Refillable skincare packaging seems like a no-brainer, but the practical challenges are numerous. Shower gels and the like are straightforward, but in serums and face creams, active ingredients must be well protected to avoid contamination, and remain stable and effective. Pump dispensers are used routinely to maintain an airless product environment, but their indivisible mixed materials (a metal spring inside a plastic tube) are precisely what prevents recycling. So I appreciate the efforts of the brands focused on an urgently needed solution.
A fast favourite is Medik8’s terrific Press & Glow (£25 for 200ml), a poly-hydroxy acid skin tonic that deflakes skin after cleansing, without the stinging many fear in acid exfoliants. It has one of those clever pumps you get in nail salons, where a cotton pad (buy reusable ones cheaply online) is pressed on to the lid to be saturated in liquid. Here, you buy the lid only once, then screw it on to your next (recyclable) bottle. The company says this can be done at least five times; unless you plan to reverse over your lid in a lorry, you could probably double its estimate.
Origins’ new Ginzing Into The Glow (£39 for 30ml), is a lovely entry-point brightening serum for younger, oilier skin types. It kills several birds with one stone, offering vitamin C for glow and antioxidant protection, hyaluronic acid for hydration and fruit acids to exfoliate, brighten and address pores. The glass bottle is recyclable, while the plastic pump rolls into the next refill; just peel off the aluminium seal and screw in.
Creams can be trickier, as standard pumps are too thin – imagine trying to coax a McDonald’s milkshake up a skinny straw – but “farm-to-face” sustainable beauty guru Tata Harper has an ingenious solution. Her Water-Lock Moisturizer (£59 for 50ml) – very nice if your skin is combination in places, dehydrated in others – has outer packaging you buy once, the simply snap in a new pod of product (£54) whenever you run out.
My gripe with most of these otherwise wonderful initiatives is that they’re mostly confined to skincare aimed at Gen Z, according to the fallacy that only young people care about the planet. This is true of the refillable system adopted by Rihanna’s Fenty Skin, launched last month. It sounds promising, but at the time of writing, one could sooner get a peek at the pope’s diary.