LUSH-greenwashing-640x290In a perfect world, I would be able to walk into a store with signs proclaiming, “natural!” “green!” “ethical!” and trust that these proclamations were sincere.

Sadly, in today’s world this simply isn’t the case. As consumers, we need to do our research to decide which companies’ moral compasses have led them down the right path, and which ones are using greenwashing as just another marketing tactic.

I’ll admit, in years past LUSH has attracted me by touting natural ingredients and environmental initiatives. I’ve happily handed over my earnings for their earthy-looking face masks and charity-supporting hand lotion. But upon closer investigation, it saddened me to see that LUSH in’t really as ethical as they market themselves to be.

 Greenwashing: “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.”

There are some companies who are “greenwashing” consumers who are just completely off base. BP, Chevron, and Coca-Cola environmentally conscious? Give me a break. But some companies are a lot sneakier about it. They partner with well-intentioned charities, they use recyclable materials, they make the switch to alternative sources of energy … all the while stuffing their products with cancer-causing substances and/or outsourcing to sweat factories in underdeveloped countries and using underpaid workers for labor. Anything to cut costs!

LUSH Cosmetics: Green or Not So Much?

LUSH Cosmetics has exploded over the last few years, positioning themselves in their own little corner of the beauty market as a green cosmetics company. To start off our Greenwashing Alert series, I will be holding LUSH under a magnifying glass and showing you what they’re doing right, and what they could really improve upon.

What They’re Doing Well

Recycling Program

To encourage customers to recycle the black pots which many of their products come in, they’ve developed a program where for every five containers you clean and return, you get a free face mask. I’d say this is both a solid marketing tactic as well as a way to reduce their output of waste.


According to LUSH’s website, their “charity pot” has raised $5.8 million to serve over 600 grassroots charities across the globe. I love a company that gives back and helps eradicate some of the world’s problems. (What I don’t love is that the lotion contains a couple questionable ingredients, including fragrance. But more on that later.)

Cruelty Free

LUSH is a 100% cruelty-free company, with a strict policy to never test products or ingredients on animals or engage with third-party suppliers that test on animals.

No Waste Products

A lot of LUSH’s products are package-free, including their bath bombs, shampoo bars, soaps, and a couple deodorant bars. I respect their commitment to limiting their output of waste.

What They’re Doing Poorly

Toxic Ingredients

This is where things start to get messy. True, some of LUSH’s products are better than others. The charity pot and most of their face masks are fairly clean. But I cringe to see some of the ingredients listed on many of their other products, ingredients like parabens, DEA, sulfates, and fragrance.


Almost all of LUSH’s products list “fragrance” as an ingredient. Using “fragrance” on a label is ostensibly meant to protect companies’ “business secrets.” However, this prevents consumers from really knowing what they’re putting on their bodies, as the term can signify anything from a blend of natural essential oils to a chemical cocktail of carcinogens and hormone disruptors. According to EWG, fragrances are among the top five allergens in the world. This is why I personally prefer to avoid anything that lists fragrance on its label.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Sulfates are known skin irritants and possible hormone disruptors. While they’re considered by EWG to be relatively safe, sulfates aren’t exactly sustainable. Sulfates are derived from petrolatum which is a non-renewable resource.


Several of LUSH’s products include methyl-paraben and propyl-paraben. Environmental Working Group has listed parabens as some of the most toxic substances found in cosmetics and something to be avoided. Parabens are estrogen disruptors and have been largely linked to breast cancer.

Propylene Glycol

This ingredient, which is listed as a moderate hazard, is a known skin irritant and allergen, with moderate concerns for organ toxicity.

Cocamide DEA

This nasty ingredient, which is found in most of LUSH’s shampoo products, is listed as a 7 out of 10 on EWG’s toxicity scale. It has suspected carcinogenic properties, is a skin irritant, and is also said to be toxic for the organ system. LUSH likes to play the “it came from a coconut so therefore it’s safe” card. The substance is created by reacting a mixture of fatty acids from coconut oils with DEA (or diethanolamine), and this chemical process spells a lot of trouble. Just because a coconut played a part in the making of this substance does not make it safe.

To learn more about toxic ingredients commonly found in cosmetics, you can refer to my blog post here.


LUSH is committed to limiting their carbon footprint and adhering to certain moral standards like anti-cruelty and environmental sustainability. What they’re not doing well is putting consumers’ health and safety in their best interests. Some of the ingredients they consistently use in their products have consistently been advised against by such respectable organizations as the Environmental Working Group and the American Cancer Society. Plenty of cosmetic companies have formulated wonderful products without the use of these toxic ingredients, and I would love to see LUSH follow suit.

Do you use LUSH products, and if so do you use their website as a guide to understanding what ingredients you are exposing yourself to? Let us know your thoughts!


Further Resources:

EWG Top Tips For Safer Products

American Cancer Society, Carcinogens

Skin Deep Cosmetic Database



This post is brought to you by Nichole Dunst, a flight attendant, conscious living enthusiast, and founder of the blog Joie De Vivre. You can connect with her via her Website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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