Not so LUSH-ous after all: shampoo bars

I’m venturing out of semi-retirement with this blog to tell you (if there’s anyone left reading this) about my poor experience buying a shampoo bar from a well-known “natural products” company that has franchises across North America (the title just slightly gives it away)…

So, I have been using natural soaps and shampoo bars for about 7 months now and will just never go back to the commercial stuff. Recently, due to procrastination, I found myself out of shampoo bars and none coming in the mail any time soon. With the hair really needing a wash (I run; need I say more?) I was desperate to avoid using the gunky chemical goop that we call Shampoo. The only place I knew of in our fair city where one could purchase a shampoo bar was a certain place that prides itself on its “natural, handmade cosmetics”. So I went to buy one.

Walking into the store I just about choked on the cloying, overwhelming air pollution created by an entire room full of over-perfumed product. There couldn’t possibly be anything natural about the stuff they are using to fragrance these products, and I’d be surprised if long-term workers don’t suffer from respiratory ailments. The lady on the bus who drenches herself in perfume each morning has nothing on this place. 

When I found the shampoo bars the first thing I noticed is their odd composition. They are not solid bars, but rather made up of thousands of tiny pellets that are almost exactly the same size and shape as chocolate sprinkles. These have been pressed together to form a small, hockey puck-shaped disc. At first I wondered why on earth someone would go to the trouble of making and curing soap only to extrude it in tiny pellets and then mold it again…

…and then I saw the ingredients list.

The first ingredient in every bar was Sodium Laurel Sulfate. Yeah, that’s just so Natural. The rest of the ingredients didn’t read anything like those in my natural soaps: where was the palm oil? The shea butter oil? And then it hit me…these aren’t actually Soap!

The name “shampoo bar” was actually literal. These bars were made of shampoo ingredients that had been pressed into pellets and formed into discs. YUCK. 

But…I had gross, sweaty hair (and I’d tried using my body soap but it just didn’t clean it well) and tiny shampoo pellets without a plastic bottle were better than goop IN a plastic bottle, so I reluctantly  brought it home. 

The interesting thing is, now that I’ve not used commercial “soaps” in so long, I noticed that what we have been programmed to believe is a “rich, creamy lather” is actually rather oily in texture when compared to the natural lather from real soap. Instead of feeling “luxurious” I felt like I had just dumped a pile of oily stuff on my head. And my vinegar rinse has been sorely challenged as a conditioner after coating my hair with this stuff. Must explain why the store also sells “solid conditioner”. The clerk there looked shocked when I said I use vinegar – in fact, she didn’t seem to understand what real soap is or how it’s made. When I asked about what oils were saponified to make the soap she rattled off some prepared statement about using “organic, natural ingredients, blah blah blah”. Since when is “Yellow #5” considered natural?

Thankfully my regular bars will be arriving any day now and I can put aside my shampoo-hockey-puck for emergencies. I don’t know why I thought a large chain of franchise stores would actually have Real Soap. Silly me.

Categories: being green | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “Not so LUSH-ous after all: shampoo bars

  1. My hockey puck shampoo bar from the same place is also sitting in the shower for emergencies! Hope you and yours are doing well, and enjoying the Spring and Summer 🙂

  2. I actually bought a product from the same place as you recently. The silly thing was that I didn’t ‘really’ want it but the poor girl was trying so hard to sell something to me that I ‘pity bought’. When I got it home, I looked up the ingredients on the ‘net and was horrified. I wasn’t surprised that they weren’t totally natural as you can tell immediately from the ‘knock you over with a frying pan’ scent, but REALLY! Anyhow, I went back and returned it unopened when the young girl wasn’t working. 🙂

  3. missypup

    i’m even using shampoo bars on my dogs! i’ll never go back.

  4. Soaper

    I am happy you use non commercial and likely handmade soap. There is a huge difference.

    I was very surprised when I noticed that the hockey pucks had SLS too. I don’t know why it is necessary.

    I make soap (cold-process, all vegetarian and sometimes vegan) and I don’t add unecessary ingredients, including color. Even still using the word “natural” is a slippery slope because sometimes the oils used to make the soap could have been extracted with chemicals (unless organic, cold-pressed) and the saponification process (with NAOH) isn’t that natural either. It’s a tough call. Based on my country’s regulations I cannot call my soap ‘natural’ and mine are far more than said company.

