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Seeds of Colour Co-Founder Anna Valle on Turning Waste into Want

May 29, 2022
May 29, 2022
Seeds of Colour

Makeup has found inspiration in nature for its color pathways, but not always in the most animal-friendly of ways: crushed cochineal beetles for carmine in order to create red shades or crushed fish scales for shimmer. With the vegan cosmetics market witnessing a forecasted CAGR of 6.5% over the next five years, there is undoubtedly a growing market, but also, with 74% of beauty and personal care consumers concerned about the sustainability of ingredients used in natural products, a low-waste production process is equally as important.

Enter Seeds of Colour, a plant-based cosmetics brand utilizing local fruit and vegetable surplus in the UK to create multi-use Natural Colour Balms that can be applied to lips, eyes, and cheeks, fusing biotechnology with a circular economy model. The brand’s signature product is housed in a fully recyclable aluminum tube with a recyclable plastic lid and a fully recyclable cardboard exterior component.

Anna Valle, co-founder of the enterprise, sat down with BeautyMatter to discuss the challenges of a circular cosmetics range and marrying food chemistry with its cosmetics counterpart.

What inspired you to launch Seeds of Colour? How long was the process from impetus to launch?

The idea for the brand was born from a collaboration with NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Botany), which hosted a project that sought to find new uses for surplus organic British produce. Dr. Steve Taylor, PhD, Green Biochemist and Chief Scientist for Seeds of Colour, worked on this project and began to research extraction technology for recovering color pigments from fruits and vegetables in a sustainable way. 

After much research, and a few years, Dr. Taylor discovered this could be applied to cosmetics, for healthier, kinder-to-skin makeup eco-formulations. With this innovative technology available, we created Seeds of Colour. It’s an ethical plant-based beauty brand with a range of versatile, nutrient, and pigment-rich Natural Colour Balms. Many months in the making, Seeds of Colour is passionate about cosmetics safety, animal welfare, environmental pollution, and the circular economy. 

What are the biggest hurdles in creating completely natural color cosmetics using food waste? Where do you source it from?

Our biggest hurdle is the raw material availability, since the amount of surplus (waste) can be unpredictable. We source surplus (waste) of organic fruits and vegetables from the British countryside, from the same farmers, growers, and processors that supply the food industry. Through science and design, we transform the plants into the nutrient-rich botanical pigments you can use to color your skin.

How would you explain the biotechnology process that you use for your formulas?

Sustainability lies at the heart of Seeds of Colour ethos, and this has been reflected in the process design from its conception. A color extraction method, protected by trade secrets, has been developed for numerous organic fruits and vegetables including, amongst others, blackcurrants, raspberries, strawberries, and beetroot. The biotech extraction methodology utilizes low temperatures to preserve the integrity of the pigments and co-extracted antioxidant materials. Post-extraction materials are either recycled or reused. For example, unused fruit juice is concentrated and heated to produce a caramel for use as a brown pigment. The residual pomace is converted into fertilizer by means of thermophilic aerobic digestion. This is why we talk about zero waste when we describe our brand—nothing nasty is left behind.

The formulations are just one part of the brand’s sustainable efforts, as each balm is packaged in a fully recyclable aluminum tube, with a recyclable plastic lid and contained in fully recyclable cardboard. These innovative, versatile Natural Colour Balms are just as good for your skin as they are for your world. 

What extracts do you use for which shades? 

Suitable to use across the lips, eyelids, and cheeks, the Natural Colour Balm’s signature eco-pigment has been forged from some of the finest naturally active ingredients. The extracts include beetroot, blackcurrant, blueberry, coconut, paprika, and sunflower. Different blends of these naturally active ingredients have been used to make versatile balm shades that suit all skin tones, whilst also being good for your skin. Boasting a whole host of skincare benefits, these antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and hydrating balms harness the power of nature, empowering people to express their natural beauty. 

We have four shades, and each of them has a blend of rich-botanical ingredients and different fruits and vegetables for the color pigment. For our Red Berry we used beetroot extract to create a vibrant mulberry hue. True Nude contains blackcurrant and rosemary extract to illuminate your skin tone. In the Rose Pink we used beetroot and rosemary to reach a warm dusky rose shade. Finally, to create the Warm Caramel, we used caramel, blackcurrant, and rosemary to develop a buttery blush hue for a sun-kissed natural warmth.  

In the past, consumers have struggled with the different product performance of natural makeup versus their industrial counterparts. What do you think is the key to changing expectations and outcomes in regards to this?

Our innovative technology to extract pigments from fresh products was a game changer. It combines the benefits derived from food supplementation with the advantages of cosmetic treatments to improve the beauty of our body. Food chemistry and cosmetic chemistry come together to promote both inside and outside well-being. A vegan, plant-based makeup optimizes the intake of nutritional microelements to meet the needs of the skin and skin appendages, improving their conditions and delaying aging, thus helping to protect the skin from the aging action of environmental factors. The future of beauty is natural, even L'Oréal claims it, but for Seeds of Colour the future is now! 

How did you create the biodegradable sample capsules and are there any challenges regarding their use, e.g., premature biodegrading of the material once it comes in touch with the product?

The biodegradable vegan eco-capsules we use are the same as those that are used for nutritional supplements. The products are stable within them for as long as we need them; the only thing is that they mustn’t get wet or else the capsule dissolves! There is no water on our products, they are oil based.  

What innovations and upcoming developments are you most excited by?

The existing color range for lip and cheek tints will be extended from 4 to 12. This will be based on the existing base formulae and range of ingredients—blackcurrant, red radish, paprika, and beetroot. An additional novel lip and cheek range will be developed, where titanium dioxide is replaced by kaolin as a whitener/opacifier to satisfy the demand for products that do not contain titanium dioxide, like our Red Berry balm.

The basic lip and cheek ranges above may be enhanced further by the addition of new bioactive ingredients currently being developed as described below to create “pigment-plus” versions. We will keep simplifying the INCI bringing in, for example, oils with higher skin performance, perhaps aimed at certain skin types. Look out for the next generation of color balms with a more minimalist nature, yet still packed with goodness for the skin.

We will also keep driving our sustainability journey to increase our positive impact on all fronts. Seeds of Colour is a B Corp–pending company and a campaigner for the Better Business Act.

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