Labeling vs. screen printing: Which one is right for your cosmetic product?

Packaging plays a crucial role in positioning your product and differentiating it from your competitors’. Not only that, but packaging also directly affects consumers’ perceived value of your product because they tend to relate the quality of the packaging to the quality of the product. This is why products that promise to beautify must have beautiful packaging. 

There are two common methods of decorating the packaging of cosmetics and other health and beauty products: labeling and screen printing. Labeling involves printing a label and then applying it onto a container. On the other hand, screen printing is done by applying ink through a screen onto the container itself. 

If you are not sure about which decorating method to use for your cosmetic product, you may want to consider the following factors: 


For designs that involve fairly simple text or art, either method would work well. However, it is best to use labels for artworks that are complex or require photographic quality. This is because the screen-printing process does not capture graphics well and will cost you more the moment you use three or more colors.

If you are aiming for a clean and sophisticated “no label look” for your high-end cosmetic products, you may think that screen printing is your only option. On the contrary, you can achieve this look with clear labels, which are designed to blend with the container’s material and finish. Customers may not even notice the difference between a directly screen-printed design and one that is printed on a clear label and then applied onto the packaging. 

To create a textured look and feel for your cosmetic product, you can use screen printing to achieve what is known as the high build effect. This creates a relief or raised surface where the design can be felt and the colors are more distinguishable. You can achieve a similar texture by applying embossing or debossing on labels. With labels, you can also utilize lamination and other decorative treatments like hot foil stamping. 

Order volume

If you have a high volume of products that have the same container and the same design, then screen printing will likely be the more cost-effective approach. This is because screen printing involves only a single decorating process, unlike with labels where there are two processes: printing and application. The additional step may require more setup costs or transportation costs from one facility to another. 

However, cosmetic companies usually use several different types of containers. And even if they have 10,000 pieces of the same type of container, they may have 10 different sets of artwork for various products. Plus, they typically launch seasonal and promotional products multiple times in a year. This means there are occasions where they will only need to decorate a few hundred or thousand containers. If you only have a small- or medium-sized order volume for each individual stock keeping unit (SKU), then screen printing will not be able to meet your packaging needs.

Screen printing has a high minimum order quantity (MOQ) for two reasons. First, each design has a customized color plate. Plates cannot be made by just anyone — only a master with highly technical skills (training takes 3–5 years) can craft these. The price of plates typically starts at $100 per piece, and shipping is another $100 per piece. You will also need to pay a pollution fee per plate. 

Another reason for the high MOQ is that each container size needs a customized mold and printing procedure. The mold has the same size as the container’s bottom side so that it can hold the container during printing. The price of each mold ranges from $100 to $200. And if your container is soft, you will need to add air to expand it and make the surface harder in order to prevent melting or smudging during printing. 

In contrast, smaller runs are possible with labels, which means you can print many designs and/or decorate many types of containers and still easily meet the required MOQ per SKU.

Storage space

Since screen printing involves directly printing on the containers, you will need to purchase the containers prior to printing. You will have to house the containers that are on hold until it is time to transport them to your supplier for printing. And since screen printing has a high MOQ, you will need a lot of space to hold all of those containers. 

Labels, on the other hand, take up much less space, as thousands of labels can fit in a few boxes. This gives you the flexibility to stock up on labels to avail bulk discounts but still keep a low inventory of containers. You can then proceed with label application once you have a purchase order.


With screen printing, if there is a printing error, you will have to toss out the entire product packaging. But if there is a mistake on a label or it was not applied properly, you can throw the label away and just relabel the container. In other words, you will lose more money due to screen printing errors than with labeling errors.  

Which decorating method is best for cosmetics?

The cosmetics industry is fiercely competitive. This is why cosmetic companies need to be agile enough so they can quickly respond to the rapidly changing demands of consumers. Given that, labeling makes more sense than screen printing for cosmetics. 

With labeling, you can do smaller production runs and reduce your inventory and storage space requirements, making it the more cost-efficient decorating method. Labeling also lets you play with elaborate artwork and a variety of design treatments, giving you more opportunities to make your product stand out on retail shelves. 

But you cannot just work with any labeling company — you need one that truly understands the specialized decorating requirements of cosmetic companies, just like Pro-Motion Industries. We have been New Jersey’s most trusted contract labeling services provider since 1994. We handle different types of labels, such as direct thermal and thermal transfer labels, shrink sleeves, and pressure-sensitive labels. We also work with various types of containers including bottles, jars, tubes, and flat packaging, among many others. 

With the help of our seasoned labeling experts, you will be able to balance your aesthetic and functional needs, enabling you to improve brand awareness and your bottom line. Consult with our experts at 856-809-0040 to get started. 

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