Optiat: One Person’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure
I discovered this amazing beauty brand who use coffee waste to create natural, effective, high-quality scrubs at Stylist Live in 2017. Attracted by the energising scent of the lemongrass scrub, I bought one to test at home. I absolutely love how soft and smooth my skin feels after using it, and the fact that it squeezes out of a tube so you waste hardly any of the product compared to typical coffee scrubs packaged in pouches. My boyfriend, Ollie, is a big fan too – I frequently hear him call from the shower “I’m just going to use a bit of your coffee scrub”!
With their product range expanding, I caught up with co-founder Anna to find out a little more about Optiat started, what goes into their products and plans for the future…
Hey Anna, how are you? What have you been up to lately?
I’m very well thanks, I’ve been really busy recently with all sorts. We are expanding our website as our range grows, so I’ve spent lots of time last week on a product photoshoot getting some beautiful photos for the site. We were also at Vevolution Festival this weekend where we pitched at a dragons’ den competition against five other vegan brands. We ended up being selected as the winner which was extremely exciting! It was my first experience getting to hold a giant cheque so that was a nice box to tick!
Amazing! So you and your brother William set up Optiat – how did it all begin?
The idea to make sustainable coffee scrubs from repurposed used coffee grounds came about from a culmination of different things. Firstly, William was bought a cafetiere and was making his own coffee every morning. He lived in central London with no garden and so didn’t have plants to put the grounds on (as with many) so instead he was simply throwing them away. He got to thinking that if he alone was throwing away so many coffee grounds each morning, then, given the size of the coffee industry, on a wider scale there must be an awful lot of waste – and he was right! After research we learnt that we are throwing away 500,000 tonnes of coffee to landfill each year in the UK alone. If we could create a product which could help to minimize this then that could only be a good thing!
We were also aware that people have been using coffee on their skin for many years around the world and that it was something that had taken off particularly well in Australia in recent years. However, no one seemed to be making coffee scrubs from used coffee grounds. All of this came in parallel to the huge rise in awareness of the devastating impact of microbeads on our environment. As we all look towards natural alternatives for our exfoliators, repurposed coffee seemed like a brilliant option!
We are throwing away 500,000 tonnes of coffee to landfill each year in the UK alone
What did you and William do before going into business together?
Before forming Optiat my brother was working in finance for a hedge fund and I was working as an area manager for a supermarket managing several stores. My job gave me great insight into things like analysing trends, forecasting sales, warehouse management, stock control and staffing. My brother and I have very different strengths, so we really compliment each other when it comes to heading up our own business.
How are you finding working together? What are the best and worst parts of going into business with your sibling?
People often ask what it’s like to work with a sibling! I guess you have to be wary of mixing family life and work life, but honestly for us it works really well. There can be disagreements and the odd argument, but we are able to speak our minds freely with each other so the resolution is always speedy. The worst part is that we have to be pretty disciplined when it comes to professionalism – we’re still working on that! As we take on our first staff members in 2018, I think any bickering will have to be quickly eliminated! The best part is that it’s so much fun, we laugh a lot and take great joy in being able to share Optiat’s success with the rest of our family.
Tell us more about Optiat and why you wanted to start a skincare company with a positive environmental impact?
Optiat products are made from ingredients which would otherwise be discarded. We create natural, vegan skincare products by breathing new life into these unloved ingredients. Fundamentally we wanted our brand to be totally unique, we wanted to be doing something which no one else is doing and we wanted to prove that there can still be great value in the things that we are choosing to simply dispose of. This ethos is appealing to customers as they are increasingly looking into the provenance of the ingredients of the products which they are choosing to buy. Consumers are beginning to shop in a much more conscious and critical way. We encourage our customers to ask us about what has gone into the making of our products, what is the process? What are the ingredients? Where are the ingredients from? Increased transparency and knowledge for the customer about a product and its ingredients allows the customer to make more informed choices about the brands they choose to buy from and the products they choose to use. It is beauty with a conscience, our customers don’t have to worry about what will happen when our products eventually are washed down the drains as the ingredients are natural and chemical-free. Keeping our ethics at the forefront of what we do is incredibly important to us, we will never compromise on our mission to have a positive environmental impact.
