If you could apply a skin care cream that 50 people had stuck their finger in, or a fresh one, which would you pick? That’s essentially the question you’re asking yourself when considering a jar versus a tube. Granted, all 50 people in this metaphor are you, but you get the general idea. With each application, you transfer bacteria from your finger into the bacterial breeding ground that is your moisturizer. According to dermatologist Dr. Jeannine Downie, M.D., “You can find staphylococcus, you can find micrococcus…and if you’re very unlucky…E. coli, which is obviously from fecal matter.” (source)
Jars are the worst offenders of the available skin care containers, because they are opened and closed frequently, exposing the entire surface of the product to airborne contaminants. Add in the fact that light and air also hit the top surface of your cream every time you open the jar, breaking down unstable antioxidants, and you’ve got me seriously wondering why any moisturizer comes in a jar.
Tubes still expose your skin care cream to air, breaking down its potency.
Antioxidants such as retinol and vitamin C break down quickly upon exposure to light and air. The problem is that seemingly air-tight tubes will draw in air during the push-out and suck-back between the inside and outside of the package. The only alternative? Airless pump bottles, which pumps up from the bottom by a plunger, so no air is trapped inside a product.
Clear bottles offer little protection for antioxidants.
Back when I was younger and had more time on my hands, I used to go to ULTA and Sephora and marvel at how many of their vitamin C creams had partially oxidized and turned yellow or brown in their packages. It was amazing to me – how much, if any, more could it cost to package a product in an opaque container? At any rate, given that many antioxidants break down upon direct light exposure, it is best to wrap your clear containers in aluminum foil.
Look for “metered dispensers”
Metered dispensers are a type of airtight pump that pump out the same amount every time the plunger is pushed. This feature avoids the waste that is produced when too much product is dispensed from a jar or tube and can make a small pump dispenser last longer than a bigger jar or tube.
Many products break down after one month of opening.
It’s always tempting in our hyperconsumer culture to buy in bulk. I myself could save a few hundred dollars each year if I were to buy the bulk size of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic instead of the regular, but I refuse to do it. Why? Again, antioxidant stability: Every time I open the bottle, I am losing a small amount of product potency.
As a general rule of thumb, products containing retinoids break down within a month of opening. I tend to apply this rule to all of my antioxidant-containing products, not just retinoids.