Unboxing Beauty Products

    1024 320 ITB Packaging

      Dopamine & Lipstick

      The Psychology of Unboxing Beauty Products

      “Packaging can be theater; it can create a story.”

      —Steve Jobs


      There’s a palpable thrill when your customer receives a package. It’s the culmination of a waiting period, where brain circuits buzz with anticipation. From the tactile sensation of unfolding layers to the visual appeal of well-crafted packaging, the unboxing process can transform a mundane activity into a memorable brand interaction.

      But what drives this immense pleasure from unboxing? Let’s delve into the intricate psychological principles behind this simple act to find the answer.


      1. The Anticipation Factor: The moment we place an order, excitement builds. This emotional crescendo is deeply rooted in our psyche, where anticipation equates to a dopamine release, amplifying pleasure.

      2. The Reward System: The unboxing process is like unwrapping a gift, with each layer offering the promise of reward. This not only satisfies our anticipation but further boosts dopamine levels.

      3. The Tactile Experience: Touch connects us to the world. The feel of the box, its weight, and the sound of the unwrapping all engage our brain’s various emotional and perceptual parts.

      In addition to these more apparent responses, other lesser-known but equally applicable psychological triggers can come into play.

      Zeigarnik Effect: Named after the psychologist who discovered it, the Zeigarnik Effect states that people remember uncompleted tasks better than completed ones. With its layers and stages, unboxing creates a sense of a task being fulfilled, making the entire experience more memorable.

      Hick’s Law: Simplicity is key. Hick’s Law posits that the more choices people have, the longer they take to decide. In unboxing, this translates to the notion that a clear, straightforward experience—where every element has a purpose—will be more appreciated and less overwhelming.

      Endowment Effect: This principle suggests that people value things more when they own them. By physically unboxing a beauty product, consumers feel a stronger sense of ownership, increasing its perceived value. Brands that enhance this feeling can expect greater brand loyalty.

      Experience Economy: Coined by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, the term “Experience Economy” emphasizes the shift from selling products to selling experiences. The unboxing experience is as vital as the product in the beauty industry. It’s not just about the serum or the lipstick; it’s about the journey of discovering them.

      Principal of Reciprocity: Dr. Robert Cialdini’s principle of reciprocity, a foundational concept in persuasion, resonates deeply with the unboxing experience. His research indicates that individuals often feel an innate urge to reciprocate a favor, be it through actions or gifts. By incorporating something “extra,” personalized, or unexpected into packaging design, businesses can tap into this principle, encouraging recipients to reciprocate with loyalty or brand advocacy.

      Rites of Passage: This term, introduced by anthropologist Arnold van Gennep, signifies the transition a person undergoes from one phase of life to another or from one societal role to a different one. Beauty products often play a pivotal role in these transitions. Whether it’s a tween buying her first lip gloss or a 60-year-old adapting her skincare regimen, the unboxing experience can positively affirm this shift in identity.

      Daniel Kahneman’s dual-system theory of cognition: According to Kahneman, we think in two systems. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional, while System 2 is slower, deliberate, and logical. A successful unboxing experience caters to both. The initial visual appeal and excitement address System 1, while the details, product information, and quality engage System 2.


      As you can see, there’s nothing shallow about unboxing beauty products. That’s why many in the beauty industry have been quick to harness these psychological principles. As you consider designing your products’ unboxing appeal, keeping our System 1 and System 2 cognitive functions top of mind is essential. Having understood these principles, let’s see how they apply specifically in the beauty industry.

      1. Aesthetic Importance: Packaging that mirrors your brand identity and product promise.
      2. Product Presentation: Careful placement and layering underscore a product’s value.
      3. Protective Packaging: Ensures the physical integrity of the product and safeguards the emotional anticipation.
      4. Tutorials: Added educational layers to enhance user trust.
      5. Surprises: Samples or add-ons amplify the gifting sentiment and principle of reciprocity.
      6. Sustainability: Eco-conscious packaging bolsters a brand’s image.
      7. Consumer Engagement: Social media unboxing amplifies brand visibility.
      8. Personal Touch: A note or message deepens an emotional connection with the brand.


      Woman videoing herself unboxing beauty products

      While understanding the psychology behind unboxing is crucial, implementing it effectively is an art. Here are the best practices to ensure your beauty product leaves a lasting impression.

      1. Prioritize First Impressions: Just as the first impression in a meeting counts, the first look at the product can set the tone for the entire user experience. Brands should ensure that the outer packaging is appealing, protective, and reflects the brand’s ethos.
      2. Attention to Detail: Small details, like the quality of the box material, the typeface used, and even the texture of the box’s interior, can make a big difference. Such nuances can transform a regular unboxing into a premium one.
      3. Ensure Protection with Presentation: While aesthetics are essential, they shouldn’t come at the cost of product safety. Materials play a crucial role in your packaging. Use protective packaging that aligns with the brand’s look and feel.
      4. Interactive Elements: Incorporate elements that make the unboxing interactive. This could be through pull-out tabs, pop-ups, or even scent-infused papers. Engage multiple senses for a holistic experience.
      5. Stay Updated with Trends: Just as beauty trends evolve, so do packaging trends. Be it sustainable materials, innovative box designs, or tech integrations, staying updated ensures your brand remains at the forefront.
      6. Feedback Loops: Encourage customers to share their unboxing experiences. It provides brands with valuable insights and helps foster a community around the brand. Use this feedback for continuous improvement.
      7. Optimize for Social Sharing: Given the popularity of unboxing videos, design packaging that looks good on camera. Pleasing color palettes, unique designs, and interactive elements can make your product a social media star.
      8. Personalization: Personalizing the unboxing experience can make consumers feel special. This could be as simple as using the consumer’s name on the packaging or as complex as tailoring the box’s contents based on user preferences.
      9. Promote Sustainability: As mentioned earlier, eco-conscious packaging is vital. Remember to highlight this aspect and educate consumers on recycling or reusing the packaging. This promotes sustainability and reinforces the brand’s commitment to the environment.
      10. Keep it Authentic: Last but not least, ensure that the unboxing experience is authentic to the brand. Avoid gimmicks or trends that don’t align with the brand’s ethos. The unboxing should be an extension of the brand’s story and values.


      It takes more than just offering a product in the modern consumer landscape. It’s about crafting an experience—a journey that speaks to our innate human psychology. Beauty brands can offer memorable unboxing experiences that make customers feel valued, build brand loyalty, and foster repeat purchases by understanding and harnessing the power of anticipation, reward, and the dual-system of cognition.

      Imagine giving your customers an unboxing experience where mascara, lipgloss, shampoo, and conditioner are neatly organized and nestled in their own compartments of 100% recyclable materials.

      This is what your customers can enjoy and deserve with ITB’s packaging solutions for the beauty and personal care industry.