Why Jar Packaging Is A Waste Of Money

Most skincare products come in a jar packaging. Chances are your favourite moisturizer does too. You probably don’t see anything wrong with this either. Although tubes and bottles are becoming more and more used, a jar is still the type of packaging we mostly associate with skincare products. Haven’t creams always come in a jar, after all?

Yes, but in recent years, skincare research has progressed a lot. We now have lots of beneficial ingredients such as antioxidants , sunscreen actives and retinoids that can help us fight the signs of puremature aging and keep wrinkles at bay for longer, and we know that these ingredients should never be packaged in a jar. Here’s why:

Beneficial ingredients oxidize when exposed to light and air

The ingredients that are most beneficial for your skin (sunscreen actives, antioxidants and retinoids) aren’t stable. This means that they break down when exposed to light and air, which happens every time you take the lid off a jar. This degradation begins from the very first time you open the jar, and will continue with every use, until the ingredients will become completely ineffective. And that’s gonna happen before you’ve finished the product. In just a month, your expensive retinoid treatment or anti-aging moisturizer will just become a basic but overpriced moisturizer that will only hydrate skin. What a waste of money!

Jar packaging isn’t hygienic

Even if your moisturizer or lotion doesn’t contain any unstable ingredients, the jar packaging could still be problematic. Picking up the cream with your fingers, in fact, is just not hygienic. Should you have bacteria on your hands, these will transfer into the product, and from there, on your face the next time you use it. In addition, when bacteria start growing in your product, they will cause it to go bad, and you’ll have to throw it away even if there’s still a lot of it left. Now if your moisturizer contains a good preservative system (and is not expired), the risk of any infection is minimal as any bacteria that finds its way inside a jar will be killed. But you may still want to be careful, especially if you’re using organic or preservative-free products.

The Bottom Line

Jars may look pretty, but they won’t protect your products from degradation and bacteria. If you’re gonna buy a skincare product, and especially one with retinoids, antioxidants, or sunscreen actives, make sure it comes packaged in an opaque, air-tight packaging that will prevent all those beneficial ingredients from losing their effectiveness too soon. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money away!

Do you avoid jar packaging?

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    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Ana, I do see your point. I guess with tubes there is the risk that the small amount of product that’s directly below the opening will be exposed to light and slowly oxidize, but the rest of the product will remain intact and good. With jars instead, the entire upper layer will be rendered useless and thus the product will go bad a lot sooner.

  1. says

    I don’t understand why “high end” skin care is still, to this day, sold in jars. Such a waste of money. You would think that big cosmetics companies don’t know about this. I guess it’s easier to make an interesting jar desigh than a tube or pump. Many do buy products partly for the presentation, because they look good on their vanity shelves. I only own one jar packaged moisturizer that contains no actives & use a little spatula to keep it as clean as possible. It’s a Nuxe moisturizer that I just love & use a few times a week. 😀
    Icaria´s last blog post ..The Clarisonic Skin Cleansing System / ReviewMy Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Icaria, I agree with you that skincare products, especially high end ones, shouldn’t be packaged in jars. It’s a waste of money indeed. Unfortunately a lot of women love jars as they are pretty and cute, and aren’t aware of the problems associated with this type of packaging. And I guess cosmetic companies find it more convenient to keep things as they are rather than educate consumers and change the packaging.

      • beautifulwithbrains says

        Cathy, if the bottle/tube is opaque then yes, I believe the antioxidants would last a lot longer.

  2. Janessa says

    I don’t even reach for my H20 Face Oasis moisturizer just because it’s in a jar! I have several day-time face moisturizers and I only sometimes use the jar products when I’ve washed my hands and I’m not rushing anywhere. It’s so unsanitary. Nails harvest dirt and bacteria so easily.
    I agree with Icaria that HE brands should know better than to package so many of their products in jars. But everything is about $$. 😮 Luckily there’s so many options out there so we can all get what we want.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, I agree. Luckily preservatives can kill some of the bacteria that may enter the jars, but it’s always best not to risk it or pick the product up with a spatula instead.

      And that’s so true too. As long as consumers will keep buying moisturizers in jars, HE brands won’t change the packaging. It’s a good thing that are many other options available.

  3. Janessa says

    “Say NO to Jar Packaging!”
    That reminds me of “Say NO to Drugs!” as we have drug-free weeks at school (yeah right… at least they try :P) and that is such a makeup geeky slogan.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, I’m glad you like the slogan. :)

      And let’s hope those drug-free weeks will be helpful for some people at least. Drugs are so bad for you, we should all stay away from them.

