Meet the woman revolutionising the beauty industry: Hanna Pumfrey, founder of Acala, the plastic and waste free beauty platform. Acala offers green beauty skincare and toiletries from leading brands, all responsibly packaged with a promise of 100% transparency, and has a clear mission: to educate consumers with sustainable alternatives to their favourite products and tools, and make them proud to be part of a movement for a better life on earth. We wanted to ask Hanna a few questions about the journey of Acala. Here's what she had to say...

Fashion and Beauty on Female First

Fashion and Beauty on Female First

When and why did you start Acala?

I started Acala in May 2018. I think the question I get asked most when I tell people about Acala is why? Why did you start the business.

My childhood was largely spent running around half naked in fields in the Norfolk countryside, climbing trees, helping my Mum in the vegetable patch and carrying whichever poor chicken I’d decided was my best friend for the day around me.

I was well and truly a wild country child eating food straight from the garden and learning how to combat nettle stings and insect bites with natural remedies as I was continuously getting stung.

After a few years working in the city, I had a bit of a wake up call one day. I was sat at a desk in the office next to a bin. When I arrived at 8am it was empty, by 10.30am it had already been emptied twice by a facilities manager as it was overflowing from peoples take out breakfast waste. Then the same again at lunchtime. Paper bags, plastic salad boxes, countless plastic knives and forks. So I decided to make a change in my own life. I decided that I didn’t want to be part of that disposable life any more- that was the start of my zero waste journey. But the area I was really struggling was the bathroom.

I started to research alternatives and I felt like there was no one place I could go to get everything I needed and at a reasonable price. So essentially Acala is the result of my own research and wanting to make it easier for other people to make a more environmentally friendly choice.

What challenges did you face?

Zero Waste is tough. We have a goal to be a zero waste business, but this is tough as despite working our suppliers to ensure everything comes to us plastic free and in packaging that is reusable or biodegradable it is something that is an ongoing journey. For legal and health and safety reasons there is often packaging that is unavoidable. We are producing quarterly sustainability reports though so that we can be transparent with our customers about the progress we are making.

What has also been a challenge is that many people still associate eco beauty products with a ‘hippy’ lifestyle and think that the experience they will have using them will not be as good as conventional beauty products – we only stock products that offer the same experience as a conventional beauty product so dispelling this myth is challenge. There are so many eco-friendly products, responsibly packaged that are really simple switches and are even better than conventional products.

What did you learn?

Starting a business is a journey. There will be highs and lows and it’s important to embrace these and to remember to enjoy the process. As well as to know your strengths and weaknesses. It's ok to not be good at everything, the most important thing is recognising this, and then delegating this to work to someone who is good at it so that you can focus on the things that you are strong in. This will help your business move forward much faster.

What do you suggest for a more sustainable future in the beauty industry?

Water shortages are going to be one of the biggest challenges facing our planet in the years to come.

And the beauty industry is one of the biggest contributors to water waste. In 2017 Mintel actually named ‘waterless beauty’ one of their key trends. Water is often used in formulations as a cheap base but once you remove that water, botanicals and oils are used instead, which results in a much more potent offering. Essentially, you're getting more for your money as conventional products are often watered down to increase profits for big brands.

Additionally, while water is synonymous with hydration, topical application actually dries the skin. Excessive washing or use of water-based products can strip the skin of oils and weaken its natural barrier.

The skin has its own self-cleaning system of sebum and natural microbes that repel and neutralise environmental pathogens. Washing away this protective shield exposes skin leading to an increase in diseases such as eczema.

While brands offering completely water free products are few at the moment there are some amazing innovations out there that are hugely reducing the water used in production, as well reducing weight of products which reduces the carbon footprint of transporting these products. Taking the water out of a product actually reduces it carbon footprint in transportation by 25%.

There are also some really exciting new products out there like tooth tabs rather than toothpaste. And mouthwash tablets rather than mouthwash liquid. As well as shampoo cubes that give exactly the same experience but minus the water.

And to bring it all full circle, waterless products can of course be packaged in much more minimal and environmentally friendly packaging. You could for example bulk buy mouthwash and tooth tablets in a cotton bag from a bulk store. They can also be easily packaged in card or other compostable packaging that leaves no waste.

Any tips to reduce your amount of beauty waste at home?

Go DIY. This is the biggest tip I can give anyone. DIY beauty is hugely empowering. It’s a skill. Learning to create beautiful natural formulas from oils, leaves, herbs, seeds and berries that can have hugely beneficial effects on both your skin and internal wellbeing puts you in control of your personal care routine and allows you to tailor it to exactly what your body needs. We can also take it back to basics and learn how raw ingredients can be used as they are in super simple homemade recipes that eliminate the need for single- use packaging, as well as help us to use less.

For more information on Acala, waterless products and DIY skincare, visit