Turn Easy: Mascara bottle for Arthritics (Coventry University)

Paul Smitheman & April Powell

“To maintain your independence you must always be needed and wanted. The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have. Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity and you have nothing to fear. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.”


Many people with arthritis have a strong fear of losing their independence, we found this in our persona Janet. One of the main problems Janet has is that in a morning she is too tired and in pain to comfortably maintain her personal appearance. Tasks that were once very simple now take much longer and it causes her to adopt a ‘why bother?’ attitude. It’s not easy for the family either as they are relied upon by Janet to assist her with her personal grooming which frustrates her as she feels she is losing her independence too soon.


Her limited dexterity means that products she used to handle with ease are now very difficult to use and a large number of these products relate to her personal grooming. This is leading Janet to having a low self esteem and soon she may fall into depression.


During this project we aim to create a product, which will aid people with arthritis to maintain their personal appearance. The benefit of this will be to improve their self-esteem and avoid falling into depression.




The statistics associated with arthritis in the US and UK alone are staggering, however it is a growing problem globally. 10 million people in the Uk have arthritis with 1 in 5 adults suffering from arthritis [1]. It’s not an issue that only effects older adults either as 12 thousand children have arthritis in the UK and 27 thousand Under-25s have arthritis in the UK. It’s an unrelenting disease as a report shows that 81% are in constant pain or have limited scope to perform everyday tasks.


It’s no different in the US, in fact arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the US. It affects 50 million people in the US (1 in 5 adults). By 2030 an estimated 67 million Americans will have arthritis unless the trend is reversed

And again it’s not a disease of ages as two thirds of the people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300 thousand children.

It causes work limitations for 1 in 3 sufferers in the US and it is a more frequent cause of activity limitation than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. Arthritis and rheumatic conditions cost the US economy $128 billion annually.


OXO goodgrips hold a strong market share in the US for arthritis products and is steadily growing in the UK with correct marketing and branding through firms like John Lewis who typically have and older captive audience. This may pave the way for other arthritic products to enter the mainstream.




We started off by selecting 3 themes to research based on our own personal or family experiences. We also chose these in mind that they would have an adverse affect on one’s independence and thus justified our reason for pursuing them.


We spoke to a member of April’s family that has arthritis.


What products out there on the market to help? “I know there are products out there to help with arthritis but I choose not to use them. The one I have is the pen again. This helps me write things down without pain and in my normal handwriting. It was hard to use to start with, as you have to hold our hand in a different position but now I can write things down, even when my hand is swollen.”


Does arthritis affect the way you want to be perceived? “I used to be a hairdresser back in my youth so I used to be always cutting my hair and others hair, so my personal appearance is very important to me. I have arthritisbut that doesn’t mean I want to look like someone with arthritis.”


Are there and tasks that you find hard? “I normally die my own hair every few months but recently I have been only dying it when I have to as I find myself not bothering as I’m more tired in the evenings and so on. Also I find it hard to do it myself now, so I have taught my husband how to do it. He is busy like me and it takes him a long time to do it, where I used to just slap the die on. I feel like it is a hassle to him so this is why I wait for as long as possible.”


Has it affected the way you present yourself? “Yes I would say it has as I used to where make up every day but now I only wear it for work and special occasions. This is because I am tired in the morning so I try and cut down the tasks I have to do in the morning. Also it is rather frustrating when you used to do a task in 5 minutes let’s say, but now it takes you much longer. So in some cases I just don’t bother.”


Has it affected your self-esteem? “I wouldn’t say it has directly as I am a fairly confident person but as I get tired more easily now this tends to show in my face and in a few photos I have seen recently, I can tell I look worn out. This plays on my mind a bit, but I suppose its just one of the signs of getting older.”


Do you have problems handling some products? “Yes. I can’t open most jars and there are other products that require a greater force that I find difficult to open like some cosmetic items. Because of this I usually get someone else to open them for me. When my hands are bad, pushing buttons can be very painful. Also when my hands are all swollen, people touching them or children holding them can be very painful.”


As well as gaining our own primary research, we explored a range of online forums and videos that showcased people’s experiences with arthritis. [2][3][4][5] We found that low self-esteem was a result of arthritis limiting one’s ability to maintain one’s appearance [6] and this is just one of the many reasons that arthritis can lead to depression.

