The Smell of Bullshit, part 11: the stupid black pots

People who shop in Lush will know that many of their products come in black pots with screw-on lids. For the purposes of this blog post, whenever I refer to the “black pots” I am referring specifically to the black pots with the screw-on lids, in any or all of their sizes. The black pots come in small, medium and large versions, which are more or less the same, just differently sized. The problems I am blogging about in this post apply to all the sizes.

The lids are screw-on, so there has to be a groove in the lid which the top edge of the pot fits into. As the majority of products in the black pots are creams, mousses, masks etc of varying consistencies from very liquid to very thick like whipped cream, they tend to slop about a bit. And the contents get into the groove (ah, the days when Madonna was fun!) and get stuck there. As you can see.

Lush Marilyn hair moisturiser

Lush Marilyn DSCF3108 DSCF3116 DSCF3117

Product gets stuck in the groove and congeals and goes quite horrible really. Also, it gets wasted. It’s sitting there, in the groove of the lid, where the customer can’t reach it and therefore can’t use it. Waste of product, waste of money.

Obviously Lush makes toiletries, which are used in bathrooms, where people often have wet hands. Sometimes wet hands slip and drop what they’re holding. Unless you’ve done it yourself, you can only imagine the pain and irritation you experience when an open pot of Lush product slips out of your wet hand and lands in the sink, in the bath, on the floor and spills its contents across the room. Then you’re left with a dilemma – do you scoop it back into the pot, contaminating it with the grebbies and eech of whatever it landed on? Do you just scoop it up and bin it or rinse it down the plughole, wasting product and money? Or do you scoop it up and apply as much of it to yourself as you can?

And, to expand on the theme of grebbies and eech (a phrase I borrow from my friend Morna who originally used it to refer to the things that inhabit a dirty plughole and which need to be cleaned out with a chopstick), to use the products in the black pots, you have to stick your fingers into them. Lush make much of their minimal use of preservatives. It’s pretty well understood that solid products are more stable than liquid products and therefore require fewer preservatives. Credit where it’s due, Lush have been reasonably innovative over the years in making solid products (eg shampoos, conditioners, massage bars, bubble bars) where other companies make liquids, which require fewer preservatives and less packaging. But they do still make a lot of liquidy creamy products, which need to be scooped out of the pot in order to use them, and that generally means sticking your fingers into them. I suppose you could use some sort of applicator, thoroughly washed between uses, but how many of us can be arsed with that?

So people stick their fingers into the pots, and even if their hands have just been washed, bacteria gets into the products. And then the products get stuck in the grooves in the lid, where they go a bit congealed and sticky. And then you stick your fingers back in and then you rub the product on your face. And then people wonder why the products are going off.

Unsuprisingly, people have been complaining about the black pots for several years, Shall we have a look at what people have said?

2008

  • I do like the tubs as you can see exactly what you have left and how much to get,but on the other hand bottles are more hygienic,and you can still just pump a tiny bit out
  • I just opened my fair trade foot lotion and it had wierd [sic] dark pink/yellow bits on the top (unfortunately all the words rubbed off the date sticker so I don’t know if it has gone out of date). i dont know what it was but I scooped it out with a spoon and used the nice stuff underneath.

2010

  • This occurred to me today when I slopped half a pot of Enzymion down the sink trying to open it. Those big flat black pots are nice but for “thin” moisturisers like Enzymion they’re awkward to open (hard to hold) and when you do, there’s a good chance the pot will tip and chuck the cream all over the floor. Don’t get me wrong, I love the pots in general, but only for thick products like the face masks – back when my skin was dry instead of oily I had this exact same problem with Skin Drink! Basically I’m asking – is there any chance of Lush offering moisturisers in those pump bottles? They do the in-store samples in those bottles, and they hold the same amount of product (45g). Obviously only for the watery ones, but it would be a big help. It would also make them a lot easier to take on holiday!

