The Smell of Bullshit, part 10: fresh products

Lush make much of the “freshness” of their products. These are their official guidelines for how long stock should remain on the shelves of the shops.

Fresh face masks and Hair Doctor – 1 week on the shelf, use within 4 weeks from manufacturing date (keep in the fridge)

Roll cleansers – 1 month on the shelf, use within 3 months from manufacturing date

Liquid perfumes – 23 months on the shelf, use within 31 months from manufacturing date

Solid shampoo bars – 23 months on the shelf, use within 31 months from manufacturing date

Dusting powders – 23 months on the shelf, use within 31 months from manufacturing date

Everything else – 4 months on the shelf, use within 14 months since manufacturing date

These are the current guidelines we have (and the stores should adhere to).

Fresh?

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7 thoughts on “The Smell of Bullshit, part 10: fresh products

  1. Even tho the dates are quite specific there was a period a couple of years ago where the labels that Lush produced in house had the wrong ink on them and consequently the dates kept rubbing off so there was no way of telling when something was made and when it had to be used by. These items were not recalled they just sent out new labels – which were sent to some shops with the wrong dates on and not at all to other shops. Showing once again their lack of attention to detail and how much they care about their customers.

  2. Aaah the old ‘freshness’ claims. A fabulous USP if only it was true – can four month old product really be called ‘fresh’. Doesn’t that mean that ‘fresh’ IS just a marketing term? (Because, in their oft quoted ‘We Believe” mantra, it does have the bit at the bottom where they say they believe that “‘fresh’ and organic’ have honest meaning beyond marketing”, doesn’t it?). It is my believe that this is another case of their gross hypocrisy.

    Looking at why they hook onto ‘fresh’ with such a dear hold, what is the benefit to the customer? Why does freshness matter – is there any proof that ultra ‘fresh’ product with minimum of preservative is more efficacious on the skin & hair? Is there even any proof that fresh masks are ‘nutritious’ for the skin? (I’ll get on to that later). Do Lush even question why it is important? It works fabulously on a small scale and is a great selling point, but on a large scale we – as customers (or ex-customers) can see that it just doesn’t work. Exploding pots of cream, mouldy face masks, product that just doesn’t work…

    Let’s also talk about the “Everything else – 4 months on the shelf, use within 14 months since manufacturing date” – how fresh are the ballistics and bubbles coming out of the factory? I have a feeling that the reason that ballistics (for example) no longer do what they used to (i.e. smell and fizz) is due to them being made en masse in the factory and stored until being shipped out. I have no proof for this, it is just my personal theory, but it must be noted that the rapid expansion of the company over the past 5 years goes hand in hand with the deterioration in product like soap, ballistics & bubbles. Apart from when it comes to Retro… which is made in small batches. It is also worth mentioning that the Dorset factory not only serves the UK but also other markets.

    Soap is something else that worries me. One morning in my local store, a staff member was unwrapping some soap from its container (they had just had their delivery and were putting some of it out). The soap was the green one in trough moulds (pale green with fruity slices throughout – Miranda I think). It was still wet, and she said “look how fresh this is!”. Now my soap making knowledge is fairly limited but I have dabbled – isn’t soap meant to ‘cure’ for a while, which helps with later shrinkage and fixes the scent a bit more? All this nonsense we’ve had over the years about people being sent out underweight soaps in gifts, and the moisture evaporating from the soap being the cause of the loss in weight… perhaps this wouldn’t happen if they let it cure first? Again, fast turnaround isn’t everything. I would rather have a cured soap that lasts than a wet mushy one that evaporates in a week.

    Also, what is the fresh policy to gifts? Next time you’re in store, look on the bottom of the gifts to see when they were made up, and also to see the age of the product contained within. It’s usually not that ‘fresh’ in my experience.

    My last issue to do with ‘fresh’ and food ingredients is to do with what I feel are dubious claims. Look at the website for the following issues:

    – H’suan Wen Hua Hair Moisturiser. This contains “Fresh free range eggs and soya lecithin for protein to restructure the hair.” Can eggs and lecithin restructure hair? Are they allowed to claim this?

    – Ayesha fresh face mask. A couple of problems here!

    a) This has “kiwi for vitamin C”. They don’t elaborate as to why this is necessary to have in a face mask. Is there any proof that topical vitamin C application does anything for the skin? Doesn’t vitamin C deplete greatly from fresh fruit once it is open to the air? Why are they telling us this?

    b) ” We then chose regenerative essential oils of patchouli, rosemary and rose absolute”. Regenerative in what sense? They can regenerate skin? Stimulate cell renewal? Again, why are they telling us this, what is the proof for their claims? BBSeaweed face mask also claims to have “Rosemary oil to regenerate the skin” – again a lofty claim with no proof or source for the claim.

