03/25/2008 UPDATE: Warning to those who would order Lush products through the mail. I have had several reports from readers who ordered what they thought would be naked chunks of shampoo or deodorant, only to have them arrive wrapped up in a ton of plastic. So either be very specific in your ordering instructions that you don’t want any plastic packaging, or don’t order from Lush. Reading the comments on my updated 03/24/08 blog post might be helpful to you.
When you walk into a Lush Cosmetics store, (there is one at 240 Powell Street in San Francisco, as well as locations throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world) you are greeted not by rows and rows of products packaged in plastic (as you are when you enter The Body Shop, for example), but by big unwrapped chunks of solid soap as well as shampoo, deodorant, bubble bath, and massage oil. That’s right, big solid chunks of these things! They are sold by weight. You tell the staff how much you want, and they cut off a piece, weigh it, and wrap it in paper for you. I tried 4 products which have been working great for me for the past 2 weeks:
Lush Bohemian Soap smells like lemon, the fruit, not the furniture polish. I find it really refreshing in the morning. And if you don’t like that smell, there are about 20 more kinds of soap to choose from.
Lush does sell some products in plastic containers, including shaving creams. While I was assured by the salesperson assisting me that they are recyclable, I was not about to add more plastic to the waste-stream, recyclable or not. (In fact, much of the plastic we think is reyclable does not actually get recycled. More on that later.) So I asked her what Lush product she would use if she had to shave her legs with something other than shaving cream. She recommended the Emporer of Ice Cream Buttercream cleanser, as it’s the most moisturizing soap. And in fact, it works. It makes my legs and other areas slippery enough to shave without wounding myself. It also smells awesome, lightly scented with vanilla and orange blossom honey. Unfortunately, I can’t find this one on the web site. Perhaps it’s only sold in stores. Oh, and by the way, the plastic container in the photo did not come from Lush. I made it from pieces of that Chinese food container from 2 weeks ago.
The Re-Incarnate Shampoo bar seems to work just as well as liquid shampoo, once you get over the initial weirdness of rubbing a bar of soap on your head. It lathers up really well and rinses out well too. I’m not crazy about this particular scent which reminds me of Chinese 5 spice powder (although, looking at the list of ingredients, I can’t tell what would cause that particular smell for me). But others may love it. And there are about 12 other shampoo bars to choose from.
And finally, the Aromarant deodorant bar is the wonder product for me. I was skeptical about whether it would really work, but after using it for 2 weeks with no odor and no irritation, I am sold. Lush warns that you should not keep these deodorant bars in the bathroom because of the steam. They work best if kept dry and used on dry underarms. I’ve been keeping it in my underwear drawer, where it does double-duty making my underthings smell nice. As with the other products, if you don’t like this scent, there are others to choose from.
Unfortunately, if you don’t like any scented products, you are kind of out of luck with Lush. Everything is made with essential oils and contains some scent, although some are stronger than others.
After my visit to Lush, I spoke with Jennifer Graybeal who handles press inquiries for Lush. I asked her about the products that are packaged in plastic containers. She said that Lush is currently looking into more biodegradable options and is very serious about being environmentally responsible. However, at the moment, there is no non-plastic alternative for some of the products.
I also asked her how the bars are packaged for mail-order shipping. I would hate to order a product that comes without plastic in the store only to find plastic packaging in the box. She told me the only packaging they use is old paper copies of the Lush Times, and that they are looking into even better alternatives, including possibly using actual popcorn to pad the products for shipping.
The main drawback I can see to these products is that they are pricey. I purchased 1/4 pound of each item, and the average price was about $8.00 per bar. The salesperson at the store told me that the Lush bars last longer than other brands. That remains to be seen. But to me, the price is worth it for products that will not contribute to the plastic problem.