2012

  • I must add that the pots drive me nuts. I love creme anglais and it is expensive however in that pot, it does not look it. I know generally it is what is inside what counts but if I wanted to give it as a gift, it looks awful and may never be used. I have these things leak on me all the time.

2013

  • Moisturisers in pots that don’t leave half of the product in the rim of the lid. Having to keep my products upright all the time makes it difficult to travel with them.
  • The product, if it’s a thinner cream, gets trapped in the hollowed out section of the lid, so that when you thread the lid back onto the tub, several full applications are squeezed out of the tub. As fun as it is contaminating it by scooping it up with ones finger and putting it back into the tub / wasting it off / using a clean cotton bud to clean out the inner of the lid every single application / spending 20-30 minutes carefully decanting into a 45g pump bottle, I’m growing really fed up and bored to the point it’s making me consider using alternative moisturisers.    My new tub of Enzymion has taken a considerable hit with the amount of product I’m having to just rub into my hands that has ended up outside of the tub (I decided to try not doing any of the above in favor of seeing how long the tub lasts me as a mini-experiment).
  • My Celestial does that as well and it’s really bloody annoying.  Honestly I think all of the packaging needs to be looked at and sorted out because it is clearly not working.
  • I just can’t think how these tubs will work if the products have no preservatives, I mean so many of them go off early anyway…
  • The point is that you shouldn’t have to use an applicator for face cream. I always apply mine with clean hands and yet all my Lush ones went off. And don’t get me started about product inconsistency. That’s why I eventually had to give up with Lush face care. At first it made my skin better but due to inconsistency, my skin just got a whole lot worse
  • I have to admit I got so fed up of leaking and messy moisturiser tubs and continual acne that I switched to another brand (aromatherapy associates) and am 100 times more satisfied. clean prescise application, no mess, no contamination and no more acne…
  • Yes I always had this problem too. If I ever sold a moisturiser (or anything in those black tubs really) in the swap shop I felt like I had to wipe a whole load of product away from the grooves of the lid before it looked presentable, and I always kept my tubs upright. It just always seemed as if loads of air was getting in there and pushing the product out
  • I’m in agreement, they are not good enough for a product that could contain £40 worth of skincare, I understand the lack of fancy packaging but they need to be fit for purpose.
  • I think you have a good point here, I would much prefer them in pump bottles for ease of use and no contamination with fingers and bacteria
  • I was told years ago they won’t use pump bottles because of the extra packaging and recycling of the pump unit. They clearly know it’s a problem as the testers have often been in pump bottles.Why?
    They don’t want contaminated products (fine at home though!)
    They don’t want people to tip it everywhere (fine at home though!)
    They don’t want people to use too much (fine at home though!)
    They don’t want things leaking (fine at home though!)

    Pah!

  • i think subconsciously this is why i have been moving away from lush skincare. i used to be a ‘lush snob’. everything was lush…cleansers, toners, moisturizer…in fact the only one skincare product i still buy and use and love is ocean salt. i don’t use the toners because 8/10 times, the sprayers on my bottles stopped working and it was just too much trouble to switch to a different bottle – well, not trouble.. but we shouldn’t have to. i used up the last of my lush moisturizer a few months ago, and have made no effort to buy more. i’ve been trying a few different things (non lush) i’ve had samples of and my skin is better for it.    and god forbid you don’t clean the pot right away, the stuff stuck in the grooves turns a crusty grody brown. right next to the product you’re supposed to be putting on your face…it’s very unappealing.    i’ve found a skincare line that my skin loves, and the packaging is functional and inoffensive. sorry lush.
  • This happened to my last pot of Vanishing Cream. Will not repurchase.
  • I haven’t bought lush face moisturisers for a while but I do remember my vanishing cream having this problem even though it was kept upright, the enzymion just got a weird clear/yellow layer around the grooves that I guess was old moisturiser. Since then I’ve used different companies for face moisturisers in tubes and in pots and not had any of the same problems. Even all the steamcream pots I’ve had didn’t do it and I think that’s thinner than the enzymion I had.     There have been a couple of pots of dreamcream I’ve had that had the same problem though it’s thicker, don’t know if anyone else has with the bigger pots?
  • That is exactly how my last pot of Imperialis arrived brand new from Mail Order. It was disgusting so I binned it and switched to Elemis.  If it is made and packaged like that I don’t want it anywhere near my face so didn’t even bother sending it back.
  • I had so much of an issue with my lush products in black tubs getting wedged into the rims (I couldn’t even open my ocean salt some days as a result of it) that I have stepped away from the skincare completely. I use a lot of clarins, origins and nivea and my skin is so much better as a result. My acne is almost completely gone and my oily skin is under control.

