Upcircle Sustainable Skincare Review

I’ve always fancied myself as one of those early morning runners who comes home and works on their novel before work, who does outdoor yoga and looks flawless from perfect dieting and skincare routines…

…let’s just start with a moisturiser, shall we?

The beauty industry, however, is highly wasteful and doesn’t work with my sustainability kick. According to Zero Waste Week, over 120 billion units of cosmetics packaging is produced annually, and that’s without considering the impact of sourcing ingredients, manufacturing and transportation.

Another prolific issue in the UK is food and ingredient waste. Beauty bloggers are always saying how smushing an avocado into your T-zone is great for clearing up your skin, right? So taking advantage of the benefits of natural products while combatting excess food waste seems a fated affair.

…As you can tell, I’m no beauty blogger. I’m also pretty new to the whole ‘looking after your skin’ thing. but the frown lines have stopped going away, so I figured now is a good time to start plastering the cracks.

Introducing Upcircle Beauty

Having done no searching for sustainable skincare products online, I’d started getting the usual ‘we listen to your thoughts’ Instagram adverts for a company called Upcircle, which looked like a reasonably priced premium skincare brand with sustainability at its core. It sounded like both a good suggestion and good wordplay, so naturally I looked into it.

The four Upcircle products I tried in their signature peach colour packaging: eye cream, toner, moisturiser and face scrub.

Upcircle Beauty is a skincare company based in London. The business began when the founders discovered that 18 million tonnes of coffee grounds are disposed of worldwide each year, and so decided to do something about it.

I love the premise of this brand. Upcircle’s USP is that they take food waste and by-products from other companies and find new life for them in their skincare. So far, they have repurposed over 250 tonnes of coffee grounds from over eighty cafes for their products.

On top of this, their packaging is 100% recyclable, using primarily glass and aluminium, and recyclable plastic for spray nozzles and caps. So not only are they helping to combat food waste, they’re also avoiding more beauty business waste. Kudos.

The website states that their products are:

  • packed with 100% recyclable packaging
  • palm oil free
  • SLS and SLES free
  • silicone, paraben, parfum and sulfate free
  • cruelty free
  • vegan
  • part of the circular economy – hence the name.

Ordering experience

The Upcircle website offers a quiz to find out which of their products would best suit your skin type – and then recommends half of them to you anyway. For the purposes of this blog, my skin type is combination (a very helpful Body Shop assistant told me one time) – my forehead usually feels quite oily, but the rest of my skin is dry. I occasionally get bouts of spots, but that’s not surprising when I’m made up of 70% stress, 20% junk food and 10% misc.

When I first filled in my details, I realised there was a button at the bottom that was like, ‘show me without emailing me’, so I clicked that instead. It then showed me on the website, but also sent the results to my email, even though I hadn’t submitted my details. Which I wasn’t too thrilled about. They’ve been sending me an email every day ever since.

Otherwise, ordering was quick and painless. Upcircle offer free delivery over £20, which is basically two of their products. It did take a little while for my order to arrive, but that was mid-pandemic and totally fine.

They came packaged in a box that was a good size larger than it needed to be, but the clear branding and signature pastel colours were exciting to see when I opened it. First impressions were of a sleek, premium skincare brand. The frosted glass-packaged products are particularly snazzy and will almost certainly get reused. It actually got me excited for cleaning my face!

Upcircle product reviews

I’ve been using Upcircle’s products every night before bed for over six months, following their suggested routine of cleanse, exfoliate, tone, eyes, and moisturise.

I am in no way affiliated with Upcircle and all opinions and experiences of their products are my own.

Coffee Face Scrub – Floral Blend

£12.99 for 100ml tube | product page here

I’m weak at the knees for anything coffee-flavoured, -scented, or even just -named, so naturally when they recommended the coffee scrub I took no convincing.

Je regrette.

My entire experience with this product has been a frustrating one. I can make very few positive comments about it other than it smells like coffee. Because it may as well just be coffee.

Imagine going into a café and asking for the coffee puck from your latte, then mashing it into your face when you get home. That’s kind of what this is like, but in a tube. A nightmarishly unyielding tube.

The tube is metal, which at first I thought was great for its recyclability, until I found out just how difficult that is to squeeze. They do also sell an implement that helps you wrap around the tube to help squeeze, but if that’s required for being able to use the product, it should be sold as part of a bundle.

It so happens that I didn’t buy one of these tools. And if I can’t get the contents out, I can’t even recycle the packaging.

Like I said, the scrub is mostly just coffee grounds, and when you first puncture the metal seal, weak coffee juice comes pouring out. The remaining coffee grounds inside are then so dense that at one point I was squeezing the tube as hard as I could without popping a haemorrhoid and literally nothing was coming out. Eventually, stabbing the metal seal several more times helped ease it out, but most of the liquid had now left the scrub.