    Good for you for understanding the difference.


  5. SLS but mixed with luxurious essential oils, great happy medium! Commercialized luxury. Who doesnt want a shampoo without lather? And color? (soaper). Body products with minimal lather, color, and smell should be used on cadavers in a funeral home, the epitome of DEATH. Seriously i dont know how you natural natzis keep a smile on your faces. Lush is beyond amazing. They have changed my life and the way i look at bathing care. Seriously go criticize Bath and body works, that place PISSES me off, nothing but chemicals, NOTHING natural and who knows how long those products have been on the shelves.

    • I use chemicals, and even I am disappointed with LUSH. Don’t advertise natural, handmade cosmetics, if they aren’t natural. I really do not understand why LUSH lovers hate on people who are merely posting the truth. They DO use perfumes, fragrances, dyes, and nasty chemicals in their stuff. They do. There really isn’t a debate about it. I’ve been dying to try some LUSH products, but I DO use chemicals. I can admit that LUSH isn’t environmentally friendly OR economically friendly.

      • Hannah Grocott

        Its FRESH handmade products. not natural. We have plenty of fresh handmade products hence the term. Where do you get your information about lush may I ask? seems like its from the like of this rant. Well. take it how you will but until you step into a store and read a manual you will never know. we clearly state any synthetic products in bold black in the materials. We are not hiding anything. We have freshly rolled completely natural face cleansers and face masks. Which is where the company began.

      • As I noted, I actually buy LUSH products. You automatically assumed I’ve never shopped at LUSH or bought one of their products, and as such, assumed I had no idea what I was talking about. Which is incorrect of you. There is a huge misconception out there that LUSH is all natural. The reviews on the website alone prove that. They’re all gushing about how natural LUSH is. And it isn’t. Just because one (or a few) people dislike LUSH or think it’s disgusting because they USED a product and disliked it does not mean you need to kick up a fuss.

  6. Glad you enjoy Lush products, Nathan. But I can assure you that the soaps and shampoo bars I use do have luxurious lathers, lovely scents, and pretty earth-toned colours. And I don’t have to worry about triggering an asthma attack in someone when I sit next to them on a bus.

  7. SoonToBeOutOfTheCult

    I work at Lush.
    I was nearly brainwashed by the “all natural” game they spit in the beginning.
    I liked the way a lot of the products smelled (not all of them mind you) but the more you are around that sh** common sense kicks in and you realize that it is just a marketing tool.
    They train you to B.S. people with the “this is all made from lovely, essential oils, minimal preservatives, environmentally friendly…blah, blah, blah”. When in actuality all you have to do is look around. WTH have you seen in nature that produces glitter? Did the CEO of Lush accidentally discover a colony of Wood Sprites or Faeries?
    And that is just one example. They have us tell people that SLS is necessary, there is no way around it and that’s what gets you clean.
    Um, not true. Anyone who makes their own soap knows this is not true.

    Common sense again, anything mass produced on such a level is not going to be very natural at all. I also feel like the expiration dates are just another marketing ploy.
    I don’t know if that is a fact, but the more days I spend around the cult like Lushies, the more I feel like it’s all a sham.

    I’m out of the cult as soon as something else opens up.
    Just sayin.

    • Hannah Grocott

      Whatever lush you were working at didnt sound like the manager knew the game! We have always been taught when a customer asks so you guys are all natural we show them the label and how the black bold ingredients are the synthetics. Im sorry you feel this way truely. I’m no lushie as they say. I dont do the bubble bars or bath bombs etc but the fresh cleansers im all for. If i can help someone with their psoriasis with the soak and float and snake oil or superbalm then I’m happy. “works everytime on scalps”.

  8. James

    I’m a holiday hire at Lush and one of the first things we were told was that not everything was all natural. Whenever a customer comes in with the though our stuff is all natural I immediately tell them it isn’t. For a mass produced company it is truthfully very hard to make all natural products and in comparison to other companies we are much more natural but in all honesty that shouldn’t be an excuse. Even baking soda is considered a synthetic. Also we were made to know that whenever natural was used in our store it is meant to describe certain ingredients within products, not the entirety of the product or the store.

