The rocket science of lipsticks

The application factor


Rockets and lipsticks: Both are slender and graceful to look at; both depend on a precision assembly of moving parts to function effectively and most importantly both trace a beautiful hyperbolic path when they move! To most people this perhaps may sound like a ridiculous comparison; but ask any packaging technologist who has worked with lipsticks and most would term it as no less than rocket science (with due apologies to the rocket scientists).

Consider the following summary of an international patent application filed in Oct 2003 for the ‘invention’ of a lipstick device (or mechanism, or pack?): ‘This invention relates to a lipstick mechanism including an internal substantially tubular duct that rotates in an external substantially tubular duct, the ducts having longitudinal slots and helical slots that guide in translation studs of a lipstick-holder cup disposed in the internal tubular duct, the internal duct including a substantially cylindrical base with a restriction relief that bears elastically on a substantially cylindrical surface connected to the external duct, such that the surface connected to the external duct is elastically deformable and the restriction relief is formed by a raised area sunk in the surface.’

The same application goes on to justify the rationale behind the ‘invention’ and how it offers more advantages to the product manufacturer as well as the lipstick user.

‘…. a mechanism provided with such a restriction device, in which the relief consists of elastic lugs formed by a ring attached to the base of the duct, or even formed directly on the base of the duct. These lugs or tongues are disposed parallel to the axis of the duct and separate radially outwards to bear on the internal wall of the external duct at its base, or on a wall connected to this duct (possibly the decorative sheath which surrounds the external duct). This mechanism offers restriction which gives complete satisfaction. However, this excellent quality has a manufacturing cost which may be too high for mass production, less demanding in terms of quality.

The ‘lipstick’ building, NY

‘It has been sought to produce restriction tongues directly in the wall of the cylindrical base to reduce manufacturing costs by virtue of a single injection molding operation. The restriction reliefs then consist of shoes or buttons disposed on a wall part, thinned or not, formed in the wall of the cylindrical base and cut (by molding) to form the tongue. That structure is shown, with various forms of tongues, for example, in … (the accompanying patent application drawing).’

To further illustrate the precision and accuracy demanded in delivering a satisfy- ing ‘lipstick experience’ there follows a detailed description of the manufacturing process and the materials to be used.

‘If the wall constituting the surface is covered with a cylindrical rigid envelope, such as the sheath of the mechanism, it is associated externally with a space al- lowing its deformation, this base being able to be formed at least partially by a thinning of the envelope or by a thinning of the wall constituting the surface, the latter possibility being particularly compatible with the requirement to make the wall de- formable. Naturally it is also possible not to have a cylindrical envelope at all at this level, for example, by making provision for producing a shorter sheath.

‘The mechanism is advantageously produced from one or more injected plastics materials. The internal duct can be manufactured from many plastic materials traditionally used for this type of injection, according to the quality and cost price required. Account is also taken of the applications sought: it is known that, according to certain formulations used for the lipsticks and the solvents which are released therefrom, certain materials are advisable over others. For example, certain solvents react with styrene resin such as polystyrene and others cause swelling of the polypropylene which is prejudicial to the maintenance over time of the restriction qualities of the mechanism of the invention, since these qualities relate essentially to relatively precise clearances provided between all the constituent parts. For the external sheath which comprises the deformable surface, it is for example advantageous to use a polyacetal resin (polyoxymethylene POM). This resin is particularly advantageous for its good shape memory and its resistance to cracking. Moreover, the polystyrene-poly- acetal pair or the polypropylene-polyacetal pair offer good quality of friction.

‘For manufacturing the mechanism, provision is advantageously made for all the pieces (independently of the relief art of the duct) to be assembled with minimum clearance providing a very slight overall friction, imperceptible to the user but op- posing the ‘drifting’ of the pieces, the only perceptible but gentle friction being afforded by the relief part of the duct, in accordance with the invention. To ensure this minimum clearance between the pieces, and in particular between the internal duct and the external duct, it is particularly advantageous, apart from the restriction relief, for the internal and external ducts to have contact limited to narrow abutment areas, preferably situated towards their respective ends.’

‘In practice, the internal duct is designed to be perfectly cylindrical, and the external sheath is designed with a very slight conicity, invisible to the eye, but sufficient to facilitate good stripping from the mold. The internal duct comprises at its bottom part a very thin cylindrical surface (around 1/10 th mm) sufficient to ensure the perfect coaxial holding of the external duct in abutment first on the top part of the internal duct and secondly on the surface of the bottom part of the internal duct. This abutment in two distant narrow areas considerably reduces the friction of the external duct on the internal duct. The main part of the friction is due to the cam formed by the restriction relief according to the invention. This relief can itself advantageously be provided with a certain conicity, according to the torque required. This is because this conicity makes it possible to adapt the restriction sur face and therefore the pressure exerted to the required application.’

