Edwina Ings-Chambers: Why this bottle is big beauty news

Lancôme’s new blockbuster scent doesn’t just smell amazing – it’s refillable too.

As new fragrance launches go I couldn’t be more excited about this one: Lancôme Idôle (from £48, refills from £33.50, lancome.co.uk). Yes, it’s the brand’s first new blockbuster perfume since La Vie est Belle launched seven years ago. Yes, it’s pretty woke: it has been created by three female noses (that’s perfumers in case you’re not down with the industry lingo) whereas LVB was the work of two men and a woman. And yes, the fragrance they have come up with – which is, truth be told, mainly targeted at millennials with 22-year-old Zendaya of The Greatest Showman fame as the face – is pretty and floral and clean and refreshing (bergamot, rose, jasmine – you get the idea). 

That’s all well and good. But what really rocks my boat is the bottle. The design feels like a breath of fresh air. Slim and understated, it resembles a smart phone in size, shape and feel – even in its put-in-a-pocket-ability. 

But my ardour is about so much more than looks: it’s because this is refillable. For a big beauty behemoth like Lancôme, that signals (I hope) a seismic change. And it’s easy to refill. Just take it to most of the brand’s counters where a machine will detach the atomiser, fill the contents, and reattach the same atomiser. So no plastic bottle to decant and discard. 

The roll-out of this is still in progress till the end of the year, so you may need to check lancome.co.uk to find your nearest outpost. This all feels modern but really it’s a more high-tech version of the old-fashioned fragrance fountain – the kind that is still operated by the French perfumery Caron where you can refill your favourite fragrance from large crystal vats (find one at London’s Fortnum & Mason). Mugler also operates its own modern version, which slightly resembles a draft beer tap, for its Angel, Alien and Aura fragrances – one of which is refilled somewhere in the world every 25 seconds. 

We must call time on so many perfume bottles being destined for landfill. And now that Lancôme is refilling its fragrances it will make others look out of step if they aren’t doing the same. Customers are even beginning to demand it. At Cult Beauty, buyer Louisa Harris says they ‘have seen a rise in the questions about single-use plastics, organic ingredients and clean beauty over the year and estimate this to continue to rise’. 

Smart brands will pay attention. As a recent report from Mintel revealed, ‘zero waste’ is set to be the key beauty trend in the coming years. In fact, says the market research company’s Andrew McDougall, it’s not just a trend, ‘it’s a move towards a ground-shaking new archetype for the beauty and personal care industry’. He adds: ‘Whether reducing or eliminating waste altogether, if brands don’t change their approach now they will become insignificant and may not exist in the future.’ 

So, with this in mind, here are some of my favourites in the refillable arena. 

The refillable beauty brands that keep on giving

Andrea Garland lip balm compacts

I’m a big fan of this small brand and its natural lip balm housed in retro-inspired compacts or vintage pots. It has recently seen an uplift in customers choosing the refill options, but often buyers keep the empty pots for other things. From £15, refill charge is £3.50 including postage, andreagarland.co.uk

Kjaer Weis blush

A very packaging-aware line. The metal cases with swivel tops can all be refilled – whether with lip, cheek or eye products – but my favourite is the cream blush. It is made from organic ingredients and has a buttery texture to blend into cheeks and create a dewy glow. It can be used on lips, too. £41, refill £24, cultbeauty.co.uk

Chantecaille pebble compact

Chantecaille is very environmentally conscious, using high concentrations of botanicals in its products, and has been concerned about the health of the oceans for years. The Pebble Compact can hold its eye and cheek creams, which slot in place with a magnet. £9.50, plus product (around £19.50), spacenk.co.uk

Rituals body cream

Not just focusing on reducing packaging, Rituals also highlights that using a refill of its luxurious body creams, including Karma, Dao, Laughing Buddha, Hammam and Sakura, saves 70 per cent in CO2 emissions and uses 65 per cent less energy and 45 per cent less water. The refill fits perfectly in your original pot. £18.50, refill £15.50, rituals.com

Tropic Tahitian vanilla and coconut luxury bath foam

This brand is big on refillables, with options on make-up palettes, lipsticks and foundations. My favourite is this bath foam which smells delicious and has a refillable pouch option that can replenish the original bottle twice over. £18, refill £27, tropicskincare.com

Rachel Vosper

A fabulous shop in London’s Belgravia that not only refills its own candle vessels with fragranced wax and bespoke scents, it will refill pretty much any container (one client brings glass yogurt pots, another uses vases). Available in-store and by post. Priced by weight of wax, from £24 for 200g plus £6.95 postage, rachelvosper.com