If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I am up front about my dislike for Lush. It stems from using one of their products and experiencing a rather nasty rash from it. Not a recent occurrence I may add, this happened long before I was a blogger and when I first began educating myself about ingredients. I have held a grudge for a very long time.
This evening (07/08/14) Lush had a live debate titled “The Great Preservative Debate”. I followed with keen interest as I enjoy keeping up with brands whether I approve of them or not. Lush state "We've always used natural preservatives like salt, honey and clay to keep Lush products fresh for longer. As a result, more than 70% of our range is entirely self-preserving, across every single category from cleansers to shampoo and bath bombs. Although we’re happy that some synthetic preservatives are absolutely safe, we know that some of our customers prefer to avoid them."
At the moment the buzz word in Lush's current campaign is "self preserve". They have reformulated some of their popular products (Mask of Magnaminity Face and Back Pack, Ocean Salt Face and Body Scrub and Charity Pot Body Lotion) and offer the customer a "self preserving" version alongside the original. During the debate Lush expressed a desire to be 100% free from synthetic preservatives in the future. An interesting stand point and one that appears to come from customers pressure but I would suspect Lush are aware of the competition and growth in green and organic trends. The panel implied Parabens were a “dirty” word because of media scaremongering particularly in regard to ingredients and cancer. If you browse the Lush website you’ll notice they like to promote what they refer to as “safe synthetics”. Personally, I am wary of cancer claims and I do not believe (at this present time) anyone can say one way or the other if there is a link. Research is lacking and I am avoiding ingredients because I can’t find concrete evidence to put my mind at rest. Of course a large part of my avoidance policy relates to my feelings (and experiences) that there is a link between synthetic ingredients, eczema and allergies. Now I'm not daft, products containing water need preserving but so many other green and organic companies are managing to do this without the use of parabens. Lush have gone with the cheapest option and I find their stubbornness for this choice of ingredient rather infuriating.
On one hand, I welcome the basic principles and campaigns of Lush. I cannot knock them for their efforts against animal testing, a topic which I have been passionate about since my teens. In my mind they fill the void that The Body Shop left behind when it sold out to L’Oreal. The bigger picture for me is their ingredients are a let down, they do not meet my standards. Too many Lush products contain parabens, perfume, colours, SLS/SLES, Triethanolamine and Lanolin (to name a few) which I believe are best avoided. In the grand scheme of things, yes you can do worse, you're probably better off with a Lush product than one off the shelf in Boots/Superdrug. What I object to is the perceived image that Lush is a natural green brand, there is a certain expectation to handmade cosmetics. If your tag line includes the word "fresh" then why are you preserving? Surely that no longer makes it a fresh product because it has a shelf life several months after purchase. To me it's a play on words, of course it is clever marketing, it's deliberately promoting an image in the consumer's mind. Many will argue this is why Lush are greenwashers. For me, promoting Lush against the purest brands (by that I mean the brands who are 100% natural) is wrong as they can’t be compared, Lush are not in the same league as these companies. They are using ingredients which other green and organic companies are actively seeking to avoid and campaigning against.
The subject of preservatives is an important discussion for the beauty industry and Lush attempted to open up the debate. Transparency was a key word during the conversation and I can not argue with that. I encourage brands to give customers information and allow them the right to formulate their own opinions. I repeatedly ask companies to disclose full ingredients and Lush do this without being asked.
There is no denying that Lush are a controversial brand amongst Green Bloggers (or at least that’s how I view it). The passion of fellow green bloggers was strong this evening and I thank Amber and Tamara for a great discussion. I think we will all be keeping a closer eye on this brand in the future.