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Anna Brightman is the co-founder of UpCircle, an organic skincare company which uses leftover natural ingredients such as coffee grounds and brewed chai tea spices. We had a chat with her about cycle tracking, her skincare essentials, and why the best self-care decision she ever made was coming off the pill…
Everything starts with coffee
“ It all started about three years ago when my brother William, who was into making his own coffee each morning with a cafetiere, asked his local coffee shop what they did with their waste coffee. Living in central London, he didn’t have enough plants he could use the coffee grounds on and wanted to find a sustainable alternative to throwing them away. He was shocked to hear that the coffee shop were producing so much that they had to pay the council to have it removed and disposed of on landfill sites. He knew that this had to be a great starting point for a business idea… but he had no idea what that idea was exactly. That’s where I came in.
Throughout my teenage years I wanted to be a makeup artist so always had a keen interest in beauty and skincare. I knew that coffee had loads of great skincare benefits, so… lightbulb moment! Why not repurpose the coffee into sustainable circular skincare products?
I was delighted to say goodbye to a life in a suit and heels
William and I both stayed in our safe but unfulfilling corporate jobs (I was in retail management, he in finance) while we set about making our first range of skincare products.
Our parents were terrified when we BOTH took the plunge into the start-up world – but they needn’t have worried! We both quit our jobs the day after we took our products to the London Coffee Festival for the first time. We had made hundreds and hundreds of scrubs for the five-day show – but we sold out by the end of the first day. This was enough to persuade us that not only did people like the products, they were also open to embracing recycled skincare.
Since then it’s been a total whirlwind but we’ve never looked back! We learn something new each day. Running your own business is both the most testing and rewarding thing I have ever done. It requires a whole lot of grit and determination that’s for sure! I had to shake all my corporate training out. Suddenly I was seeing emojis in emails and communicating with people who used sign offs such as “love and light” as opposed to just “kind regards.” Sometimes you see the biggest contrast in the littlest things!
Strict routines are a thing of the past
I’ve had to become more of a go-with-the-flow type of person in order to adapt to the unpredictable and varied challenges that being a business owner throws at you. You never know what’s going to happen or what could go wrong – and if you don’t fix something, no one else will! Sometimes I might have to work all hours of the night if a big wholesale order comes in with a very tight deadline. But there may also be times when a friend is visiting from abroad and I can take an afternoon off to spend quality time catching up. So my routine is varied and I can be flexible – which is great!
William and I work together to ensure that we support each other so that our personal lives and our out of work priorities are unaffected – we definitely have our non-negotiables! I have to be able to exercise, without that I get groggy and miserable. Time with my friends and family is also crucial to my happiness so I always try to weave my work life around that.
Tracking my period helps me manage my work-life balance
I’ve tracked my menstrual cycle ever since I came off the pill. Tracking your period can really help you understand why you feel the way you do.
I believe that when you stop interfering with your hormones and body and start to listen to it, it speaks to you. It lets you know what it needs. I find my creativity and energy levels peak when I am ovulating and that’s also when I love to socialise. I also find myself quite tired and low energy a week or so before my period when progesterone is spiking. I use the Fertility Awareness Method of contraception and cycle tracking. It’s really required me to get to know my body and my cycle. Having such a deep and intimate knowledge of your body and what it is doing is really empowering.
Coming off the pill was the best self care decision I ever made
When I first came off the pill, my hormones and cycle were all over the place. It can take a woman years to regulate her hormones and body after being on hormonal contraceptives. My cycle was long and unpredictable. When my period did turn up, sometimes it was symptom-less and other times it was absolute agony. It made me realise I had to focus on getting my body and hormones back into homeostasis through diet and lifestyle change.
My cycle has become more regular since removing artificial hormones and oestrogen-mimicking products from my routine. In addition to coming off the pill, I’ve found that learning how to manage stress and other factors that have an impact on my body and cycle has also helped me to regulate my body and cycle. I’ve not suffered with period cramps or mood swings for years. I found that when I wasn’t looking after myself they would rear their ugly heads, but I’ve learnt my own limits and the necessity of implementing boundaries. I will admit it took me years to get to this point, but now it ticks like clockwork!
My skincare tips
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to skincare products, my main piece of advice would be strip it back. Lots of people don’t really know their skin because they are constantly messing with it or loading it with product. Remove chemicals and get yourself a few simple, good, organic products. Focus on getting your body healthy, strong, and balanced – drink water, reduce stress and get outside. It’s important to understand what’s influencing ‘problem’ skin (such as diet or hormones) before trying to quick-fix it. So much of getting good skin begins within. Start there.
I get asked about my own skincare regime all the time and it’s actually really simple! Like removing makeup for example – coconut oil is unbeatable in my (humble) opinion! Simple, affordable, great quality, and it does the job brilliantly!
The main problem with the organic skincare industry is… the price tag. We’re one of the only brands making genuinely crap-free products (excuse my French) that are sustainable, vegan, and organic – without the obscene price tag. We want to make natural beauty accessible for the health of our planet and the health of our customers. I can’t express strongly enough the benefits and importance of using natural, organic products. We need to reduce the toxic burden on our bodies in a big way – everything from our fertility to cancer rates is affected by what we put on our skin.
My skin loves… UpCircle’s face oil – it’s so important to me. I use it every evening to keep my skin properly hydrated. It goes everywhere with me -it’s an absolute godsend when I travel because it is so multi-functional (hair, eyebrows, cuticles!) But my favourite UpCircle product is actually one we are about to launch. It’s a day cream and I’m totally obsessed with it. It’s launching in the next month so watch this space!
My all time favourite thing to drink is… is it bad if I say gin?! Nothing beats a few G&T’s with my best pals (and there’s no such thing as a wrong answer, right?!)
My wellness routine depends on… Aside from finding time for all the aforementioned G&Ts and generally letting loose with my friends, the one thing I make sure I find time for, no matter what, is running. It’s my me time, it gives me space with just my thoughts and, of course, a great playlist. It’s the ultimate de-stressing activity!”
— As told to OHNE
All images courtesy of Anna Brightman and UpCirlce