Discreet Packaging: The Ultimate Retail Embarrassment Cure


Thanks to e-commerce, items we’re ashamed to buy in-store are now available online.

A OnePoll survey revealed that 89% of American consumers are willing to pay the higher price that e-stores may charge for these items to avoid embarrassment.

Why? 72% fear that employees or fellow shoppers at brick-and-mortar establishments will judge them according to what’s inside their cart. This retail shame reportedly wanes only when shoppers hit their late 20s (19%) or mid-30s (18%).

The top 10 items US consumers are embarrassed to buy at physical shops include condoms (29%), emergency contraceptives (26%), bed bug spray (26%), head lice treatment (25%), hemorrhoid cream (24%), diarrhea medication (24%), pregnancy kit (23%), bladder leak or incontinence products (23%), menstrual products (23%), and cold sore medicine (23%).

More good news: brands can ship your order without any product identification or company name to prevent couriers or nosy neighbors from discovering what you bought from their store.

And that’s what discreet packaging is all about. 

Discreet packaging uses plain—no conspicuous design or imagery—shipment boxes or mailers with minimal labeling to avoid drawing attention and ensure its contents remain confidential.

Ambiguous Exterior: “Masking” What’s Inside

Ambiguous Exterior Masking What's Inside steal packaging generic label plain boxes bags

Discreet packaging uses the following to keep its contents a secret:

1. Plain boxes or bags

You can use plain white, Kraft, or neutral-colored carton mailers, shipping boxes (full overlap or slotted), or bags with little to no branding.

2. Generic/White labels

Discreet shipping labels can feature only a tracking number, recipient’s address, and any legally required descriptions, depending on your product. You don’t have to include your company name or business logo.

3. Stealth packaging

Packaging materials with tamper-proof features aren’t easy to rip open, securing the quality—and quantity—of its contents. They may use special seals and tapes that need scissors or blades to open. This makes it obvious if others besides the recipient attempted to look inside.

Product Categories Requiring Discreet Packaging

Customers are most likely to request or expect discreet shipping for the following categories:

1. Medication and healthcare products

Product Categories Requiring Discreet Packaging medical healthcare

Some health conditions are considered too embarrassing or sensitive that your customers are secretive about them and may prefer discreet packaging for their medicine. Examples include:

  • Digestive and urinary problems (diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, incontinence)
  • Personal hygiene troubles (body odor, foul breath, excessive sweating)
  • Hair and skin trouble (balding and acne)
  • Snoring or sleep apnea
  • Fungal or viral infection (toes, nails, reproductive organs)
  • Pregnancy

incontrol plain discreet package box with label

Take InControl Diapers, for example. A YouTube video from InControl shows that the adult urine and bowel incontinence diaper brand delivers orders in plain packaging. The box only has a label with your shipment number, name, and address.

2. Vapes

The amended Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act) prohibits the shipment of vaping products, e-cigarettes, and similar devices with or without “aerosolized solutions” via the US Postal Service (USPS). 

It also specifies the wording for packaging labels. “Permitted [cigarette/smokeless tobacco/ENDS] mailing—delivery only upon age verification” must appear in all caps on the mailpiece’s address side, based on its mailing guidelines. 

VapeA1 discreet plain box shipping

VapeA1 boasts “extra discreet plain box shipping.” The company ships customers’ packages from any of its four warehouses with available supplies that are closest to them.

3. Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD regulations vary by state but have common features. For instance, New York State’s Office of Cannabis Management and California’s Department of Cannabis Control require CBD retailers to use child-resistant and tamper-evident packaging that encloses the entire product.

CBD packaging shouldn’t contain elements—such as cartoonish or bubble-like fonts and bright colors—that can be confused with candies or snacks and may attract people aged 20 and below. 

Also, the state expects CBD retailers to use packaging material that will protect the content from light and other contaminants that can lead to product deterioration during storage. Both states require graphic markers on the CBD boxes and packaging.

CBD regulations NY universal symbols for cannabis

Overall, vendors should accurately indicate CBD levels on product labels to avoid getting warning letters from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

One recent agency study showed that only 31% of 84 CBD extracts sold online bore labels accurately listing the CBD content of their goods. The FDA has issued warnings to 12 firms marketing CBD-related products as of July 26, 2023.

Meanwhile, six companies received cease and desist letters from the Federal Trade Commission for using deceptive marketing for their edible goods containing Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, another compound from cannabis sativa. The packaging resembled the designs of popular snacks, such as Doritos, Cheetos, and Nerds Rope Candy.

discreet but branded packaging for medical cannabis

Utah-based WholesomeCo shows a discreet but not plain-looking packaging for its medical cannabis.

4. Adult products

Adult products include alcoholic drinks, lingerie, and sexual wellness products or sex toys.

New Zealand-based company Elusive Lingerie tells its customers to specify in the shipping “Notes” section that they want discreet shipping. Otherwise, they’ll get their order in a plain white but branded box.

Elusive ecommerce brand option for discreet shipping plain white branded box

Standard shipping procedures apply for sexy sleepwear, but for liquor and pleasure toys, consider the following:


Like in CBD, state governments set rules for shipping liquor directly to consumers, including the allowable types, maximum amount, and required permit or license. In general, brands can’t send them through the USPS.

Eight states and territories accept D2C shipments of all spirits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, which lists the details of each state’s requirements:

  • Hawaii
  • Nebraska
  • Kentucky
  • West Virginia
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Florida
  • District of Columbia

In most states, shipments must be conspicuously labeled with these wordings: “Contains alcohol: Signature of person age 21 or older required for delivery.” 

Labels on alcohol shipments for New York residents must also have the same words but must end with “Not for Resale.” Meanwhile, the labels on North Dakota-bound shipments don’t require the phrase “Contains alcohol.”