Personal Appearance

April and I held a ‘Things your hands handle’ day in our company to find out what everyday items we all use on a regular basis. We then analysed this data to find patterns. This would help us to narrow down the products that we would design.

Taped hands

These are a selection of products that we picked out from the data we collection after the ‘Things your hands handle’ day. We taped up our hands so that we could have a greater appreciation for what it is like to live with arthritis and perform tasks that we deem to be simple on a regular basis.

Project review

Methods of Design


From completing our research we went onto concept sketching. We took themes that appeared from research we had conducted and began designing a solution to those problems.


We started off with the idea to design a range of grips that could be applied to numerous different products that would improve the grip and make them more comfortable for people with arthritis.

Grip sketches

We then went into sketch modelling using play-doh to try and replicate the forms that we had been sketching. This allowed us to test our grips with tangible forms.

Grip models

The reoccurring feedback we received from senior healthcare designer Paul Magee was that our grips were too small, they were more for a child’s hand whereas we were designing a product for adults. He also commented that the designs were add-ons to products and this shouted disability which goes against the notion of discretion. Although the idea was fine, what we found was that we had designed a range of grips that fit a few products ok, but not really one excellently.


We stepped back and listed grooming products that we use everyday and instead of designing something to be applied to them, we began redesigning the products themselves. We found the mascara bottle was a fiddly product to use for people with full dexterity, never mind those with limited dexterity. We decided to pursue redesigning the mascara bottle and to help in this process, we wrote a newer refined brief.




Design a new mascara applicator that helps people with arthritis to maintain their own level of personal appearance even on a bad day: To prevent related problems such as low mood and self-esteem that can lead to depression.


Product Development


From our earlier model making with play-doh, we found that adding a t-bar to a mascara bottle enhanced the grip and gave the user a lot more control, so this is something we wanted to incorporate into the product. T bar fits onto lid to give leverage when removing the lid and re-applying it. How do we add tis t bar to the product. Initial sketches show that it still very much looks like an add-on to the product. We aimed to design it into the product, but be very discrete so that it doesn’t shout ‘disability’. We almost wanted it to have somewhat of a secret ability. In fact what we wanted to do was create something that all people would want to use.

Scenario: Janet wakes up in a morning in a low mood. Later in the morning she has organised to meet with a friend. Janet always likes to look her best and make an effort, but nowadays the arthritis means that she doesn’t necessarily have the ability or patience to maintain her personal appearance. And aspect of this is the application of her make-up and what she find particularly difficult is the opening and application of her mascara bottle.


Janet would normally not bother with mascara, however Janet has recently bought the new Turn Easy and with this, opening the bottle couldn’t be any easier. The removable t-bar that places onto the lid gives Janet a greater amount of leverage when opening the bottle. Also having a larger surface grip, it is easier for Janet to hold. Normally she used to rely on others to open the bottle and in special occasions she would ask her daughter to apply it for her but she feels bad about that as she doesn’t feel like she wants people to have that responsibility for her. But now with the new Turn Easy she is given 100% independence to maintain her personal appearance, and her mood has been lifted significantly.


Results: Turn Easy

This is the Turn Easy Mascara. It has a sleek, modern form and aesthetic. When designing the Turn Easy we really want it to look beautiful. We were put off the idea of designing a product for people with arthritis that shouted out to the world that they were suffering from the disease and that it was has influenced this design. The three part design features a shiny side and matt side. Although it give the product a unique look, it serves the purpose of indicating to the user which way around they must assemble the parts together in as they all match up.

The turn easy is compact and will fit in a handbag comfortably. However we wish for this product not to be stuffed away in a dark place. For the uninformed eye, we wanted to make the product look ambiguous enough for a visitor of a person with arthritis to not know what it is or that it is necessarily and arthritic aid. The glossed branding also shows the user what the product it, but does it very subtly. This is another point in making the design discrete yet beautiful.

The Turn Easy features 3 parts. You have your usual lid/wand and bottle, however the Turn Easy features a third part that attaches from the bottom which we refer to as the t-bar. To use the Turn Easy, firstly you must remove the t-bar by sliding it off from the bottom.