It seems pretty clear that people are switching to other brands because of what the black pots do to the products. People have complained about the black pots for at least the last five years. Any ideas why Lush aren’t doing anything about a problem that is obviously losing them customers?

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25 thoughts on “The Smell of Bullshit, part 11: the stupid black pots

  1. The lush black pots are manufactured locally so that they can cut down on transport and use the ‘closed loop’ recycling system that they so loudly go on about. All very commendable except that the pots are not fit for purpose. Not only are they not tamper evident (and therefore open to contamination by any customer who wants to open a pot, stick their finger in it and put it back on the shelf) but the pots sweat in the summer and get condensation on the inside (which turns to mould in a lot of cases). When I was a manager I constantly had battles with head office over pots of Mask of Magnaminty which would repeatedly arrive with green fluff on it even tho it was only made that month. At one point the stock room looked like a penicillin factory! The product couldn’t be sent back to the factory so it just had to be scooped into the bin and then the pots washed up and sent back to the factory for recycling. As long as the pots are recycled they don’t care about the product. Also sometimes the lids don’t fit the pots and just spin round and there seems to be little or no quality control taking place.

    The products expand in the heat causing the pots to leak and ooze in the summer and we were constantly wiping fair trade foot lotion from around the edges and down the sides of the pots, not very hygenic at all. Some days you’d have to open every pot and release the gas that had built up inside them, then sell them with a smile. Don’t forget to smile!

    A few products would react with the plastic and take on a ‘surgical spirit’ odour which, when you’re spending 15-40 quid on a moisturiser, you just don’t want.

    But with all their ‘ethics’ about using recycled materials what I never understood were the ballistic moulds. These items are used just once and then sent away to be recycled. When I used to do ballistic making parties in store we used the moulds indefinitely and always got great results as ballistics leave no residue when they are unmoulded – apart from a bit of bicarb, which they all contain.

    Considering the amount of ballistics that have been made (millions) it’s hard to understand why they don’t reuse the moulds at least 10 times. The waste produced at the factory bears no resemblance to the values Lush spout on about in their ‘green hub’ – sadly out of date since the green team was disbanded, and although their plastic disclosure document http://www.hamiltonadvisorsltd.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/LUSH-disclosure-Plastic_Disclosure_Project_kate-2.pdf states that ‘up to half’ the moulds are used ‘up to 4 times’ this just isn’t done. Up to4 actually means used once!

    When massage bars and body butters arrive in the shop they are in their moulds and it is down to the shops to unmould the product and send the moulds back to the factory to be recycled or to get them recycled themselves so these are never reused. Ballistics get unmoulded in the factory and the moulds are recycled never reused. Soap is made in moulds and then recycled.

    it’s all very well to say that 46% of products are unpackaged but they fail to disclose how many % of products were encased in plastic during their creation – most of them! Once again Lush are giving a rose tinted view of events, only telling the good bits. Half truths.

  2. It’s not just the grotty black pots that are faulty. Their bottles are pretty crappy at dispensing non-liquid products. I have binned a bottle of No Drought as I got sick of wasting so much powder every time I used it. I tried sprinkling it onto my hair, shaking it onto my hairbrush, tapping it gently onto my brush and it would still go everywhere, so much so I would tap it onto my brush over my loo to catch the mess. You don’t get that problem with Batiste.

