Up-cycled & Sustainable Beauty, The Story of Re:Love Cosmetics
Arianna Andrews, Chief Commercial Officer
May 19, 2022 · 5 min read
Sustainability is more than just a buzz word in the beauty industry. What may have begun as a trend for a growing niche of eco-conscious consumers little over a decade ago, has undeniably grown into an urgent global concern that has consumers, retailers, producers and policy-makers recognizing a shared and critical need: the industry must be more sustainable!
Female founder and beauty brand owner, Elnura Ashimova, knows just how complex the ‘sustainability question’ is. While the need for change is widely acknowledged, Elnura agrees, clear solutions to sustainability enjoy less consensus. Does ‘sustainable’ mean natural? Plastic-free? Clean, non-toxic? And just how ready are consumers for truly sustainable products—do we share the same values, and more importantly will we pay a premium to sustain them? (Pun intended!)
Already an entrepreneur, Elnura’s foray into beauty happened simultaneously to another business venture, and began, like so many founders’ stories, as a consumer in crisis. She was pregnant and suffering from severe acne, and was more conscious than ever of what went on and into her body.
Unable to find products that her skin responded to, she founded Re:love Cosmetics, an organic skincare line with three hero products that use natural and up-cycled ingredients and seduce the senses through rich textures, color and scent.
Sharp, passionate and effortlessly elegant, Elunra Ashimova shares the founding story of Re:love Cosmetics, the challenges as a ‘challenger brand’ in product development and her unwavering appetite for a seismic—and sustainable—shift in the industry.
1. Welcome Elnura, it’s great to have you here! We’d love to hear about your story as a beauty founder and your journey to create Re:Love Cosmetics and your products.
Tell us about your brand and how you came to the cosmetics industry…
Elnura: Thank you for the invitation, I’m very happy to be here. My name is Elnura Ashimova, I am the founder of Re:Love Cosmetics, an up-cycled beauty brand I launched last year.
How I came to cosmetics? It was mostly through yoga, wellness and pregnancy! When I started doing yoga, a certain shift happened for me: I started taking care of what I ate, who I spoke to, my surroundings, and my body. It came to a point where I started really taking care of what I was putting on my body that I started looking at the ingredients.
When I was pregnant I couldn’t use what I was buying before in drugstores. I started making sure that the ingredients in the cosmetics that I was putting on my body were safe.
Then, I love coffee! I used to make body scrubs with the leftovers of the coffee–for my family, for my friends, and I always got great feedback. It was a hobby and a very nice ritual for me, where I would mix the coffee with different oils. Last year I decided to bring it to the market because I could see a gap in the market when it came to up-cycled ingredients.
Covid caused a shortage in ingredients and when the supply chain didn’t work as it had done before, up-cycled ingredients were used. We are very proud that we are pioneers in this space with our brand.
2. Can you tell us more about what goes into your products that makes them unique and what are up-cycled ingredients?
Elnura: “Up-cycled” means to re-use an ingredient, mostly by-products from the food and beverage industry.
At Re:love, we started with coffee because it is so rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties ….and so many other properties that I didn’t know about before beginning this process. And of course the line is vegan, it’s cruelty free; we don’t even use preservatives because coffee—upcycled coffee—is rich in Vitamin E.
We tried to keep our formula as minimalistic as possible. We don’t use any synthetics or any fragrances. Our goal is to produce our skincare line with as many up-cycled ingredients as possible.
3. When you launched Re:Love Cosmetics, what products did you launch with and how long did it take you to get your first batch to market?
Elnura: We launched last year (2021) and we have 3 products on the market: a body scrub and a face scrub, which are based on upcycled coffee grounds, and a face oil that uses the oil that is extracted from the coffee grounds. There are no chemicals used in the extraction process—it’s all very natural and pure.
How long did it take to get the products to market? It took one and half years to get the products to market. I began right after my son was born, and of course I was quite busy being a new mother, but I spent a long time finding the idea, doing the research, finding a manufacturer, getting the first samples, testing them, getting new samples, testing them… We launched last year in May (2021) with three products, and of course we have a lot of ideas on what new products to create.
4. What did you learn during the product development experience?
Elnura: That you can actually do anything you want! If you want to create a product and you have an idea, you can get as involved as you want—which I think is the way to go—but you can also find a lot of support and a lot of help from manufacturers. In this way, I think the process takes longer.
I did spend a lot of time researching. I used to be a perfectionist (I'm working on that now!), and that cost me a lot of time. I really wanted to know everything and I wanted to make everything perfect.
The surprising thing to learn was that you really can create any product you want – of course, if you have the budget for it, time, and also you need to bring yourself—put your passion into it.
When you don’t have experience developing products, a lot of people think it’s impossible and so they don’t try. What was surprising to me is that, yes, it is a lot of work, but it’s manageable. If you just take the step, you can really do anything.
5. Where did you launch your products at first – B2C? Retail?
Elnura: That was also a learning! We opened a D2C Shopify ecommerce store and sold through personal networks. I sold into the Wellness and Yoga channel (I used to have a start-up before Re:love). After a few months, we started reaching out to retailers and we had more success there—we got into 10 shops.
It’s common that you have something in your mind about your target customer when you’re developing the products. We learned more about our “target persona” later. Now we know that our customers shop at eco-concept stores, where a lot of other things are sold. People go there and they want to try things, and if you start a conversation about coffee—coffee is a conversation starter!—they are interested in sustainability and interested in upcycled ingredients.
We’re also in natural cosmetic stores and we’re also available in one of the biggest yoga shops in Germany.
6. What advice would you give to product developers base on your experience?
Elnura: After the products are on the market, it’s natural to look back and see all the things you would have done better! There are always ways to improve…
I think I spent too much time perfecting the formula. When I look back, I think we could have used one of the previous formula samples. I was so focused on small things, like consistency, how it felt on the skin, how it spread on the skin, the smell.
I would say don’t spend too much time on perfecting little things! You have to get to the point where you are happy with the quality—the consistency, the structure—but there are so many areas where you might get stuck trying to make things perfect, and in the end you just lose the momentum. This is what I would change if I could go back in time.
The second things is, I would look up the trends again. What matters for a brand that is very new is the traction! It has to be something that people are searching for. We think the idea is perfect, but you might be able to include key ingredients that are on trend and that people are looking for.
Of course, the products have to be in line with your philosophy and values, but there are a lot of ingredients that can fit with your vision, that are perfect for the formula, and that are also really going to stand out for customers.
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Arianna Andrews, Chief Commercial Officer
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