What Are Upcycled Ingredients In Cosmetics?

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Upcycled ingredients is cosmetics are putting food waste to good use. It’s a beautiful idea!

Updated on: Jun 11, 2021 at 20:40

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.

Unwanted Veggies

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 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!

Circular beauty

Here at Eluxe, we’ve been celebrating upcycling in fashion and jewellery for years. And now the spotlight is turning to upcycled ingredients in cosmetics. And those ingredients are, of course, 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 brands that are deliberately rescuing fruit, veg and other ingredients that would 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? Read on!

Companies Using Upcycled Ingredients In Cosmetics

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.

upcycled ingredients in cosmetics

Upcycled Beauty

Zero waste beauty brand Upcycled Beauty 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. Upcycled Beauty 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!

Interestingly, they also upcycle misshapen white rice that gets tossed for not being ‘perfect’ and transforms these into a unique collection of rice-based exfoliating powders and scrubs.

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 products using other upcycled ingredients, such as goji berry roots and distiller grains.

The use of such ingredients fits into the ethos of sustainable brands; Hair O’ Right is carbon neutral and a leading user of recycled packaging materials. Recognition of its green endeavours came last year when it received the Sustainability Leadership title at the 2019 Sustainable Beauty Awards.


 Dr. Craft

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

Creating a biodegradable alternative that not only minimises the potential health risks of mainstream hair dyes but also helps combat food waste is a great idea. The upcycled ingredients in cosmetics made by Dr Craft include pigments from the fruit skins, making a rich blackcurrant-based hair dye. This dye can create intense red, purple and blue hair shades, and when mixed with a natural yellow, can also cater to shades of brunette.




Upcircle Beauty

This London-based brand used to go by the name of Optiat. In 2015, they started upcycling the grounds from a coffee shop in London. The concept really took off, and this year they had a drastic rebranding and remodelling of the company. Today, they use even more upcycled ingredients in cosmetics!

Now called Upcircle Beauty, they now collect from hundreds of coffee houses across the great city of London. This upcycled beauty brand is also tackling other waste in the food industry. For example, they now include the husks of hemp seeds after they are used for oil processing. The result is a line of highly covetable and effective face masks, soaps and scrubs.

upcycled ingredients in cosmetics

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 are never diluted or polluted, always food-grade, fair-trade, organic and ethical. For example? Its hero product, Plum Elixir, is made from plum kernel oil that is sourced from organic farms.

upcycled ingredients in cosmetics

Frank Coffee Scrubs

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

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  here.

14. Terre & Botanique Hair Care

Terre & Botanique is a brand that is upcycling fruits and vegetable scraps, turning them into genius hair care products.

The brand was founded by Stephanie Moody after she was was dissatisfied with the lack of sustainable hair care products on the market for textured hair. Knowing what does and doesn’t work for her, she launched her own brand to share these holy grail products with women who face the same struggle.

The line of zero-waste hair care products are not only affordable, but are made with natural, plant-based ingredients. From their Blackcurrant + Blood Orange Scalp Balm to their bestselling Rice Water + Ginger Pre Poo, the “compost to curls” brand shows how upcycling ingredients can help to restore, rebalance and revitalise the planet and our hair.

upcycled ingredients in cosmetics


Lora O'Brien
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