Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lush...ful Chemicals?

Oh Lush... this post has been a long time coming. During my "eco" journey, an essential change that I vowed to put into place immediately was my sudsy/soapy care. The first chapter in "Ecoholic" by Adria Vasil is on beauty and OMG the chemical soup that we/I was putting into my skin! For a more indepth peek into the wonderful world of toxic cosmetics see my post here.

After the my heart wrenching break up with Aveda, I thought- but SURELY Lush has been honest and true. I mean- unlike quiet little claims from companies like the Body Shop, Lush spends their entire time shouting "BUY ME BECAUSE I AM ECO-FRIENDLY", or "WE ARE BETTER, BETTER, ECO-ER". Walking into their store their friendly employees gush about how green their products are and how this justifies the ridiculously high prices. 

So let's take a step back from the employee/companies claims (since really they want you to buy their product, unbiased they are not) and have a quick summary.

Granola Points:
- Lush prides itself on providing it's customers with hand-made products; they even have pictures of the person who made your face cream on the bottle! In Canada they are made in Vancouver and 
- They sell their products with minimal packaging. When you buy soap, bath bomb, bath melt etc they are as is, or cut off a ginormous slab. Although I've never tried, I'm sure they would be fine with placing my new product in my own container that I brought.
- They try to have paper packaging made with post-consumer paper and are looking into biodegradable plastic (more on biodegradable plastics later- let's just say you wouldn't be able to just toss it into your compost).
- Their ingredients are listed right there in the store- and if I squint I can read them. They also have their ingredients on their websites and they're colour coded... I like colour coded things...

Sneaky Sneaky-ness:
- Although "hand-made" soap is great, truly I can get hand-made soap/bath bombs/melts that are made a LOT closer than Toronto and they are cheaper too!
- Ingredients... this is where they totally crash and burn for me. They have recently tried to phase out all SLS from their products, a quick read through their product ingredient list and it's actually really hard to find a product that's "clean". You've gotta be kidding me, I'm spending all this money on something that STILL has nasty chemicals? Don't believe me? Let's take a quick look at my personal fav's (green is natural, black is "safe synthetic"):

Mmmmm Bath Melt:
Sodium BicarbonateCitric AcidFair Trade Cocoa Butter (Theobroma cacao)Laureth 4Almond Oil (Prunus dulcis),Water (Aqua)Chamomile Powder (Anthemis nobilis),Marshmallow Powder (Althaea officinalis)Marigold Powder (Tagetes erecta)Synthetic Musk*Benzyl BenzoatePerfumeD&C Red No. 33,. 

So quickly I can see Laureth 4; which is a safe surfactant- yay! Then we move along to "synthetic musk" and "perfume" and some dyes. Now these last three I'm not so excited about. Perfume often hides scariness like formeldahyde or hormone disrupting chemicals. They could have simply used more essential oils, what was the point of putting in dyes and "perfume"?

There best seller: Dream Cream (face cream)
Oat Milk (Avena sativa)Rose Water (Rosa centifolia)Olive Oil (Olea europaea)Fair Trade Cocoa Butter (Theobroma cacao)GlycerineStearic AcidTriethanolamineTincture of Benzoin (Styrax benzoin)Rose Absolute (Rosa centifolia)Chamomile Oil (Anthemis nobilis)Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)Lavender Oil (Lavandula hybrida),Cetearyl Alcohol*Geraniol*Limonene*LinaloolPerfume,MethylparabenPropylparaben,. 

Oh dear. Now this is a disaster- perfume and parabens. Parabens as we know accelerate absorption of chemicals into the skin (which is why it's so great for moisturizers) quick quick chemicals, get into my blood stream! Now Triethanolamine has been deemed safe to use in BRIEF usage where it is quickly rinsed off the skin, or in concentrations below 5%. I am assuming here it's below 5%... but then why would they even bother?

That's just two- I would encourage you to check out your fav's to see just what is in them! Any chemicals that you can't pronounce- cut and paste

I guess my little opinion is; Lush is a huge company which spends a lot of their time telling us how important the environment and our health is to them. We pay a lot of money for their smelly products. So why do they continue to use these chemicals in their products when numerous other companies (i.e. Green Beaver, Druide, Avalon etc) don't seem to need them? Under their explanation of why they use the "safe" synthetic ingredients they claim the need to increase shelf-life with SOME sort of preservative. Well obviously they need to last silly Lisa.... So I guess Green Beaver's products are probably molding as I type? 

My resolve is that what goes into my body matters, and I am not going half-way on this. My apologies to all you Lush loving yogi/ni's out there... 


