#PoweredByFounders Series: UpCycling at UpCircle with Anna and Will Brightman

Powered by re-purposing ingredients that would otherwise have been discarded, this duo is transforming the sustainable beauty scene.

UpCircle Beauty's founders, Anna and Will Brightman | Source: UpCircle
UpCircle Beauty’s founders, Anna and Will Brightman | Source: UpCircle

The idea behind upcycling ingredients came when siblings Anna and Will Brightman realized the amount of coffee grounds discarded everyday that make their way into the landfill. 

What made it even better was the fact that brewed coffee contains many more antioxidants than unbrewed, fresh coffee. This led to the birth of UpCircle – founded by siblings Anna and Will Brightman – based on the core concept of creatively repurposing would-be-waste ingredients. 

Sustainability IS their business, not just a part of it.

Texture of UpCircle Repurposed Coffee Body and Facial Scrub | Source: UpCircle
Texture of UpCircle Repurposed Coffee Body and Facial Scrub | Source: UpCircle

Anna said in an interview,

“We pick up 350kg of fresh coffee grounds each day from over 100 partners across the City and turn them into handmade face and body scrubs and serums the next day.

As an example, the leftover grounds of three espressos go into making one of our facial scrubs.

We also use residual chai spices that smell amazing as the core natural fragrance in our soap bars.”

The team has also saved over 350 tonnes of coffee grounds as of 2021 and over the next five years, they estimate that this number will rise to 1000 tonnes. 

Their range is also 99% plastic free, with plastic free refillable options for the remaining 1%. If you already use their Organic Face Serum with Coffee Oil, consider the refill option for your repeat purchase. 

Their moisturizer is made with a by-product of the argan industry, specifically powdered discarded argan shells. The argan industry benefits the environment and communities – the tree itself safeguards against soil erosion and desertification.

Not only that, it provides shelter for birds and other domestic animals. The communities surrounding the trees also use the wood from Argan trees to build their roofs. Overall, this industry supports 2.2 million people in production areas.

The increasing demand for oil has allowed these practices to be run by predominantly women, who experience increased financial independence. This industry supports the environment and the ecosystem – and within the industry, the team decided that argan shells can be upcycled effectively.


More than labels and certs – a brand that is genuinely making an impact.

What about certifications? With greenwashing rampant in the commercial beauty space, one way consumers can verify the credibility of the company’s claims is through labels and certifications.

UpCircle has been certified by Soil Association and COSMOS – however some of their individual products cannot be certified, as the percentage of repurposed ingredients is well above 50 per cent.

Anna says, “This means that despite being unparalleled in terms of our sustainability credentials, we are not eligible for certification.The Soil Association acknowledges that they may need to rethink their approach to reflect this shift towards a more circular approach. This is a good example of the open-mindedness of the industry to accommodate the use of upcycled ingredients.”


UpCircle’s product range and upcycled ingredients at PoweredByPlant

UpCircle's range of products (excluding their newcomers) | Source: UpCircle
UpCircle’s range of products (excluding their newcomers) | Source: UpCircle

UpCircle Body Scrub with Lemongrass / Peppermint: Made with discarded coffee grounds from artisan cafes in the UK 

UpCircle Floral Facial Coffee Scrub: Made with discarded coffee grounds from artisan cafes in the UK 

UpCircle Face Serum with Coffee Oil: Made with coffee oil from repurposed coffee grounds from artisan cafes in the UK

UpCircle Moisturizer with Argan Powder: Made with finely-ground powder of discarded argan shells, a natural by-product of the argan oil industry and rich in antioxidant Vitamin E.

UpCircle Cleansing Balm with Apricot Powder: Made with the finely-ground powder of discarded apricot stones, a natural by-product of the apricot oil industry and rich in antioxidant Vitamin E.

UpCircle Toner with Mandarin and Chamomile: Made with the anti-inflammatory residual water of green mandarin fruit, a by-product of the juicing industry, and skin-soothing chamomile stem extract, a by-product of the tea industry.

UpCircle Eye Cream with Coffee and Maple Extract: Made with coffee oil extracted from repurposed grounds and anti-inflammatory maple bark extract, a by-product of the wood industry.

UpCircle Body Cream with Date Seeds: Made with the anti-inflammatory extract of leftover date seeds, a by-product of date farming.

UpCircle Fennel + Cardamom Chai Spiced Soap Bar: Made with residual chai spices used to create Henny & Joe’s chai syrup.

UpCircle Cinnamon + Ginger Chai Spiced Soap Bar: Made with residual chai spices used to create Henny & Joe’s chai syrup.

UpCircle Chocolate Chai Spiced Soap Bar: Made with residual chai spices used to create Henny & Joe’s chai syrup.


Our team also asked UpCircle about how their products advocate for inclusivity. 

Are there any guidelines on which products are suited for which skin types?

Anna: We’ve got a broad range of products to suit all ages and all skin types. From gentle cleansers including their palm oil-free Chai Soaps and Apricot Cleansing Balm, to detoxifying products like our Olive and Kaolin Clay Face Mask (we don’t have this on our store yet, but email us if you want to see this in our UpCircle range!). We also have products that you can use for a full skincare routine tailored for your specific skin care needs or skin type. We have even created skincare bundles which group together our top picks for different skincare concerns – two of the best-sellers are their Acne Bundle and Sensitive Skin Bundles. Not only that, they also have a full range of plastic-free accessories which includes their best-selling Safety Razor, reusable Hemp Makeup Pads and biodegradable Bamboo Cotton Buds – plus lots more!

Do your formulations suit the audience with skin of colour?

UpCircle Beauty is an skin-clusive brand | Source: UpCircle
UpCircle Beauty is an skin-clusive brand | Source: UpCircle

Anna: Absolutely. We want our brand to represent skincare for all. Our products are suitable for all ages, all skin types and all skin tones. We’re body positive, gender neutral, represent all ages, and encourage diversity in all forms. Our products are modelled by real customers, family and friends and we are passionate about using authentic visuals that are never photoshopped. 

Why did you choose your products to be vegan and cruelty free? 

Anna: If you ask me, there’s simply no need for the use of animal derived ingredients in skincare. Or ingredients that have been tested on animals for that matter – it’s important to us that we are both vegan AND cruelty-free. I want to know that the products that I use (and that I make) have not harmed any living thing in the process of their production. I can’t think of a single animal derived ingredient that doesn’t have an equally effective plant-based equivalent.. So what’s the need?

Not so long ago, the gold standard for beauty brands was to deliver great products from natural ingredients. Now brands are expected to go much further, to stand for something beyond the ingredients they use. Beauty brands must prove that there is a reason for their existence, one that contributes in some way positively to the environment, to society, or to supporting individual expression. Just having natural and vegan ingredients has become an entry-level requirement.


What’s in store for this planet-friendly brand?

Anna: By the end of 2021, we will be launching their new reef friendly SPF, Handwash, Hand cream and Hand Sanitiser trio. The trio will be distributed to restaurants and hotels, potentially making a huge impact on large scale personal care usage. 

We are also developing a Night Cream and Lip Balm and guess what repurposed ingredients they will be using in these new products?

Seaweed and kiwi – you read that right!

That’s beautiful Anna!

Stay tuned to find out the benefits of these ingredients in your skincare routine and how these are upcycled into the product. You can check out our socials (@thepoweredbyplant) to stay updated on our latest brands and initiatives!  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *