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Understanding Plastic Containers

Plastic containers have several advantages over other types of containers. They are lightweight, they are resistant to most chemicals, most types are shatterproof, and they are inexpensive.

However, plastic does have it's shortcomings. Plastics can be damaged or warped by some types of chemicals. Some plastics change when exposed to light or heat. And, although they may look similar, all plastics are not the same.

When choosing plastic containers to hold your cosmetics, it is important to understand the features of the plastic so you can match it to the product it will be holding.

Four Different Types Of Plastic.


Although many different types of plastics are used to make cosmetic containers the four most common are: low density polyethylene (LDPE), high density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate and polyethylene terephthalate G Copolymer (PET and PETG). Each one has its pros and cons.

How Do You Know What Type Of Plastic You Are Using?


If you have a container and you want to know what kind of plastic it is made of, look at the bottom. You will see either the acronym for the type of plastic that it is (HDPE, LDPE, PP or PET), you will see the recycling code for the plastic (see chart below) or you will see both. Here are the recycling codes for the four types of plastics discussed in this article:
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Here is a brief summary of each of these types of plastics.

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE):


Appearance:
Translucent or opaque.
Features:
LDPE is a very flexible plastic making it an excellent choice for products that require a squeezing action to dispense (such as thick lotions and creams and hair conditioners).
Precautions:
LDPE reacts with essential oils such as cedarwood, cinnamon, the citrus oils and pine. Avoid packaging any products that contain these oils in LDPE plastics. LDPE can be damaged by long exposure to ultraviolet light.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE):


Appearance: Translucent or opaque.
Features: HDPE is a more rigid plastic than LDPE. This makes it more suitable for cosmetics that require a pouring or a pumping action to dispense (such as easily pourable lotions and shampoos, or lotions stored in bottles with lotion pumps)
Precautions: HDPE is more resistant to strong chemicals than LDPE, but it still reacts with essential oils such as cedarwood, cinnamon, the citrus oils and pine. Avoid packaging any products that contain these oils in HDPE plastics. HDPE can be damaged by long exposure to ultraviolet light.

Polypropylene (PP):


Appearance: Translucent or opaque.
Features: Polypropylene containers are very rigid. This makes them suitable for cosmetics that require a pouring or a pumping action to dispense (such as easily pourable lotions and shampoos, or lotions stored in bottles with lotion pumps). Polypropylene bags are clear and flexible and are good for storing highly scented dry products like potpourri and bath salts.
Precautions: PP products that are rigid (jars, bottles, etc.) may crack or break if dropped. PP is resistant to most chemicals than LDPE, but may still react with essential oils such as cedarwood, cinnamon, the citrus oils and pine. Avoid packaging any products that contain these oils in PP plastics. PP can be damaged by long exposure to ultraviolet light.

Polyethylene Terephthalate and Polyethylene Terephthalate G Copolymer (PET and PETG):


Appearance: Clear
Features: PET and PETG are clear, rigid plastics and are used when you want to show-off the contents of your cosmetic container. They are often used as a replacement for glass.
Precautions: PET and PETG products that are rigid (jars, bottles, etc.) may crack or break if dropped. PET and PETG can be damaged by long exposure to ultraviolet light.
The above information should be used as a guideline when using plastic containers, but it should not replace your own testing methods.

If you want to use a plastic container, but you are not sure if it will react with your cosmetic products, test it to see. Prepare a small amount of your cosmetic item, and store it in the plastic container for two to three weeks.

After two or three weeks have expired, remove the cosmetic product, and examine the plastic container for damage. Check for discolorations, holes, and any other unusual signs. If your container looks like new, go ahead and use it. If your container shows signs of damage, you should investigate another way to hold your cosmetic product.
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