Store/Product Report: Lush
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.
I was using lush shampoo bars and conditioner until I ran out one day. I didn’t want to go back to shampoo, but also thought Lush is kind of pricey. I searched the web for alternatives and came across rye flour as shampoo and vinegar as conditioner. It really works and it’s so simple and cheap. It takes a little bit of work to massage into scalp and then rinse and it’s definetely not glamorous, but my hair is great- no Dandruff, it’s not greasy, not frizzy, and it doesn’t fall out anymore as it used too. You should try it!
For those suggesting jr ligettes, those products are made with ‘vegetable oil’ aka palm oil. Please do some research about palm oil driving Oranguatans to extinction, drives me crazy when supposed eco products contain vegetable oil it’s either made from palm oil destroying the rain forest on Borneo or soybean oil destroying the amazon rainforest or it’s a combination of both. Same with margarine FYI. Lush is palm oil free.
I really liked Lush shampoo bars at first but have changed my mind. Some of the bars have a lot of dyes in them and SLS and the fragrances do not say phalate free. Also I looked at some of their cosmetics and they contain parabens. I tried their solid conditioner too and that leaves a residue in my hair. Overall I think there are better choices like Liggetts.
I agree. I actually wrote an updated blog post here: https://myplasticfreelife.com/2008/03/update-3-soap-and-shampoo-and-deodorant/ If I do a second edition of my book, I think I will mention that some of the ingredients in Lush products are troubling. They were the first shampoo bar I tried, and I really liked them at the time.
Thanks for writing back. I have to say I loved your book. We think it is a manual to live by. We made so many changes after reading all the great info you provided. I have loaned it to friends and recommended it to family members. Thank you so much for writing a book with such important information.
Try Nuebar, their shampoo and conditioner bars are amazing and are plastic free!
FYI, look heavily at the ingredients labels. The majority of lush ingredients are synthetic, including most of their soaps (they're mostly 'melt & pour'.. think block of chemicals that you melt and mold). Such a shame. They didn't used to be in London!
This is a great question. For years my passion has been to phase out all personal products that contain toxins, that are tested on animals, that contain any animal products, and this is indeed difficult. Perfume is the main culprit often being the most toxic of ingredients in our personal care items. I love nice scents so this has been a huge transition for me.
I bought a copy of the Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter, which changed my life. Pick up a copy and see if you don’t agree. A new edition comes out almost every year with updated listings.
I feel that we all need to ask the hard questions about how to get plastic out of our lives while at the same time making sure that what we use is not toxic to us in our homes — and at the same time insure the products are totally cruelty free on the front end at it’s creation, as well as on the back end, when the product is used up…hopefully without a container to “recycle.”
I love what I’m learning here.
I noticed that the lush products contain perfume as an ingredient. Does any one know if they are pthalate free?
There are packing peanuts made from cornstarch that look like those styrofoam peanuts and dissolve in water. They’re even edible.
This is my first time commenting on your blog. I have been a daily reader for about a month. Your archives have been extremely helpful as I search for eco-friendly products. I wanted to return the favor and recommend a recent find.
I live in Berkeley and had been on the hunt for a shampoo bar without traveling to the SF Lush store. A couple of Burts Bee’s displays I found were missing the shampoo bar. But I hit gold at Body Time on College. J.R. Liggetts makes a great shampoo bar. The store had travel size samples, and after two washes, I’m a convert. There largest bar comes wrapped in paper inside an open top wooden box for storage in the shower.
Marni! I am a LUSH fanatic…(and it’s only been four months since I’ve discovered the place) I hate to see someone be down on my ladies over there…so I thought you should know, seven of the shampoo bars they have available are now SLS-free! If you check out the US website, it makes a big notice of this…I guess many people felt the way you did and so they made the change fairly recently.
When I visited the store last year I asked if their products contain SLS (a known carcinogen) and they said yes. I would NEVER use a shampoo-bar that contains SLS. Unless LUSH has changed their ingredients, they are not as “Green” as people are reporting them to be.
Try nuebar, their shampoo and container bars are SLS free :)
Beth, thanks for the reminder. I went to Wholefoods and Elephant Pharm looking for shampoo bars with minimal packaging, but did not have any luck. I heard about Lush bars, but incorrectly assumed that they did not distribute in the U.S. Guess they do, and in a location not too far away from me :)