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The Lure (and Allure) of Pretty Packaging

January 1 | 4 minute read

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Words by Jane McFarland

Originally published on | June 24

Time for a beauty confessional: I’ve been hoarding a stash of products for the past 12 months, simply because they look chic.

I don’t know what they’re used for, I have no clue regarding their efficacy and quite frankly, some are probably past their sell-by date. And yet, when my house renovation is finally complete, those beautiful jars, bottles and candles will be displayed on highly curated #shelfies, in the bathroom and beyond. If the equivalent is shopping at ACNE Studios exclusively for the cult pink carrier bag or buying pastries at Pasticceria Marchesi for the iconic pastel-and-gold-leaf packaging (IYKYK), then I’m guilty on all fronts.

I’m not the only sucker for good packaging. Ever scrolled past one of the 6 million #unboxing posts on Instagram, only to be seduced by the jars, tubes, pouches and bottles featured?

Even if only half of them are of beauty products, that’s at least 3 million pieces of content fixated on everything but the formula of the skincare, haircare or makeup product at hand. Irresistible packaging is nothing new: see Tiffany & Co.’s iconic blue boxes or Hermès’ signature orange wrapping.

And as the bathroom #shelfie gains traction – and our beauty consumption reaches an all-time high – we no longer want to hide away the brands we use in our cabinets. Instead, beauty products have become the main character in our interiors, handbags and social media profiles.

My friend, beauty editor Phoebe McDowell – whose interior taste remains unrivalled – agrees. “These days beauty brands are an extension of your personality, whether it’s a TikTok-approved emotional support lip balm from Summer Fridays or the understated luxury of Augustinus Bader’s The Rich Cream. Products have always been a part of shelfies and Instagram flat lays, but more than ever, they now say something about the life you live and the person you want to be.”

Her brand of choice? Nécessaire; loved for its sustainable, clean body care, plus its ultra-chic, Scandi-style packaging.

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Founder Randi Christiansen, who cut her teeth at Estée Lauder, approached Nécessaire’s packaging as ‘furniture for your bathroom’. Recruiting graphic design guru Brian Reottinger to develop the brand’s type-based visual identity, and design studio Actual Source to concept the sleek tubes and bottles, the resulting packaging is a quietly luxurious palette of white, sage, olive and black, printed in clear type.

If your Nécessaire-filled bathroom cabinet could telegraph a message? You love The Row, probably work in marketing and own a cream bouclé sofa. .

So, are we buying for aesthetics rather than science? Yes, according to a recent survey in the US; 46 percent of female beauty and personal care buyers admit that a product’s packaging is influential or very influential to their purchase decision – and it’s 50 percent for Millennial and Gen Z buyers. .

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The vessels catching our attention right now? Anyone who has scrolled through Architectural Digest’s celebrity house tours will recognise Augustinus Bader’s Klein Blue packaging at a glimpse. Despite the fact the brand isn’t fronted by a Gen Z influencer and trades on stealth wealth, it’s instantly recognisable thanks to the signature bottle and bronze detailing (and they just so happen to have created incredibly effective formulas, too). Consider it ‘status symbol’ skincare.


Those with a disposition toward the kooky (think Simone Rocha bows, Bode and Wales Bonner x Adidas), will love Officine Universelle Buly’s mystical illustrations; the perfumed soaps, rosewater facial toner, and Alabaster stones double up as miniature pieces of antique artwork. (I’ve been saving one of its fantastical hand soaps until my bathroom renovation is complete.) PSA: the range also makes the perfect gift for that friend who has everything.

As for the newest iteration of the shelfie? It’s all about a chic bath tray – think Sodashi's walnut wood dry brush (very Kelly Wearstler), Susanne Kaufmann’s rosemary-infused glass bath oil bottle and a sage-coloured La Bonne Brosse, which combines a stimulating scalp massage with the most totable hairbrush around.


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And finally, no self-respecting spa fiend would skip the opportunity for mood lighting; see Perfumer H’s moody, jewel-coloured, handblown candle vessels (swoon) and Flamingo Estate’s Roma Heirloom Tomato Candle – as good-looking as it smells. Self-care, but make it very, very chic.

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