On the underside of the t-bar there is a cavity that is shaped to fit onto the lid of the bottle. The lid is intentionally small as the turn easy alters the way you grip the mascara and those a long lid is not needed. This allows extra room for extending the bottle and t-bar. The next step is the fit the t-bar onto the lid.

A reoccurring problem that we encountered in our resign was that screw tops were particularly difficult to manage, especially on a mascara bottle. What the added t-bar gives the user is a greater leverage to screw and unscrew the lid/wand from the bottle, hence the name ‘Turn Easy’.

When the lid is unscrewed, the wand is already fixed into the t-bar an will stay in there until the user is finished and has fastened the lid back onto the bottle. The Turn Easy has now given the user a greater surface are to grip onto and makes the application of mascara much simpler and comfortable for not just people with arthritis, but everyone. This is a product that isn’t restricted people with arthritis, it is for everyone.

Here shows how the wand may look in a user’s hand.

A problem we found when analysing the use of mascara was that unless you wanted to carefully rest the open bottle down on a surface, you have to hold the bottle while you are applying the mascara. In both instances, a person with arthritis would find these tasks difficult and they may even require two hands to apply their mascara. The curvature of the Turn Easy bottle allows the user to quickly place the bottle on it’s back and it will not roll over or empty itself as the end it pointed above the 180 degree horizon.

Once the user has successfully applied their mascara, they then reverse the steps that they completed to now close the bottle.


In summary we believe that we have a designed a product that meets our brief in every aspect. It’s hugely beneficial for people with arthritis, yet it can also be used by everyone. It’s a simple solution to a difficult problem for people with arthritis and hopefully this is one step to making maintaining the personal appearance of an arthritic patient easier so that they don’t fall into the ‘why bother’ attitude and most importantly, keep their independence.




“It’s good because you’re using what you’ve got. You’re using the bottle and the lid and making them work together to create a new and improved way to apply mascara. It’s a simple idea the that way you just pop of the bottom section and use it to help unscrew the wand and then apply the mascara.”

Paul Magee – Senior Healthcare Designer.


“What a great product, it really is easy to take the lid off and it looks like any normal mascara you would buy from the shops, not a special looking one just for people with Arthritis. I would recommend this to anyone, not just people with limited hand movement.”

Jane Powell – Arthritis Patient


Material, manufacture and sale.


As the turn easy has one extra part to it than the common mascara bottle, the Turn Easy will be produced at a higher cost than it’s competitors. Initial tooling will be expensive, however with a highly anticipated success, the bottles could be produced on mass, bringing down the average cost per unit.


The Turn Easy bottle would be made from Polypropylene and have a half shiny and half matt finish. These finishes would be designed into each half of the mould as each piece of the Turn Easy will be injection moulded. A large part of the success of the product will be down to it’s marketability and how it looks on a shelf. Here is a mock up of how the bottles may appear on a point of sale.

The bottles are presented vertically in a vacuum formed platform allow them to stand proud on the shelf. The marketing of the Turn Easy will be integral to it’s success as it cannot be advertised as ‘the mascara for people with arthritis’. It’s a mascara for everyone and we really believe that even if the Turn Easy doesn’t have a place on the shelf in this form, the hard points and principles are there and can make a huge chance in the way that we apply our makeup.




In future, we would like to spend more time to perfect the form of the turn easy by creating accurate physical models to find a form that gives the greatest amount of comfort for the user. We could change small aesthetic features such as the bottom side surface of the t-bar being completely flush when it is holstering the wand. We would continue to develop it so that it is as intuitive to use as possible. We would also like to gain a better understanding of manufacturing processes so that we know 100% for sure how it will be made and how it may affect the form of the product.




[1] http://www.arthritis.org/files/images/AF_Connect/Departments/Public_Relations/Arthritis-Prevalence-Fact-Sheet–3-7-12.pdf














Jane Powell, Paul Magee – Senior Health care Designer, James Miles – Senior Health care Designer, Liz Aston – Design Researcher, Nikki Holliday – Design Researcher, Aimee Walker – Design Researcher


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