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Aluminium: The miracle green metal

Aluminium: The miracle green metal

13.07.20

Admired by jewellers and with a history in lipstick manufacturing, aluminium is one of the most amazing elements on the planet.

It looks great, it’s strong but lightweight and it’s fully recyclable: the perfect match, then, for our luxurious, organic lipstick. 

It’s a marriage made in heaven. 

What is it?

Aluminium is a naturally-occurring chemical element and the most abundant metal on the planet. It is also one of the most recycled materials on the planet and can be infinitely recycled without losing quality. 

Indeed, about 75% of all aluminium ever produced in the world is still in use and this number is set to grow, according to The Aluminium Association.

And despite some media reports to the contrary, aluminium has been considered safe to use within cosmetics by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, the advisory organisation to the European Union.

Metal in the lipstick industry

The use of metal to house a lip cosmetic dates back to 1892 when the Vinolia Lypsyl, made by British company Blondeau et Cie, was sold in a metal tube. French cosmetics were also produced in sliding metal cases at the same time.

French company Guerlain put colour into a lipstick in 1912 and American firm Scovil Manufacturing Company created a metal case, similar to a bullet, three years later. Women could apply the lipstick directly from the tube instead of applying with a brush from a pot.

These ‘Levy Tubes’ - named after its inventor, Maurice Levy - were two inches long with a dipped-nickel finish. Initially, a slide lever pushed the lipstick up the barrel but this was soon replaced by a screw thread to allow a twisting action.

While these are the first recorded instances of metal casing, it is likely that women kept lip-salve sticks, for protection in cold and hot conditions, in metal containers before these dates.

Once brought to the mass market, metal soon became the lipstick casing of choice, particularly after World War I when scrap metal was abundant and cheap. Some companies opted to have their name embossed on to the metal.

By the 1920s, casing was made from a variety of materials including aluminium. Designs became more elaborate, in burned aluminium and silver, and some even contained jewels.

During World War II, the factories making lipstick casing were asked to switch production to making bullets as the processes were remarkably similar. It meant workers could retain their jobs while also helping the war effort.

The manufacturing of lipstick cases was seriously ramped up in the 1950s with companies adding semi-precious metals and gemstones. General prosperity, the price increase for lipsticks and the so-called ‘lipstick wars’ all contributed to these innovations.

Why does Juni use aluminium?

When recycled, aluminium uses only 5% of the energy, and generates only 5% of the emissions, associated with primary production.

The aluminium industry is also very conscious of the environmental impact of its activities, works hard on restoring vegetation to mine sites and, as a result, has gained recognition from the United Nations Environment Programme.

From an aesthetic perspective, aluminium is arguably the sleekest, most sophisticated and sexiest of metals.

It looks very contemporary and modern, much like sterling silver, offering a silvery white finish.

Aluminium has been used to make jewellery since the 19th century and at Juni we think of our bullets as beautiful keepsakes as well as an ideal environmentally-friendly solution.

We purposely did not use a coloured anodised finish as we wanted to showcase the beauty of this natural, raw material.

Aluminium can be lasered, etched or sandblasted - and coloured if so desired - therefore enhancing design options to complete that luxurious look and feel.

French emperor Napoleon Boneparte was a great admirer of the metal during his reign as the emperor of France. He so fell in love with it that he wanted his army to be kitted out in aluminium armour while using lightweight weapons made from the metal.

However, its price in the 19th century made this unfeasible and instead, so the story goes, Napoleon had plates and cutlery made from aluminium to be used only by himself and his most important dinner party guests. Lesser mortals at his soirees had to make do with gold or silver.

Fast forward 150 years and aluminium collected another superfan - the man behind Apple, Steve Jobs.

Frustrated with the bulkiness of plastic and tired look of painted metal, Jobs discovered the beauty of aluminium and it became synonymous with Apple products.

Lightweight and stylish, aluminium also gives off an air of luxury and quality. Jobs saw that and Apple’s aluminium adoption helped elevate its standing across industries.

Aluminium has a density about one third that of steel meaning it is far more attractive in applications where high strength and low weight are required. 

The importance of plastic-free packaging

Consumers love products but awareness is growing - and attitudes changing - around the importance of sustainable packaging to carry and house our favourite products.

The New Plastics Economy initiative has brought together big companies, policymakers and other interested parties to rethink and redesign the future of plastic, starting with packaging.

Globally, the packaging industry for beauty and personal care products, which primarily reflects plastic packaging, makes up nearly $25 billion in sales.

It’s big business - and the reliance on plastic simply needs to be addressed. This has started and at Juni, we were insistent that we wanted to be plastic-free from day one.

Aluminium, along with other alternatives, provides a much better alternative to plastic due to its ability to be infinitely recycled, thus reducing the amount of packaging finding its way into landfill.

This is why we are seeing an increase in the use of aluminium within luxury packaging and long may this continue.

Recycling aluminium

Our lipstick bullet is 100% aluminium; we do not use glue and there is no need for any separation of parts for it to be recycled.

When you’ve finished with your bullet - and used up every last trace of lipstick with your lip brush - you have some options when recycling:

 

  1. Check with your local council to see if the bullet can be put in your recycling bin. All aluminium is endlessly recyclable but not all types can be collected from the kerbside although we hope this will change in the future
  2. If your bullet will not be collected from your recycling bin, you can take it to your local household recycling centre and place it in the bin marked “metal”. Aluminium is valuable and will be picked out and sent to a metal recycling centre for melting down
  3. If you cannot recycle your bullet easily, you can send it back to us (our address is on the Contact Us page). We will collect all returns to reuse or recycle.

     

    The present and future with Juni

    Our dream was to produce a wonderful new lipstick that would be kind to you and to the planet so we developed a formula that is both organic and vegan. 

    We quickly realised that we didn’t want to put our lipstick into plastic bullets, which are glued together to make the twist action and are not recyclable. Biodegradable plastic has its own problems.

    After much research we decided that our lipstick would be best packaged in beautifully designed, endlessly recyclable aluminium bullets.

    After months of trialling different ideas, our product design team came up with a unique slide-mechanism in a 100% recyclable aluminium bullet. It’s octagonal, architectural and satisfyingly weighted so it sits in your hand and doesn’t roll off a surface.

    Currently, our small batches of bullets are made with only some recycled aluminium but we have plans to use more recycled aluminium in the future. 

    Also, there is no printing on the bullet - the Juni logo is laser-etched into the aluminium.

    Did you know?

    When the surface of aluminium metal is exposed to air, it loses electrons in a similar reaction that causes iron to rust. However, the production of this reaction - a protective oxide - forms almost instantaneously and coats the original metal. This oxide layer is corrosion resistant.

    Interestingly, aluminium is still traded world-wide on stock exchanges, the biggest of which is the London Metal Exchange (LME). Aluminium is the world’s largest exchange commodity for metals, accounting for nearly a third of all contracts made on the LME.