Beware of flawed packaging that pilfers your product

2012-06-04T07:08:27+00:00Saving, Shopping|

Pucker up your lips and kiss that lip gloss goodbye. That’s precisely what I thought after reaching for my CoverGirl NatureLuxe Gloss Balm to moisten my mouth.

The hell?


After fully extending my lip balm, the costly stuff was still trapped deep inside the packaging! Go ahead and compare the ‘used tube’ to a brand new model — It’s like I’m being mocked since I can see my wasted wares staring back at me.

product waste

Dear CoverGirl: How can I become easy, breezy, beautiful if your lip smacker packaging isn’t easy (or breezy) to bust into? How the frick am I supposed to use this stuff? It’s trapped!

Anyhoo, slightly amused but mostly ticked (hey, I have a bad case of chapped lips), I decided to get scientific with my new-found obsession: Product waste due to problematic packaging.

In true retentive Squawkfox fashion (minus a painted pout) I measured, weighed, and calculated the cost of trapped lip gloss thanks to the bonehead package designers (who are probably all men) at CoverGirl headquarters.

The Promise: CoverGirl’s NatureLuxe Gloss Balm promises consumers 1.9g of product at a $7.81 price tag, including tax.

Enter the ‘Scales of Justice’, which are borrowed from my German father-in-law — a retired gold-weighing dentist.


Yes people, I really weighed my wasted lip balm.

The Truth: Consumers should bank on using only 1.4g, or 74%, of CoverGirl lippy since 0.5g remains stuck deep inside the tube.

There’s a ‘lipstick on a pig’ joke in there somewhere.

packaging waste

Bottom Line: My lips are not sealed. Spend $7.81 on CoverGirl lip balm and kiss goodbye to $2.03 since 26% of the promised product is impossible to use. Yes, I’m gob smacked that my lips benefit from only 74% of what I paid for.

Frugalists unite, I have stealth ways of recovering my smacker.

covergirl lipstick

CoverGirl should only sell their cosmetics with the mandatory tools required to free the stuff — a Swiss Army pocket knife, a lip brush, and a few Q-tips for good measure.

Smart Consumer Spending
Beware of shrinking products with increasing price tags

Become a smarter consumer! Use these tactics to combat micronized products and save yourself a lot of money.

The Case of Problematic Packaging

I’m not alone when it comes to annoyance with product waste. After skulking around the interwebs, I found that Consumer Reports did a series of pumping, pouring, and squeezing tests on 22 various packaged products to determine levels of wastefulness. It turns out skin lotion, liquid detergent, and toothpaste are among the most wasteful product packages on the market.

Consumer Reports results:

  • Pump Lotions: 22% wasted
  • Push Button Liquid Detergents: 15% wasted
  • Plastic Squeeze Tube Toothpaste: 10% wasted

Source: Consumer Reports Quantifies Waste Due To Stupid Packaging [The Consumerist]

Glass cleaner sprayers proved to be the least wasteful, with nearly all of the product being spritzed without challenge.

What can you do about flawed packaging?

Lick your lips and don’t be afraid to say something to big brands and corporations who sell wares in over-stuffed and poorly designed containers that lead to product waste. Letting companies know you want access to 100% of your product doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for.

Choosing to spend your hard-earned cash on products that are useable is not a bad idea either.

Question for you guys: Which products are the worst offenders when it comes to waste? What do you do about it?


  1. Lili@creativesavv June 4, 2012 at 8:03 am

    With lip stick, when I’ve gotten as far as the tube will extend, I then use a knife and toothpick to dig the rest out and put in a small microwaveable dish. I add some Vaseline and the scrapings out of a plain lipbalm tube. I microwave until all is melted and stir together. I use this as lip gloss to dab on.

    With stick deodorant, I do something simliar, I dig out the remains, and put into a bowl and swab on with a square of cotton fabric.

    With pump dispensers where the pump tube does not reach the bottom, I cut a drinking straw just a little longer than the pump tube and slide over the pump tube, just long enough to reach the bottom of container.

  2. Drew June 4, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Bottles and jars with viscous foods (like mustard, mayo, ketchup, etc) often have narrow necks, so you can’t insert a spatula to remove what remains after gravity and violent shaking don’t work any more.

  3. Lili@creativesavv June 4, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Hi Drew,
    You’re right, those bottles are a pain. What I do is rinse them out. For mustard and ketchup, I rinse with water and use the rinsings as liquid in baked beans. For mayo bottles, I rinse with vinegar to use in making salad dressings.

