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6 weeks ago, I was invited by LUSH Cosmetics Ltd on a fabulous, no holds barred tour of their Poole in Dorset factories, warehouses and offices. It’s here where the magic is made.
LUSH are famous for their handmade cosmetics, made with fresh ingredients; but are they really that fresh and really that handmade?
LUSH have 15 factories and 12 are located right here in the UK, in Poole. They employ over 800 people in the local area and source ingredients locally, nationally and internationally.
I was delighted to spend a couple of days with LUSH Digital’s Olivia Glorney and Chase, the dashing LUSH Kitchen head honcho.
The Dairy Factory: liquids, lotions and lather
This was the first stop on my tour: The Dairy. Why is it called The Dairy? Because the processes used to make their liquids, lathers and lotions are similar to that of dairy production; using lots of vats, heat and similar mixing techniques.
Tonnes of the stuff
It was quite amazing to see the sheer batch-size of the products; look below at the Mask of Magnaminty; tonnes of it are produced each week and all sell! LUSH have an excellent infrastructure relying on the basics of supply and demand, limiting waste whilst fulfilling the customer need.
Although amazing, it’s unsurprising seeing the batch-size as LUSH are spread throughout 51 countries with over 830 stores!
The Super Fridges
As you could imagine, there are a good few walk-in fridges on site.
Large boxes of exotic fruits, vats of seaweed soaking in sea-salt water and fresh flowers line the walls; all ready to be picked, plucked, squeezed and blended in your favourite LUSH Ltd products.
Pumping, Squeezing and Packing; oh my!
Hypnotic is the only word I can use to describe the LUSH filling room in The Dairy factory. The speed, agility and accuracy here was just astounding as almost every single product is hand filled.
I had a go myself, thinking I was a flash git and it would be a piece of cake; oh, how wrong I was. Safe to say I was crap and left it in the hands of the experts, who you’d think, if you weren’t paying extra-close attention; had 8 arms and 20 hands.
Products like the Emotional Brilliance makeup, are hand filled via syringes; it’s a time-consuming job and I don’t envy those that do it. But again, the refined accuracy is just breath-taking.
Bath Ballistics and all that froth
Bath Ballistics are the staple LUSH product; a simple blend of coloured powder, bicarbonate of soda, a little citric acid and delicious, proprietary blends of fragrance.
The scale of this operation is huge; producing untold thousands of Bath Ballistics every single day.
Working 9 to 5: what a fresh, handmade way to make a living
I was put to work and got a chance to create some Big Blue bath bombs. The two guys I was working with were tasked to make around 1,000 each day.
Factory workers all start at a good base salary (I can’t remember but was pleasantly surprised when I found out) and are then paid more depending on the targets they meet; all achievable and realistic.
I honestly didn’t get a feeling like I was in a staged North Korea; the staff and workers genuinely seemed happy, content and part of the LUSH family. It was a lively atmosphere with people from all walks of life, nationalities and backgrounds.
From remnants to retail
LUSH Bath Ballistics start as a blend of the right coloured pigment powders mixed together with bicarbonate of soda and then the fragrance.
The Bath Ballistics are then formed by pressing the powders into moulds. Once moulded, they’re placed in a big, hot fridge (yeah I know) where they set hard, ready to be sent into store.
Some ballistics are embellished with what LUSH like to call lustre, but I like to call bloody annoying glitter that gets absolutely everywhere; but apparently some people like it *raised eyebrow*. Bath Ballistics are often hand sprayed with the lustre; the attention to detail here is just unreal – the price of LUSH products are unbelievably justified after you see the work that goes into each and every one.
Soapy soaps and more… soap
This was probably my favourite factory of them all; devoted entirely to soaps. If you’ve never tried a LUSH Ltd soap, then you’re really missing out on life.
Honey I Washed The Kids soap slice, along with the shower gel Happy Hippy, were my first ever LUSH products; I bought them at the store near the Lowry art gallery in London whilst on a college trip aged 16. Since then I’ve made no secret that I’m a bonafide LUSH convert.
The soaps are made using specialist moulds or bog basic moulds such as garden planters and washing up bowls. Some of these are years and years old and even predate LUSH from the Cosmetics To Go days.
If it weren’t 20 kilos and I could fit it under my T-Shirt, I’d have stolen the freshly made Honey I Washed The Kids soap cake that Bart, the soaps manager and loveliest man in the world, unboxed right in front of me. It looked and smelled good enough to eat.