There can still be great value in the things that we are choosing to simply dispose of.
How did you discover the beauty benefits of leftover coffee waste?
Research, research and more research! We spent many many months absorbing as much information as we could. We then launched an initial range of three scrubs, gathering feedback from our initial customers before launching our current range in November 2016. This whole process was more than a year.
We began approaching coffee shops and asking them what they did with their coffee waste, they explained to us that it was simply thrown away. We gradually built up a portfolio of restaurants, bars and cafes and now we collect from around 50 coffee shops in London. The world has finite resources, and we as humans produce a significant amount of waste. For example, more than 9 million tonnes of coffee grounds are sent to landfill every year globally. This has significant consequences as the coffee grounds decompose to produce methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times worse than carbon dioxide! Just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!
The ingredients that we repurpose into our products retain their quality. Coffee, for example, has been shown to be higher in antioxidants once it has been brewed than beforehand, so the used coffee grounds that make up our scrubs are just as good (if not better) for your skin! The fact that it is collected from artisanal coffee shops and restaurants also means that it is the highest-quality Arabica coffee, as opposed to the lower-grade, cheaper Robusta coffee found in most coffee scrubs.
The caffeine in coffee helps stimulate blood flow, effective against skin conditions such as acne, eczema, cellulite and stretch marks, addressing those areas in need of renewal and regeneration. The caffeine can also help to brighten up your complexion, leaving you with a fresh looking glow, plus coffee is the same pH as your skin – meaning it won’t leave it feeling dry.
That’s a whole lot of skin goodness to be throwing to landfill!
More than 9 million tonnes of coffee grounds are sent to landfill every year globally.
Can you tell us more about your body scrubs and face masks and what they’re made of?
We like to keep our ingredients as simple as we can, and so all our scrubs are made using natural vegan ingredients. We believe you should be able to understand the ingredients on the labels of the food and cosmetics that you put in contact with your body.
The core ingredients in all our scrubs are the same, the only thing which we vary from scent to scent is the essential oils which we use to naturally fragrance each scrub. The essential oils included in our scrubs are: mandarin, lemongrass, peppermint, coconut, rosemary, orange, lime, eucalyptus and vanilla extract.
The base ingredient of our scrubs is the repurposed Arabica coffee grounds which give our scrubs their distinctive dark colour and unique smell. Arabica beans are only grown in mountain shade at altitudes above 600m. As a result, they are much harder to grow. They are more expensive but they taste way better too! We believe that if you wouldn’t eat or drink something, why would you be happy to put it on your skin? That’s why we only use Arabica grounds.
Added to these repurposed grounds are brown sugar and sea salt. These ingredients aid in the exfoliation and the sea salt acts as a natural antiseptic, preventing redness and breakouts and protecting any abrasions you may have on your skin. Next, we add almond oil and whipped shea butter, these ingredients help to form our scrubs into the gel-like consistency in which it comes. Not only this, but it is because of these ingredients that our scrubs are richly moisturizing, unlike a lot of exfoliators which can leave your skin feeling tight and dry.
Our face masks are made from repurposed hemp husks which we collect from an organic farm in Oxfordshire. Relatively known as a superfood, hemp is a holistic ingredient used for a variety of purposes including for fuel, protein, fibre and medicine. The hulls are an excellent source of minerals and a rare source of insoluble fibre. When used topically, the hemp husks act as a gentle exfoliator to lightly buff away dead skin cells and cleanse your skin for a glowing complexion. We also use activated charcoal in our masks, an ingredient which is great for drawing out toxins from your skin. Activated charcoal has the ability to bind to toxins, which is why it is often used in the medical field as a treatment for poisoning, as the activated charcoal can bind to toxins to prevent the body from absorbing them. The same logic applies to drawing our toxins from your skin. Using activated charcoal as an ingredient in a face mask can help to detoxify your skin and unclog your pores helping to even your skin tone, reduce acne and redness and give you a brighter looking complexion.
Where are your products made and who by?