It then worked quite well for a while, however, towards the end of the tube it’s become stubborn again. I’ve hurt my hands trying to use this, so much so that I’m starting to think it’s no longer worth the effort, especially as the tube’s metal has started tearing along the edges.

This is also the messiest cleanser I’ve ever had. It ended up all over the sink and floor, myself and my clothes, stained the flannel I used to remove it… And when I switched to using it in the shower to contain some of the mess, it clung to the plughole long after I’d left the shower, making a frothy americano puddle.

It also provides the horrible feeling of hundreds and thousands in your eyebrows, and I swear you could rub your face clean of the grounds but still find some there hours later. In fact sometimes, over a day after using it, I could rub at my hairline and coffee would fall out like some lame, dandruffy superpower.

As to how it works, it’s just like any other scrub I’ve tried, only double the price. A couple of times it actually stung my face using it, but for the most part it was fine. But I’ve tried other scrubs in the past which clean my face just as well, without any of the other problems this one presents.

It’s so upsetting as I really wanted to fall in love with this brand’s products, especially as coffee is such a big part of what they do! Luckily though, they have other stuff.

Face Toner with Mandarin and Chamomile

£17.99 for 100ml bottle | product page here

Upcircle's Face Toner spray in a peach-coloured glass bottle.

This is a pleasant product that I looked forward to using every night. It smells beautifully citrusy and feels nice and refreshing on your skin. I am, however, still doubtful that it actually does anything.

I’m not saying I expect the cheekbones of Tilda Swinton or the skin of a newborn baby after a couple of months using this, but surely if you’re buying a toner you want to see some physical results?

Surprisingly, the main issue I had with this product was the packaging. The spray nozzle is somehow too good – unless the force with which it sprays helps to mould your face into a more toned shape. It’s more a powerful jet than a mist, so you don’t get even coverage and it hits so hard that it splashes everywhere except where you want it.

Upcircle’s site recommended using cotton pads to apply the toner (which goes against their waste reduction ethos), or spraying it onto your finger and dabbing it – but the spray is so strong that the latter method would waste a lot of this expensive orange juice.

In the end I resorted to spraying it into the palm of my hand and patting it all over my face, which feels a little more arduous and a lot less fancy. Applying via palm every day made the face toner last almost exactly six months.

Eye Cream with Maple and Coffee

£14.99 for 10ml bottle | product page here

This product actually feels quite luxurious and silky, and the skin around my eyes genuinely looks and feels softer and healthier after nightly use.

The eye cream smells gorgeously of creamy coffee, so it’s an instant winner for me. I genuinely enjoy using this product and it feels like a welcome treat for my poor, tired eyes.

It may seem like a small bottle for the price, but as stated in Upcircle’s guide, you only need a tiny amount per application so it should last for ages. But six months in and this lil guy is still going!

My only real issue with Upcircle’s eye cream is once again the nozzle ferocity. You have to be quite delicate with the pump as you only need a ball bearing’s worth for both of your eyes. On more than one occasion I’ve asked if I can smear the excess on my partner’s lids to avoid wasting it. He’s liked it too!

Face Moisturiser with Argan Powder

£18.99 for 50ml pot | product page here

At first, I found the scent of this moisturiser overpowering. There was something odd that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. But after a few days of using it, I grew accustomed and actually started to like the smell.

This moisturiser is gorgeously silky. You barely need any, which means that such a tiny pot goes a long way. After three months I wasn’t even halfway through mine, which makes the price tag a little more bearable.

Compared to other moisturisers, I don’t see a benefit to choosing Upcircle’s over, say, a Nivea one, other than the brand aesthetics and feeling of luxury. This feels like the kind of product I’d only ask for at Christmas rather than buy for myself – but I would get it again.

Overall verdict

After a good while on Upcircle’s products, I’m still occasionally getting acne, but I think that’s more to do with life stress than the products not working. My skin does genuinely feel much softer – but you’d hope so going from zero skincare routine to lots of moist products!

As you can imagine if you read through this whole post, I recommend Upcircle’s moisturiser and eye cream, which both feel and smell lovely to use, and have made a genuine difference to my face. I’ve even found myself swapping back to older eye cream and moisturiser so I can make the Upcircle ones last longer.

The face toner I can nearly recommend for its freshness, but I don’t know that it actively does anything, and it feels wasteful with the current packaging.

I still really want to like the face scrub, but in truth I can’t wait to be done with this tube. I’ll swap back to my old Body Shop seaweed scrub for now!

Overall, though, I’m actually enjoying my night-time skincare routine. It’s a pleasant way to wind down at the end of the day with a healthy dose of self-love. Now I just need to work on that running and novel-writing…

Have you tried Upcircle’s products? What did you think? Do you swear by a different sustainable skincare brand? Let us know in the comments below!

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