Upcycled ingredients for cosmetics: this is the challenge for cosmetic brands nowadays

Restoring value to waste from the food industry or process by-products? Upcycled ingredients for cosmetics: this is the challenge for cosmetic brands nowadays.

30% of the food produced for human consumption globally is lost or wasted somewhere along the food supply chain. In addition to wasting perfectly good produce, the other major issue is that when food is sent to landfill, it rots and becomes a significant source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. As consumers are increasingly in demand for ingredients committed to the circular economy, upcycling appears as a not-to-be-missed key.


The term upcycling was coined in 1994 by Reiner Pilz, a former engineer and interior designer. It means “recycling from above”. Upcycling is a form of recycling, which is why the two terms are often confused. But unlike recycling, upcycling does not require a mechanical or chemical transformation of the material. The object is recovered as is and then enhanced to add value and new utility.



Through upcycling, companies can help to reduce this problem by reusing materials that are otherwise destined for disposal. The beauty and personal care industry is also embracing upcycling.  By harnessing the powerful micronutrients and vitamins already present within various food by-products, brands can use this waste resourcefully whilst creating products that consumers love.


AN INGREDIENT CAN BE CONSIDERED AS UPCYCLED when it is obtained by recovering unused by-products or waste from transformation processes in the cosmetic industry, the food industry, or other industries. Upcycled ingredients can be of natural or synthetic origin.


RECOVERY – Protect nature’s resources by reusing existing resources to avoid using new, depletable raw materials.


REDUCE THE CARBON FOOTPRINT – reduce the need to produce new raw materials and thus reduce pollution and energy consumption.


CONSUMPTION – Reduce waste in landfills and natural environments and initiate better waste management.



Although upcycled ingredients are gaining traction, it’s really just the beginning of the movement towards zero-waste beauty. As ingredient manufacturers broaden their portfolios to cater to every formulator’s need, the industry will welcome products made entirely from by-products and leftovers, meaning no new resources will be created.


Packaging is another topic to think about when focusing on zero-waste cosmetics or fully upcycling formulas. From biodegradable refill formats, upcycling materials or new sources of bioplastic, these unique materials and packaging concepts provide insight into what’s possible when it comes to designing high-impact packaging solutions with minimal impact on the earth.



At JWP, we’re out to prove that it’s possible to create incredible products using only upcycling existing materials.


Nowadays, suppliers provide to brands and formulators access to a lot of innovative and sustainable ingredients, that allow us to be more minimalist while reducing our footprint on the planet by making better use of the resources that are already available.


Check out our new 100% upcycling primer here!




ClimateScience. Food Waste: We need to Stop Wasting 30% of our Food. [online] Available at:< https://climatescience.org/advanced-food-waste> [Accessed 1 November2022].
Secrets of the upcycling trend in cosmetics | Safic-Alcan: Specialty Chemicals Distributor | Innovative Formulations. [online] Available at: <https://www.safic-alcan.com/en/us/secrets-upcycling-trend-cosmetics> [Accessed 6 October 2022].
Cosmetics & Toiletries. 2022. Upcycling: a mid-term trend or a new economic model?. [online] Available at: <https://www.cosmeticsandtoiletries.com/research/consumers-market/article/21836438/sophim-upcycling-a-midterm-trend-or-a-new-economic-model> [Accessed 6 October 2022].
Sagentia (2019). People Want Beauty Products to Be More Ethical Says Sagentia Research. [online] Available at:<https://www.sagentiainnovation.com/news-detail/people-want-beauty-products-to-be-more-ethical-says-research/> [Accessed 1 November2022].

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