In a perplexing move, the government shut down the Animal Care Information System in February this year without warning. The database, which was accessible to the public, documented how animals are used in the country’s laboratories and whether these institutions are working within federal law. No reason was given for the shutdown, which makes it even more frustrating for the many animal welfare organizations that relied upon the database in their investigations into animal cruelty. Documents can still be made available through a process of request, but that can take months or longer – too long for animal welfare charities to be effective. Now the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, the PCRM, is leading a lawsuit against the USDA to get the database back on line.
My introduction to LUSH products
While working for a non-profit in Sri Lanka, some years ago, one of the favorite places for expats to hang out was a shop called Odel in Columbo, the nation’s capital. As you went through the doors you were greeted by two things: the AC (people would go there just for that), and the delicious smell of LUSH soaps and other cosmetic goodies from the beauty bar.
LUSH cosmetics locations
This is not a widely available brand in the US, and I do get asked where to buy Lush products here. At the time of writing the company has 182 shops in the USA, with higher concentrations in California (38), New York (15) and Texas (13). Products ordered online are sent from Vancouver or Toronto, via UPS. Shipping costs start at $6 for less than 3kg (by ground to 48 states), and $8 by air to 50 states. They pay all import charges to the US.
Why do I recommend LUSH?
1/ The company is listed as “cruelty free” on PETA.org. They are not listed in the Leaping Bunny program, however; I have read that they believe there is a loop hole in the Leaping Bunny program that would technically allow them to buy cruelty free ingredients from a company that does test on animals. That sounds a bit confusing, and I think in this case it’s down to trust – I do believe that LUSH has a very strong ethic against animal cruelty in the cosmetics industry, and personally, I do trust them. They are very active in the anti cruelty arena.
2/ LUSH is privately owned, and is not part of a bigger corporation that might not have the same cruelty free credentials as its individual brands.
3/ It has a LOT of ethical credentials – not just cruelty free. It advertises “Against animal testing”, “Freshest cosmetics”, “Ethical buying”, “100% vegetarian”, “Handmade” and “Naked packaging”. Pretty impressive.
4/ I like their innovation. They offer “knot-wraps”, like colorful scarves instead of traditional gift wrapping – it’s like giving two gifts instead of one, and they are made from plastic bottles or organic cotton.
5/ They have a great website – it’s easy to order, there are plenty of “how to” videos, and you can “auto-reorder” for some products. Shop here: LUSH USA
The LUSH brand has generated some criticism, but on a pretty small scale. I provide these simply for your information:
- the brand is not shy about supporting political issues that it believes in, which may not always be in line with your own, personal views. In particular, LUSH UK has been criticized for supporting an independent Palestinian state.
- Some people don’t like the smell of its products, which can be over powering.
- in early years the company was criticized for poor wages – I don’t know if this is still the case or not; but they do advertise a “Best Employer 2015” Canadian award on their website.
- it is not 100% vegan.
Product selection: LUSH has a pretty wide selection of goodies, but doesn’t offer nail polish (which is a common trait with greener brands), and it’s selection of makeup is limited (particularly the eye shadows, which tend to be bright colors).
Bath & shower
Bath bombs – one of their signature products, LUSH bath bombs range in price from $4.95 to $12.95, for one. They come in bright, fun colors with and include ingredients such as sodium bicarbonate, rosewood oil, orange oil, rose absolute (“Ups-a-daisy” ingredients).
Solid bath oils start at $3.50 for a single use bar.
Solid soaps – another signature product (imagine choosing a slab of brightly colored, ideally scented soap and getting a slice cut off to your requirements – like buying fudge!). These come in a multitude of colors and scents – try “Honey, I washed the kids” for a honey, coconut & orange solid bar; or “Sea vegetable” for ingredients such as seaweed, coconut and lavender oils. “Respect your elders” is a deep purple combination featuring elderflower infusion, elderberries and bergamot oil. When buying online you buy set sizes – a 3.5 oz bar starts at $5.95.
Shower gels cost $19.95 to $26.95 for 8.4 fl oz. Try “Dirty springwash” with a focus on fine sea salt and spearmint oil – or “It’s raining men” for a honey, rosehip, lotus flower and tiger lily infusion.
Shampoo and conditioners
Shampoos and conditioners come in bar and liquid form, and range in price from $19.95 to $26.95 for 8.4 fl oz. They each feature a key ingredient – “Daddy-O” comes in a bottle and focuses on violet leaf to brighten grey and blonde hair; “Jungle” is a solid conditioner costing $11.95 for 1.7 oz, featuring organic, fair trade bananas, organic cocoa butter and ylang ylang oil. Their richest conditioner, “Retread”, costs $31.95 for just under 8 fl oz, and ingredients include seaweed gel, avocado oil and organic yogurt.
LUSH hair colors are henna based, and come in solid form in four different colors (black to red). The cost is $27.95 for 11.4 oz, which I believe is a 6 block like the picture. You melt the cubes of henna with warm water to form a paste (some people use strong black tea and add a cap full of apple cider vinegar, which may help the color to color grey hairs better). There is a helpful “how to” video on the LUSH website.