This lengthy description, it would seem, is the last word on the design and development of a modern lipstick device. Far from it; the words at the end sum up both, the creative challenge and the predicament of the packaging technologist in developing this perennially evolving product – the modern lipstick.

‘Although this invention has been described in connection with specific forms thereof, it will be appreciated that a wide variety of equivalents may be substituted for the specified elements described herein without departing from the spirit and scope of this invention as described in the appended claims.’ — Read My Lips: A Cultur- al History of Lipstick, a book by Meg Cohen Ragas and Karen Kozlowski.

Brand: Oriflame – Very Me, Designkontoret Silver KB, Sweden

Lipstick in some shape or form has fascinated mankind ever since ancient times. Throughout history it has always been a part of the fashion statement – be it so- cially acceptable, or disreputable. Ironically perhaps, the Arabs (otherwise known for their prudish restrictions on women) were the first to invent ‘solid lipstick.’ The reign of Elizabeth I is said to have been the period that set the trend for a ‘white complexion with bloody, red lips.’ In 1770 the Parliament of England passed a law stating that any woman who seduced a man with the help of cosmetics was subject to be judged as a witch. In 1800 Queen Victoria rejected lipstick and make-up as a ‘vulgar tool’ used by women. However, the ‘suffragettes’ in the early twentieth cen- tury declared red lipstick as a symbol of the ‘strong woman’ and actress Sarah Bernhardt hailed it as the greatest discovery ever made.

By the early twenties lipstick eventually found its place in a woman’s purse. Lip- stick started to be sold in metal containers, with various push-up tubes. The first swivel-up tube was patented in 1923, in Nashville, Tennessee. Manufacturers real- ized they could create stylish and seductive packages for a variety of lipsticks and cater to an enormous demand. Hundreds of lipstick tubes were patented in the US throughout the 1920s and 30s, all with the same basic function: the container would swivel, twist or push a ‘bullet’ of lipstick out of a hollow cylinder. Helena Ru- binstein, Hazel Bishop, Elizabeth Arden, and Max Factor were some of the iconic brands that soon spread the glamour of the modern lipstick across the world. Au- tomated manufacturing processes developed after WWII helped to lower produc- tion costs and made lipsticks more and more affordable.

The perennial glamour of famous Hollywood personalities like Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe and many more, through the decades, have helped to contin- uously drive advances in the technology, the design and the communications around lipsticks.

Lipstick blends have produced a vocabulary of their own: Matte lipsticks are heavy in wax and pigment but lighter in emollients. They have more texture than shine. Cremes are a balance of shine and texture. Glosses have a high shine and low color. Sheers and stains contain a lot of oil and a medium amount of wax with a tad of colour. Shimmers have extra glimmer, which comes from mica or silica particles. Long-lasting colour lipsticks contain silicone oil, which seals the colour to your lips. Lip gloss usually comes in jars and contains different proportions of the same ingre- dients as lipstick but usually has less wax and more oil to make the lips shinier. The history of lipstick advertising shows ever escalating adjectives and promises, even up to the present moment. The history of lipstick is still being written.

Romancing the Lipstick Index

Lipsticks, it is often said, are what women will reach out to when all else is gloom around them. When it was noticed that lipstick sales rose in the US after the Sep- tember 11 attacks in 2001, the Chairman of Este Lauder, Leonard Lauder suggest- ed to shareholders that a Lipstick Index would be a good economic gauge. The idea was that people will spend more on cosmetics and less on big ticket items in times of financial distress. Today, as the big economies of the world come out of reces- sion, the truth of this simple idea stands out. Este Lauder sells across the world in 135 countries and 54% of its sales are said to come from outside the US. In the words of Nandini Raghvendra, writing for the Economic Times, “young Indian women are ready for their piece of luxury, even if it begins with just a lipstick.”

The interesting thing, however is that in India the biggest selling lipstick brand is not Lakme or Revlon. Local brands, such as ‘Raja’ dominate the unorganized mar- ket. Apparently 11% rural women use lipsticks compared to 22% in the cities. Con- sidering the Rural to Urban Ratio of 3:1, numerically this suggests that more rural women use lipsticks than urban women. It is also suggested that rural women tend to apply more layers on their lips — the application factor — thereby amounting to higher quantity of usage in rural markets.

The world has recognized that India’s vast markets are awakening. Bringing the tech- nology, the art, the service and the communication of a well made lipstick to the mouths of a 1 billion plus market is the ‘final frontier’ of many brand marketing missions.

Recent Lipstick Headlines —

The future of lipstick packaging unveiled

‘Reveal’ is a new lipstick pack introduced by RPC Beaute. Instead of the tradi- tional method of propelling the lipstick bulk upwards, the new design ‘reveals’ it by means of a retracting sheath. This method is designed to maximise stability, with both the consumer and for filling line operation — providing added value at both ends of the supply chain.

