Inspiration from Meghan

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Friendly Correspondence: LUSH Cosmetics and Sulfate Use


I love LUSH cosmetics - or at least I love the way it looks. The smells that waft out the door and down the sidewalk are way to strong for me to actually go inside, so I'll just enjoy the above photo.

LUSH cosmetics prides themselves on using all organic, natural ingredients in their products which, as a consumer and as a healthy living cheerleader, would make me think this is a fine and dandy product to both use and recommend. Many of their products actually are - with their risk factor rated as low by the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Cosmetic Database. When a friend recently asked me what I thought of the products, I decided I should look a little further into what goes into this highly perfumed, super lathering soaps and shampoos.

What I found was sulfates. So I wrote them a letter asking why, as an organic branded company, they would choose to continue using sulfates. This is the response I received:

Hi Meghan,

At this time, all of our shampoos do contain sulfates, with the exception of our No Drought dry shampoo. I apologize for any disappointment that this has caused!

We choose to use SLS and sulfates because they have a long history of safe use, and feel like they are extremely effective lathering agents. This helps our products work better, and makes them the most economical as well, because a little bit goes a longer way, making products last longer.

We definitely understand that which ingredients people choose to use or avoid is their choice, and this is one of the reasons that we do our best to be as transparent as we can when it comes to product labeling. We list our products' ingredients on our website, in our shops, and in the LUSH Times newspaper. This way, our customers can make educated decisions about our products.

I personally wish that LUSH would offer an alternative to sulfates in at least one or two shampoos, but at this time, nothing has been created. I will keep campaigning for it though, and I will be sure to forward your feedback along to our product team.

Thank you again for having written in. We always really appreciate hearing feedback about our products, and the LUSH experience as a whole, as it helps us do the best we can.

I can't really explain to you what "a history of safe use" means. Does it mean no one had died from it? Likely. That no one has had a horrible allergic reaction? Probably not.

Check out how the EWG rates the product:

As long as people continue having unique allergies, there would never be a product that is completely hypo-allergenic to everyone. However, would you want to use a product, with suggested daily use, that has a high allergy and immunotoxicity risk?

I get that sodium laurel sulfate and sulfates are fun to have in soaps and shampoos (and tooth paste, dish soap, garage floor cleaner...) but are they essential for actually cleaning? Not really. I have been using a 100% sulfate and SLS free shampoo for two years and I have to say my hair is pretty clean after I wash it.

SLS has been associated with everything from neuro-degeneration, eczema, hair loss and has to the potential to react with other chemicals to become carcinogenic. It is a super strong detergent that may have its place in cleaning garage floors - but my hair? Sodium lauryl sulfate is a skin and eye irritant reported by the International Journal of Toxicology in 1983 to denature proteins on the skin's surface leading to cell membrane degeneration. This could thereby contribute to high levels of penetration of this chemical along with anything else it's hanging out with.

There are other ways to get a great lather in soaps and shampoos without using SLS and sulfates. Loads of herbs have saponin qualities and I love my soap nuts.

There are, of course, LOADS of products that are far more risky to your health than the mostly wholesome products found at LUSH. It's just that if I am going to spend the money for natural products I expect them to be really natural and not carry any kind of risk - moderate or otherwise. It can be tricky to do the right thing when there is so much conflicting information. Just be wise. Read the ingredient labels before any brand claims and then you decide if a product works for you.

I bet you want to know what shampoo I use... this one of course and I only wash every 8 or 9 days. Whoops... secret's out.

Question of the Day: Are you concerned with sulfates in your shampoo? How do you get your hair truly clean?

