Tuesday, 6 August 2013

A slam dunk gunkfest: snap-prone stack pots

Travel pots going nowhere with offending sliver
It's been a while since I last wrote a beauty-related post...As you can see in the side bar, I have a(n) (wholly) involuntary Ebuzzing beauty blog ranking to maintain(!), so I thought I would take this opportunity to vent my frustration at a recent beauty product malfunction - one that has happened several times in fact, and to products from different retailers - to wit, stack pots made of such flimsy plastic that bits shear off at the drop of a hat.  Or rather they break off if you attempt to screw the pots together, which is rather the point of a 'stack', I would have thought.

The trouble started with a set of stack pots from Superdrug which I was using to decant travel-sized portions of various lotions: typically foundation, night cream and texturising 'product' for my hair (my beloved Label M to be specific).  In no time at all a sliver of plastic had sheared off the pot containing foundation, with dual consequences: air gets in and dries out the foundation to a useless crud, and a messily coated - and sharp - shard of pot drops into one's sponge bag or (God forbid) handbag, gaily smearing foundation on everything it touches.

I was irritated, but put it down to experience.  Perhaps I should spend a bit more and invest in more robust pots, which is the argument I always use when I persist in buying cheap Tupperwares from Poundland with flaps that detach from the lid with the ease of a wiggly tooth hanging by a thread.  Maybe if I put the broken flaps under my pillow the Poundland fairy would give me my pound back?  (On the premise that there must have been some inflationary effect since the sixpences of my youth.)

Congealing, not concealing...

So anyway, I toddled along to Boots and bought another set of stack pots that cost a little bit more - though it isn't exactly a premium item to be fair- and proceeded to fill them with more unguents of one sort or another.  Several days later, the same thing happened - at multiple points in the stack.  More splinter shrapnel - 'you could put your eye out with that', I can just hear my mother intone - more wandering gunk syndrome, more desiccated residue in the broken pot.

And now I feel stuck...I go away quite a bit, and would balk at the prospect of having to take full-sized containers of all my various items of beauty gubbins.  But these so-called travel pots clearly can't be trusted to travel - or not even not to travel - merely to behave as orderly receptacles on my dressing table seems to be a big ask.

Has anyone else experienced this particular travel aid malfunction or any other one involving a beauty product which they would like to get off their chest?  A claggy mascara, perhaps, or a lipstick with an ill-fitting cap?  I must say I get quite cross with bottles of shampoo and suchlike whose nozzles clog up when they are only half used.  I invariably have to take the flippy lid of the pump dispenser off and try to squeeze the stuff out through the inner tube below.  'Used by professionals' it says on the label of my Tresemme conditioner, to which I would add: 'but only once'.

Or perhaps some reader could have a crack at topping this alliterative description of the problem:

'Shockingly snap-prone stack pots shed sharply sheared-off shards'.

Oh, and my google image searches of 'stack pots beauty products' - just to check I was calling them by the correct term, you understand - threw up this unexpected image in the first row...  These giraffes from Anthropologie are undoubtedly cute and arguably more robust than small plastic containers, but conspicuously lack a reclosable lid.

Oh, and I know it is nothing to do with beauty products, but have you noticed how the walls of cheap PET bottles of drinking water are getting thinner?  Take a single swig and they contract in the middle like a wasp-waisted Victorian in an unforgiving corset.  This phenomenon is called 'panelling', I do remember from my time as a fruit juice product manager in the 80s.  But knowing its name doesn't make the imploding trick any less annoying.


  1. Thank you for the laugh (I just imagine putting a broken flaps under the pillow :) ).

    I usually try to do my regular cosmetics purchases during GWP times to get travel size products - and then I save them for when I travel. Also Nordstrom had very nice small pods for samples which I save,wash and reuse when I need to "decant" one of my products. But 1) I do not travel too often and 2) I do not usually travel for longer than several days.

  2. Hi Vanessa, I'm wondering about Muji! I'm commenting from a caravan in Glencoe where a small travel bottle I'd filled with shower gel split on first squeeze! The shower gel in question was a decant of Guerlain's Shalimar Eau Legere, the FIRST version which I love, which most folk in the know rate as being lovely, and which I'd just snagged pre-holiday to turn the shower block experience into a thing of beauty, befitting Glencoe itself! Said travel bottle was purchased from Boots in a rush before we left. I also have with me, however, two travel bottles from Muji, which I bought on a London trip and these have been filled, washed and re-filled, with Le Labo Santal 33 shower gel and body lotion at least seven or eight times and in spite of repeated squeezing haven't budged! I carry a couple of Muji's individual screw top pots filled with Eight Hour Cream and Sudocrem in my everyday make up bag and they are still going strong after over a year of use.
    Perhaps Muji stacking pots may be the answer for you?
    Good luck, I'm now off for a shower where I imagine I will have to use all of my precious Shalimar in one go!

  3. I also thought Muji might be better. What a complete pain for a frequent traveller like yourself.

    Those giraffes are too cute!

  4. Hi Kathryn,

    Thanks for dropping in from your caravan in Glencoe - the wonders of modern technology! My first name is Kathryn as it happens, in fact Vanessa doesn't have any O-Levels or degrees and has never left the country, as I don't dare risk confusing airlines and border officials. But I digress...