Pleasure toys

Brands should check state laws on shipping sex toys, the sale of which is banned in Alabama (due to its Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1998), Texas, and Georgia. In Texas, these adult products should be identified as “novelties.” You’ll find them sold at local novelty stores.

bonjibon TikTok plain packaging sexual wellness product

Bonjibon uploaded a video on TikTok showing its “super boring” white label-plain packaging for its sexual wellness products.

Expensive or luxury goods

Luxury or high-end products include:

6. Political items

political promotional items discreet presentation

You can ship individual candidate campaign products to thank donors and supporters or send them in bulk ahead of mass rallies and sorties. These items can include:

3 Steps for Memorable Unboxing with Discreet Packaging

In customizing your discreet packaging’s interior, you can go all-out on box design, colors, and messaging. Get as creative as you want to provide a unique unboxing experience by trying these steps:

1. Greet your customer

Print “Thank you,” “Hello,” or any other catchy and personalized message at the back of your box’s cover or lid to acknowledge your client’s purchase and to introduce your brand further.

Your business name, logo, and other particulars can also fill this spot.

2. Wrap their order in custom tissue paper and a brand sticker

Use tissue paper and stickers bearing your logo, brand name, colors, and patterns to make your customers remember your business even after they’ve used up your product.

3. Include promotional inserts

Add custom promotional inserts based on your engagement and customer acquisition goals:

  • Thank buyers with a customized insert instead of printing a message on the back of your box’s lid.
  • Get client feedback on their purchase and connect with them online through social share inserts.
  • Include a referral card to the package encouraging current customers to refer their friends to your company with a purchase discount.

You can also use these inserts for instructions on using the product or to share your company history, online or offline events, and upsell opportunities. 

How Discreet Packaging Boosts Your Business

How Discreet Packaging Boosts Your Business

You can reap the following benefits when you offer discreet packaging:


Confidentiality works two ways—by concealing your business name and the specifics of your customer’s order, you guard your reputation and your buyer’s privacy.

Some frustrated clients take videos of discreet shipping failures. Prospects who come across such videos are likely to get turned off when they discover your brand doesn’t ship as discreetly as you claim.

Meanwhile, contented customers can polish your image when they leave positive feedback on your review forms and social channels for your expert handling of their sensitive orders.


Discreet packaging isn’t just for embarrassing body-related products but also for high-end items. Generic-looking packaging can prevent theft, damage, or destruction.

Box interior optimization

Although you must be unobtrusive on the outside, your box can bear all your branding elements on the inside. 

Optimize your packaging box’s interior by printing your brand colors, logo, slogan, or personalized message on it. You can also wrap your product with custom tissue and seal it with a custom label or sticker. 

Be intentional with your packaging inserts—use eco-friendly materials for dividers or holders, and include thank you and social share request cards to promote extended engagement with your shoppers.

Available Courier Services for Your Discreet Packages

The country’s top couriers treat various product categories differently. Below is a summary of their services:


US Postal Service (USPS)

United Parcel Service (UPS)

Federal Express (FedEx)


Complies with federal and local laws (only medical practitioners and pharmacists can send prescription drugs)

Direct-to-patient medical shipments and at-home lab diagnostics via UPS Healthcare

FedEx Same Day or FedEx Ground services for shipments weighing 150 pounds or less


Ships to recipients who are at least aged 21 or the legal age allowed by local laws

Doesn’t ship vaping products

Doesn’t ship e-cigarettes and vaporizers

Hemp and CBD

Ships hemp-based products based on federal, state, and local laws

Only raw hemp, not liquid CBD

Ships cannabis for entities (not individuals) that sign a contract with FedEx

Expensive goods

Offers insurance coverage and signature confirmation services

Ships gold and precious metals for shippers who sign a contract with UPS

Offers delivery confirmation services and package tracking for high-end items via UPS Proactive Response

Delivers high-value shipments through its FedEx Declared Value Advantage service

Standard rate: maximum declared value of $9.07 per pound or $1,000 per shipment, whichever is higher

For shippers who qualify to join the FedEx Jewelry Shipping Program: up to $100,000 per shipment within the US and up to $25,000 to select foreign locations

Adult products – liquor

Doesn’t ship intoxicating liquors

Ships alcoholic beverages for licensed beer, wine, and spirits shippers that sign an agreement with UPS. The courier follows intra and inter-state laws on business-to-business and D2C shipments.

Ships alcoholic beverages on behalf of licensed businesses (not individuals) enrolled in FedEx’s alcohol shipping program

You can also opt to work with a fulfillment center, which offers discreet labeling along with shipping services.

Future-Proof Your Business with Discreet Packaging

With 24% of retail purchases expected to happen online by 2026, offering delivery options to your customers—including discreet shipping—can prevent you from being pushed aside by fierce competitors. Over two million retailers operate in the country according to the Census Bureau.

Surprise your customers—or at least don’t make them regret shopping with you—by working with seasoned packaging suppliers that provide white-glove treatment from box type selection to prototyping.

Refine Packaging specializes in customized mailers and shipping boxes, including packaging for brands that seek a balance between a discreet exterior and an impressive interior box design.

We can work with a print-ready design that aligns with our artwork guidelines to ensure a smooth and speedy production process. At the same time, our packaging design specialists can provide expert advice, from box structure to packaging inserts and inside printing. These accomplished graphic artists and engineers can apply their expertise and skills to make your packaging a trust-building vehicle for your brand.

Your journey with us includes 2D and 3D mockup development, which allows you to examine and test your box in its folded-up form before production. Contact us today to discuss your discreet packaging needs.

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