    – Turkish Delight shower smoothie. The copy on this claims it will leave your body “smooth and nourished”. NOURISHED? Really, Lush? Washing with a highly scented shower cream is going to nourish my body? Or am I meant to eat it? Actually, do type “nourished” into the Lush.co.uk search engine, several products claim they can do this including:

    a) Sophisticated Eyeshadow (it has a ‘nourishing’ base)
    b) Vanilla Dee-Lite (it has butters and kiwi to ‘nourish & treat’ the skin. Does ‘treat’ amount to some kind of medical claim?)
    c) Ro’s Argan Body Conditioner has – wait for it – “ingredients to feed and nourish the skin”. What, FEED and nourish the skin? FEED it? How, just… how?
    d) Cupcake face mask – it has linseed in it to ‘nourish’ the skin. Linseed is excellent when eaten, and I think the oil is used on cricket bats to keep the wood supple. Not sure about it nourishing the skin from topical application…
    e) Oatifix face mask. Apparently this is a ‘nourishing mask’ and key to its success are “Bananas are a very rich oily fruit – so are perfect for a mask that is trying to get goodness into dry skin”. Again, a lofty claim!

    I won’t go through them all but all in all there are 56 entries on the Lush.co.uk website when you type ‘nourishing’ into their search bar. Again, if one looks at the definition of ‘nourishing’ it is:

    “(of food) Containing substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition: ‘a simple but nourishing meal'”

    (source: Google definition under the search ‘define: nourishing’).

    So as an ex-customer my issue is not only with the freshness but the marketing of it, why they perceive it as important, and some of the (in my opinion) misleading claims they attach to the use of ‘fresh’ ingredients. I was always under the impression that the vitamins in fruit & vegetables (especially water soluble ones) degenerate upon oxidation and also need to be ingested in order to nourish the human body. I may be wrong, but I am not the one making the claims. One for ASA perhaps? It wouldn’t be the first time Lush has come up against the ASA for misleading claims:

    (http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2012/5/Lush-Retail-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_134880.aspx & http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2010/6/Lush-Retail-Ltd/TF_ADJ_48632.aspx)

    Whilst I’m on a roll, something else which really boils my piss is the claims some of the products make for PMT. PMT is not some wishy washy bad mood that some women have once a month. PMT can be debilitating and the effects can range from mild anxiety to severe depressive moods, not to mention unpleasant physical symptoms. It’s not something to be joked about or taken lightly. Therefore, I ask how Lush can claim that some Flying Fox shower gel (which smells like manure mixed with honey, due to their trademark vulgar use of jasmine) can possibly have an effect on such a personal condition as PMT. From their website:

    “You can use Flying Fox at any time of the month, but it’s especially good at The Time of the Month, because we’ve added the top essential oils for calming PMT”

    Then, interestingly, go further down the page and this claim is also made about the gel:

    “There are times when you want to feel sexy in body and mind.
    This magic gel is crammed full of specialist honeys from around the world that will make your skin feel great. We then added the sexiest perfume we could, packed with aphrodisiac essential oils to set you on the rampage!”

    So not only will it ‘calm’ your PMT, ladies (yes, a pungent shower gel can help with all that bloating, migraines, breast tenderness, fatigue, anxiety, dysphoria etc) it will also magically turn you into some rampant sex beast, much nicer for those around you, no?

    The website also makes a lovely little joke about PMT in the copy for their “Vibrance” lipstick. I quote the following:

    “How glorious that VIBRANCE is your strength. This will get you a long way in life. Who doesn’t like to be around someone who has VIBRANCE? Only someone who has PMT or a hangover, perhaps? They might see it as a weakness until you share your secret with them.”

    Oh yes, because PMT can be equated to self inflicted alcohol poisoning, can’t it?

    What utter misogyny. It really makes me so angry, I cannot tell you. Who has the audacity to make such claims? Oh yes, it’s that wacky, family-run friendly hippy soap shop Lush. My arse.

  3. On the subject of un-cured soap, it is true that cold processed soap does indeed have to cure for 4-6 weeks for the nasty caustic soda (sodium hydroxide – it’s in all Lush soaps) it contains to saponify and become safe and inert. BUT…. Lush don’t actually make their own soap! They buy it in, in huge bulk, from a soap base manufacturer. When it comes in it is in pellet form (noodles) and it is already saponified and cured and is effectively extremely natural soap. When this soap is made is unknown, it could be years old, you’d never know.