  3. I remember the way the black pots were *before* they had the screw tops, when you had to “burp” the lids to get a seal, which never really worked, and they were a nightmare to transport anywhere unless you taped the lid down. Which of course is a perfectly reasonable thing to do if you just want to pop your handcream in your bag for use during the day…

  4. Think of the money they could save just leaving the ballistics in the molds to send out via mail order! That would help all the breakages and dusty mess packages! But that would be admitting there is a problem.

    • The “naked” products at Lush (such as the ballistics, bubble bars, etc) are there for a reason. They save packaging. Lush, unlike many people (all of you complaining about the naked products, other companies, etc) actually cares about the earth more than cute, convenient packaging. I’ve never had an issue with my products. I leave them in the little bag, or put them in cute apothecary jars that I pick up at secondhand shops. The black pots are made because other packaging takes a lot more plastic and makes a lot more waste. Granted, they could be more hygienic, but Lush expects their customers to care enough about the earth to spend the whopping £1.84 (priced on Amazon) on cosmetic spatulas. It’s not that hard to use them, and it is ridiculous how selfish people are – when you pitch a fit about having to scoop out a product with a cheap, re-usable spatula you can get almost anywhere, you obviously don’t care about the environment more than your own convenience, which is why your grandchildren will have some horrific issues to deal with, not to mention the multitude of problems that are *already* killing the environment. Go buy products elsewhere, and stop wasting yours and everyone else’s time complaining because one company actually cares more about the environment than your highness’ convenience.

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  6. …considering I as well as my best friend (and many other people) have used Lush products for years and have never, ever had the problem of dropping it and wasting products due to wet hands…and that is not due to the fault of the container…perhaps you should be more careful?

  7. Also the black pots don’t always close well, so they can leak, Especially in the shower this is a porblem since water also leaks IN the pots, so you get runny BIG shampoo, Blousey shampoo, Rub Rub Rub, body conditioners,etc, And then they will spoil 😦 .

    I have in the past also received body lotions and such of which the lids weren’t even closed well enough, like the one filling them and putting the lids on couldn’t be bothered with it. So body lotion came out of the pots during transports.

    And some lids are a bit broken, there is something wrong with the grooves so you can just keep screwing tje lid on and it doesn’t stop.

    I do like pots for body and facial care though, just not the Lush pots. Shower products shouldn’t be in tubs, unless they close really really well.

  8. I really don’t understand this thread… the Lush black pots have the best seal I’ve ever experienced from a cosmetic product. Mine hold water and don’t leak and are easy to get on and off. I buy Lush in New Zealand. I nearly don’t want to exchange them for the free mask because I use them for all sorts of other things after the product is finished. I recently went on a trip and put my (other brand) shampoo and conditioner into some empty Lush pots because I didn’t trust the lid it came with.

    • Kelsey, hi.
      I don’t know if we are both talking about the same dubious black pots here because I have never, nor have I ever, heard any of my friends express this sort of glowing confidence in these black pots. Quite the contrary.
      I currently have more than a few of each size (well within exp dates) that I am currently experiencing leaking, ‘sticking’ & improper threading/ closing with. I have had enough disasters with these pots packed in my running & swimming gear that I can say I would not under a-n-y circumstances travel with these black pots near my luggage unless double ziplock-bagged at the very least.
      Do they line the lids with a silicone or something in New Zealand?

  9. Hi, You replied to Leigh about them having to explain the glitter maybe you should look at this and educate yourself – https://www.lush.co.uk/article/all-glitters-not-plastic – or if you’d rather sit back and not educate yourself I have quoted some below –

    ‘Your love of glitter can also now be fulfilled without the plastic: instead a new kind of sparkle made from synthetic mica is adding the dazzle to your products. Synthetic mica is made up of natural minerals, so instead of filling your bathroom with plastics which won’t biodegrade and are potentially toxic to marine wildlife, you can sit back and enjoy your bath, safe in the knowledge that it won’t have a negative impact on the environment.

