Kate Westad will be the first person to tell you that she’s not from the beauty world. The lawyer-turned-entrepreneur came up with her “million-dollar idea” after a friend canceled a much-anticipated girls’ trip to Paris right before she was about to head to the airport. “I was sitting there, so upset, with my luggage all around me on the floor and all I could think about was, ‘Why do I need so much stuff? None of this stuff is important and—hell yes—I am still going.”
In the midst of an upsetting moment, the minimalist idea for Palette by Pak, a reusable, washable and refillable skin-care system, was born.
“It was kind of an idea I pulled from the ether,” Westad shares. “I’m very into my regular, derm-branded, problem-solution skin-care routine but, as I was sitting there, I just didn’t want to take it all.”
And so, she didn’t. In an effort to hit the carry-on quotient and make solo-traveling as stress-free as possible, Westad sectioned out just what she needed for the duration of her vacation, leaving the bottles at home. While she has since perfected the prototype, the general idea for the brand’s High Fiver, which she has aptly coined the “go-anywhere friend,” was born in an effort to “bring all your favorite products on-the-go, with no need for minis, tiny travel bottles and containers.”
“Refillable really is the new recyclable,” she says, calling out a very current reason: “We’re all sitting at home and we’re all seeing just how much trash output we actually create in a day—there’s no hiding your coffee cup in the work trashcan anymore. I think consumers are taking a pause and starting to see how important this whole thing really is. Plus, once we start traveling again, it’s selfish to think a small island has the capability to recycle all your ‘stuff’—hotels are struggling enough without all that. The shift is coming.”
Brian Bushell, co-founder and CEO of by Humankind points to the “pause” at home for promoting the refillable movement as well. “From what we’ve seen, people are now spending more time in their own spaces, and their own homes, so they’re taking even more care in building the environment they live in. This higher level of care for your personal environment is driving many COVID-era trends, including caring more about the objects we look at and products we use at home every day.”
To that point, he sees his company’s refillable containers as beautiful objects that elevate the bathroom environment—whether it’s a countertop, medicine cabinet or shower. “So they’re a perfect fit for the COVID era consumer. Now layer on top of that trend the idea that by replacing those ugly single-use plastic products with beautiful permanent objects you’re also doing better for our planet, and that’s an idea that will outlast COVID.”
Like Westad, Bushell’s idea was fueled by going on vacation. “I encountered this for the first time on a remote diving trip in Thailand and it is what encouraged me to start by Humankind. I never thought much about single-use plastic waste until then, when I was struck by the floating mess in a place I had previously expected would be untouched by humans. I think we all want to preserve our natural environments, but there is a varying degree of how much each of us is willing to work for it. Ironically, for me, it took traveling to a place far away to motivate me to work harder at home.”
Both companies also share the message that refillable containers are great for travel because they allow you to bring just the right amount of whatever you may need for your trip—and then bring the empty containers home with you for the next time. “This is both convenient, and also a great strategy for reducing single-use plastic waste in general,” Bushell says. “Another way to do it is to eliminate those plastic bottles, altogether.”
Similarly, as a luxe newcomer to the actives skin-care space, Noble Panacea admits that it feels the need to develop and design everything with sustainability in mind—and that includes all touch points from the packaging to the formulations. While the brand is packaged as a single-dose skin-care product, they also stress that they “always strive to achieve as low wastage as possible through green production processes, sustainable sourcing and packaging design,” and even the boxes are made from starch-based renewable materials.
Regarding the line’s star product of the Active Daily Doses, New York dermatologist Anne Chapas, MD, who is an advisor for the brand, says the unique packaging concept is designed to protect the purity and high efficacy of the formulas, while also being sustainable—and all those steps lead to a more potent product. “Firstly, they protect the formulas from contamination and degradation due to external aggressors, while also protecting the full potency of active ingredients. Due to how our OMV Technology works in both protecting and precisely releasing active ingredients, it is very important that we keep the formulas intact. Secondly, the Active Daily Doses are precisely sized to deliver the exact dosage of formula needed to optimize its active ingredients’ therapeutic window to ensure best skin benefits.”
What’s more, the delivery system is portable and travel-friendly, which the brand thinks perfectly aligned with its target market’s busy, on-the-go lifestyle. “Considering all of the functional design intentions, sustainability is at the core of our everything we do,” Dr. Chapas says. “Our Active Daily Doses are designed to be fully recyclable with our recycling partner TerraCycle. The recycling program is easy, free, and available to all Noble Panacea customers in both the U.S. and abroad.”
“COVID definitely has changed consumer behavior in terms of their decision-making with skin-care products,” she adds. “Customers now look for products that can guarantee hygiene and safety. Also, another shift in consumer behavior from this entire experience, is the preference towards brands with strong missions and integrity values. Contamination of beauty products can lead to them becoming ineffective at best or cause skin infections and irritations at worst.”