Our products are all made in the UK by hand. Originally we were making all of our products ourselves, but we simply cannot manage doing all of the manufacture on top of everything else anymore. We now have a manufacturer based in Dorset, a small team produce our products there amid a setting of rolling hills and fields of cows! It’s beautiful!
What plans do you have for Optiat for the future?
There are so many wonderful natural ingredients which are unfortunately going unused. We are keen to rescue these unloved, unwanted ingredients and continue to develop more skincare products from them. Without wanting to give too much away, we will soon be releasing a lovely new range of products made from brewed chai spices which were previously used to make chai tea. By the time the chai production process is over, the spices are no longer needed yet they still smell amazing! We have taken the chai spices and used them as the core ingredient for an exciting new range. As always, our new products are vegan, cruelty-free, sustainable and 100% natural.
We are also revisiting our coffee scrubs and exploring some exciting new scents, we’ve been using our social media to ask our #ScrubSquad what scents they would like to see next!
For those who don’t know, our brand name Optiat is an acronym for “One Person’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure”. It is our focus on sustainability and making something out of nothing that we feel really sets us apart from the rest – and so this is what we will continue to do! We aim to show people that these unloved ingredients still have a huge amount to offer us. If we can produce high quality, effective skincare products by promoting sustainability as our core message, our hope is to demonstrate that we can all be more resourceful, that we can promote a circular economy and to inspire the beauty industry as a whole to be less wasteful.
For anyone wishing to use up their leftover coffee grounds at home, what can you suggest?
Go for it! Keep it simple and natural. All you really need is a nice oil to mix in with the grounds – something like coconut oil, almond oil or even olive oil should work nicely! You can also add a bit of sea salt if you’re prone to breakouts. Use a few drops of an essential oil of your choice, but try to choose one which compliments the scent of the coffee. Our four coffee scrub variants are vanilla, mandarin, lemongrass and peppermint. Lavender also works wonderfully! You can keep your scrub in a small kilner or old jam jar. Enjoy!
Finally, what are your top tips for shopping with people and planet in mind?
As a brand, we are committed to changing our current ‘take, make, dispose’ world by promoting a circular economy: keeping things in use for as long as possible before restoring them at the end of their lives. So, if products have the word ‘disposable’ in them, like disposable razors, or disposable cutlery, they are best avoided. Living an eco-conscious lifestyle is all about trying to minimise the impact we humans have on our wider environment. We currently live in a world where we are bombarded with negative headlines about climate change, pollution and our overuse of scarce resources, but we can all make changes that can make a difference. Here are just a few simple things you can do to create a greener beauty regime:
- Swap your plastic toothbrush for a compostable bamboo one. Toothbrushes are increasingly being found washed up on beaches in the most remote areas of the planet.
- Make sure you are not using a toothpaste or exfoliator which has microbeads in it – our scrubs are the perfect solution to that (*wink wink*)!
- Avoid products which contain palm oil in both your beauty products and your food items, as the production of palm oil causes deforestation, destroying the habitat of endangered species like elephants and rhinos.
- Try to introduce soap bars into your regime rather than just always using liquid soap. Soap bars last much longer and tend to have a lot less packaging. We are excited to be bringing out a new range of soap bars soon, so keep an eye out!
- Try to avoid beauty products which spray out of a can, opt for a perfume / deodorant stick instead. They last a lot longer and are much less likely to be laden with harmful chemicals.
- Choose products with recyclable packaging and responsibly sourced and organic ingredients wherever possible.
Thank you Anna!
Chai Soap Block Crowdfunder
Optiat have just released a Crowdfunder for their exciting new product range, chai soap blocks! For this new range, they have partnered with Henny and Joe’s to collect the brewed chai spices that have been used to make their chai tea syrup. By the time the chai production process is over, the spices are no longer needed yet they still smell amazing! Chai tea spices have a number of skin benefits as they’re packed with antioxidants; from fighting free radicals, firming skin and reduce signs of skin aging, to gently drawing out toxins, removing impurities and purifying the skin. As always, their soaps will be vegan, cruelty-free and 100% natural.
Find out more and support their Crowdfunder here.