Upcycling lessons from pioneering Finnish beauty brand Lumene

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

The brand has been working with upcycled food ingredients for over 20 years
The brand has been working with upcycled food ingredients for over 20 years

Related tags upcycled beauty Natural ingredients circular beauty sustainable beauty circular economy green beauty Recycling Skin care

Lumene has 53 years of heritage and has been formulating beauty products with wild-crafted and upcycled Nordic ingredients since 2001.

Although Finland experiences two months of darkness in the winter, it also two benefits from two months of sparkling daylight in the summertime. As a result, many of the ingredients used in Lumene’s skin care product formulations benefit from this uninterrupted daylight, so this was the thought process behind the brand’s tagline: ‘beauty born of arctic light’.

The unique arctic light cycle creates unusually potent super-fruits – such as arctic cloudberries – which according to Lumene’s VP of R&D and Sustainability, Alain Mavon, is the brand’s ‘hero ingredient’ and can be “used as a natural alternative to retinol.”

The bright golden berry is a popular food source in Finland and contains twice as much Vitamin C as its equivalent weight of oranges.

When used in its skin care formulations, this extremely high concentration of antioxidants works to reduce the impact of free radicals and brighten and energise skin. It’s also a source of vitamin E and a vitamin A precursor, plus it's anti-ageing due to its concentration of ellagitannins, which help to preserve skin’s collagen.

“Inside the seed there is this beautiful orange oil with a fragrant smell​” shared Mavon, who explained that around 120kg of cloudberries are needed to produce one litre of oil.

Lumene’s latest launch using this hero ingredient is Nordic-C [Valo] Triple Glow Radiance Elixir, an antioxidant serum with bio-engineered arctic cloudberry stem cell extract, vitamins C & E and encapsulated ferulic acid.

Made using ingredients upcycled from Nordic nature

And cloudberry isn’t the only upcycled ingredient the brand works with. Mavon shared that around half of Lumene's Nordic ingredients are upcycled from local nature.

“For this company, the concept has always been designing to get the best out of what is available. It has always attempted to be zero-waste,”​ he said.  

It appears that Finland as a nation has always had a sustainable view of farming and managing its resources too, which means that Lumene has to plan meticulously.

The picking season for cloudberries is only six weeks each year,” ​said Mavon. “While the organic birch sap is only available for three weeks in April." 

He continued: “So we need to have strong planning and work closely with various partners to get access to these materials.”

The Finnish organic birch sap is another natural national treasure used by Lumene, as its rich in minerals, amino acids and hydrating sugars to leave skin more hydrated.

The brand also formulates with lingonberries, which contain quercetin that can be used as a skin-protecting antioxidant to firm skin, help delay ageing and help to fade wrinkles and fine lines.

These are all by-products of the food industry. As are the oats used in its sensitive skin care range. 

The breakfast-food staple is used to product xylitol, which is often used in toothpaste, but also happens to be a good moisturiser and prebiotic source for skin bacteria.  

We work with a food company called Fazer and we use their leftovers for the oats,”​ explained Mavon.  

And it appears that Lumene is not just using these natural upcycled ingredients as a ‘marketing signal’ to make virtuous on-pack claims, as they are used in high concentrations in the formulations.

In fact, the brand is even using water and juice from the berries in the formulations instead of another source of water.   

Most of the ingredients are sourced locally, but not everything. “We do this as much as we possibly can, but there are some ingredients we can’t create locally.”

Eco-design at every step

Mavon said that Lumene also implements eco-design at every step of the product process – from selecting the ingredients to the end of life of the product.

The company’s factory in Espoo, Finland runs on 100% sustainable hydro-electricity and it has a WaterSmart program that reduces water consumption. The brand is on target for all its skin care packaging to be 100%-recyclable by 2025.

Having its own factory helps the company manage its emissions, water consumption, recycling and keeps the supply chain as local as possible. Its also currently working towards B Corp certification.

It has recently created more eco-friendly packaging using an oil by-product from the forestry industry and it is still working to improve this.

“There are two layers in this pack and next year we will have one layer,” said Mavon. “The pack will also be smaller but with the same amount of packaging. We will also reduce the secondary pack box, so we can put twice as many boxes in the pallet.”

International expansion 

For many years the brand was a favourite among Finnish consumers but not well known internationally. Its focus on global expansion is recent and so 40% of its market is in Finland. However, it also sells into neighbouring Nordic countries like Norway and Denmark, as well as the UK, where it is sold in M&S Beauty.

Mavon revealed that until 2022, 15% of its market came from neighbouring Russia, but that the company decided to shut these operations down when the country went to war. 

Going forward, the company will now focus on building its reputation in the new markets it has launched into and will also put a focus on travel-retail. It has recently opened its first concept store at Helsinki Airport and its ranges are currently sold in 36 airport shops and 32 cruise ships in a total of seven countries. 

Lumene also has plenty of R&D plans other plans in the pipeline.  

“We have funding and are currently partnered with other Finnish companies to create an animal-friendly type of wax made with bilberries as an alternative to beeswax, ​shared Mavon.

“We are also continuing to work in the field of biotechnology,” ​he said. “And also doing more testing because we have products made from natural ingredients, so therefore need to work harder to prove that they are performing.”







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