A few months ago, I was a bit obsessed with Lush Cosmetics. I bought moisturizers, makeup removers and face masks, but I was completely oblivious to dirty little secret Lush was hiding. You see, while Lush brands itself as an “all natural” company, it actually produces and sells products with harmful manmade and natural toxins.
Veshoevius of Taxonomy of My Wardrobe pointed this out to me and linked an article written by British makeup artist Sarah Fasca, who wrote about some of the harmful chemicals used by Lush. Sarah writes,
“Most of the public I spoke to while working for Lush simply assumed the products were all natural because of Lush’s very clever branding and the tactful placement of herby, muddy facemasks kept on ice . . . While working there, I began to understand that Lush is a whitewash brand that is incredibly skilled at putting on a natural ‘front’ and reaping the profits from this subtle deception.”
At first I brushed the evidence off, but once I did my own digging, I got mad. Not because Lush uses toxins like propylparaben and triethanolamine, but because they do it while claiming to be all natural and fresh. The former they never actually say, at least not on the front page of their website or on their product pages, but if you’ve ever stepped into a Lush store, you’ll know it screams natural–that is until you look at the packaging.
Dancing Around the Ugly Truth
Let’s talk about parabens. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics gives us this definition:
Parabens are used to prevent the growth of microbes in cosmetic products and can be absorbed through the skin, blood and digestive system. They have been found in biopsies from breast tumors at concentrations similar to those found in consumer products. Parabens are found in nearly all urine samples from U.S. adults of a variety of ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds. . . Of greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. Parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells. They also increase the expression of genes usually regulated by estradiol (a form of estrogen); these genes cause human breast tumor cells to grow and multiply in cellular studies.
Sounds pretty harmful to me! Parabens are used in many personal care and cosmetics, including those produced by Lush. In the “LUSHopedia,” Lush’s own guide for ingredients, the page for propylparaben includes the following information:
- Parabens are some of the oldest cosmetic preservatives and have been used since the 1920s.
- They are used globally and are permitted by every world health authority
- We use less than half the maximum permitted level to ensure the product is as mild as possible.
- The parabens are still the safest and mildest we can find.
Excuse after excuse after excuse. Lush justifies the use of a chemical ingredient that is clearly harmful to your health by telling you that they find the “mild” toxins.” Last I checked, there was no form of mild breast cancer.
Also, just because an ingredient has been around almost 100 years doesn’t mean it’s good for your health. Perhaps the most offensive part is the outright omission of the risks associated with parabens. Though Lush has branded itself as a company that will educate its customers, they fall far short when it comes to providing information that’s pertinent to your health.
The Toxic Moisturizer
According to Lush, 73% of products are unpreserved, which implies that 73% are paraben-free. Though I didn’t go through every product, I did investigate Lush’s line of 9 moisturizers. My investigation shows that every Lush moisturizer has 3 to 5 ingredients which rank as a Moderate Health Hazard according to the Environmental Working Group. While Lush may claim 73% of products are unpreserved, 100% of their moisturizers are made with ingredients that are:
- Human skin toxicants (Triethanolamine)
- Toxic to wildlife and that environment (Limonene)
- Act as Interferences with gene expresion (Methylparaben)
- Show Evidence with developmental and reproductive toxicity in low doses (Propylparaben)
There’s no way that the mildest forms of these ingredients are good for humans, their bodies or our environment even if they are naturally occurring or have been around for a century.
A Natural Farse
My problem with Lush isn’t that they use these products–lots of companies do. The issue here is that Lush brands itself as all natural, fresh, handmade. But when you look at the labels closely, you’ll find that they may be handmade and possibly even fresh, but one thing that they are not is all natural.
And what bothers me even more is that Lush glosses over the harmful effects of the ingredients they use to their customers by claiming they find the “mild” or “safe” toxins to put in your fresh handmade cosmetics. It’s not only an insult to our intelligence, but also harmful to our health.
What You Can Do
Luckily, there’s a lot you can do as a consumer!
- Familiarize yourself with the Environmental Working Group. They have a huge database of ingredients and products you can look up. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is another great source of information for what brands are actually natural.
- After you’ve gotten familiar with what ingredients to avoid, read your labels. I cannot stress this enough! It is the easiest way to avoid chemicals that can cause you harm
SEO Says it All
Since this post went up, many readers have told me multiple times that Lush does not claim to be natural, that they don’t use the word. It’s not on their front page of the website, it’s not in their slogan. Not mentioned at all. But SEO says it all: The word “natural” appears not once, not twice, but three times in one description tag.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with search engine optimization, a description tag is one of the ways to tell search engines what the post or website is about. Most people and companies deliberately set this tag to attract visitors. By Lush setting their description tag to say “natural” three times, they are essentially screaming to the search engine, “Looking for natural? That’s us!”
Thanks to Heather who pointed this out!
You can find Lush on Twitter @lushcosmetics and at their customer line here: 1-888-733-5874