  4. Bill June 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm


    I use a “Drip-It” gizmo. You can see it here

    It works like a charm. I picked it up years ago at a grocery store. Can’t comment on the vendor for the link. If you search for Drip-It you can find other vendors.



  5. Sue June 4, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    If the pump lotion is not pumping any more, the top comes off and the bottle is turned upside down into a shallow dish where the contents can be accessed. When that is all gone, the sadistic side comes out and the bottle gets slashed from neck to stern and the contents scraped out with a finger.
    As for lipstick, apparently they have lipstick “molds”. However, I have just been wrapping the tube in clear cello (so it does not snap and crackle in the nukr) and nuke it upside down so it drips into one of the $ store (small) containers, mixed with olive oil and more lipstick.
    Believe me the packing companys sure get growled at about all this.
    And toilet paper, dont even want to get into THAT one! I used to be a Purex buyer….

  6. Ann June 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    When my moisturizer (in a pump bottle) stops dispensing, I put a bit of water in the container and shake it – it thins it out enough to keep pumping for a few more weeks. Really, weeks! The moisturizer is a bit runnier, but I figure adding a little…moisture…to moisturizer won’t hurt.

    Also – for liquid soap – you need so little at a time to create suds, and the rest of the liquid globs go down the drain. So when I fill my liquid soap dispenser, I fill it only about half way and fill up the rest with water – which is what you’ll be adding when you wash your hands anyway. Really extends the soap you use.

  7. Candace June 4, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    I use LOTS of hand sanitizer in my computer lab, and I have yet to find a container that allows you to pump all the product. But I do the gravity thing, and get almost all the sanitizer drained into another bottle.

  8. Charlie June 5, 2012 at 1:31 am

    Solid deodorants are a problem too. While not as expensive as lip gloss, the amount consumed is much greater. Anyone have a better solution other than digging it out with one’s fingernail?

  9. Olivia June 5, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Stick deodorant. Save up a couple containers when you can’t rub off any more. Scape it into a dish and microwave it for a few seconds. While it’s still soft scrape it into an open deodorant container. Save the little mold thingy that comes on top to shove it down into the tube.

    Toothpaste. Slit the tube open when it seems you’re down to the end.

    Shampoo, conditioner. Snap off the lid and turn it upside down on top of a similarly opened bottle to consolidate.

    Liquid laundry detergent, dish soap. Rinse out as much as possible, dumping the contents into the water and put the lid in with the load, (it tends to get crusted with soap).

    Soap slivers. Mash them together into the foot of an old nylon.

  10. Natalie June 5, 2012 at 4:06 am

    I waste nothing. Everything is cut open/diluted until every single drop is gone. You might call it “frugal”, but it’s just OCD calling my name. 😀

  11. Caitlin June 5, 2012 at 4:34 am

    An easier way to get at trapped lipstick/lipbalm is to just get a little lip makeup brush. They are tiny brushes, so they fit deep down and you apply it directly onto your lips. You don’t need to worry about trying to dig everything out at once and putting it into a new container, you just brush it out as you use it.

  12. Lili@creativesavv June 5, 2012 at 7:01 am

    With stick deodorant, in addition to digging it out with a table knife and melting in the microwave, I also add a bit of chapstick to the bowl. When you get to the bottom of a tube of deodorant it’s often dried out and flakey. The addition of a bit of chapstick restores it to its original consistency.

  13. Christina June 5, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Not sure if it’s being cheap or frugal – I prefer the latter, my husband refers to it as the former – but I cut open toothpaste tubes and use every last bit. Similar with lotions.
    For my lipsticks, I have a small, retractable makeup brush to apply lipstick directly from the wasted tube to my lips.
    As for condiments, I have started buying only wide-mouthed jar versions because the tubes drive me crazy.

  14. Ajka June 7, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Like Christina and Natalie, I try to use everything to the last bit. The only thing that bothers me is that when I cut open a container it gets thrown out from the blue bin by the garbage collectors and the plastic has to go into regular trash.

    As a rule, I don’t buy lotions that come in bottles with a pump because a lot gets wasted (not every bottle can be dismantled). Decades ago, when I was using perfume, I realized that bottles with spray contain a lot less.
    I like the suggestion of extending liquid soap with water, it makes perfect sense.

  15. Darlene June 9, 2012 at 7:31 am

    For bottles of body lotion (especially the ones with a pump) I cut the container in half and continue to use since there are several more uses left inside. With toothpaste you can always get another couple of uses. At least this stuff is not going directly into landfil.

  16. AL June 9, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Oh Kerry, you do make me laugh.
    You’re awesome, with your analysis, as usual.
    Commom sense is not gone in this world, afterall!
    Keep up the good work.