    We don’t use palm oil because palm oil is a terrible thing to make soap out of due to the unethical process of procuring it thus we switched to a coconut oil base for our soaps. We do also have a lot of pure

    Our SLS is procured from coconuts…. it’s pretty much coconut oil super heated to a point that is separates into different parts and one of the parts we take and utilize are the SLS. Perfuming ingredients like citronellol and geraniol are naturally occuring within the essential oils that we use.

    I won’t lie we do have very synthetic items (ugh Snow Fairy shower gel… luckily only a holiday item) but we try to ensure that whenever we use synthetics that they are safe. Like SLS… it is one of the longest used and most studied of lathering agents so to get that lather our customers want we’ll use it.

    I always try to push with the idea of “Fresh Handmade Cosmetics” but somehow people keep coming back to us with “Natural Handmade Cosmetics” which isn’t our actual image and we’ve been trying to distance ourselves from that.

    I’m sad you didn’t like our products and this isn’t me trying ti persuade you to come back and try them but I’m just trying to clear the air about some of the misunderstandings.

  9. PeachPie

    I think LUSH has improved a bit on shampoos over time and I use a shampoo bar and it makes my hair feel really clean!
    We might all have pros and cons about LUSH but it’s better then using store bought cosmetics hippy-skippy thrown together into a bottle in a factory.

  10. Cherissa

    Lush doesn’t need to use dyes or foamy lathering stuff. We are fine without it. Just be more natural.

  11. LOL at how similar my thoughts were to yours right up until showering. Only for me, in the shower it felt glorious and then super itchy. Out of the shower it was dry and ugly. 😦

  12. Hannah Grocott

    Are any of you aware that Laureth and laurel sulfates are too large of a molecule to be absorbed into the body.. It is a foaming agent merely there to help your hands move the dirt away from your scalp. I’ve been a vinegar user for years but i have no problem with lush. Its clear that you reading too many hyped up studies. As a Trichologist I think you should Wake up and stop slagging off companies who are trying to create an exciting product in a more natural way than the norm without the animal testing.

  13. Kayleigh casburn

    What hair products do you use?

  14. Tigra

    Thank you for uncovering this. I do admit I had the same experience with the shampoo bar, my hair felt really weird. Unfortunately where I live (Belgium) shampoo bars are really uncommon. I mainly use Lush soap and shampoo bars to minimize my plastic waste. The shampoo bar doesn`t give me the result and soft feel I want so I need to find an alternative to it fast. I AM happy with their “jungle solid conditioner”, I believe Lush is being honest with what ingredients they use but it looks like I`ll have to school myself some more.

  15. Nica

    Logona never did work with my hair. After years using Lavera, it doesnt work anymore also especially since I developed a very sensitive scalp perhaps due to (yet) some of the chemicals on these shampoos (like sodium cocoyl glutamate etc), and hair is completely dry in a way no conditioner or even organic coconut or argan oil can fix it… I’m currently waiting for my 1st order of Morocco Method truly natural products to be delivered, with no SLS, parabens, phenoxyethanol, DEA, etc and hoping for real changes asap… No bars available though.

  16. Suzie

    SO true!!!

    Great blog 🙂

  17. LiveLaughLush

    Lush may not be 100% natural but they are natural enough for me and since using their products I find myself taking much better care for my body’s skincare/ haircare as I enjoy the products I put on it. Knowing that when I buy a product a certain portion of the money goes towards helping people around the world also makes me feel great about buying from them. I recently found out that the Rose Oil they buy for their products comes from a family owned business in turkey and that they pay a premium price for it which goes towards the community as well and was able to fund Turkeys first public primary school. They have about 50 more projects (they bought 6,000 hectares of the Amazon rainforest to protect it) and will choose farmers that use permaculture techniques as it promotes healthier, more fertile soil less prone to erosion.

    Lush is an awesome company, if you’re mega hippy and wont let a single safe synthetic touch your skin then stick to the bland natural soaps (I’ve tried them form markets, borringg) but I love the beautiful smells of lush and the way their products improve my skin/ hair and the lives of people globally 🙂

    • Dominique

      Andthey are one of the few company’s that pay every cent of there taxes unlike many other big cooperation’s. In the UK company’s like Starbucks and Google pay no taxes however lush pays all there taxes . so for that I will only buy lush

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