    Lush products (sparkly or not) use food-safe colourings, synthetic mica, minerals and natural starches, and even one with a seaweed base – agar agar. Of all the glitter and lustre that flows out through your bathroom, some of it is sure to make its way back to the ocean, so this glitter is harmless.’

    kisses xx

    • This post is over two years old. You will notice that the bit you have quoted says “Your love of glitter can also now be fulfilled without the plastic”. When the post was written, over two years ago, the glitter was different. I have no need to educate myself about Lush because I no longer buy from them, for many many reasons.

      Kisses to you too, hunni.

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  11. hi! 🙂 good post! I completely agree with you in regards to the waste, as my lush things are a treat and seeing it go to waste down the cracks of the lid was making me sad! You probably already know this?…but they have changed their lids! yay! so that its not possible for the product to go down the cracks! It made me very happy 🙂

      • fwiw, they have not changed the pots. product still gets into the rim. i personally like the pots, but mostly because with other types of packaging you cannot get all of the product out without some kind of gymnastics. (standing a bottle upside down and needing to balance it against others to keep it that way, cutting the plastic bottles in half, etc.) also, i’ve found even a gentle squeeze on some of the bottles releases way, way too much product. with the pots you can use up every bit and also choose how much product you want to use.

        that said, the pots are not without their issues. one thing i felt worth noting that hasn’t yet been mentioned is that they differ based on location. i live in the US and have shopped at lush for over ten years. within the last year or two i began shopping almost exclusively via the UK’s website because the prices in the US are outrageous and i either can’t afford them or refuse to pay them, but i digress. the point is, i notice the black pots from the UK are frankly, a pain in the ass. i never had any issue with the pots in the US – i did have one pot of angels on bare skin cause me to break out and then it went off in a horrible way before it’s time, but i think this was the product batch not the pot as i’ve had no issues otherwise. but the first pot i got from the UK was rub rub rub, and i could not get the lid off. i thought i was going to have to crack the pot open. i finally pried it off with a peeling back motion (but without bending the lid, if that makes sense) and if you twist it back on, you’ll end up with the same problem again. if you have wet hands in the shower? forget it. it was coated with product but even after cleaning it remains unusable as a resealable product. i thought perhaps it was a fluke, but i’ve ordered several other things in pots from the UK and they are all varying levels of crappy. at best they take several tries to close properly, and i’m talking lotions and things that aren’t used in the shower. now, i store my pots upright and don’t travel so lost product isn’t an issue for me (i clean the lids once upon arrival and that’s that), and i’ve never had an issue with contamination (aside from the one incident mentioned) or spillage, nor have i ever had water get inside the pots i store in the shower. but the faulty seal is irritating, and frankly it just feels really cheap. when you’re paying the prices they charge, i expect the packaging to feel smooth and solid, and these definitely do not. they’re almost thin and bendy, and twisting the cap on feels like the inside is coated with sand. but again, the ones in the US don’t have this problem, in my opinion. i started to wonder if i was just imagining things, but i went on instagram and saw others had noticed the difference too – of course some liked them better…one person said she liked the extra tread (more lines on the top lip for screwing the lid onto, for lack of better terminology on my part, sorry lol) as it kept product from leaking. but to me it just makes for a more difficult if not impossible seal. /shrug – i don’t know. but it also seemed worth noting the one person here championing them buys in NZ. i am curious what the UK is doing differently and why.

        anyway, came across your blog and started reading through these on a lazy sunday. i realize they are quite a few years old by now but thanks for all the information i’ve gotten thus far and your measured tone, hope you’re well.

    • Lush are a Living Wage Employer and the first company to pay the London Living Wage. Above the minimum wage. Maybe you should smile more.

      • Only in London, not anywhere else. Perhaps you should check your own prejudices about people who don’t hold the same views as you. I smile as much as any other person.and probably like a good laugh more. I just don’t happen to worship at the alter of Lush. I was a customer of their mail order predecessor donkeys years before they came into existence.

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