When you think about ways a beauty brand can be sustainable, what comes to mind? You're likely thinking about their ingredients, packaging, and whether the company operates sustainably.
There are many ways, including those just mentioned, that beauty brands can be more sustainable. We see it in thoughtful brands like DEW MTY with their waterless serum bar. Or Kjaer Weis and their innovative refillable makeup palettes. Or Āthr Beauty's zero-waste makeup palettes. Having zero-waste packaging is arguably the ultimate goal, right? But when we look at the bigger picture, zero-waste packaging is not the only goal post we should aim for.
Take the food industry, for example. Even if we removed all of the packaging from the food industry, we would still have mountains of discarded food every year. One hundred eight billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. Which equates to more than $161 billion worth of food thrown away each year. So what's the solution here?
Enter UpCircle Beauty. As the name suggests, UpCircle Beauty is a play on the word "upcycle." Upcycling is all about giving products that would typically end up in landfills a second life. In Upcircle's case, they are hyper-focused on providing food and beverage byproducts a new purpose by using them in their skincare products.
Upcycling is reusing discarded objects or materials in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.
How it Started
Let's go back to when it all began: London, 2015. Siblings Anna and William got their morning coffee at their favorite café before work. They noticed that the café was discarding large amounts of coffee grounds through a third-party service. After inquiring about it, they learned that the third-party company collected the grounds at a cost to the café. Yet, the coffee grounds still ended up in landfills after all that.
The pair had a lightbulb moment. If just one café had such a massive amount of coffee grounds to dispose of, imagine the number of coffee grounds discarded from all coffee shops in all London. 500,000 tonnes of coffee grounds are sent to landfills in the UK alone every year, and the US coffee consumption is even higher than that.
Anna and William could see that this was utterly unsustainable long-term, so they set out to do something about it.
They decided to find a way to collect the used coffee grounds from cafés and repurpose them into skincare products. With Anna's storytelling background and William's finance skills, UpCircle Beauty was born.
A third of all food in the world is wasted. UpCircle's formulations contain byproducts from the food and beverage industries, including coffee, brewed chai tea spices, fruit stones, and salvaged fruit waters from the juice industry.
But they didn't start with all of those. UpCircle began with up-cycling used coffee grounds into a small range of products. They now have seven coffee-based skincare products.
- Coffee Body Scrub with Peppermint
- Coffee Body Scrub with Lemongrass
- Eye cream with Maple and Coffee
- Floral Coffee Face Scrub
- Herbal Coffee Face Scrub
- Citrus Coffee Face Scrub
- Organic Face Serum with Coffee Oil
Just six years later, the company now has a solid range of skincare products that include other byproducts from the food and beverage industry.
The UpCircle brand has quickly become a cult favorite for its sustainable and ethical stance and simple and affordable skincare. Some of their best-sellers include:
Cleansing Face Balm with Apricot Powder: this unique cleanser contains rescued apricot stones milled into a fine powder and just a dozen other naturally-derived ingredients. The first ingredient, Helianthus Annuus (sunflower) Seed Oil, is high in Vitamin E, known for its hydration and antioxidant properties. Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Oil, another notable ingredient, also hydrates, has healing properties and is a collagen stimulant. Then, there are apricot kernels, made up of over 50% oil and rich in oleic and linoleic acids, known for their hydration qualities. The balm's texture is luscious and luxurious, as it effortlessly emulsifies makeup and debris from the skin without drying it out.
Hydrating Face Serum with Coffee Oil: another one of their best-sellers is their coffee oil face serum. Coffee seed oil is high in linoleic acid, which is excellent for hydration. Coffee also contains detoxifying properties, reducing inflammation on the skin and brightening the skin's complexion. Collagen-boosting astringent Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Fruit Oil also aids in skin brightening and hydrating. Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Seed Oil is high in Vitamin A for skin clearing, and antioxidant-rich Vitamin E, for protection against signs of aging. This award-winning serum is lightweight in texture and suitable for all skin types. Use it on the face or hair, and beards for a hydrating and nourishing leave-in treatment.
