What's In It Wednesday: LUSH

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Today we're going to look at an entire line, rather than one select product. We talked about Lush Gorgeous before here on the blog a couple years back, so I thought we'd return for another look at the brand.

A Lush boutique recently opened locally at Eastview Mall and the moment you walk in, you get the impression that you are looking at natural, fresh skin care.

Are LUSH products truly natural, though?

Let's take a look.

According to Lush, they say that they "...believe in making effective products from fresh, organic* fruit and vegetables, the finest essential oils and safe synthetics."

I am going to pick 3 products today to show you in more depth so we can see what really is in them. This may be an eye opener for many of you devoted Lush fans.



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The first product is a shower gel called Dirty Springwash. The website boasts that it is a natural shower gel with "very little water".

Water (Aqua) , Sodium Laureth Sulfate , Sodium Cocoamphoacetate , Glycerine , Lauryl Betaine , Sodium Bicarbonate , Propylene Glycol , Fine Sea Salt (Sodium Chloride) , Perfume , Spearmint Oil (Mentha viridis) , Menthol Crystals , Hydroxcitronellal , Methyl Ionone , *Limonene , *Linalool , FD & C Blue No. 1 , Methylparaben 

Interestingly, the #1 ingredient in this shower gel is water, so I am a bit perplexed by the "very little water" claim. #2 in this is controversial sodium laureth sulfate.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate is something we've discussed here on the blog many times.  I do not like sulfates. There are far better cleansing options. Sodium Laureth Sulfate is an ingredient used to clean garage floors at service stations and in the car wash as a cleansing agent. The effects shown in animal studies are very disturbing to say the least. When sulfates are tested on young animals, their eyes can stop developing because of the harmful proteins absorbed. They have been shown to suffer severe damage to their nervous systems and even death. One study I read showed that children who get sulfates in their eyes may get cataracts. Children! Sodium Laureth Sulfate is also very bad for the environment and has been shown to be lethal to fish. Even though sulfates themselves are no longer believed to cause cancer, when they are combined with other compounds, they can be quite hazardous.

Propylene Glycol is also in this shower gel. Yuck! This is the cosmetic form of mineral oil--a crude oil.  In cosmetics, it is supposed to help retain moisture. It is linked in some studies to liver and kidney damage, although there hasn't been enough research. It is a common skin irritant.. 

Perfume -- AKA artificial fragrance.  Nearly every Lush product contains this. Synthetic fragrance is not good.  Read more here.

Methyl Ionone  -- a highly floral component of fragrance.  It has a violet aroma and is on the list of banned and/or restricted ingredients in the EU, as it is a possible toxin for our immune systems.

Limonene-- skin sensitizer; for perfume. Restricted/banned in other countries

Linalool-- Masking fragrance; shown to be hazardous, banned/restricted for use in other countries


FD & C Blue No. 1--A synthetic dye that comes from petroleum. While it hasn't been proven unsafe in cosmetics use, it has proven to be toxic to humans.

Methylparaben-- an unsafe preservative. Linked to breast cancer. A premature skin ager, too. Read more about why parabens need to be avoided here.


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 The second product we'll be looking at is a bar soap called  Red Rooster.

Propylene Glycol , Water (Aqua) , Rapeseed Oil , Coconut Oil (Brassica napus; Helianthus annuus; Cocos nucifera) , Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice (Citrus sinensis) , Sodium Stearate , Sodium Lauryl Sulfate , Sodium Hydroxide , Cinnamon Leaf Oil (Cinnamomum cassia) , Orange Oil (Citrus dulcis) , Cloves (Eugenia caryophyllus) , Cinnamon Sticks (Cinnamomum cassia) , Orange or Lemon Slices (Citrus dulcis , Star Anise (Illicium verum) , Sodium Chloride , *Cinnamal , *Coumarin , *Eugenol , *Benzyl Benzoate , *Limonene , *Linalool , Perfume , Gardenia Extract (Gardenia jasminoides) , FD & C Red No. 4 

The #1 ingredient in this bar soap is Propylene Glycol. This is so far removed from what anyone would consider a natural soap. A natural soap does NOT contain propylene glycol.  Ask any soaper what they're putting in their lovingly made, handcrafted bars and I assure you no one will say, "First I add a happy helping of  a crude oil derivative.  Then I add in some Sodium Lauryl Sulfate for good measure. To make it even more wholesome, I've put in some FD & C dyes."

Propylene Glycol--Yuck! TYuck! This is the cosmetic form of mineral oil--a crude oil.  In cosmetics, it is supposed to help retain moisture. It is linked in some studies to liver and kidney damage, although there hasn't been enough research. It is a common skin irritant..

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate--was once rumored to cause cancer. While this has been proven false, SLS is a highly irritating detergent known for creating a lather. Scientists do not recommend using SLS at a rate of 15% of a total product, and at that amount only because it will be diluted with water and rinsed out.