        • beautifulwithbrains says

          No point in trying something that will lose its effectiveness soon, right? And that’s good, there are lots of drugstore sunscreens that do a good job so you don’t need to splurge on one. :)

  4. Michelle says

    The high end companies know, but they don’t care. What matters to them is the bottom line. Customers equate glass jars with quality, so the high end companies supply glass jars. It’s just a bonus that the products ‘go off’ quicker, meaning you will just need to buy more sooner.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Michelle, that is so true. It’s a shame that more consumers don’t know about what a poor packaging choice jars are. Some brands won’t change their packaging until they realize it is more convenient financially for them to do so.

  5. Kelley says

    The minute I get my moisturizer home I get a craft stick and a dark PET bottle and transfer my cream into the bottle.It’s irritating that companies still use jar moisturizers but unfortunately some of the best formulas are in a jar.

    • Gio says

      Kelley, what a great idea! And I agree. There’s not much point in creating a good formula if you’re gonna put it in a jar, where it’ll become ineffective within weeks, and yet a lot of companies do it. *sighs*

  6. Emma says


    This is such a useful article I have been wondering about this. Quick question, will ingredients be degraded very much after a one off brief exposure to air? I bought a product that came with an air tight pump but the pump broke so i had to unscrew it to sort it out. It was brand new and more expensive than normal for me so I was wondering how much damage this would do? Hopefully most of the ingredients are ok!

    • Gio says

      Emma, hi, and thank you. I’m glad you’ve found this post informative. Usually, degradation happens slowly. Every time you open the jar, a little bit of the effectiveness of its ingredients disappear. Open it one too many times, and it is all gone.

      If you unscrewed your bottle only once and did a quick job, then it’s unlikely that much damage was done. Probably a bit of the product at the top may have lost some effectiveness, but most of it will still be good.

  7. DLYNN says

    Sorry to burst the bubble here but in my observation pumps are not air free either. To make matters worse, they tend to contribute also to the cost and bulk of the packaging — that is to say, they are environmentally wasteful — while at the same time a certain amount of product as you get toward the end is never dispensed (wasted).

    I recently saw a notice on the bottom of a retail antioxidant serum that said that it was necessary to dispense 6-10 pumps of the product before first use and periodically afterward to remove air bubbles. Not only does that waste a ton of product, but because in this case the packaging was clear I could clearly see that the air bubble was not budging!

    Actually, I don’t think this was a unique situation for a pump, just the manufacturer being more honest than most (and, as mentioned, the pump was clear and the serum was clear so it was possible to “see” to appreciate the fact that air DOES get into products that are packaged this way).

    Next time you have one of your pump-based skin care products, listen closely to what happens after you depress the pump mechanism. You may actually hear a sucking sound as the pump rises back up after you dispense it. As the contents of a pump-based skin care product are dispensed, a gap forms as the bottle empties and that space is filled by AIR! I think the notion of an airless pump is a marketing ploy. Why? Because if air did not replace the volume of the interior as the product quantity diminishes with use, the pump mechanism would be sucked down by a vacuum and become stuck.

    The best solution is probably a “needle nose tube”, not your standard type of tube dispenser but the type that forces the content through a tiny elongated “neck” before exiting a small aperture. Air will still be sucked in, but it will not end up dispersed in the product to the same extent (that is evidenced by the fact that as you empty such a tube, the tube begins to flatten like a toothpaste tube would — the flattening demonstrates that there is no air replacing what had been filled with product).

    Secondly, it would be better if cosmetics and skin care manufacturers took their 1.7 ounce or 2 ounce product and broke it down into a series of .5 ounce opaque jars. Why? Because the jar would be gone (used up) before the ingredients became severely contaminated and/or degraded. Just the same, I hesitate to suggest this workaround because it would give every skin care manufacturer an opportunity to create more product/packaging (waste) and then charge more for the trouble of having that many more “micro jars” to fill in production. Plus, where you formerly had a generous 2 ounce portion the manufacturer might charge the same amount for a fraction of that. That means that unless manufacturers were to package four half ounce jars in one larger package as an alternative to a single 2 ounce tub, consumers would end up paying more for infinitesimal amounts of product.

