Lush and Fresh

Brandi Halls paints a picture of employees in Lush’s Vancouver, British Columbia, factory chopping up strawberries, dicing papayas, squeezing limes and slicing almonds that will go into the batches of masks, soaps, moisturizers and shampoos made daily as orders arrive. And many of these vegetarian-friendly ingredients are organic when possible, and 74 percent of the products are vegan friendly.

The next day, these fresh ingredients arrive in product form at one of the more than 100 Lush bath and body stores across the nation, including the newest, and number 100, in Las Vegas at Mandalay Place.

Lush wants to make the buying experience as personal as possible. On the side of some containers is an illustrated reminder that these products were made by hand; a picture of the actual person (Brian! Lisa! Nic!) who made, packaged or wrapped that particular moisturizer or toner also makes the side of many products. Lushies, as dedicated Lush fans are called, can even tell the difference between a batch made by Siman and a batch made by Nic.

"We have refined the art of stock control," said Halls, who handles public relations for Lush. With no warehouse, the company has placed much emphasis on distributing its products to maintain freshness.

At the heart of Lush is its delicatessan-style of serving up products. On one side of the store sit huge wheels of soaps that look like cheese. Customers can select the amount they want and have them wrapped in Lush’s signature deli paper, another way that the company reduces packaging.

A bar filled with examples of the fresh masks looks like the salad bar at a buffet. Signs with each bowl list the name of the product, ingredients and what skin types the masks work with, but more importantly, customers can touch and feel them. The actual product sits prepackaged in a refrigerator nearby.

The lack of huge ingredient lists on many of the products means that they only have a shelf life of up to five months. Sixty-five percent of the products in the collection lack preservatives. Every bottle can be recycled at the store and customers can choose to have their products wrapped in paper.

And many of the bath products that normally come in liquid form have a solid form with fewer ingredients. For example, the shampoos come in bottle form, as well as solid form. In fact, if one in five Americans switched from liquid shampoo to solid, about 22 million plastic bottles would be saved from landfills yearly. Lush even carries shower jellies, which wiggle around like Jell-O but have a seaweed base.

And customers also play an intimate role within the company. Halls says that many of the changes to products, and even new products introduced, come from the message boards found on the Web site, Lush.com. A contest with customers helped launch Sex Bomb, the winning idea from a loyal fan that has become one of the best-selling bath fizzes at the company. Even customer comments about products can be found within the quarterly catalog Lush publishes.

The first trip into a Lush boutique can be a bit intimidating; The brand offers more than 200 products in its stores. Here’s a look at some of different types of products offered along with a guide to the most popular items among each line.

Soaps: Lush, known for its soaps, found a way to make pourable soaps that can be molded and then cut in-store to the customer’s specifications. Try Honey I Washed the Kids at $9.45 for a quarter-pound.

Hair Care: Founder Mark Constantine is a trichologist by training, so hair is his baby. Many of Lush’s hair products, such as shampoos, come in solid form. One solid shampoo equals about three bottles of shampoo. Try Big, which adds shine and body to fine hair at $21.95, or Godiva, a jasmine-fragranced solid shampoo for $9.45.

Body Butters: Most of these products contain no preservatives, so you know only fresh ingredients are hitting your skin. Try Buffy ($10.95 for 3.3 ounces), a body exfoliator that contains ground rice, almonds and aduki beans along with natural butters for moisture.

Deodorants: These deodorants don’t stop sweat, but they contain no aluminum. Break off a chunk of Aromarant ($8.15 for a quarter-pound) or dab on some of The Greeench ($11.50 for 3.5 ounces) to control odors.

Dusting Powders: Halls recommended sprinkling a bit of the dusting powders on sheets to deodorize as well as leave behind a fragrant smell. Try Silky Underwear, $11.45 for 3.5 ounces.

Bubble Bombs, Bars and Melts: This whole category makes Lushies swoon. The bombs each have their own description: a party without the hangover, softens the skin, indulgence without the guilt. Try the Sex Bomb ($6.15) or the Butterball ($4.95). The Bubble Bars will whisk you back to childhood bubble baths. Crumbling just a small amount under hot water will create the bubbles. Try Blue Skies and Fluffy White Clouds ($11.25) to encourage daydreams and bring peace. The Bath Melts moisturize your body with essential oils. Try the You’ve Been Mangoed ($5.95) to cheer your spirits. Lushies tend to mix and match these three products for their own customized bath.

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