Jar Packaging Harmful?
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Jar Packaging Harmful?

Women like the decadent feel of scooping up pricey wrinkle creams with their fingers, but we may want to re-evaluate our favorite beauty packaging.

Jars, the more opulent the better, have long been a favorite of cosmetic marketers. But when a skin product is packaged in a jar, that means the beneficial ingredients it contains won't remain stable once it is opened. All plant extracts, vitamins, antioxidants, and other state-of-the-art ingredients break down in the presence of air and UV light, so once a jar is opened and lets the air in, these important ingredients begin to deteriorate. Jars also are unsanitary because you’re dipping your fingers into them with each use, adding bacteria, which further deteriorate the beneficial ingredients.

The Most Beneficial Ingredients Are the Least Stable! 

The ingredients most beneficial for your skin are not stable, which means they won't be effective if exposed to light and air, which is exactly what happens when you take the lid off a jar. No matter how great the formula, it all begins to break down when you first open it! There is also the issue of hygiene; dipping your fingers into a jar transfers bacteria from your hands into the product, and that causes the important ingredients to further deteriorate.

Great Ingredients Protect, But They Need Protection, Too!

One of the critical factors in any anti-aging or skin-healing formula is the amount and variety of antioxidants, cell-communicating, and skin-repairing ingredients, and the more the better. These function in a variety of ways to reduce the effects of the constant environmental stresses your skin experiences. Sun exposure, pollution, and cigarette smoke bombard our skin with destructive free radicals, depleting the skin's ability to heal, causing collagen breakdown, and producing abnormal skin cells. This is one of the major reasons why skin ages and wrinkles, and why dark spots begin to appear!

Antioxidants, cell-communicating, and skin-repairing ingredients not only can help prevent free-radical damage but also help repair that damage. Surprisingly, all of these ingredients are just as vulnerable to sun exposure, pollution, and cigarette smoke as your skin. Once you open that jar you bought, you immediately compromise the stability of the anti-aging superstars it contains. (You can just visualize their benefits disappearing like puffs of air each time you open up that lid!)

Minimizing Air Maximizes Your Skin-Care Benefits

With most skin-care formulas, all that is necessary to protect the beneficial ingredients is a container that minimizes air exposure and keeps light, and your fingers, out of the product. A pump or airless jar (meaning you can't take the lid off) design or an opaque tube with a very small opening is enough to keep these important ingredients protected during the product's lifespan, and allow your skin to reap the rewards.

Remember, no matter how great a product's formula, jar packaging, and to a lesser extent clear packaging (i.e., let's light in), is always a deal breaker. Given the number and variety of products available today that come in air-reducing or airless packaging, why waste your money on products whose most beneficial ingredients will soon be gone after first use?

Will encapsulating antioxidants keep them protected from air? Well, no. Encapsulating ingredients like antioxidants or cell-communicating agents isn't about "protecting them" so much as keeping them stable in a formula (so the last use is as effective as the first) and increasing their effectiveness on skin. Note that "stabilizing" an ingredient is not the same as protecting it from the environment, so let's look at that claim a little closer.

The notion that encapsulating an antioxidant somehow keeps it from breaking down with air exposure is actually counter to their primary function in skin-care products. Antioxidants protect your skin from free-radical damage (destroying themselves in the process), and oxygen is a free radical. Thus, keeping antioxidants from extinguishing themselves with air exposure is essentially reducing their benefit to skin as they are no longer able to protect you as efficiently from one of the most abundant free radicals, oxygen! Don't fall for the "encapsulated antioxidants are fine in a jar" excuse!

The information discussed above, about the instability of the ingredients that are so good for your skin, is widely available, and cosmetics companies throughout the world are aware of it. But, despite this widespread knowledge, one question remains: Why do companies still use jars?

Why Do Companies Still Use Jars?

The issue of jar packaging and its effect on beneficial ingredients is truly common knowledge in the skin-care industry. For example, this information is presented clearly in the Guidelines on Stability of Cosmetic Products, published by the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA), the major cosmetics industry organization in the United States. It also is presented in publications by COLIPA, the governing association for cosmetics in Europe. Both state:

"Packaging can directly affect finished product stability because of interactions which can occur between the product, the package, and the external environment. Such interactions may include … barrier properties of the container [and] its effectiveness in protecting the contents from the adverse effects of atmospheric oxygen.…"

After looking at all the research and the facts, we're not exactly sure why cosmetics companies continue to use jar packaging. All we can think is that they either are ignorant of the facts (which makes you wonder what else they don't know) or they ignore the facts, to the detriment of your skin.

There also is the reality that women love jar packaging, and given that cosmetics companies love to sell products, it's a smart marketing thing for them to do—it just doesn't make for smart skin care.

We've heard all manner of excuses from cosmetics companies justifying their use of jar packaging, ranging from "we use a patented form of these ingredients to prevent degradation when exposed to air," or "we use preservatives that keep the ingredients stable." Neither of these explanations is viable. Patents are not scientific documents proving anything; they merely mean that you have the right to use it. In this case, even the best systems are not iron clad, the ingredients in lotions, creams, gels, and serums will still break down once you open the jar. The other issue is preservatives; they do prevent bacteria and microbes from multiplying out of control and reaching harmful levels in your skin-care products, but they cannot prevent the negative effects of light and air on those beneficial ingredients in the formula.

What Can You Do Now?

The best thing for you to do is avoid buying products that come in jars, especially if they contain beneficial, but unstable, ingredients. Because there are so many companies whose packaging excels at keeping the formulas they contain stable, spend your beauty dollars on those products. If enough of us do that, perhaps that will send a message to the companies that still use problematic packaging, and your skin will receive the greatest possible benefits.

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