Plastic-free, refillable and reusable: above&beyond ‘lifetime’ indie brand wants to lead a bathroom revolution

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

above&beyond has launched with a small range of refillable 'lifetime' lip balms and will soon launch a refill deodorant, toothpaste tablet and hair and body range [Image: above&beyond]
above&beyond has launched with a small range of refillable 'lifetime' lip balms and will soon launch a refill deodorant, toothpaste tablet and hair and body range [Image: above&beyond]

Related tags refill revolution refillable packaging refills circular beauty plastic-free Lip balm startups Indie beauty Environment green beauty

UK startup above&beyond has launched a plastic-free, refillable and reusable lip balm designed to last a lifetime – a product its founders say will shakeup the fast beauty world and its plastic problem.

Launched in August this year, above&beyond offered a small range of refillable lip balms, with four different ‘flavours’ and four different coloured durable aluminium cases to choose from. Each balm recharge was plastic-free and packed in a biodegradable and compostable outer casing designed to be removed once inserted into the durable balm case. The range was currently available on the above&beyond D2C website, though the company was in various talks with retailers and partners to expand the offering in the UK, Europe, US and internationally.

Co-founded by King of Shaves head Will King and ex-Saatchi & Saatchi planner Bryn Walbrook, the brand longer-term goals to launch more refillable and reusable beauty items, though the decision to start with lip balms had been strategic.

The product on 'everyone's lips'

“Frankly, refillable deodorant brands were cannibalising each other,”​ Walbrook told CosmeticsDesign-Europe. “There was a deluge of bland brands out there doing the same thing and although we were ready, it just felt adverse to our values. Lip balm is a major contributor to single-use waste and landfill that no-one was trying to solve, so why not take the first step?”

King agreed: “Delightfully engineered, cute AF and different from flipping deos (…) We were keen to have a talked about brand. Over 600 million plastic lip salves/balms hit landfill and incineration each year, so we started with a refillable lip balm.”

“…The issue of plastics, their use in formulations and products became evident and concerning to my team and I at King of Shaves in 2018. Off the back of this, in 2019, we launched ‘Code Zero’ – a pathfinder brand approach to minimise or push out plastic usage where possible (…) The above&beyond brand, standpoint, mission was born out of the above in 2020. We wanted our first product to be something on everyone’s lips,” ​he said.

Lifetime use bathrooms and beyond – ‘our vision is to create a refillable home’

Over the next 12 months, the above&beyond brand wanted to extend its lifetime-use refillable beauty range, launching a deodorant, toothpaste tablets, hard shampoo, conditioner and body wash.

“Depending on the success of our lip balm, we’ll gauge how quickly we can scale and focus our attention on NPD and innovation,”​ Walbrook said.

“…Our vision is to create a refillable home, starting in the bathroom. As we know, this concept is far from real world actualisation. Our first range, which will include lip balm and other products soon, is our proof of concept. The challenge is: will people be willing to move from a single-use, wasteful, easy behaviour to a thoughtful, long-term, refillable one?”

The refillable lip balms come in four colours and four flavours [Image: above&beyond]
The refillable lip balms come in four colours and four flavours [Image: above&beyond]

Despite starting with a more premium product – one lip balm case plus three refills cost €30 (£25) – he said the goal was to stock above&beyond products in mass market retailers and be a brand recognised as affordable. “We don’t want to be your traditional environmentally friendly, save-the-planet type brand that you have to fork out your life savings for.”

So, who exactly was the target audience for this mass refill bathroom revolution?

Bringing ‘personality and attitude’ to the eco-warriors and eco-worriers

“Our audience is a cross between the eco-warriors and the eco-worriers,”​ Walbrook said.

The eco-warriors were “young activists”​ who were “constantly seeking out new brands that reflect their environmental passion”​, he said. “…This group are knowledgeable about the environment and ready to shout about brands that are making the right changes.”

The eco-worriers, he said, shared the same passion but had less time and were therefore seeking out “simple solutions”​ that required less research.

Refillable beauty and personal care products offered attractive alternatives for both target groups, he said, though it would be important to do so in an innovative way. “Too many eco-friendly bland brands are exactly that, friendly. We live by the mantra: ‘if I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution’. The sustainable ecosystem needs to make change exciting, engaging and fun. Moving away from the hippie-worthy chatter cuts straight to the heart of our brand and voice.”

Through slick designs and fun branding, he said above&beyond aimed to overturn sustainable beauty traditions and bring “personality and attitude” ​to the refill movement.

‘The biggest promise is a genuine change in behaviour’

Beyond this, Walbrook said the biggest challenge for the brand, and other refill brands, would be changing entrenched consumer behaviours.

“More headlines, more chatter and more of our audience putting their beliefs into action signals the appetite for a refillable universe is within our grasp. It’s up to us to reveal the refillable solar system and ensure access is attainable for all,”​ he said.

King said the goal over the next five years was to drive “refillable world domination”. “…If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got. This is not so good where our Earth is concerned. So, for me, the biggest promise is a genuine change in behaviour; a reset to a more responsible consumption of health, beauty and many other products.”

*Refill Revolution ​is one of CosmeticsDesign-Europe’s top five EMEA beauty trends for 2022​. Particularly in Europe, consumers are ready to transition away from single-use towards refills in beauty and personal care. For more insight on this important shift, watch our Top 15 Global Beauty Trends to Watch in 2022​ video, compiled by our global editors.

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