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What do Jean Paul Gaultier, Halle Berry and Ozzy Osbourne have in common? They all get their beauty fix from Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. Since its debut in Poole, England, in 1995, Lush has made its mark with fresh, handmade skin care — not to mention its love-it-or-hate-it signature aroma.
Like a cosmetics deli, Lush offers body, hair and bath products wrapped in modest paper and stamped with best-before dates. Started by a group of self-proclaimed hippies, the company now has more than 400 products that are sold in more than 300 shops in 32 countries.”We just wanted to make a living. We had no idea how well Lush would be received,” says Mark Constantine, managing director. Before Lush, Mark supplied The Body Shop for 15 years, during which he and his team created many of the company’s star products, like the Peppermint Foot Lotion. “Lush is such an evocative word. It can mean green or make you think of the rain forest, a passage of poetry, a piece of music or someone who has had too much to drink. It has a wonderfully addictive feeling about it,” he says. From the start, Lush featured products that were based on freshness and innovation, ranging from soaps to chunks of solid shampoo, hair conditioners, bubble-bar slices, massage bars and lip balms. “We want to treat the skin and hair gently and with respect,” he says. Encouraged by its success in the U.K., Lush opened its first international location in Vancouver in 1996.
The product that put Lush on the beauty radar was the bath bomb. Created by Mo Constantine (Mark’s wife), the bombs are like a giant Alka-Seltzer for your tub — perfumed with ingredients such as jasmine, lavender or ginger. “They were something that no one had ever done before. Over the years, our bath bombs have been replicated but never duplicated,” says Mo.
Tucked away in a quiet industrial park, the Lush factory looks like a baker’s kitchen. Noticeably absent are conveyor belts churning out product. Rather, a team of 200 people meticulously produce cosmetics by hand. “In one day at this site, we use one tonne of cocoa butter, make three tonnes of soap and produce 40,000 bath bombs,” says Jet Charman, production manager of the factory. During my visit there, I was put to work mincing garlic, cracking free-range eggs and mixing organic green grapes to make my own batch of the Cosmetic Warrior face mask — a product so fresh that it needs to be displayed on ice in the stores.
“We strike the balance between science and art by just trying to have fun,” says Helen Ambrosen, product creator and one of the brand’s founders. “At the end of the day, we’re making products that people find effective and love using. It’s a real privilege to be able to do that.”