An additional benefit is that, unlike most lipstick packaging, the ‘revealer’ com- ponents have no spiral form, allowing the moulding to have a smooth external sur- face finish that suits a range of decorative processes to enhance branding and per- sonalise the product.

Added branding opportunities come in the form of the full peripheral printing of the revealer using plain, holographic, and coloured foils; lacquer coating to add a metallic finish; colour-matching to other components or contents; or a complete- ly transparent pack enabling full visibility of the formulation colour.

Cost savings are further enhanced by the fact that its decorative flexibility has re- placed the need for the industry standard anodised aluminium shell, thus stream- lining the supply chain for full in-house manufacture and low minimum orders.

Lipsticks manufactured using laser technology

Rexam used high precision, fully automated laser technology to create exciting new packaging for a unique formulation of anti-ageing lipstick. A specially de- signed cap with transparent window was achieved by means of laser technology in order to allow the dual bullet, with anti-ageing core, to be viewed without opening the lipstick. Not only did this create an exciting, bold new product with startling on- shelf appeal, but it also helped to achieve better production and reduce costs.

A better face on the earth’s environment with new lipstick package

All cosmetic companies are trying to help make their customers look and feel good by using their beauty products. What separates Aveda from the others, aside from the quality of its products, is that the company tries hard to make the earth look and feel good as well.

Not long ago when Aveda began to develop the design for its Uruku Lipstick line, the company decided to create a permanent accessory case that would allow the user to purchase a new cartridge and simply drop it into the accessory case. It would essentially be a refillable lipstick that would help Aveda reduce the amount of material in its lipstick packaging; the only piece that would need to be replaced is the actual lipstick cartridge.

Eco-friendly lipstick will save the world

Innovative packaging from Cargo Cosmetics for its PlantLove line of lipstick ac- tually turns into wildflowers when water is applied to it. The outer packaging for the lipstick is made of a seed infused recycled paper embedded with real flower seeds. Customers simply moisten, plant and wait for a bouquet of wild flowers to grow.

The lipstick containers themselves are made from NatureWorks PLA a corn- based plastic. NatureWorks is owned by agricultural giant Cargill. Cargo is the first lipstick manufacturer to use PLA for its lipstick cases.

Cargo’s president Hana Zalzal worked for several years on developing the product and its packaging. The cases are injection molded NatureWorks PLA and according to Zalzal ended up costing the same as a traditional petroleum-based lipstick case.

Unique magnetic and click lipsticks

A unique joining and seperation mechanism sets apart the new Magnetic lipsticks from traditional lipsticks. The Magnetic lipsticks use magnets as the joining mechanism for the base and the outer-cap and allow for smooth joining and separation. Unlike traditional lipsticks, this mechanism gives a sense of crispness and ease of use. It’s available in a plastic, barrel shape or in metal,cylinder shape.

The Click lipsticks have a click mechanism at the bottom. The mechanism goes in and out of the outer-cap with a light click at the bottom. This unique joining and separation mechanism sets it apart from traditional lipsticks. This special design, has been awarded patents by the German and US patent offices. The Click mech- anism is available either as a square base and square outer cap or a round base and square outer cap or a round base and a water-drop outer cap. Plastic, metalized or metal finishes are available.

Lipsticks inspire new gadgets

Several designers worldwide have thought about using the classic lipstick look to create different tech gadgets. One of the reasons of the idea is to hide the real in- tent of the device or just make it look more feminine and attract the ladies.

Deepak Manchanda is Consultant, Packaging Design & Technology. He has over 30 years experience in the packaging industry, from the Central Design Services of Metal Box to Packaging Development in Ranbaxy, Dabur and Oriflame India. Currently, with Autumn Design Consultants, he offers packaging design solutions to a wide range of clients in varied industry sectors. (This article was first published in Packaging South Asia in 2010).

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Deepak Manchanda
An engineering graduate from BITS, Pilani and a Post-Graduate Diploma from Milan, Italy in Human Factors Engineering. Over 40 years of work experience in branding, packaging design & development. Worked as Head of Packaging at Oriflame – Silver Oak; Dabur India and Ranbaxy Laboratories. Currently - an Associate with The Packaging Consortium – a packaging development consultancy. Worked closely with Jindal Polymer Films for Application Development of Specialty Films for flexible packaging. Now a packaging consultant for some reputed companies. He is also an Associate Director with Firstouch Solutions – a design company providing services in Brand Comm, Packaging, Exhibitions and Branded Retail Environments. He is closely associated with the Indian Institute of Packaging as a Member of the Northern Regional Committee. He is also active as a contributor to Packaging South Asia magazine and other journals and at forums and conferences. Has been writing articles on packaging design and marketing for Packaging South Asia since 2007.


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