  1. I have done some research and I have found that sometime they use things like trienthanolamine in a chemical reaction but since they used it in the process they have to list it, even if there is no trace left in the final product. Another thing is that unless they state on the bottle it comes from a natural source we cannot know IF things like parabens (there are plant based ones but am not sure if they are safer because of it) or sodium bicarbonate (it is naturally occurring but mined, so you have to wonder if it is better to just make it in a lab) but since they are the same molecule they have to be listed the same as if they were synthetic or petroleum based. So amidst all this chemical confusion I decided to break up with beauty products all together (with the exception of creme my skin won't let me let it cracks and is red and raw without it) which in the end seems to be the greenest option because it follows with the first R of the three R's...Reduce...and in all reality all products whether green or not are impacting the planet with their production and for something as superficial as beauty makes me really think twice before buying any of it. Thanks for the info though because I do try to buy the one product I do use from reputable and chemical free sources.

  2. Thanks for looking into this Alli :) I very much agree on breaking up with cosmetics in general. Since this Lush/Aveda revelation I have been making my own body scrubs and bath stuff (sooo simple! my fav is the cinnamon/honey one on here).
    I guess I just get frustrated with the "greenwashing" of certain companies- since many many more companies are forthcoming about where exactly their ingredients come from- like Green Beaver.
    I have been thinking a lot of reducing, especially my plastic... I might post on that soon...

  3. haha. The fiance was signed into blogger... LOL. Andrew's comment= Lisa's comment :)


  4. Well heck, I had been reasonably happy with my bar shampoo from Lush, but I'm glad to know about this so I can look elsewhere. Finding something that's Canadian and natural and with little packaging is hard. More and more I've been just doing the baking soda wash and vinegar rinse on my hair, which seems to work just fine.

    Glad to have found your blog (via a comment you made on Crunchy Chicken's site)! It is always nice to find another Canadian eco-blogger :)

  5. I JUST bought like 10 bars of soap from there...

  6. I've never been able to use ANYthing from Lush. It's so scented that my skin just can't handle it. I'm not alone either - a few friends of mine are the same, and can't use their stuff either.

    Just going past their shop within 100 metres - phew! You sure can smell it!

    I've used some Aveda products and they've been okay, but not brilliant, and generally overpriced.

    Will have to check out the eco-friendly brands you mention.

    Thanks for the excellent post!

  7. Oh! Wow! I think this posting was the best thing I have read in ages online! This is exactly what I have been telling my clients for years! I own a cosmetics boutique in Montreal where I sell natural canadian made cosmetics. Hey, if I can fill a whole store with 'em and make a living out of this, anything is possible.
    I broke up with lush and aveida a long time ago and I am glad to see that there are others like me. Keep it up!

  8. Another point I'd have to question is - how many of Lush's products are actually *necessary*?

    Yes, I can agree that soap and shampoo might be necessary for most people (although I'm a bicarb soda and apple cider vinegar girl, and haven't looked back since!), and that lipstick has its place (I can't live without it!), but the only time I ever use a "bath bomb" is when I get given one, and feel like I have to use the blasted thing in order to stop it cluttering up my bathroom cabinet for the next fifty years!

    Most of their products are easily replaced by homemade versions you can whip up yourself - without the nasty yuckies.

    Hmmm...I think I need to put a few more of my own home made recipes online!

    Daharja at Cluttercut

  9. And so many people say Lush is natural and green! Have you watched all the Lush Hauls on YouTube, Lush is close to an obsession?

    Since I am a soap maker I know that the ingredients they use are not all as friendly as we had hoped or assumed. However, I also know that as soon as you sell cosmetic products commercially you must comply with regulations. Soap is considered a cosmetic in Canada and therefore is subject to rules and regulations. This is why I do not sell the soap I make, it is for personal consumption only. This allows me to limit ingredients.

    Of course we have all heard the discussion that everything is chemical and that some "natural" ingredients are dangerous too. This is true. I have also read that Essential Oils, which I personally prefer, are not as environmentally friendly as we think because many are (a) extracted using chemicals or (b) transported great distances causing a carbon footprint or are (c) overfarmed and threatened (e.g Sandalwood, Rosewood).

    Having said all this, it still gives me the chills when I hear people claim the naturalness and greeness of their products.

    I make most of my skin care and hair care products for personal use. I think this is the best way to get what you want. However, be cautious of contamination from bacteria. You can find recommendation on the world wide web. Make everything in tiny batches, keep refrigerated and use a spatula to scoop out creams, not fingers. Don't keep anything for more than a few weeks or so. Research, research.

