struggle to read your brand or product name, she is likely to feel frustrated. When considering designs, ask yourself—can I read the name of my product from across a room? Will a consumer be able to?  If the answer is a lukewarm maybe, consider a redesign of your font. An alternate might be in order because, otherwise, you run the risk of her ire and failure to understand your brand.  

Pet Peeve #9: Your packaging isn’t air-tight, or gets dirty easily.

Although not as aggravating as other aspects—and, to some extent, not aspects beauty brands can completely control—consumers still reported feeling mildly frustrated with packaging that isn’t air-tight or that gets dirty easily. More than 22% of beauty consumers noted they are perplexed with these kinds of aesthetic issues, and these are frustrations that are worth a brand’s notice. And, a fact for brands to keep in mind—particularly when considering packaging sources for skincare or personal care products, which could tend to look dirtier than color cosmetic products or fragrance. 

Pet Peeve #10: Your primary packaging is not recyclable.

Finally, what is the least frustrating aspect about primary packaging to consumers? Believe it or not: the greenness of your components. Only 13% of women indicated that it was “most frustrating” when a brand’s bottles, jars and tubes could not be recycled. And less than a third were indifferent one way or the other. Perhaps because beauty consumers don’t relate their bottles of cream or tubes of cleanser with recycling, or perhaps because recycling programs in their areas are limited—whatever the reason, it turns out having packaging that is not recyclable may not be all that concerning to your consumers.


Denise Herich is a co-founder and managing partner at The Benchmarking Co., a bi-coastal consumer beauty and personal care product testing company and research firm. The Benchmarking Co. provides marketing and strategy professionals in the beauty and personal care industries with forward-thinking, need-to-know information about its customers and prospects through consumer research studies, focus groups and beauty product testing. 


Learn about the latest developments in personal care packaging at EastPack 2016, June 14-16, in New York City.


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