12 Beauty Brands That Upcycle Food Waste Into Sustainable Skincare Options

You see many terms when shopping for beauty products: clean, green, sustainable, fair trade, zero-waste, and organic. And because cosmetics are under-regulated in the U.S., this can all be difficult to decode. Another term you have probably encountered when it comes to the beauty industry is upcycled ingredients. You'll definitely want to know what this term means, why it's a good thing, and the best beauty brands that upcycle food waste into sustainable skincare options.


Upcycling is the process of creating something useful out of waste, discarded materials, and manufacturing byproducts, according to The International Natural and Organic Cosmetics Association (NATRUE). The main source of upcycled ingredients for beauty products comes from the food and beverage industry. This can be the byproduct of food production — like fruit seeds from juicing or coffee grounds— or it can be the less pretty-looking fruits and vegetables or expired foods that wind up in the trash.

There is a lot more food waste than you might think: A 2011 report for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) stated that approximately one-third, or around 1.3 billion tonnes, of food production worldwide ends up as waste. Brands that upcycle food waste help to decrease the carbon footprint and land and water usage associated with the growth, harvest, manufacture, and shipping of agricultural ingredients. We've found 12 skincare brands that use upcycled food waste ingredients and will fit into your sustainable beauty practice, alongside those refillable beauty products.


1. Good Faith

Good Faith is a brand created by two California natives who make vegan and cruelty-free skincare products that are free from synthetic ingredients. The brand takes its commitment to using ingredients that are good for humans and the environment a step further by sticking with its California culture and using upcycled grapeseed oil, a byproduct of the wine-making process, in its Brightening Serum + Vitamin C. Grapeseed oil is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and phytoceramides to even the skin tone, reduce the appearance of redness and discoloration, make the skin look plump and firm, and offer a feeling of protection from environmental stressors.


Sustainable Brands, a community of brand innovators committed to influencing the worldwide commercial market, reported that 12 million tonnes of grape waste are left over from the crushing of wine grapes annually. If thrown into a landfill, grape waste produces high levels of CO2 as it decomposes, and high CO2 levels can contribute to climate change and smog, according to the University of Colorado Boulder Environmental Center. There are other uses for wine production food waste other than for beauty products. This byproduct is sometimes added to certain foods and used as a food colorant.

2. Circumference

Dedicated to creating sustainable beauty products, Circumference uses ingredients that are headed toward the trash. The brand partners with independent producers of agricultural ingredients, so they can upcycle the byproducts into naturally bioactive botanicals for the skin in what it calls "true, full-circle sustainability". In 2020, it introduced its Waste-Not Sourcing initiative by partnering with Brightland, a California-based olive oil manufacturer, to obtain the leftover olive leaves for use in its skincare. 


The leaves are used to make an olive leaf extract that the brand adds to its Daily Regenerative Cleanser. Olea europaea leaf extract is rich in antioxidants and active compounds that leave skin feeling nourished, calm, and hydrated. The remnants of the extraction process are then used as compost to support the farming cycle and keep the process going. Circumference also partners with Bedell Cellars to use the winegrower's byproducts to utilize the grape leaves in a similar manner. The grape leaf extract, Vitis vinifera extract, contains powerful polyphenols (natural compounds that protect against environmental stress and inflammation) to keep skin looking healthy and youthful.

3. Cocokind

You may have seen Cocokind in the skincare aisles of stores like Target, Whole Foods, and Ulta. More than just a pretty face, this beauty brand is dedicated to its sustainability efforts and providing customers with transparency in the ingredients used in its formulas, as well as the sustainability facts of each product — which are displayed on product labels. These sustainability facts show the carbon emissions produced, where and how the ingredient was produced, and the product's packaging and recyclability.


One way Cocokind is making strides in sustainability is by using upcycled coffee grounds in its Scrubbing Clay. Sourced from a local California coffee manufacturer, the coffee grounds, which would have otherwise been disposed of, are used to minimize waste. Plus, according to the World Economic Forum, when coffee grounds decompose in landfills, they release methane gas that has the potential to cause global warming at a rate of up to 86% more than CO2. Better off used in skincare, coffee grounds are great for exfoliating the skin, and the caffeine they contain makes skin look firmer, smoother, and brighter.

4. Further Soap

Is upcycling upcycled ingredients a thing? It is for Megan and Marshall Dostal, founders of Further Soap. What began as a way to power his biodiesel car, Marshall collected the leftover waste vegetable grease from some of the finest restaurants in America and made biofuel with a homemade conversion process in his garage. The result was a lot of leftover glycerin (a byproduct of the biodiesel conversion process), which the Dostals then started using to make a biodegradable glycerin liquid hand soap. The pair has expanded their product selection to now include candles, conditioner, hand lotion, dish soap, and shower gel.


Further may have begun in the Dostal's garage, but they now use local producers in Los Angeles County to create their products. And many of the restaurants from which they obtain the waste vegetable oil they use for their product formulas also use Further Soap, supporting the brand's full-circle, upcycled, no-waste process.

5. Go Cirkulär

Another brand utilizing leftover coffee grounds, Go Cirkulär uses coffee oil from waste obtained from coffee byproducts in its Activating & Antioxidant Body Oil. Based on a circular economic model that includes researching which food waste items contain bioactives that are good for the skin and then collecting them from restaurants, hotels, cafes, and other food industries to use in skincare products. Go Cirkulär's goal is to use natural and organic upcycled ingredients to reduce food waste and make skincare products that are not only good for the skin, but the planet, as well.


Go Cirkulär is based in Sweden, ranked as the sixth highest coffee-consuming country, according to statistics published by World Population Review this year. This means more coffee waste is available, so it only made sense to utilize the ingredient and create products made with cold-pressed coffee oil. Coffee has anti-aging benefits and is used to give the skin a nourished and reparative feel. Research published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity Journal stated that coffee can also improve wound healing on the skin.

6. Kadalys

Working to reverse climate change by reducing food waste, Kadalys uses upcycled waste and by-products from the agro-food industry. And its main source of agro-waste is the banana plant.

As stated on Kadalys's website, 22 million tons of bananas, which equals 20% of the world's banana production, are tossed in the trash every year just because they are, well, not so cute. That's right, this brand takes misshapen, old, or otherwise unsightly bananas that are sent to the bin and creates bioactive ingredients for use in skincare products. Working with banana growers in Guadeloupe and Martinique means the brand can preserve a standard of quality and safety through traceability, environmentally-friendly methods, and sustainable and fair trade agricultural practices.


Rich in essential fatty acids, phytosterols and polyphenols, and tocopherols, banana oil works to protect the skin's barrier, hydrating and strengthening the skin. This creates a more youthful and healthier appearance. All Kadalys products contain a form of active banana ingredient, from pink bananas in the Organic Pink Banana Glow Booster Serum to green bananas in the Soothing Day Cream to yellow bananas in the Radiance Precious Oil.

7. Le Prunier

From a family-owned California plum farm founded in 1916 to a luxe skincare brand using upcycled plum oil, that's the legacy of Le Prunier, a skincare brand run by three sisters dedicated to creating sustainable beauty. After discovering the skin benefits of the farm's organically-grown fruit, they began making Plum Beauty Oil from the plum kernels, a waste byproduct of the farm, to eliminate waste and use the sustainable plum-based ingredients. Every aspect of the process is done right on the family farm, from the growth and harvest of the fruit to cold-pressing the oil from the kernels.


Plum oil is packed with antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and phytochemicals to plump, hydrate, and brighten the skin. This oil has a cushiony feel on the skin and can be used on the face, hands, body, and even your hair. The brand also makes Plumscreen® Broad Spectrum SPF 31 UVA/UVB/HEV PA+++, a mineral sun protection product that includes skincare benefits.

8. Uni

Uni is a brand that works on The Uni Cycle, which is a protocol developed by the company that considers every aspect of the design process when crafting its products. These efforts result in a product line that utilizes sustainable, reused, and recycled ingredients that reduce the impact of food waste.


One upcycled ingredient featured in Uni's lineup is Olea europaea seed powder, also known as ground olive pits or Australian "pips". This powder is added to the Exfoliating Hand Wash to exfoliate and smooth the skin. Uni also works to reduce its carbon footprint by sourcing renewable energy and forgoing single-use plastic, offering a recycled refill program instead. Research has shown that other uses for discarded olive pits are in the production of ceramics materials, as stated in a study published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, and as a means to eliminate heavy metals from wastewaters, as published by Science Daily.

9. Pai Skincare

Upcycled ingredients aren't limited to olives and coffee grounds. Certified Organic beauty brand Pai Skincare has found ways to make use of upcycled fruit ingredients in its products: namely, bilberries, plum seeds, and apricot kernels from the food and juice industries.


If you've ever stepped inside a juice shop, you can imagine the amount of food waste they create. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated that almost 50% of all fruit crops are produced for juice, and 25 million tons of waste is generated each year from citrus juicing alone. Think of that next time you grab a healthy green powder drink.

A great way to support the reduction of food waste in the fruit industry is to purchase from beauty brands that use upcycled fruit ingredients. Check out Pai C – 2 Believe Vitamin C Brightening Moisturizer with upcycled bilberry extract to repair the skin and leave it glowing. And Polly Plum Calendula & Jojoba Comforting Body Cream to hydrate and soothe the skin.


10. Pelegrims

Pelegrims is a beauty brand that obtains waste material for its products from a nearby English vineyard, creating grape extracts in small batches at in-house laboratories. Such close proximity to the vineyard means a reduced carbon footprint and direct traceability from raw materials to final creation.


The brand doesn't simply offer one type of grape extract but extracts from a variety of different types of grapes. For example, there's the pinot noir extract, abundant in polyphenols and resveratrol (a natural phenol that has antioxidant properties, good for fighting inflammation and aging). You can try the pinot noir extract in Pelegrim Face Balm and Face Oil. The brand also utilizes the Ortega grape (used to make white wine) to create an extract that hydrates the skin and stimulates cell regeneration, leaving the skin feeling soft and repairing damage. Experience the Ortega grape extract in Pelegrim body products: hand cleanser, hand pomade, and hand cream.

11. Farmacy

Spotted this brand at Sephora? Yes, everyone loves the Wake Up Honey Eye Cream and the 10% Niacinamide Night Mask. But did you know that they come with the added benefit of upcycled ingredients from the food industry? That's right, Farmacy uses upcycled blueberry seed oil, upcycled cranberry peptide, and upcycled apple extract in its formulas, which are often byproducts in the creation of jellies, jams, and juices.


Farmacy stated that in 2023 they plan to save 2.25 tons of food waste by using upcycled ingredients and through a partnership with Feeding America in the U.S. and Second Harvest in Canada to donate 3 million meals. The brand pledged "to have 100% of its new products utilize upcycled ingredients, encompassing almost two tons of waste that would have ended up in landfills" (via Kline). The brand also uses 100% waste-free packaging, so everything is recycled and recyclable.

12. Green People

A true natural beauty pioneer, Green People has been crafting organic skincare since 1997. The brand has long supported charities that conserve nature and protect people in crisis. So, it should come as no surprise that it is also one of the beauty brands that upcycle food waste into sustainable skincare options.


Green People uses upcycled coconut shells in its Purifying Face Mask to create the activated charcoal ingredient, beneficial for drawing out toxins and refining the pores. Using coconut shells to make activated charcoal is a purer and more environmentally-friendly way to get the ingredient versus using coal-based carbons, according to research published in the Journal for Cleaner Production, because it uses less non-renewable energy and creates a smaller carbon footprint. As stated in Scientific African, the manufacturing process of coconut products produces approximately 62.5 million tons of waste each year, one of the largest amounts of bio-waste found in over 90 countries worldwide, which means coconut shells are widely available for upcycled usage.