    Fortunately, I don’t think we have to worry about product contamination when A) a spatula is used — assuming it is a fresh one each time, or B) the product is preserved with parabens (as most still are).

    On a final note: I have seen it stated elsewhere — notably by the “Cosmetics Cop” — that antioxidants are notoriously unstable and yet have found no citations to literature indicating as much. Where are the studies that prove just how unstable various beneficial ingredients are, or how long they CAN be expected to remain viable assuming they are incorporated into a professionally-developed formula packaged in a jar or a tub? Surely not all antioxidants break down at the same rate, so rather than make a blanket assessment it would be nice to see which ones are “ok” in such conditions and which ones are completely degraded in less than a month after opening the product. In other words, links please!

  8. Gio says

    DLYNN, thank you for your comment. You make some valid points. Pumps may not be completely air free but I think they let in a lot less air than jars, so I’d still recommend them.

    I found a few studies proving that some ingredients are unstable and degrade when exposed to light, heat, and air, but they didn’t mention how long that takes. I’ll dig deeper. In the meantime, here are the links:


  9. Tessa says

    I’ve always been of the opinion that dipping ones finger into a jar of cream was about as sanitary as double-dipping in the salsa. Being a germ-a-phobe and prone to eye infections, I’ve long since kept all of my liquid and cream beauty products in a Zip-Loc bag in my refrigerator and subscribed to a “one dip” q-tip rule when it comes to anything in a jar. In addition to protecting them from heat degradation, applying “cold” cream to my face feels really good.

    • Gio says

      Tessa, it’s not very sanitary, I agree. I’m glad you found a solution for that. It’d be great if all creams were packaged in tubes and bottles, wouldn’t it?

  10. JustSurfingBy says

    Question about migrating the product from the jar to another container; how are you all sanitizing the spatula? Yes it’s a serious question, I’m thinking maybe it has an obvious answer and my inquiry may be irritating or perhaps an issue worthy of another article.

  11. says

    I have to agree with DLynn. Tubes and some pumps let in a lot of air after pushing product out. Especially when are you are near the end of the product trying to force out every last precious drop.

    So in a way, doesn’t a jar make more sense if you are using a spatula and just scraping off the top portion of the product. Rather than kneeding a tube over and over and mixing up the product with air?

    Elizabeth Arden Ceramide one-use capsules make sense, but they’re expensive.

    Certainly smaller containers make sense so the product gets used quicker, however, that increases the price of already ridiculously overpriced cosmetics. Sorry to say but we women are suckers when it comes to dishing out money to the beauty industry.

    Paula Begoun, the Cosmetics Cop, rates a lot of products as “poor” simply because they come in jars. Her tubes are some of the worst. You really have to squeeze to get product out of those hard plastic tubes and then of course, air comes back in, only to get mixed up with the product as you squeeze and squeeze over and over again.

    So what’s a woman to do to get fresh product?

    On another note, I’m looking for a decently priced, anti-aging moisturizer for dry skin. Any recommendations.

  12. Laura says

    My dermatologist just recommended a moisturizer, and specifically wrote (jar) on my cheat sheet so I would know which one to get. I have thought for a while jars were bad, so I found this page while double checking. She’s always up on the latest research.

    Well, I’m certainly not getting my retinol in a cream. I have a prescription pump for that. And the kind she recommended doesn’t have antioxidants (I have serums for that anyway). Since my moisurizer is always applied in a multistep process starting with washing my face, my hands should always be clean.

    So I’m wondering how exactly the jar is a bad idea in this case? I think perhaps “waste of money” is an exaggeration. It seems to me it’s often a bad choice, and you have to be careful, but that’s not the same thing. Some of us do use basic moisturizers, with clean hands. I think I’ll trust my doctor on this.

    • Gio says

      Laura, thank you for your comment. I agree that a basic moisturizer can be packaged in a jar. If your hands are clean then there shouldn’t be any problem. But, with so many moisturizers with antioxidants on the market, I personally don’t see the point in using a very basic one, unless you have very dry skin. So I guess for me, personally, basic moisturizers are a waste of money too. But if you like it and it works well for you, then the jar packaging shouldn’t be an issue.


  1. […] What I don’t like about this product is the packaging. Yes it’s cute (Korean products are very cute, indeed) but jar containers are unhygienic. There are also ingredients in our skincare products that break down when exposed immediately to air and light. When we open the jar, immediately some active ingredients oxidizes. [1] […]

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