The Bubble Room
The Bubble Room smelt amazing; I could have lived there. Here all the bubbling products are produced including Bubble Bars, Shampoo Bars and… Lip Balms? (don’t know why they’re there but there you go).
New Shampoo Bar
At my request, I was allowed to produce a small number of New shampoo bars; one of the most beautiful shampoo bars you’ll ever try with cinnamon sticks and cinnamon oil – my absolute favourite.
New is available all year round but I have to say that it’s the most Christmassy shampoo you’ll ever use. It leaves your hair unbelievably soft and smelling delicious.
Wizard Bubble Bar
Mandy Stockley and Maxine Olive aka “The Grannies” and the most fabulous people of the entire trip, taught me through the steps of producing Wizard, the brand new Bubble Bar for Halloween. It’s supposed to be a wizard’s hat with a beard and face.
Somebody, whilst taking the photos, might have mentioned the phrase Wizard’s Sleeve (Google it – actually, don’t) causing me to fit with laughter… ok, that somebody was me; I was being crude and I’m not proud of myself *wink*
The LUSH Kitchen
If you follow LUSH on social media, over the last year, you’ll have heard nothing but stories, features, photos and videos from the LUSH Kitchen.
What is the LUSH Kitchen?
Here you’ll find small batches of experimental products as well as past favourites that the brand no longer stock in their core lines.
With something different available to order online every day, you’ve got to be fast as they always sell out in a matter of hours.
So Thom, what did you make?
I made two new and upcoming products aimed at us gorgeous grooming guys: Kalamazoo Face and Beard Wash and Cup o’ Coffee Exfoliating Face Mask.
With a detailed recipe and ingredients list at hand, myself and Peter (the most lovable of the Kitchen crew) set out juicing pineapples, boiling and draining freshly ground coffee and blending to perfection in order to produce batches of these fabulous products.
If you’d like to find out more about the Cup o’ Coffee face mask, I reviewed it as part of my National Mud Pack Day post. I’ll be looking at Kalamazoo face and beard wash very soon.
A Conversation with Mark Constantine
Mark Constantine has been on my hit list for quite a while; he’s one of the biggest icons of the British cosmetics industry and as well as being the founder of LUSH Cosmetics Ltd, along with his wife Mo, Mark was one of the original suppliers and brains behind iconic global brand The Body Shop (now a division of L’Oreal).
We spoke on a number of topics from the difficulties of sourcing carob syrup from Israel to the globalisation of the cosmetics industry.
Total and unrelenting transparency
One of Mark’s biggest bugbears are the lies and falsehoods told by the big cosmetics brands that are slowly beginning to become unstuck.
People are seeing past the false advertising claims, becoming savvy shoppers and LUSH are riding high on this wave – their secret? Total, unquestionable and unparalleled transparency.
The lemon and eggs debacle: Jersey Bounce
This linked in nicely with the new range of products being developed by Mark, Mo and the team aimed at men’s grooming.
Now, one particularly LUSH product uses a huge amount of egg yolks, leaving plenty of spare egg whites. Therefore Mark wanted to create a product, a shampoo, that used these excess ingredients; Jersey Bounce.
“My biggest problem is that I haven’t got enough bloody lemons to go with my eggs”
Mark then apologised for the almost unnoticeable green tint in his hair. He shared that in creating an experimental test batch of Jersey Bounce, they’d not used enough lemons leaving the product far too Alkali; creating copper sulfate (or copper carbonate, I can’t quite remember which) turning his hair green when he came to test it.
Therefore in relation to the crumbling authority of the larger cosmetics brands, Mark declared in terms of LUSH Ltd that “my biggest problem is that I haven’t got enough bloody lemons to go with my eggs!” – I’ve decided if I ever get a tattoo; this’ll be it.
Grooming is the sign of a civilised society
Mark is very passionate to explore men’s grooming but in a slightly different manner to his competitors. He believes that shaving is a lost ritual and that that art of grooming in general signifies civilisation.
Shaving before going to the shops differs to shaving for an important meeting, date or other special occasion and this should be reflected in the style, products and surroundings of your shave.
Here come the boys: Grooming & LUSH Ltd
At the moment LUSH have the following products either launched or in the works targeted at more at men, but there’s set to be even more:
- Kalamazoo Beard and Facial Wash
- Jersey Bounce Shampoo
- Veerappan Moustache wax
- Cup O’ Coffee exfoliating Mask
- Five O Clock Whistle shaving smoothie
- The President’s Hat styling cream
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