When it comes to refilling products at retail, fragrance fountains have been around for a number of years, while shampoo, shower gel and even spirits, have been gaining ground in recent months. Skincare refills, however, is still a nascent segment due to constraints around contamination. L’Oréal’s Biotherm has risen to the challenge and is currently trialing an in-store skincare refill system in Spain.
As part of efforts to reduce its environmental impact by rethinking the life cycle of its packaging, Biotherm is testing a refill machine for its Life Plankton Elixir anti-aging serum. France-based Possible Future, a ‘positive impact’ innovation studio, is behind Biotherm’s prototype, managing the project from the brief to the test phase with a particular emphasis on the consumer experience.
“To our knowledge, we are one of the first to have created an in-store skincare refill that includes a cleaning process for the bottle,” Possible Future’s project lead and designer Marion Seignan explains to Luxe Packaging Insight. “A project like this is much more complicated than fragrance fountains, as with skincare there are numerous technical and technological challenges linked to formula constraints – active ingredients need to be protected from interactions with external elements.”
So how does the Life Plankton Elixir Blue Fountain work? The bottle (made from 25% recycled glass) passes through several stages, guided by the beauty advisor: it is first rinsed with water, then air-dried, sterilized with a UV lamp and then refilled. The flacon can be engraved with a wave motif each time it is refilled – it has been designed to be refilled between four and seven times, although the test phase will more precisely determine this figure. “We didn’t want to design a big machine that hides all the elements, but instead looked to create a sense of ceremony — a premium ritual — from cleaning to engraving the glass.”
Possible Future worked with French suppliers to create the prototype: glassmaker Bercauverre who devised the container housing the formula for refill, carpenters, metalworkers and electroplating specialists. “We placed great importance on working with noble materials, such as glass, Corian, chrome and brass,” highlights Seignan. While plastic was necessary for certain components, Possible Future worked to keep its use to a minimum.
Biotherm’s Life Plankton Elixir Blue Fountain debuted at Spanish department store El Corte Inglés in Madrid this month. The brand is aiming to roll out skincare refill technology on a wider scale: “refillable bottles will be at the heart of tomorrow’s skincare,” comments Biotherm Global President Giulio Bergamaschi.
Biotherm’s initiative comes on the heels of Shiseido’s Ultimune skincare fountain launched at its Ginza flagship store in 2020.