We spoke to Anna, co-founder of Upcircle, a pioneering beauty brand which is leading the way in by-product beauty; repurposing ingredients that otherwise would go to landfill, and turning them into covetable skincare products.
Can you tell us about UpCircle and its ethos?
We transform by-products from other industries into our products. We started out making face and body scrubs from repurposed 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. Each product is unique and has its own story. It’s what makes our range so special.
We are the only brand who recycle coffee grounds into skincare products at scale, so the range is the definition of innovative! We’ve now saved over 120 tonnes of coffee.
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 each of our products is made with a core repurposed ingredient. No other beauty brand is doing what we do, we are pioneering the by-product beauty movement.
What’s your background and what inspired you to start UpCircle?
About 4 years ago, out of curiosity my brother (the co-founder of UpCircle) 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. He decided it was a great starting point for a business idea, but wasn’t sure what that idea was – that’s where I came in. Throughout my teenage years I wanted to be a makeup artist so always had a keen interest in beauty and skincare. I knew that coffee had loads of great skincare benefits, so… lightbulb moment! Why not repurpose the coffee into sustainable circular skincare products?
My brother used to work in finance and I worked as an area manager for a well-known supermarket. We both had well-paid, secure, corporate jobs but ultimately found them unfulfilling. This was why it was so important to us to start a business that left the world better than we found it.
Do you have one item of skincare that you couldn’t live without?
I think for me a high-quality soap bar is an absolute skincare staple. Ours are 100% natural and palm oil free, packed with fantastic skin-loving ingredients. The packaging is minimal (only a cardboard box for ours), they’re travel-friendly, versatile (face or body) and so long lasting. I’m so pleased that soaps have shrugged off their “old fashioned” reputation and staged such a massive comeback – I am on board!!
What are your top tips for someone who wants to be more sustainable with their skincare routine?
My top tip is to be as conscious of packaging as of the actual ingredients.
The world also has a serious problem with plastic. The beauty industry – glamorous as it may be – is a major contributor. Last year it was reported that 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry, bulked out by the use of complex lids, multi-layered boxes and cellophane, much of which is superfluous, non-recyclable and ends up in our landfills and oceans. The packaging across our range is 99% plastic-free and we offer plastic-free refill options for the 1%.
There are plenty more tips and DIY skincare recipes on our blog.
What are your favourite sustainable brands?
These are all worth checking out: ByRotation (fashion rental app), DAME (they make a reusable tampon applicator), Lucy & Yak (most well-known for their dungarees), nucao (yummy chocolate with great packaging) and Toast Ale (beer from surplus bread)!
What’s next for you and UpCircle?
We have 6 new products set to launch in 2020, we need to hire into 4 different roles and we are looking into expanding our warehouse too!
For our next range we plan to save and transform flower petals from florists and wedding venues. Again, our love of flowers is not likely to wane any time soon, so we have an abundance of ingredients to work with – an endless supply. The only limit to by-product beauty is a lack of imagination!
Find UpCircle at upcirclebeauty.com and follow then on Instagram at @upcirclebeauty
Interested in more founder stories? Click here for another beauty startup making waves in the CBD industry.