    What Lush then do with it is melt it down in huge 4′ high saucepans (vessels), add loads of water to make it runny, add their bright colouring powders and fragrance and oils (to make it ‘nourishing’) mix it up with huge hand held industrial size blenders and then pour it into moulds where it sets quite quickly, but now it has loads of liquid in it that it didn’t need so, as it’s turned out and hits the air, it starts to shrink. It will shrink anything up to 20%, depending on which soap it is and how much water or juice or honey or oil or oats have been added to it.

    Lush know that it shrinks, but instead of leaving the soap to evaporate first, or giving you a chunk that is bigger so that once it has evaporated it weighs what you wanted it to, they send it out the next day ‘fresh’ and then sell you 80% soap 20% water. The amount that shrinks they call the ‘Angels Share’ but what they really mean is ‘an extra 20% profit on top of what they’re already making’.

    How can they sleep at night, and how can they claim that their stuff is ‘handmade’ when they buy it in and mix it up in huge vats? It was maybe handmade once upon a time but now it is mass produced on an industrial scale. Time to re-think their marketing.

  4. On May 16, 2013, at 10:19 AM, April Gonzales wrote:

    I’ve been looking around at youtube videos and have seen dozens of videos inwhich lushies are getting out kitchen knives to cut their ‘fresh’ bubble bars. Somebody’s going to cut themselves. It’s not right and i’m concerned for some of these Lushies who do this. So having had enough, i made two videos showing my ‘toothpick test for lush bubble bar freshness’, what to look for and what to stay away from.
    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=NO0xFj__0fc
    and
    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=9s3SeezfqsQ
    I’ve been posting the video to these lushies, with a few comments that lead me to believe that they were underthe impression your supposed to cut them, and then place the pieces in the drain hole area.

  5. Pingback: The Smell of Bullshit: the comments post | Mitherings from Morningside

  6. One product that has a shelf life of 14 months but which goes off after just a couple of months in summer is Sympathy For The Skin. It is a body lotion that contains vanilla, banana and sandalwood..

    There are issues being raised on the staff facebook page right now:

    “Question about Sympathy For the Skin; How do I go about making it last longer than a month or two? It keeps going off; smelling like paint stripper, going extremely runny.

    My house doesn’t get very warm, however it can get high humidity at times. I’m thinking of buying a new pot and popping in the fridge/freezer.

    I know many people have this problem but I wonder if anyone has any tried and tested methods of keeping SFTS fresh!”

    Here are some of the replies, but please note that not one staff member even questions the subject of removing it from the shelves, withdrawing it from sale so that tests can be made on it to ensure that it is safe to use and warrants its 14 month shelf life. That would mean no sales of it would be made which would detract from making a profit, even tho the brand is being damaged by selling inferior products.

    “my sympathy lasted a month this time! it looks like a lake in there haha”

    ” Mine lasted about 3 months and had black blobs in it eww shame coz I do love it x”

    ” sympathy goes off all the time! We have to change the tester all the time as it goes of and smells like sick xx”

    “SFTS always goes funny in the summer. It has been happening for a number of years. We do so many refunds and recharges for it in the summer. I’m sure it must have been mentioned to customer services many times so maybe there isn’t anything they can do. The black blobs are just vanilla seeds but totally agree that the smell of sick is very offputting and when it turns to foamy liquid it is not pleasant. Bit embarrasing when you demo it to customers too. ”

    ” the black blobs in mine were as big as my thumb nail And I do love vanilla seeds so it can’t have been those. It smells a bit like emulsion sometimes too, such a shame as my skin loves it”

    “We keep our Sympathy in the fridge and that seems to work fine ”

    ” I think clean clean hands must be used to stop contamination of bacteria passing through the product!”

    So where on Sympathy for the Skin does it say to keep it in the fridge or to only use it with clean hands?

    Finally there is a reply from someone who works at Lush as a product inventor :- “Sympathy is a very fragile emulsion. Therefore if it isn’t well looked after the emulsion will break. Don’t expose it to extreme temperatures, keep the lid on when you’re not using it. Don’t forget its got fresh banana in to, so the black bits are also likely to be banana seeds. The banana are filtered prior to adding to the product to remove any seeds and fibre. But because manufacturing can be making up to a tonne at a time sometimes a few seeds will get through. But as with all our products, treat them gently and used them as fresh as possible.”

    So shouldn’t the labelling say not to expose it to extreme temperature?

    They must need a very big bowl to hand make a tonne of it!

    In my shop we have now had 6 batches in a row that get sent on delivery that explode in our stock room and on the shop floor leaking their sick smelling foamy contents all over the place and still they won’t withdraw it from sale. I asked customer services what we could say to the customers who bring back pots that have exploded and they just say to tell them there was a formulation problem.

    Thanks, that really helps. Maybe the products are going as rotten as the top knobs who invented them.

  7. Pingback: The Smell of Bullshit, part 18: more comments – thrush, and products going off | Mitherings from Morningside

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