    Take care

  10. Hello, I'm Shannon and I'm a LUSH-a-holic!!!
    Yes I have spent many years obsessing about this companies products and have applied numerous times to work for them and it has gradually come to me that they are not actually as green and lovely as they paint it!
    I to have done some scouting and you are right there a lots of chemical nasties sneaking in and after all this is a very sucessful business .Generally thats a dead giveaway!
    Thanks for helping sas little consumers like me get a grip!!!

  11. Hi there, do check out Soap Ministry! Their soaps are truly chemical free (SLS free, Paraben free & T.E.A free) They even teach you how to make the soaps. :)

  12. HI there I jst thought I'd let you know, Lush lists anything in their products even if they don't legally have to because they are such trace amounts. For example, the parabens in the products are actually in smaller quantities than in tinned food, so small legally they do not have to label it. But they do because they want to be 100% honest about even their trace ingredients. I hope this helps! :) Also, lots of the products will be preservative free by the end of the year, such as the lip balms and face scrubs! x

  13. Synthetic Musk is on there because real Musk actually comes from the anal glands of a deer. As a vegetarian company, they decided to stay away from it. Also, when they list perfume or fragrance, it IS essential oils. They call them the ECs of a product, which is the only thing that Lush keeps to itself in order to ensure that their product isn't copied. The company also uses food-grade parabens...meaning, if you eat ice cream (even good stuff like So Delicious and Tofutti) there are parabens in there. Lush uses those same food-grade parabens. They are actually derived from Blue Berries.

    1. Hi Anonymous:
      thank you for the information. I would prefer that Lush shared that information directly with their consumers, or made them clear on their ingredient lists on their containers. I apologize if I don't take their word for it- unfortunately in this day in age, it is near impossible to trust that a company's "trade secret" ingredient lists are safe.

      Honestly, I feel if Lush were truly transparent and open with their consumers, they would share all their ingredients instead of couching "we claim they're safe!" trade secret ingredients under "fragrance" and "perfums".

      Further: just because parabens have been "derived" from foods, does not make them safer. Here is why eating foods with low levels of parabens is not the same as what is found in cosmetics: "Parabens in foods are metabolized when eaten, making them less strongly estrogenic. vii In contrast, when applied to the skin and absorbed into the body, parabens in cosmetics bypass the metabolic process and enter the blood stream and body organs intact. " (David Suzuki

  14. A few months ago my wife became a fan of LUSH. I'm quite sensitive to chemical smells, perfumes, etc, so when she told me the products were totally natural I wasn't too worried and, I'll admit, they smelled natural to me too. Within a few days I was getting heavy headed, strange nerve and muscle reactions, dry throat, problem sinus, etc. We knew it was the new products so she agreed to stop using them... for the time being.
    Last night I was almost asleep when she joined me in bed. Within a few minutes I'd broken into a sweat, same dry throat and nose irritation. I instantly recognized the smell of LUSH again. The smell clung to the bedclothes and even my pillow so I had to sleep in another room. So I'm more than a little suspicious. My wife bought all the claims but doesn't really know the ingredients - and they're written in Japanese so I can't read them either.
    The smell of flowers (even the pungent ones such as lavender and lilies), coffee, food, or any other natural smell I can name, doesn't have the same effect on me. I guess it's a personal thing but I miss being able to tell me wife how good she smelled after stepping out of a completely fragrance free shower. You know; "Ahh that's the natural smell of my wife."
    From an annoyed husband.

    1. oh no!
      yeah, Andrew also is very sensitive to the lush smell- he can't even step into the store.

      AND their body lotion is SUPER perfume-y, i tried some samples and smelled like a walking perfume store all day. it was gross.

      if you wanted, you could read the ingredients online: (the canadian site)

      personally, i make my own body lotion (it's super easy), which really is natural and works fabulously.

  15. I think there is a healthy balance between caution! I avoid nasties when I can, but sometimes I've just gotta have me some LUSH! Anything taken to extremes can drain you of energy, spontaneity etc...occasionally using a product with a nasty won't kill you, and on balance LUSH is way better than many other companies! I'm not condoning it, I'm just saying...let it go. Just a bit.

  16. On the same Dragon's Den that showed Skyler Clothing there was a Moncton Company that sells natural products. It is called Olivier and seems now to have gone online. Something the presenter said stayed with me - if you can't put it in your mouth, you shouldn't be putting it on your skin. Have you heard of it?


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