Waste No More: why upcycled ingredients are the compost heap in green beauty’s backyard

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / (chiewr)
© Getty Images / (chiewr)

Related tags upcycling side-stream Waste Sustainability

As sustainability goals in the cosmetics, personal care, and fragrance industry advance to become circularity initiatives, new and novel raw materials that would have otherwise been waste are showing up in the beauty ingredient marketplace.

With every new packaging material, formulation strategy, and marketing premise there comes a stretch of time devoted to proof of concept and consumer education. This often isn’t the actual beginning of a consumer trend but rather the moment when the balance shifts and the concept in question becomes a trend or a movement.

In the upcycled beauty ingredient space, brands like Le Prunier—launched in 2018—occupy this crucial moment. That brand sells just one skin care product: Plum Beauty Oil ($72 for 30mL less 10% if purchased by subscription).

“Our Plum Beauty Oil is created by cold-pressing upcycled plum kernels, which were previously a waste product on the farm,” ​explains the brand’s FAQ page​.

“The remaining flesh of the fruit is then used to create juice, dried fruit, baby food, etc., so nothing goes to waste. Our farm has been 100% powered by solar for the last ten years and we’ve been committed to organic farming for over 30 years. From start to finish, Le Prunier products remain all natural, ethical, and eco-friendly.”

“Le Prunier is 100% sustainable,” ​asserts the brand. And in this concise claim can be found the ultimate ambition of the upcycled beauty movement.

Upcycled beauty ingredients often come from the waste of commodity crops

Upcycling creates or increases the market value of a previously discarded or disregarded material. (By contrast, a material goes through the recycling process when both the original material and the recycled material are of comparable market value.)

Food or beverage production is commonly the source of ‘waste’ that can be upcycled into beauty inputs, especially since food-grade and superfood ingredients have become quite popular with cosmetics and personal care consumers in recent years.

In May of this year, a food waste company called Citrus Extracts that deals in the peel material of citrus fruits made headlines here on Cosmetics Design​ for signing a investment agreement that promises to expand the company’s business into ingredients for the cosmetics industry (among others).

Chemyunion, a Brazil-based specialty chemical company, makes an ingredient called Melscreen Coffee El Deo Org, which is essentially a green coffee oil​. The ingredient is ​rich in linoleic acid and diterpenic esters, [and] indicated for the treatment of aging skin by lipid barrier replacement, stimulation of cell renewal and collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans production. Stabilizes the elastin through stimulation of fibrillin,” according to online product page.

And Renmatix, a biotech company established some 10 years ago, is making noise in the beauty industry with its upcycled Celltice ingredient, a blend of cellulose and lignin made from waste maple wood​.

While suppliers like Full Circle Ingredients specialize in upcycled beauty ingredients​, or inputs made from “plant-based leftovers,” ​as the company’s splash page explains it. The Full Circle Ingredients portfolio includes both active oils from blueberry, raspberry, and hemp; and exfoliants and powders from olive, white rice, charcoal, raspberry, and blueberry. Plus, the company offers an option to collaborate and develop an upcycled ingredient by request.

Fragrance makers are in on the upcycled ingredient trend too

IFF, through its Laboratoire Monique Remy in Grasse (founded in 1983 and known as LMR Naturals at IFF), leverages upcycling to create scents. In a recent post to upcycledfood.org​, Elisabeth Campana, Senior Marketing Manager at LMR Naturals, and Sophie Palatan, R&D Crop Science Development Manager at LMR Naturals, write that “we view food waste as a resource to not only create other food products…but as input for other applications too – including fragrance ingredients.”

And they go on to describe how fragrance inputs called Turmeric Leaf Oil India LMR and Cinnamon Essential are made from side-stream materials, such as turmeric leaves and water used to distill cinnamon bark.

Award-winning beauty ingredients made from waste

In 2016, at the first edition of in-cosmetics North America, Cosmetics Design announced the winners of what was then a single-category celebration called Best ingredient Made from Recycle Materials Award.​ That award eventually became the Beauty Industry Awards and had since been discontinued by WRBM, the company that publishes this site.

This year, both the Sustainable Beauty Awards from Ecovia and the Blue Beauty Awards from Beauty Heroes and INNOCOS​ fill that gap in the cosmetic and personal care awards landscape. 

The deadline for the Sustainable Beauty Awards is swiftly approaching September 30. And while there is no award dedicated to upcycled ingredients per se, there are 5 categories to enter:
(listed here a printed verbatim in this summer’s media release)

New Sustainable Product Award – given to a new cosmetic or personal care product with important sustainability credentials.

Sustainable Packaging - given to a new packaging format that has a low environmental footprint in terms of materials, design and / or application.

Sustainable Ingredient – given to a new ingredient that makes a significant difference in terms of environmental and / or social impact.

Sustainability Pioneer – given to an operator that is a pioneer or leader in some aspect of sustainability.

Sustainability Leadership – given to an organisation that leads in various aspects of sustainability.

Find more information on the 2020 Sustainable Beauty Awards here​, and request an entry form via email: vasb@fhfgnvanoyrornhglnjneqf.pbz
or phone: +44 20 8567 0788

Upcycling in beauty isn’t only about ingredients and raw materials

In early March, Cosmetics Design Editor Deanna Utroske​ caught up with TerraCycle CEO Tom Sazky at this year’s PCPC Annual Meeting event in Palm Beach, Florida. And in that video interview, Szaky talked about the lack of true recycling and dearth of upcycling in the beauty packaging industry​:  “If you’re in the personal care business and you’re making your packaging out of recycled content, which many great vendors are not committing to, all of that is coming from the beverage industry,”​ says Szaky.

“That is actually a really important problem: that your recycled HTP shampoo bottle is a milk jug; your recycled PET bottle is a soda bottle. Everyone is pulling from the beverage industry….What we really need to make sure is that, say, the waste from the personal care industry can be going into something else and [is] not just the last step before landfill.”

A recent initiative from South Korea -based Amorepacific takes a step toward upending that environmentally detrimental reality.

In partnership with TerraCycle and a design startup firm called Radio-B, Amorepacific created a sort of park bench made from the recycled materials of some 1,400 empty beauty product bottles and a high-performance concrete material known as UHPC.

The beauty maker’s Communication Executive Director, Howard Lee, tells the press that, “This upcycled bench project shows how we can extend the lifecycles of products.”

“It is meaningful that we actively spread a positive message of overcoming social issues together,”​ he says, adding that, “Amorepacific is proud to work as a global corporate citizen discovering sustainable and innovative ways to contribute to society.”

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