Face Moisturizer with Argan Powder: UpCircle's face moisturizer is another superstar product. It's formulated using rescued argan shells from the argan oil industry. Argan oil comes from the fruit pips of argan trees, native to Morocco. Rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, it's easy to see why this anti-inflammatory and hydrating ingredient has become one of the most popular ingredients used in hair and skincare. The argan oil industry is valued at USD 223.9 million in 2019 and is set to increase 10.8% from 2020 to 2027. With those incredible numbers and the skin benefits of argan oil, we can see why Anna and William decided to reclaim this resource and give it a second life in their skincare products. UpCircle's face moisturizer is nourishing, lightweight, and fast-absorbing, making it the perfect staple in any regime. The ingredients consist of varying organic and natural ingredients, including antioxidant-rich Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Butter, for protecting the skin from external elements and free radical damage; Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Blood Orange) Peel Oil to build skin resiliency and boost collagen production; Frankincense oil for healing and skin cell repair; and of course, finely-milled argan shell.
Face Toner with Mandarin and Chamomile: An honorable mention goes to Upcircle's face toner. It contains salvaged fruit waters from the juicing industry. For anyone who isn't aware, the beauty industry is one of the most wasteful industries regarding water waste. Prediction forecasts a water shortage in ⅔ of the world by 2025, which is quite an alarming statistic. Skincare products are typically formulated with water as the top ingredient—roughly between 75-90% of the formulation—and the process to create and bottle the products also uses incredible resources, the main one being water. So UpCircle's face toner is essentially a waterless product. The other benefit of using fruit waters is the minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and functional actives present in the fruit waters. They have far more benefits for the skin than mineral-filtered water. Mandarin, for example, is anti-inflammatory, skin brightening, and circulation-boosting, giving the skin a more radiant complexion.
As mentioned before, UpCircle started by recovering one byproduct: used coffee grounds. But just a few years later, they now retrieve ten different byproducts from the food and beverage industry, with big plans to expand their sourcing and skincare menu to include many more byproducts.
Not Just Skincare
UpCircle is known for their skincare cult classics. But they have also expanded their range to include other reusable and non-disposable bathroom items.
Plastic-Free Safety Razor: 100% chrome.
Hemp and Cotton Makeup Rounds: 70% hemp, 30% cotton.
Tube Squeezer: 100% metal alloy.
Muslin Cloths: handmade by women operative in India.
Bamboo Cotton Buds: sustainable bamboo, recycled paper box.
Cotton Wash Bag: 100% fair trade cotton.
Drawstring Bag: 100% fair trade cotton.
Accessible to All
When you think of unique skincare and wellness brands, you'd normally associate them with being expensive or exclusive. Not UpCircle. Anna's passionate about maintaining a high-quality brand with strong values and ethics that is accessible and affordable to the masses. What's the point of changing the world and making a difference if only the wealthy can afford your products, after all?
The price point for UpCircle's products ranges from $9usd for their face and body bar cleansers up to $30usd for their body cream. But most of their products sit around the $20usd mark.
Keeping it Simple
UpCircle's products are accessible to most. They keep the formulations effective for all skin types. They use high-quality organic, naturally-derived, sustainably, and ethically sourced ingredients that are gentle enough for sensitive skin, effective for stubborn skin, with proven results.
UpCircle is committed to minimizing its impact on the environment. Their packaging is 99% plastic-free. Most of their products come in glass bottles or jars with aluminum lids. The only plastic they use in their products is the dropper or sprayer lids for their serums and toner. A decision they did not take lightly, but without those mechanisms, the serums and toner would be pretty challenging to use.
When customers receive their first bottle with the dropper or sprayer, they can keep them and purchase replacement bottles with the aluminum lids. So from that point onwards, all purchases are plastic-free.
The boxes of the products come in recyclable cardboard.
Pioneers of Circular Beauty
UpCircle Beauty believes that the future of skincare is circular and that repurposing and breathing life into products and ingredients that already exist is the fastest way to make an impact. With its innovation and core values at the forefront of its operation, UpCircle Beauty is pioneering a better world, one coffee ground at a time.
Emma Jade has been a trained esthetician for over 15 years. She is a sustainable skincare writer, educating and building awareness around proper skin health that doesn't cost the earth.
Some of the products promoted in our blog are from our online store. Many others are brands we have researched and found to be great examples of sustainable, ethical, and innovative brands in their field, and we don't profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition