In today's blog we talked to Anna Brightman, co-founder of UpCircle, who makes natural skincare using re-purposed ingredients, like coffee grounds and chai spices. UpCircle is changing how we see food waste so we wanted to learn more...
Tell us a little bit about UpCircle’s story?
At UpCircle, we elevate leftover natural ingredients, bringing them back to life as beauty products your skin will love.
Our products are natural, organic, vegan, cruelty-free, palm oil-free, sustainable, handmade in the UK and housed in 100% recyclable packaging. But the key point of difference between us and other brands is that our products are made with a core re-purposed ingredient. “Natural” is the new “normal” – we go a step further with our waste-fighting formulations.
The circular economy sits at the heart of what we do – we even named ourselves after it! UpCircle also hints at ‘upcycling’, the process of making something better from things that already exist. Our ultimate mission is to leave the world better than we found it by transforming ingredients that would otherwise be discarded into natural, organic beauty products – better for you, better for the world.
What ingredients do you use to make your skincare products, and why?
We’re all about preventing skin loving ingredients from going to waste – we do this by transforming by-products from other industries into our products. We started out making face and body scrubs from re-purposed coffee grounds collected from artisan coffee shops. We then extracted the coffee oil for our best-selling certified organic face serum, before moving on from coffee to rescuing chai tea spices which had first been used to brew chai tea. The chai spices are used as the natural fragrance for our palm oil free soap bars. We then began powdering fruit stones, which are by-products of the production of fruit oils, like olive and argan oil.
Since launching 3 years ago we’ve rescued 100 tonnes of coffee from cafes and coffee shops across London, transforming them into our coffee-based skincare range. Based on our current growth rates it is estimated that we will have saved an additional 1000 tonnes in the next 5 years. We began our journey collecting coffee grounds from one coffee shop, we now collect from more than 100 coffee houses across London – our list is always growing!
What inspired you to reduce foodwaste?
My brother William (co-founder) used to make his own coffee each morning using a cafetière. Living in central London he didn’t have a garden and so didn’t have enough plants he could use the coffee grounds on, so instead he was simply throwing them away. He asked his local coffee shop what they did with their waste coffee and was shocked to hear that they were producing so much that they had to pay the council to have it removed and disposed of on landfill sites. I knew that coffee had loads of great skincare benefits, so… light bulb moment! Why not re-purpose the coffee into sustainable circular skincare products?
One third of all food produced is wasted. It is one of the most wasteful industries in the world meaning that it gives companies like us a huge number of ingredients from which to do better things with. Food ingredients can have powerful effects on the body on the inside and out – so there’s an opportunity for us to create beauty products from food ingredients that were being discarded and yet still have a huge amount to offer the skin.
We saw that you just launched a new range of products using fruit stones, how do fruit stones help our skin?
We grind the fruit stones down into incredibly fine powders. They don’t have exfoliating properties but create a gorgeous creamy texture in the 3 products that we’ve created from them. Each of the powders is high in lipids (fats) and antioxidants. The lipids make them great for hydrating the skin and the antioxidants help fight free radicals which lead to the signs of ageing. The products in the range are a cleansing balm made from apricot powder, a moisturiser made from argan powder and a face mask made from olive powder!
What is your ultimate skincare routine?
In my morning shower I use our Fennel + Cardamom soap on my body and our Cinnamon + Ginger bar on my face. After that I use a little of our serum underneath my eyes and plenty of our moisturiser on my face too – I cycle to work and the wind can be a little brutal on my skin! I like a Sunday evening pamper, so our face mask and face scrubs are ideal for that! I tend to alternate those 2 products each Sunday. If I’ve worn makeup I use our cleansing balm to remove it with our organic muslins, this is usually once or twice a week.
I don’t have a rigid skincare routine, I vary it seasonally as the weather changes… at the moment it’s hydration, hydration, hydration! #winterprobs
What does the future have in store for UpCircle?
I’m eager for us to be able to provide a full skincare offering, to cater to whatever skincare concern you may have. I’m also highly motivated to continue sourcing varied ingredients that are ending up being thrown away prematurely. I’m currently planning our Christmas 2020 product launches and excited to be re-purposing flower petals from local florists! Nothing is safe from being UpCircled – only our imagination can limit us!