  17. susan shaw June 9, 2012 at 8:07 am

    For antiperspirants, I pry off all the lids and am left with several more days worth of product on the push up part. Simply recap with the outermost lid between uses. When purchasing an ounce or two, it appears that about 1/3 of the product is trapped between the push up part and the next layer with holes for dispensing.
    I guess I can now come out of the closet as a toothpaste tube dismantler. I was afraid I was the only one in the whole world who did that. It has been my secret for years.

  18. Danielle June 9, 2012 at 8:34 am

    This kind of blog post is one of the many reasons I love Squawkfox.
    The little things really do matter, and in our consumer society there’s an attitude of, “Well it’s only a few dollars/Euros (or RMB in my case)”, but it’s a fact that all the cents and dollars here and there really do add up.

    One company I really like is Lush cosmetics. They use nearly zero packaging on most of the stuff they sell, so what you pay for is 100% product, and if you buy a cream, the tubs they come in are not only fully recyclable, but if you return a certain number of empty, clean pots they give you a face mask for FREE!
    I’m gonna try and get a job as a mystery shopper in one of my local Lush shops. They’ll pay with products instead of money but I spend about €100 each time I shop there anyway.


  19. Lili@creativesavv June 9, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Susan, your comment about coming out of the closet about dismantling toothpaste tubes, I’ve always thought *everyone* did this! My sis, who’s hardly ever frugal, even cuts open tubes. It is annoying, though, isn’t it? The product package says 7.2 oz. or whatever, but in reality, they only make 6.8 oz. available to the consumer! That falls under the heading of “deceptive practices” in my book.

  20. LauraJ June 9, 2012 at 9:03 am

    I think this is a good example of the sometimes conflicting philosophies of frugality and minimalism. The overlap is the greater part, but, if I understand them correctly, there is the aspect of minimalist thinking that conflicts by virtue of the desire to avoid clutter and even unnecessary labor. As for the lipstick problem, the convenience of the packaging, depending on the cohesiveness of the product, may require some amount to remain below the container level to avoid premature separation (or crumbling in the case of solid deodorants) from the shaft/piston/plunger. I have had this happen w/ deodorant. I certainly do tip my containers and let time and gravity work for me, but I must admit to reaching that point of diminishing returns when it comes to some other scavenging activities. It can, however, be fun, and if so, the entertainment value can make it well worth it. As a Tightwad Gazette fan from way back, I’m so glad that you’re keeping this alive and well.

  21. Karen June 9, 2012 at 9:36 am

    I used to add more water, dig remains and mutilate packaging. Now I just leave it at the store. We use homemade lip balm and hand lotion made with shea butter, cocoa butter, beeswax and olive oil that you can use without a container or put in a contents-accessible container.

    I bought a chrystal deodorant a few years ago and still am nowhere near the packaging. It cost about twice regular deodorant on sale price, has no scent, chemicals, never leaves white streaks on dark clothes, doesn’t sting after shaving, and lasts For Ever. I’m betting on at least five years before I have to deal with getting the butt end out of the containter. I will qualify this by saying I am at home most of the time and prefer a shower after to deodorant before, so my usage will probably differ.

    I don’t buy soap or detergent with water in the container, since I pay for water at my tap and it is cheaper than what comes in the container with the soap. I buy Country Save powdered detergent, no weird chemicals, unscented, cheap, concentrated so it comes in a cardboard (recycleable) box the size of a Breyers ice cream carton.

    I buy ketchup once a year in a huge can, refill the bottle in the fridge door, make barbeque sauce with the rest, all goes into my own canning jars. I make mayo and looking at doing mustard and ketchup too. Most of those types of changes were a result of Shrinky Dink packaging, and I reacted the same way as Carl did with the peanut butter.

    Just so it is out there, broken eyeshadow and blush can be reconstructed by crushing to powder, mixing with distilled water and letting dry into a solid again.

    The packaging that really makes me crazy is the big pack of rubber gloves from the same store as the Shrinky Dink peanut butter containers. The gloves are in a bag that contains ten or twelve pair. Then inside that bag, each pair of rubber gloves is individually bagged. Why? I’m thinking of mailing it all back to head office. Postage due.

  22. ChangingTimes June 9, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Sadly manaufacturers are still not using environmentally friendly packaging in the way that they should be. I use crystal deodorant (lasts for up to 9 months) and do not buy excessively wrapped produce (which usually is expensive and is not tasty). I wash all product bottles and out them out for recycling. I use reusable containers for food as much as possible. Items are also not made to last; the trick is to view necessary purchases as an investment and to buy something that will last. Many cosmetics also contain alot of lead (especially lipsticks, which is very dangerous) so I have purchased natural cosmetics. Unfortunately anything that is bought in a store is not 100% untoxic. Bottles and containers can also be reused for various purposes, ie. storage, crafts, etc. Eventually with the environmental crisi becoming worse manufacturers of these products will have to find better solutions.

  23. Lisa June 9, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Sadly I do not seem to be as frugal or eco conscious as many of you on this site. I have to admit that once I get down to the bottom of the deoderant or lipstick tube I am tired of that scent or shade anyhow and itching to start a new one. I am becoming more aware these days though and this was a great article for me to read. The one exception is my face wash. I have always cut those tubes open to get the last few portions out.

    I am also starting to buy less of the commercial (toxic) products and make more of my own so that helps with the packing and waste issues.

    One comment I have for those who are adding water to use up the last of a product – be sure to use only distilled water. Or add a little vitamin E oil as a preservative if appropriate. Adding regular tap water to some of the formulations (even soap) can introcude bacteria. Not something you want in your face and body lotion for sure.

  24. Lory June 9, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I too am p.o.’d by this & have for years cut & scraped ingredients out of wasteful packaging. My behavior seems extreme to my hubby but do you know how long I can go before having to buy another bottle of, say, lotion or sunscreen or liquid make-up (which I turn upsied down onto the new bottle)? Really, I can get another week or 2 depending on the product. Hey, frugal is as frugal does!

  25. Kay June 11, 2012 at 7:50 am

    There are kip brushes you can use with that lip balm tube, that will get the lip balm till the end of it!

  26. Kay June 11, 2012 at 7:51 am

    I meant “lip brush”… typo!

  27. karyn June 11, 2012 at 9:47 am

    I would like someone’s ideas for pump style makeup foundation. I love L’oreal foundation, and it just went from $12 to $16. However, its a glass bottle with a very sturdy and thick plastic permanent pump applicator. Over time the makeup actually thickens, too, which makes it even harder to get to those last bits. It seems like there is about a half inch of makeup left when the pump stops working, and its hard to tell when its running out cause the makeup makes the bottle opaque. Any ideas anyone?

  28. Lili@creativesavv June 11, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Karyn, can the pump come off the bottle at all? Even if it can’t unscrew, could it be pried off? (Maybe with a screw driver as a lever.) If it can, then you can do two things with the contents if they’ve thickened substantially. You can use the thickened product as cover-up (I do this for under eye circles, use the thickened stuff around the cap and inside the lid) or you can add a bit of moisturizer to thin it down, either in the palm of your hand as you use it, or in the container. With the pump assembly off, you could also turn the bottle upside down and drain into a teacup. It sounds like you really like the product and don’t want to discontinue using just for this one reason. If it were me, I’d start writing complaint letters, about the delivery system for their product, (and find friends to do the same)! Good luck!

  29. Beth June 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    I actually have that exact lipstick brand (different shade) and find the packaging to be good from a different perspective — the more firm base there keeps the lipstick from snapping off (wasting the entire product) when applying it. MAC, Aveda, and Revlon lipsticks all have less lipstick in the base there but have all snapped off when I’ve been applying them. I’ve had that Cover Girl one for a while now and I’m pretty sure it will go rancid (usually a year or two) before I get to the bottom and need to use a lipstick brush to remove it.

  30. Laurie July 22, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Not sure if this was mentioned, as I didn’t have time to read all the great comments before getting ready for work, but….

    With liquids such as window cleaner, all purpose cleaner, etc., I hang on to the old bottle that still has a little left in it that won’t spray out. After I’ve used a new bottle of cleaner a few times, there’s room to dump the old stuff into the new. I just do this forever and ever. Even if I change brands of cleaner. I just make sure the ingredients of the old and the new are compatible (i.e. don’t mix a bleachy cleaner with an ammonia-based cleaner). (Although I have started making my own homemade cleaners now, so this won’t be a problem for me anymore. =)

  31. Travis Knight September 9, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    It’s sad to know how much money is wasted. I hope brand names start changing their packaging.

  32. Michael Ford September 16, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Sometimes, it’s all in the packaging. Companies spent more money into the packaging as much as the product. Then, it gets wasted. Some companies just don’t get it.

  33. Jane January 3, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Crayola twistables may be the stupidest invention of all time. The “twisting” only works for about 2 centimetres – after that, you’ve got about 60% of the crayon stuck in the plastic crayon case. My suggestion – dont buy stupid fancy crayons. Buy regular crayons or pencil crayons.

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