The Rise of Byproduct Beauty

We’ve been tracking the emergence of byproduct beauty at WGSN since 2017 and most recently highlighted it as a key post-Covid-19 sustainability strategy. The emergence of the conscious consumer over the last five years has seen a drastic increase in demand for zero-waste beauty brands.

Byproduct beauty is one iteration of this zero-waste trend, helping to minimise the amount of waste that is sent to landfill by repurposing it for a second life. It refers to the upcycling of waste into key beauty ingredients or packaging materials, with most innovation in this space focusing on food waste.

Recycling Food Waste & Preventing Landfill

Food waste has emerged as a key area of focus, spurred on by rising awareness of global food waste and the strain this puts on our planet. Discarded food waste such as coffee grounds, citrus peel and grapes from the winemaking industry have key properties that can be harnessed for the benefit of the skin, hair and nails, while capturing them from the waste cycle ensures finite resources are preserved and reused. What’s more, upcycling waste materials negates the need to use land, energy, water and carbon to grow or create virgin ingredients or materials, drastically reducing a brand’s environmental footprint.


Covid-19’s Impact

The emergence of Covid-19 has directly impacted this area, too. The outbreak heavily disrupted international supply chains, meaning the collection and processing of ingredients was put on hold due to lockdown, and transportation costs sky-rocketed thanks to additional quarantine measures. This has really accelerated the adoption of byproducts as beauty ingredients, with brands looking to cut down on the risks associated with far-spread supply chains, while pivoting to a regional mindset that helps support their communities.

Byproduct ingredients represent a key opportunity for brands, both in supporting the economy and also in finding value in their own waste. Using byproducts from other industries is often cheaper than buying virgin materials and buying them can help create a cross-industry community that sees money flow to the producers of waste ingredients. It also solidifies a brand’s sustainability work, helping to instil trust in a consumer looking to adopt a more circular lifestyle, while also reducing the carbon footprint of a brand.

New Food-Derived Byproduct Ingredients Come to the Fore

Givaudan launched its Koffee Up ingredient in July. Developed in partnership with Danish start-up Kaffe Bueno, the sustainable coffee oil ingredient is made from upcycled coffee waste and is said to provide anti-ageing and hydration benefits. The ingredients used in the oil are fully traceable to help facilitate supply chain transparency.

Citrus Extracts has recently signed an investment deal to expand its citrus fruits peel ingredient into the cosmetics industry, while Laboratoires Expanscience has developed an active eye-care ingredient from avocado waste. The Body Shop also launched a new shower gel made from misshapen cucumbers from Italy that are otherwise discarded by the food industry and sent straight to landfill.

Beyond Food Waste

We’re tracking the movement of the trend beyond food waste, with byproducts outside the realm of food emerging as viable alternatives to virgin beauty ingredients. Empyri is a new CBD beauty brand that uses upcycled cannabis root extract as its main ingredient. The brand sources it from the marijuana and hemp production waste stream. Biotech company Renmatix has launched Celltice, a skincare ingredient that protects against environmental stressors and is made from upcycled red maple trees.

We’re most excited about emerging research into upcycled plastic waste being used as a beauty ingredient. An article in the ACS journal Central Science, published by the Catalysis Science Program in the US, documents the potential for polyethylene to be catalytically upcycled into liquid lubricants and waxes for cosmetic use. Technologies can be used to extract value from discarded plastic, turning it back into oil and other derivatives.

For more shifts in the beauty industry, listen to Episode 18 of the WGSN Create Tomorrow Podcast: Rebranding Wellness

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