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If you’ve never given much thought to the provenance of the ingredients within your favorite skin cream, that’s about to change—big time. Upcycling, one of 2021’s biggest food trends, is making big waves in beauty, thanks to increasingly conscientious consumers who are thinking about the environmental impact of their beauty routines. “Shrinkage, misfit, or leftover food trash is a beautiful starting point for effective skin- and hair-care ingredients,” says Tina Hedges, the founder of LOLI Beauty, a line of clean skin care that sources ingredients from organic food suppliers who would otherwise discard potent parts of the fruits, nuts, or vegetables.
Technically, upcycling—the practice of finding a new use for manufacturing waste or byproducts—has been part of beauty for hundreds of years. “When you think about it, the origins of the cosmetics industry began with making use of animal-derived byproducts such as lanolin, squalene, or tallow,” says Harry McIlwraith, a general manager at Upcycled Beauty Ltd., an English supplier of upcycled plant-based ingredients. “Although we have sensibly moved away from the animal origin, there is no reason why we cannot use other forms of ‘waste,’ such as plant-based byproducts.”
Technically, upcycling—the practice of finding a new use for manufacturing waste or byproducts—has been part of beauty for hundreds of years.
While the concept may be rooted in the past, the urgency of our present environmental crisis makes upcycling necessary for the future. Upcycling “rescues” material that would otherwise be burned or sent to a landfill, where it would then release methane emissions—which is a greenhouse gas that causes even more global heating than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “Environmentally, we’re in a different mindset than we were 10 years ago,” Jillian Wright, an expert esthetician and indie beauty expert, says of the movement toward sustainable beauty. “Now, you cannot turn on the TV anymore without somebody talking about climate change. We’re having to shift because we’re being forced to shift.”
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