LUSH offers a full range of cleansers, toners and moisturizers, as well as face masks and even solid toothpaste! My favorite cleanser is “9 to 5” (almond oil, fresh clove and orchid extract, $22.95 for 8.5 fl oz). If you don’t mind the color, and want a cleanser that you can use all over your body as well as your face, you could try “Dark Angels” – its a black, solid cleanser containing powdered charcoal, avocado oil and rhassoul mud. I would only try this in the shower though!
They have a fair selection of moisturizers too; try “Full of Grace” serum ($15.95 for 0.7 fl oz) for an infusion of portobello mushrooms, murmuru butter and calamine powder; or top of the range “Gorgeous”, which focuses on the highest quality ingredients including fresh orange blossom honey, wheatgerm oil, pineapple, lemon and orange juices ($87.95 for 1.5 oz).
A variety of perfumes are available, from a small solid perfume (try “Dirty”, with spearmint, thyme, tarragon and sandalwood tones; $10.95 for 0.4 oz) to “Imogen Rose”, a pure liquid perfume focusing on real rose oil and rose absolute, $69.95 for 1 fl oz).
I hope you enjoyed this post – let me know your thoughts and reviews below, good or bad, about LUSH!
Years ago I worked for a non-profit international development agency in the UK. We had meetings with Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, as a potential funder of our work. It didn’t pan out, but it made me aware of The Body Shop and what it stood for: a one stop shop for cruelty free, ethically sourced skin care and makeup. Not to mention wonderful scents (EVERYONE wore White Musk in the ’80’s!), bath products, makeup brushes, gifts – it represented guilt free shopping and an excuse to stock up on wonderful goodies whenever I came across one of their stores (usually in an airport terminal). So I have always believed that The Body Shop was probably THE safest place to shop for cruelty free beauty products.
The Body Shop was wildly successful, and went public in the 1990’s. In 2006, it was sold out to cosmetic giant L’Oréal – which was still testing its products on animals at the time. In response to protests that Anita was betraying the very ideals that she had built her business empire upon, she was reported to have said that she hoped the acquisition of The Body Shop would lure L’Oréal towards the virtues of cruelty free beauty. Whatever the case, the fact is that today The Body Shop is owned by L’Oréal.
What’s up with L’Oréal anyway?
It depends on how far you want to go “down the rabbit hole”. They sell their products in China, which legally requires that they be tested on animals. L’Oréal USA appears on the PETA list of companies that DO test on animals. Other common brands that L’Oréal owns include: Kiehl’s, Maybelline and Lancôme, among others. All of these still test on animals.
So, Is The Body Shop cruelty free…or not?
The Body Shop stuck to its guns when it was bought out – i.e. they still adhere to their no testing, cruelty free credentials. The Body Shop IS listed on PETA’s cruelty free cosmetics list.
However, when you buy from The Body Shop just be aware that you are lining the pockets of a huge cosmetics corporation that supports and carries out animal testing (L’Oréal).
It’s up to you – where do you want to draw the line?
OK, I admit it. I am that person who takes home all the unused bathroom products from a hotel stay – not the towels you understand, but the “free” soaps, shampoos, conditioners and body lotions (actually 73% of travelers do the same thing, so I guess I won’t feel too guilty about it!) My justification is that they will be handy to take on a future trip – but of course, the “future trip” provides its own treasure chest of these lovely little take-aways, and my hoard just keeps growing.
Recently I was staying at a hotel in Arizona, and had occasion to use the free body lotion. It actually smelt really good, and did a good job of moisturizing my skin too. It used to be that bathroom freebies were really basic – kind of an after thought. But with the stiff competition in hotel bookings that now exists, hoteliers are now taking these amenities a LOT more seriously. In December 2015, an article in USA Today stated that a Comfort brand hotel can typically spend up to $13,000 per year on bathroom products; and that Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites looked at 20-30 different brands before deciding to start their own brand. Some high end hotels have even partnered with perfumers to create their own, signature scent for their products.
A few top chains and the verdict on their bathroom toiletries
- Hilton Hotels & Resorts uses PeterThomasRoth. This brand DOES test on animals!
- Joie de Vivre uses Lather. This brand does NOT test on animals.
- Fairmont uses Le Labo. This brand does NOT test on animals.
- Sheraton uses Shine by Bliss. Bliss DOES test on animals!
If you already shop cruelty free you will probably see the leaping bunny logo on many of your products. This is an international symbol used by companies who have been certified as cruelty free – in other words, you can buy these products with confidence that they really are animal friendly. Certification standards were set back in the 1990’s by a group of organizations fighting for animal welfare in the cosmetic, personal care and home cleaning products industries. Cruelty free international is based in London, UK, but it’s program is also managed in the USA and Canada by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC). But look closely at that tiny bunny on your new lip gloss – its easy to copy. To be doubly sure, check out the brand at Cruelty Free International.
If I have sparked your interest in cruelty free beauty products, you might be wondering where your “go to” brand sits on the subject. Luckily, there is an easy way to find out. The PETA website (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has a searchable database of companies that do and don’t test on animals. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a vegan activist to use the site – the organization promotes all types of animal welfare (which I encourage you to think about), and the database is available to anyone. They also have a free app, so you can check out a company’s credentials when you are out and about and get tempted by that blue, sparkly eye shadow…