    Many thanks for passing on that valuable tip about the robustness of the Muji pots - they definitely seem to have stood the test of time in your sponge bag. I am just sorry that your shower block experience turned out to be a thing of mess and loss rather than beauty. ;-(

    So on your and Tara's recommendation I have now been online and purchased a set of Muji stackpots for just 50p more than the defective Boots ones cost! And who knew that Muji also did waste paper baskets? I have the rustic looking Abaca model on its way, having managed thus far in the new house with an assortment of supermarket carrier bags hanging on the backs of doors - not the best look, I'd be the first to admit.

    1. Hi again Vanessa (or should I say Kathryn), I'm so pleased you're trying out Muji, just a note of caution; I'm sure you have more willpower than me, but it's the kind of place where my significant other always feels the need to make the "I only came in for a pint of milk" quip when you're at the till with an assortment of storage solutions you didn't realise you needed. I don't have a Muji shop near me either which is just as well though the lure of the website is ever present, especially for someone settling into a new home or with, I imagine, a large perfume collection. ;-) Happy shopping, or more importantly, Happy New Home, Kathryn

  5. Hi Tara,

    You and Kathryn have spurred me on to a purchase, as noted above.

    And aren't the giraffes sweet - though you wouldn't want to put anything in them that you were worried about falling out...

  6. Hi Undina,

    Ooh, I seem to be replying to comments in no particular order here!

    Collecting travel size beauty products is another good way round this problem, and I do follow that rule for things like shampoo and toothpaste. Then I have particular favourite products in the face cream and hair gunk line that are not commercially available in smaller sizes, hence my need to decant.

    It is true that I travel a lot, often for longish periods - not so much with work these days, though that might change in the autumn.

  7. Those stack pots look like the kind of thing I use to put beads and other beading supplies in. I never thought that they could be so dangerous!

  8. Hi Carol,

    You wouldn't think so, would you, but they are clearly treacherous and 'crafty' things in quite the wrong sort of way! ;-)

  9. Hi again Kathryn (I do answer to both!),

    Thanks for the warning about the temptations of Muji (I don't have a branch near me, so my browsing of their ranges was all online), but I am happy to report that I exercised model restraint and only bought the stackpots and a waste paper basket. If I had seen a suitable shoe organiser I might have cracked, but I managed to resist all manner of gratuitous storage items in acrylic, PP and cotton! This is partly because I recent invested in three plastic crates from Homebase to rehome my perfumes during the next phase of decorating. I figured that they might come in handy for other things, though off the top of my head I couldn't tell you what. Which brings us back to your SO's very apt quip... ;-)

    Thanks for the new home wishes - I have been in it for a year but being an older property, there is a bottomless pit of jobs to do!

  10. I didn't mean those products that are availablefor purchase in small/travel sizes. I referred to those "samples" that brands include into gift with purchase (at least in the U.S.). Something like this or one of these.

  11. Hi Undina,

    I did know what you meant by GWP sample sizes, but my mind then flitted immediately to travel sized products that you can buy commercially on a standalone basis, such that my registering of your starting comment was by no means apparent! I probably don't buy the brands of beauty products that would come with a GWP in the first place, or there would be significant gaps, say, so decanting is an important tactic for me. ;-)

  12. Hi, I've had the same experience with Superdrug & Boots stacking pots. They suck! :-) I gave up and started re-using those little sample cream pots you get in Clinique and other 'gift with purchases' beauty bags. So far, no leakages or splitting from my repurposed Clinique, Lancome or Guerlain pots. :-) But of course, they don't stack. So I might try Muji.

    My 'most annoying' packaging award at the moment goes to two concealers - Ellis Faas, and the Garnier undereye roll-on. The roll-on often leaks a lot of the product, too much to use in one go, and it's impossible to get the surplus back into the bottle. So it just dries wastefully into the cap. The Faas uses the same pump system as Touche Éclat, but it's either feast or famine! I always end up with too much product on the brush, which again, gets all inside the lid and on the pen itself, and is wasted.

    Oh, and don't get me started on perfume sprays which go all over your hands instead of where you're pointing them...;-)

  13. Hi Tania,

    It seems I am not alone with my aggravation with Superdrug and Boots pots! At least this shows I am not being too heavy-handed in my treatment of them.

    My Muji stack has come now, and it looks really chunky and sturdy, I must say, though I haven't tried it out yet.

    That is clever to reuse the little GWP pots themselves as well as the little tubes of moisturiser and what have you that come with the better brands of beauty products.

    I sympathise about your problems with the two concealers. I had Touche Eclat itself at one point and remember it did a similar thing - very hard to regulate/gauge the amount. You'd be constantly priming the 'pump' dispenser and then whooosh!

    I may well do another post on leaking bottles some day, as my annoyance with spray mechanisms behaving badly periodically bubbles over, as you can see from this post (and there are others eg 'Snapped: Women Who Fill!')


    It shocks me just how badly some quite expensive bottles leak. I was doing a bit of decanting yesterday and ended up covered in about 10 different scents - 'Eau de decant' as Lisawordbird once dubbed it. And the waste factor is also irritating as you say.

  14. a while since your post but the muji ones break just as fast (travelling makeup artist here) as you've probably found out by now. Im always looking for small stackable pots to decant foundation (hence what led me to your post and reading comments for any good finds). if you ever do find a good one please let me know, you can find me at @anniemakeup all over the internet. thanks and good luck!

    1. Hi Annie,

      Never too late to comment on this thorny topic. You are quite right that I did eventually find out that the Muji ones also broke. I am currently having a lot of bother with some No 7 foundation in a Boots pot. The thread on the screw mechanism has sheared off and I may have to toss the make up inside, which is galling. All the different products seem to share the same fault, yet what a great market opportunity for somebody who would just make something robust! I will surely let you know if I have any joy.