Why Lush Cosmetics is a Scam


I was horribly fooled by the overpowering cuteness and delicious smells. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, I was tricked by fizzy bath bombs, organic and natural labels, and misleading promises. Chances are if you’ve ever purchased Lush products, you have been too.

SO MANY THINGS. Image courtesy of dublintown.ie

I have no excuse though. I am someone who is constantly reading labels, a queen of peering between the lies, and educated as to what is actually considered natural, organic, and healthy for you. So if I can be fooled, ANYONE CAN.

I was pumped with excitement when I found Lush. I recently started making my own products such as deodorant, face/body moisturizer, and dishwashing/laundry detergent in an attempt to cut down on the amount of potentially toxic and irritating substances I put in and on my body. But frankly, I’m lazy, I like things that smell good, and am a sucker for cute packaging. So when I saw there was a company that seemed to be making the natural products for me, I freaked out. In case you haven’t heard of them, here is their website: http://www.lushusa.com/

My experience

When I visited the store, a few things overwhelmed me:

  1. The overpowering cacophony of fragrances that burned my nose hairs.
  2. The annoyingly nice and overly aggressive salespeople. They’re like smiling peppy barnacles that you can’t scrape off the hull of your ship.
  3. The bright white words plastered everywhere, shouting, “Natural!” “Homemade!” “Organic!” “Fresh!” “No Animal Testing!”

I quickly skipped around the store like a child on her first Easter Egg hunt, snatching up bath gels, deodorant, shampoo bars, bath bombs, and salt scrubs. Yet in the midst of my $200 purchase, my gut was quietly tapping me on the shoulder saying, “Are you sure about this? There’s something fishy going on here…” To which I responded by punching my gut in the face and saying, “BATH BOMB CUTE SMELL GOOD. SHUT UP.”

Image courtesy of media4.s-nbcnews.com

After about two days of using the products, my gut spoke up again, this time in the shower while I was giddily lathering myself up with the Rose Jam Bath gel. This time I couldn’t ignore it as it said, “Um…this stuff and the shampoo lathers up CRAZY good. Too good in fact. I think there are sulfates in this crap. Read the label you moron or I’ll give you horrible gas later in the middle of your date!”

The investigation begins…

Fearful of my gut’s gas threat, I read the label, and sure enough, I found the following ingredients nestled cleverly betwixt the “natural/organic/homemade” ingredients:

  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  2. Sodium cocoamphoacetate
  3. Fragrance (this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s one of the most potentially irritating and toxic concoctions used in products)
  4. Propylene Glycol
  5. Methylparaben
  6. FD&C Red No. 4
  7. Perfume
  8. Lauryl Betaine
  9. Methyl Ionone

My gut glanced up at me and said, “I FREAKING TOLD YOU SO.”

So then I started investigating the Lush Company, and found numerous articles from people who had already figured out what was just brought to light. Here is an example for your reading pleasure: The Ugly Truth About Lush.

Summed up: Lush is a marketing team’s dream to trick you into believing that you’re doing something good for your body, all the while using known and potential toxins while not actually lying about anything at all.

How bad is it?

Nothing they’re doing is technically wrong or illegal, just like it’s not illegal to slap the “natural” label on chicken after it has been pumped with hormones, antibiotics, and arsenic.  This is because there is no legal definition defined by the FDA or USDA as to what “natural” actually means.

Because here’s the thing. All of the ingredients I listed previously are technically “natural.” Most chemicals are considered “natural” because technically, everything is made up of chemicals. People, animals, water, and trees are all made up of chemicals. Toxic mold is “natural”, arsenic is “natural, and the venom that comes out of a snake’s fang that kills things is also “natural.”

All natural chemicals folks. Image courtesy of cancertreatmentsresearch.com

But certain chemicals (the dosage dictates the toxicity) have been proven and/or linked through studies (and also people dying), to be harmful and toxic.  One day I’ll write a post explaining the difference between experimental/observational studies and the difference between causation and correlation, but that’s not today’s post.

So then what the heck is my issue with Lush?

My issue here isn’t that Lush uses those ingredients! It’s not illegal or necessarily “bad” and people still openly debate whether the chemicals in question are actually harmful and to what degree. My issue is that Lush purposefully misleads their consumers by marketing their products in a subtly deceptive way. If you work in marketing, you’d probably be very impressed by what they do. However, if you’re a consumer such as I, it can really piss you off.

The equivalent to what their doing is like your dear ol’ granny telling you she worked for hours making you homemade chicken noodle soup, but she actually just heated up Cambell’s soup called “Granny’s Homemade Chicken Noodle.”  Sneaky granny…

They’re like a crappy magician diverting your attention with large text, vibrant colors, and delicious smells so you can’t see how the “magic” isn’t magic and is really just a dumb trick.

Image courtesy of billboard.com

What Lush has to say

If you take the time to navigate their website, they are completely honest with the types of ingredients they use. But they dance expertly around their synthetic ingredients by calling them “safe synthetics”, defending their usage, and explaining the natural origin of the synthetic, along with pictures of fruits and healthy oils.

Some examples from their website:

  •  “Sodium cocoamphoacetate is an organic compound derived from coconut oil.”  So is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which is a known irritant.
  •  “They (parabens) are used globally and are permitted by every world health authority (500 independent safety studies have been carried out over the decades). Scare-mongering ‘studies’ into their potentially negative effects have now been widely debunked.”
  •  “Coumarin is a chemical compound, occurring naturally in some essential oils and absolutes, such as tonka bean and lavender.” P.S. Essentials oils can be EXTREMELY irritating.

Again, Mycotoxin, a naturally occurring chemical that comes from fungus, KILLS PEOPLE.  Amygdalin is a naturally occurring substance inside apricot kernels that can cause gut discomfort, illness, and if too much is consumed in a short amount of time, death.

And before all you dummies start yelling about how parabens are safe and sodium lauryl sulfate ain’t all bad, can we just take a moment and admit HOW MANY TIMES scientists, the FDA, the USDA, and like everyone has been wrong when they’ve said something is safe?  Need examples?  Here ya go. The problem is that there aren’t long-term studies on this stuff!  So while someone might not develop skin cancer during a 3-month study, they might in years. And even if something isn’t cancerous, wouldn’t you be mad if you spent a ton of money claiming to come naturally from mother earth, only to develop rashes, zits, and who knows what else?

So what’s the lesson in all of this? Do not believe everything you read and understand that the word “natural” doesn’t always mean safe and/or good for you. Do your homework and decide if you’re willing to believe Lush and take the risk of using potential toxins and irritating ingredients in your skincare. But if you’re willing to take that risk, also know that you could buy the same types of products for way cheaper at Wallmart or CVS that don’t make the same B.S. claims that Lush does and cost less.