Beautiful waste? Dutch startup Honestly it’s wants upcycled beauty to move mainstream

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Netherlands-based beauty startup has developed a three-in-one scrub made using upcycled coffee, packaged in 10g single-use compostable sachets [Image: Honestly it's]
The Netherlands-based beauty startup has developed a three-in-one scrub made using upcycled coffee, packaged in 10g single-use compostable sachets [Image: Honestly it's]

Related tags: upcycled ingredients, Coffee, waste ingredients, orange peel, circular beauty, Sustainability, compostable packaging, Skin care, Skin health

Circular beauty startup Honestly it’s has developed a waterless, upcycled coffee scrub and is working on an orange peel waste variant to launch next year – products it wants to take mainstream and inspire other brands with.

Launched in June this year, Honestly it’s spent two years developing its first upcycled beauty product – a biodegradable three-in-one body wash, exfoliator and moisturising scrub made from collected coffee grinds. Packaged in compostable 10g sachets designed for sustainable single-use, the ‘My Addiction’ foaming scrub powder needed to be mixed with tap water ahead of use and was certified vegan and cruelty-free.

Coffee waste for better skin and a better planet

Muqaddas Rahmonova, founder of Honestly it’s, said the brand had started with coffee waste because of how much ended up in landfill every year.

“When coffee decomposes it becomes acidic and the ground soil changes its pH. If pH changes, it causes a lot of problems. I also found out that when coffee decomposes, it produces another greenhouse gas methane, 20 times stronger than CO2, and just thought ‘oh my god, this is crazy’,”​ Rahmonova told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

“…For us, our model is to use upcycled ingredients (…) It is the key because it’s a freely available resource that we can get and, instead of wasting it, we can actually use it for good purposes,”​ she said.

Denmark-based biotech startup Kaffe Bueno had also focused its attention on coffee waste in recent years, developing a range of active ingredients for the beauty industry from spent coffee beans​, including an oil that it had partnered with supply major Givaudan to distribute. The oil could replace argan and rosehip in cosmetic formulas for anti-aging, moisturising and skin barrier enhancement properties. In October, last year, Kaffee Bueno closed a €1.1m seed funding round​ that it planned to use to continue exploring the active ingredient potential of used coffee beans.

Waterless formula packed in compostable sachets

Honestly it's had originally tested a liquid format but switched to waterless when foaming properties proved the same [Image: Honestly it's]
Honestly it's had originally tested a liquid format but switched to waterless when foaming properties proved the same [Image: Honestly it's]

Rahmonova said Honestly it’s scrub formula had originally been designed in liquid format, but when testing showed a water-free powder provided good emulsifying and foaming properties and provided the “same exact function”​ as the liquid version, it switched.

“There is a huge problem with water. People are really suffering without water, so why are we putting extra water on our skin? It is helpful, but 60-80% [in formulas] doesn’t do much. I removed the water; I was just experimenting – I don’t follow the rules,”​ she said.

The next important step in the development process, she said, had been the sustainable packaging to align with the circular beauty values of the brand. Honestly it’s had considered using glass and aluminium, she said, but settled on compostable sachets once the right supplier had been found.

Finding the right packaging that eliminated plastic, she said, had been the toughest and longest part of the development process.

Global mass retail – circular beauty ‘is actually the future’

So far, Honestly it’s had launched its foaming scrub onto its D2C website and in a specialty eco-friendly store in Amsterdam, but Rahmonova said the brand had bigger long-term plans to upscale retail presence fast, ideally in larger, non-specialty stores.

“It should be mass. That’s our goal, to go very global, because it’s really important for people to know about this kind of concept,”​ she said.

In 2021, the brand wanted to expand beyond its domestic Netherlands market into Germany and the UK and then into North America by 2022, she said. By 2023, she said the brand hoped to secure presence in southeast Asia.

As it worked to ramp up mass retail listings on a global scale, Rahmonova said she hoped Honestly it’s inspired other beauty brands by proving it was possible to develop a circular product for mainstream beauty.

“For circularity, I can just name [beauty] brands with five fingers (…) Other brands are not circular but they could be. I don’t know why they’re not doing it. I think it’s actually the future, as long as brands like us can deliver the message correctly,”​ she said. “…If brands like us do deliver the message correctly, the consumer behaviour and idea about circular beauty will change.”

Kickstarter for orange peel scrub NPD and coffee extensions

Upcycled waste ingredients would continue to be central for Honestly it’s, Rahmonova said, and in November the company would launch a crowdfunding Kickstarter project to finance the development of its next upcycled beauty product – a scrub made using waste orange peel. The company planned to collect the peels, dry them, blend them and use the ingredient for scrub particles along with orange essential oils and other extracts from the fruit waste.

Money raised from Kickstarter would also contribute to product developments to extend its original coffee scrub line to include variants with mint and oat; the latter for very sensitive skin, she said. 

Consumer education on 'waste ingredients' would continue to be a hurdle for beauty and focus for Honestly it's [Image: Honestly it's]
Consumer education on 'waste ingredients' would continue to be a hurdle for beauty and focus for Honestly it's [Image: Honestly it's]

“It’s possible to make circular beauty skin care, but it needs a lot of time, effort and budget. The most exciting and interesting part, and what I’m waiting for, is to develop other products and make this industry change. I have so many ideas; I’ve already prepared R&D, ingredient lists, packaging and everything but it needs effort and teamwork.”

A hurdle for future developments – for Honestly it’s and other brands – she said, would be educating consumers that waste upcycled ingredients were not “just trash”​ and could be good for the skin and were better for the environment and planet.

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