What’s Upcycled Beauty & Why Do You Need It?

Upcycled beauty products recycle something you might not suspect. And we think that’s beautiful!

By Lora O’Brien

Food waste is a real problem.

I’m not talking about that last piece of soggy broccoli you just didn’t feel like eating, or the tomato in your fridge that’s grown a white, fuzzy mold. Sure, that stuff counts a bit. But I’m talking about waste on a much, much larger scale.

Food waste is mainly the fault of corporate food conglomerates. They’re guilty of such wanton practices trawl fishing, which catches and kills all kinds of fish – including those that are not viable for retail sale. Industrial fisheries are responsible for dumping a staggering 10 million tons of (dead or dying) fish, known as bycatch, back into the ocean each year. This news comes at a time when nearly 90 percent of the world’s fish stocks are threatened by overfishing.

But that’s not corporate food’s only sin.

Unwanted fruit & veggies: more than you think

In terms of fruit and vegetables, here’s a shocking statistic: around 40%, or 1.3 billion tons of all produce is discarded each year in Europe – just because it’s ‘ugly.’ This happens because supermarkets believe consumers will be less drawn to buy crooked carrots, misshapen apples, or tiny strawberries.

A further million tonnes is wasted in the hospitality sector, with overly generous portion sizes being cited as one reason why restaurants throw out so much food. Expiry dates are another cause of food waste.

These dates are rather arbitrary and often don’t really reflect the edibility of food. But in many countries, shops are legally required to throw items past their sell-by date into the bin.

Yep, food waste is seriously tragic. And when you factor in the huge carbon and water footprints caused by growing, picking and transporting the food, alongside the release of greenhouse gas as the wasted food decomposes in landfill, it’s certainly time for a change, right?

upcycled ingredients in cosmetics

Some good food upcycling ideas

It seems pretty obvious that some pretty tasty stuff can be made from food waste. Not only that – but there’s profit to be made from it, too!

Some snack companies have cottoned on to this, and are manufacturing tasty stuff from ‘ugly’ produce. For example, WTRMLN WTR uses fruit that doesn’t meet aesthetic standards and turns it into flavoured water. Pulp Pantry makes tasty chips using leftover vegetable juice pulp. And Barnana partners with farms in Latin America to buy bananas that would otherwise get thrown out. After dehydrating the fruits, they turn them into different flavored snacks, like Chocolate Banana Bites.

But it’s not just snack companies that are putting good use to food waste; cosmetic companies are, now, too! And that’s caused an explosion in what’s now known as upcycled beauty products.

Circular beauty products

Here at Eluxe, we’ve been celebrating upcycling in fashion and jewellery for years. And now the spotlight is turning to upcycled beauty products. And the ‘upcycling’ of course, refers to food.

Now, let’s make one thing clear: we’re not talking about taking perfectly good food products and putting them into cosmetics. That’s simply nothing new. Edible coconut, olive oil, and even pumpkin are but a few common ingredients that have been used in loads of beauty products since forever.

What I’m referring to is innovative beauty brands that are deliberately rescuing fruit, veg and other plant based ingredients. These delicious foods would all be otherwise destined for landfill. This trend, otherwise known as ‘circular beauty’, is all about turning waste or by-products from the food industry into sumptuous skincare.

Today, coffee grounds, banana skins, plum pits and even weirdly shaped carrots are being given a Cinderella-style makeover, resurfacing as gorgeous cleansers, creams and face masks.

Want to see some of the best examples of companies using upcycled ingredients in cosmetics? Ready to see how things you’d normally find in the kitchen are appearing in your bathroom? Read on!

Companies Making Upcycled Beauty Products

1. The Body Shop

It may not be the most clean beauty brand in general, but we’re glad to see that the latest range of bath products from this pioneering brand use ‘second choice’ fruits and veggies! The Body Shop’s Bath Blend range consists of hydrating bath foams that nourish skin with natural antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients.

With combinations of ingredients like banana and avocado oil or coconut and passion fruit, carrots and mango seed oil, these new bath foams smell like – and were inspired by – smoothies.

We wanted something that went beyond a normal bath foam, that would hydrate and nourish dry skins with natural antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients. At The Body Shop, we are always guided by the benefits provided by natural ingredients, so, for us, a mixture of fruits and vegetables for the bath makes sense,” said Débora Gentil, a representative of the brand.

Ships: Internationally

Price range: Low

What they make: Mainly bath-based products

upcycled beauty products

2. Wilde Fruit

Zero waste beauty brand Wilde Fruit is on a mission! They aim to redefine the way personal care products are made. They strongly believe it’s possible for brands to thrive by upcycling existing raw materials from vegetable origins, and are showcasing just how accessible this is.

The European food sector generates a shocking 250 million tons per year of by-products and waste, and a huge part of that is fruits and vegetables. Wilde Fruit takes various by-products such as berry pulp, leftover from juice production, and discarded olive pits. They then transform this ‘waste’ into beauty products that truly benefit your skin!

Ships: UK

Price range: Medium

What they make: Skincare, from cleansers, moisturisers and serums to their best selling enzyme oil.

circular beauty products

3. Hair O’ Right

This Taiwanese (but internationally available) company is a true pioneer! It was the first to introduce natural hair care products made from spent coffee grounds, way back in 2006. It is now creating loads of beauty products using other upcycled ingredients, such as goji berry roots and distiller grains.

The use of such ingredients fits into the ethos of this sustainable brand. Hair O’ Right is carbon neutral and a leading user of recycled packaging materials. In fact, the brand is so green, it received the Sustainability Leadership title in the 2019 Sustainable Beauty Awards.

Ships: Internationally

Price range: Medium

What they make: Hair products, from shampoos and serums to conditioners.

upcycled beauty products

4. Superzero

As you probably know, many conventional hair dyes are full of toxic ingredients that are super bad for your health. But did you know? Scientists have come up with a creative technique for making hair dye: using blackcurrant skins! These are actually leftovers from making the popular fruity beverage, Ribena.

Another great upcycled beauty idea comes from Superzero. This brand repurposes sustainably harvested charcoal from oak offcuts from the fencing industry. They upcycle this waste into hair and skincare products.

For example? They offer hand treatments, shampoos, and thinning hair treatments. But the best part? All of their products are solid, water free formulae. This means three great things: less packaging, no preservatives, and a longer lasting product!

Ships: Internationally

Price range: Low

What they make: Mainly solid shampoo and conditioner bars.

5. Upcircle Beauty

This London-based brand started out by upcycling the grounds from a coffee shop in London. The concept really took off, and now they’re one of the best known upcycled beauty brands in the UK.

Today, Upcircle Beauty now collects grounds from hundreds of coffee houses across the great city of London. This circular beauty brand is also tackling other waste in the food industry. For example? They actually buy hard-to-use items like the husks of hemp seeds and transform these and other foods to make highly effective face masks, soaps and scrubs.

Want to be sure your scrub works as best as can be? Follow your favourite celebrity’s advice and make it a habit to wash your face weekly with a good one. Kim Kardashian’s stylist recommends ridding your face of built up dead skin by rubbing it around in a circular motion. Rinse off with warm water, and voila!

Ships: UK

Price range: Medium

What they make: Fabulous skincare with a wide range of products

upcycled beauty products

6. LOLI Beauty

The beauty industry needs stirring up. And New-York based beauty brand LOLI (Living Organic Loving Ingredients) is doing just that! The founder of this rather luxurious sustainable beauty brand felt that beauty products had lost connection to what really nourishes us: food. In its place, you’ll usually find a toxic blend of 95% basic tap water, preservatives and synthetic ingredients.

Not with LOLI, though! Redefining beauty while tackling food waste, LOLI Beauty uses upcycled ingredients in cosmetics like no other. They never dilute their products with water. Everything is always food-grade, fair-trade, organic and ethical. For example? They make their hero product, Plum Elixir, from plum kernel oil that is sourced from organic farms. No wonder this is one of the world’s favourite upcycled beauty brands!

Ships: USA

Price range: Medium

What they make: Skincare and body care products

Loli beauty products

7. Frank Coffee Scrubs

I like two things: coffee and pampering myself. And Frank upcycled beauty products allows me to indulge in these two pleasures through their innovative range!

For example? Their coffee based scrubs are simply divine. They smell like a hot cuppa java, and are infused with natural oils to moisturise as they exfoliate.

More of a DIY kinda girl? You can easily learn how to make your own coffee exfoliators, too.

Ships: Internationally

Price range: Low

What they make: Facial, lip and body scrubs

franks scrubs

Do you know of any other upcycled beauty brands? Let us know in the comments, below!

Lora O'Brien
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