Earth Day: How “going naked” with Lush cosmetics can help reduce plastic footprint

Dan Campbell, Lush cosmetic scientist. Handout/Lush
Monica Evans
18 April 2018

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — More plastic is being used than ever before, largely due to the increase in packaging for all kinds of consumer products, but many businesses are working to stem the tide.

Global cosmetics company Lush has been in the game of reducing packaging, or as they call it, “going naked,” with their products for a long time.

Company co-founder Mo Constantine and cosmetic chemist Stan Krysztal invented the company’s solid shampoo bars in the late 1980s, which are long-lasting and require no packaging whatsoever. The company estimates that since 2010, sales of the bar have saved the use of around 30 million plastic bottles.

Lush is also known for spectacular “bath bombs,” which disintegrate with an exhilarating fizz in the tub.

Ahead of Earth Day, which this year highlights environmental damage caused by plastic pollution, Landscape News spoke with Lush cosmetics scientist Daniel Campbell to find out more about the company’s challenges and victories in developing and popularizing package-free products.

Q: What’s different about the makeup of a shampoo bar from shampoo-in-a-bottle?

A: Shampoo-in-a-bottle contains a lot of water, whereas a shampoo bar can be thought of as a shampoo concentrate, where you add the water in the shower.

Q: Does it interact differently with your hair and body?

A: Shampoo bars are more concentrated, which gives you greater flexibility when it comes to how much you want to use. Each bar is equivalent to three medium-sized bottles of shampoo (approximately 750g). You can wash your hair with the lather to get a milder cleanse, or rub the bar directly on the hair for a deep clean. But chemically speaking, a shampoo bar is just a shampoo without the water.

Q: What are some of the other successes you’ve had with developing package-free products?

A: Naked Shower Gels and Naked Body Lotions are two of my favorites: being able to replicate the effect of some of our most beloved products without the packaging has been very satisfying.

Q: Can you tell me about the challenges of “going fully naked” with cosmetics production?

A: Trying to create the same experience (or better) for our customers without packaging is challenging, particularly because the most commonly-used cosmetic material is water, and water evaporates. Facial skincare is still proving difficult to develop in package-free versions because it usually has a lot of water in it, so we’re trying to find some creative ways around that at the moment.

Q: What about people bringing their own containers when they shop?

A: This is something we’re interested in, but our products are full of fresh ingredients and some can be quite fragile, so we’re concerned about stability, particularly when it comes to microbial cross-contamination.

Q: Why don’t more cosmetic companies provide package-free options?

A: I think until recently the cosmetics industry hasn’t felt any pressure from consumers to reduce the amount of packaging they use. Having a Naked Product in the same shape as a packaged product, next to each other on a shelf or on a web page, is a good way to get the conversation going.

Q: What are your top tips for people hoping to reduce their plastic footprint?

A: Always carry a bag and buy products without packaging, or with packaging made from recycled materials. Where there isn’t an option to buy something without packaging, contact the company and ask them what they are doing to reduce their plastic footprint. As a community we need to put pressure on the companies we spend our money with to look after our planet, and it’s only through consumer pressure that they will change.

Find out more about sustainable business practices at the upcoming Global Landscapes Forum 2018 Investment Case Symposium

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