45 Responses to “Friendly Correspondence: LUSH Cosmetics and Sulfate Use”

  1. Vern said…
    What about the parabens in their products too? I was so dis appointed that a company that claims to be natural and use organic ingredients can talk out both sides of heir mouth. You can't use petroleum, artificial preservatives and additives and still claim to be natural. I'll just stick to Jason and EO products
  2. George said…
    Thank you for your work. Just recently my skin has got bad. Did not realize SLS is that bad for skin that could be what is causing the irritation. I even tried to go with a difference soap with more natural items in it. Even those were still causing an issue. Not much around for non SLS/Parabens.
  3. Lucy said…
    I have a skin condition called psoriasis, which means I can't use any products containing sulphates. It's really dissapointing that lush don't offer a variety of sulphate free products :( I loved lush before I discovered I had psoriasis and it's sad that I can't use their products anymore
  4. Melissa said…
    Wow I don't see how someone with oily hair could wear afford to use the shampoo you use ? Bummed at the price tag. I was thinking maybe $40 or $ 50 but 120 plus?? Sheesh. Guess I'm stuck with still, endlessly, searching.
    • Meghan Telpner said…
      I'm not sure what shampoo you are referring to. I use the Living Libations shampoo which is highly concentrated so you need only a very small amount. As well, if you practice leaving your hair go for a couple of days, you may find that the less you shampoo it, the less oily it is.
      • Penny said…
        Where is Living Libations based out of? I have used shampoo bars in the past, I just used a Lush one today and knew instantly that it wasn't all natural :'( Do they have a shampoo for colour treated hair?
        • Meghan Telpner said…
          They are based out of Ontario, and they have a store in Los Angeles, but you can order online. Check their website for more information on their products!
  5. Amy Bielawski said…
    I, too am unhappy with Lush and why they wouldn't make some of their shampoos without SLS. I love the smell of many of them and am bummed, but can't risk anymore hair loss at this point and my hair has not recovered from hypothyroidism. Do you feel that the seabuckthorn shampoo helped your hair grow and or become fuller? Thanks, Amy
    • Meghan Telpner said…
      The shampoo I use supports the health of my hair, but diet plays a bigger part, in my opinion.
  6. Stephanie Cardenas said…
    Hello! I came across your website while I was researching on Lush Shampoo Bars. I've been using Jason with the Argan Oil shampoo bar for 2 months now and i really liked it! Until yesterday that I washed my hair as usual and dried it and went to bed. The next morning I was experiencing a burning sensation in my outer ear and I noticed a small piece of the shampoo in there. I removed it and it was so painful!! i cleaned it and I had a chemical burn caused by it. I called lush and they blamed it on the high amount of sulfate this product has no solution was offered other than file an incident report. I am so disappointed with this company that prides themselves of how natural they are! I am never buying at Lush again.
  7. June said…
    I need a bar shampoo for travel (liquid limitation since I go carry-on only). I normally insist on sulfate free everything, but I feel I have no choice with a shampoo for travel and LUSH is the only bar shampoo I've come across. Any other suggestions?
    • Meghan Telpner said…
      Have you considered using a more concentrated liquid shampoo? I also only travel carry on and have managed fine for up to two weeks with Living Libations shampoo in the size limit set by travel.
  8. Liz said…
    I too prefer SLS shampoos because of its bad rep, but, because I live in a hot country, it almost becomes impossible to go more than 3/days without washing. It also becomes almost next to impossible to truly wash the build-up with an SLS free shampoo. I mean, I swear a lot here. Not that I don't try to go SLS free as much as possible. Sometimes I have to switch between sls free and sls containing shampoo because of the build-up. Thoughts?
    • Meghan Telpner said…
      SLS doesn't have any cleaning ability. It just foams.
      • Anna said…
        If SLS doesn't have any 'extra cleaning ability' over sulphate free shampoos then why is it the only thing that removes/breaks down silicones from your hair? Clearly it must have a stronger cleaning ability to be the only ingredient that can do that. I'm not saying you can't have clean hair using a sulphate free shampoo but SLS does clean more thoroughly, hence why it can feel a little 'stripping' on the hair. I'm currently trying to go sulphate free in my hair care, 2 weeks so far, but my hair is not as shiny and if anything feels drier. Is this normal? :)
        • Meghan Telpner said…
          Hi Anna, Thanks for your question! I would try different sulphate free shampoos and conditioning products to get the best result for your own hair. You can also try making your own such as my Honey Love Hair Conditioner in the UnDiet Cookbook.
  9. Amanda said…
    I was very disappointed to find the use of sulfates in their products. I dye my hair and recently went silver and tried their daddy-o shampoo and it completely stripped the rich silver color and revealed a yucky almost green tint to the blonde that was peaking through. I was very frustrated but realize I should have been more careful. Its a huge waste of money for those who dye their hair to use SLS shampoos, also was surprised to see the conditioners contained SLS as well. I have a question about the Living Libations Seabuckthorn Shampoo. Does it smell anything at all like the amika Seabuckthorn Berry line, specifically the dry shampoo? Its possible you haven't tried that product because it's not very natural.
    • Meghan Telpner said…
      The Seabuckthorn Shampoo from Living Libations is pretty neutral in smell
  10. Mallory said…
    Jason and anyone else who wants an all natural shampoo bar, have you guys looked at the Canadian company Rocky Mountain Soap Co.? Their shampoo bar contains rosemary and peppermint for healthy hair growth. I ordered a body soap (they have different types depending on what you need), shampoo bar, and shaving soap. Also, you guys may want to head to your local Natural Food Pantry or Health Food store. Mine sells all natural shampoo bars, all natural soap, and Dr Bronner’s liquid Castile soap (from which there are many recipes online to make a liquid shampoo that suits you, from coconut milk, to green tea, to aloe Vera, to ginger shampoo—the recipes online are endless). Have a look at the recipes and decide if pure liquid Castile soap sounds like it’s right up your alley.

Before you post your comment, please note that I am unable to offer nutritional advice or recommendations via my blog.

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