Coumarin--You may not be familiar with the name Coumarin, but are probably familiar with its relatives, Coumadin or Warfarin, blood thinning medication and Tonka Bean, a fragrance ingredient. In high doses, all can be lethal. Coumarin is found in the seeds of the Tonka Bean. Coumarin is on the EU's list of banned and/or restricted ingredients and several studies have shown there to be many systemic effects in low doses. To think that this is in here and may very well be absorbed into the bloodstream is very alarming, especially since there are links to cancer. This is found in this product as a fragrance ingredient.

Eugenol--a denaturant and fragrance component. Highly toxic. On the EU's banned/restricted list. The National Library of Medicine HazMap calls this a "known human immune system toxicant."

Limonene-- skin sensitizer; for perfume. Restricted/banned in other countries

Perfume--AKA artificial fragrance.  Nearly every Lush product contains this. Synthetic fragrance is dangerous.  Read more here.

FD & C Red 4-- Derived from petroleum (crude oil)


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Lastly, I'd like to see what is in Rehab, a shampoo advertised to treat damaged and abused hair. The ingredients?

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate , Carrageenan Infusion , Sodium Alkyl Sulfate , Cocamide DEA , Cocamide MEA , Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate , Perfume , Fresh Papaya Juice (Carica papaya) , Fresh Pineapple Juice (Ananas comosus) , Salt (Sodium Chloride) , Fresh Kiwi Juice (Actinidia chinensis) , Fresh Mango Juice (Mangifera indica) , Jojoba Oil (Simmondsia chinensis) , Olive Oil (Olea europaea) , Almond Oil (Prunus dulcis) , Lavender Oil (Lavandula hybrida) , Peppermint Oil (Mentha piperita) , Rosemary Oil (Rosmarinus officinalis) , Juniperberry Oil (Juniperus communis) , Rose Absolute (Rosa centifolia) , *Limonene , *Linalool , Benzyl Alcohol , Propylparaben , Methylparaben

Nothing says repair your damaged hair like Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, synthetic fragrance, and a duo of parabens (rolling my eyes, shockingly).

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate is a surfactant that carries similar health risks to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. SLS was once rumored to cause cancer. While this has been proven false, SLS is still a highly irritating detergent known for causing redness and soreness to the eyes and skin. It is harsh and it is drying. This is probably the worst surfactant you'd want for hair in need of a gentle cleansing.
Sodium Alkyl Sulfate is another harsh cleanser. In fact, Alkyl Sulfates are regularly found in laundry detergents. I don't know about you, but would you wash your hair with Wisk?  

Cocamide DEA is another cleanser. Lush sure uses lots of cleansing agents in their shampoo! The EPA has stated that there is limited evidence linking this ingredient to cancer.  It is also classified as "expected to be toxic or harmful" in Canada. It is both a skin and eye irritant, as well as linked to liver and lung changes in lab testing of animals.  A major concern with this ingredient would be contamination concerns, as it's been linked to Nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic impurities found in many ingredients. Nitrosamines are proven endocrine disruptors and there are multiple studies linking them to several different cancer types.

Cocamide MEA should be avoided, as it often contains small amounts of Cocamide DEA. See above.

Perfume--AKA artificial fragrance.  Nearly every Lush product contains this. Synthetic fragrance is dangerous.  Read more here.

Limonene-- skin sensitizer; for perfume. Restricted/banned in other countries

Linalool--Masking fragrance; shown to be hazardous, banned/restricted for use in other countries


Propylparaben and Methylparaben-- Please read my comprehensive post on parabens here.



The Bottom Line:

Do we advocate buying this brand?  Simply put, no.  Are the ingredients used in the brand natural? Another big NO. I should say--they use natural ingredients, but sandwich them between an equal portion of toxins.


With the shampoo, for example, they do use some lovely, wholesome ingredients. However, they are all sandwiched between harsh cleansers linked to cancer and harsh preservatives linked to cancer. 

They use artificial fragrance, synthetic dyes, sulfates, petrochemicals, parabens, and irritating propylene glycol. Lush is no more natural than Johnson and Johnson products, Suave, Bath & Body Works, or any other ordinary and unnatural bath and body line out there.

What is really disappointing about this brand is that the image they are portraying is that of a truly wholesome company.  When you're in the store, you get the feeling that each items was made with love with high quality ingredients.  The reality is that there are harmful ingredients in nearly every product they offer.


 Sources:



Löffler H, Pirker C, Aramaki J, Frosch P, Happle R, I. E. Evaluation of skin susceptibility to irritancy by routine patch testing with sodium lauryl sulfate. Eur J Dermatol. 2001;11(5):416-9.

EC (Environment Canada). 2008. Domestic Substances List Categorization. Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) Environmental Registry

World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Monographs Programme on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Lists of Group 1, 2a, and 2b substances can be obtained

Anne Birgitte Simonsen, Mette Deleuran, Jeanne Duus Johansen & Mette Sommerlund. 2011. Contact allergy and allergic contact dermatitis in children - a review of current data. Contact dermatitis 65(5), 254-65.

SC Rastogi, S Heydorn, JD Johansen & DA Basketter. 2001. Fragrance chemicals in domestic and occupational products. Contact dermatitis 45(4), 221-5.




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