Written on: 19/12/2005 by sandemp (5 reviews written)
Sniff and touch before you buy | Quality products at reasonable prices | Wonderful scents
Very heady smell (you may have to drag your other half in) | Not many branches
I remember the feeling of excitement that I used to get as a teen on a Saturday morning, as I would count my hard earned cash (yes even as a teen I earned my money), get the bus and head into town to browse the newest products in the Body Shop. I loved that place, from the wonderful variety of different bubbles I could buy (in all manner of exotic flavours) to the fact that it had an environmentally friendly policy; it was THE place to buy your toiletries. As I grew a little older, that love affair began to wane, all the products seem to get a bit samey, and the prices began to feel over the top. After all Boots had started to release their Naturals collection, which offered almost identical products at slightly cheaper prices. I've missed those feelings I got from browsing the Body Shop, and have been searching for something to fill the void. Now I need look no more, that void is well and truly filled, after have read countless reviews about Lush products, I've finally managed to visit one of their branches and it took me straight back to my teen hood (like childhood but a bit older)
Those of you who, like me, are (or were) fans of the Body shop policies of using natural ingredients, minimal packaging and not using animal testing will be pleased to know that Lush follows the same policies, only they take it a little bit further. All the products are suitable for vegetarians, and many are suitable for vegans, nothing has been tested on animals and many of the ingredients are fresh (e.g. they use real mashed bananas in one product). If, like me, you had begun to feel that The Body Shop have begun to over package their products, then you'll be pleased to know that the packaging in Lush is far more minimal then The Body Shop ever was. Soaps are wrapped in greaseproof paper, bubble bars and ballistics (I'll tell you more about these later) have no wrapping at all (although you can put them in little plastic bags) and there are no carrier bags, these are replaced with paper bags (far more environmentally friendly).
Although there are shops dotted all over the world, the particular branch I went to is located in Lakeside shopping centre, Thurrock (which is the closest to me, but still sadly a 30 minute train journey away). Although I'm assuming that all the shops follow a similar layout, I know full well, that no two will be identical in either size or layout, so from now on I'll be focussing on this one particular branch.
The shop, itself, was a lot smaller than I expected, but reasonable well laid out, with just enough room to manoeuvre a smaller buggy or wheelchair. Floor space was uncluttered, and the majority of the products displayed at a height that meant inquisitive little hands couldn't quite reach. The thing that was really noticeable, however, was the smell. Before I'd even got close to the entrance, the most glorious spicy/floral/fruit scent hit me. Now while I loved the smell, I will admit it was a little heady and my husband commented that it absolutely stunk. As we went to enter the door, we were completely enveloped in the aroma, so much so that it took my husband three attempts to get in (but he did finally make it).
Once I'd finally managed to drag him in (almost kicking and screaming) it was time to look at some of the goods on display. Everywhere I looked was a riot of colour, with the various soaps, bubble bars and bath ballistics displayed in a way that reminds me of an old-fashioned market stall. Rather than being grouped according to flavour (ok scent), the different types of products were placed together, along with bowls of water. I couldn't help but wonder what these bowls were for, so I asked, and discovered they were so some of the products could be tested or demonstrated.
Now I'm not going to tell you about every single product they sell (if you really want to know then check out their website), because I haven't tried them all (it was my first visit). But there is everything the girly girl, or environmentally conscious body care consumer could want. There are bubble bars, which are basically solid bubble bath and approximately £2 each. Hang on, isn't that a bit expensive for bubble bath, well no not really. I've been known to pay out £5 or more for bubbles, and the bottle has only lasted for 5 or 6 baths (I like lots of bubbles in my bath). Even with water that's harder than nails, I get masses of bubbles from just 1/3 of a bar, and as a plus the scent is wonderful and lasts not only through a whole bath of an hour, but I can still smell it on my wonderfully soft skin the next morning. This actually makes it exceptional value for money, think about it. Yes it's more expensive than say imperial leather, but it's far better value than those Body Shop bottles. There are a huge number of different bars to choose from, ranging from ones that smell of sweets (my favourites) to flowery concoctions.
I'm not completely convinced as the value for money of the bath ballistics, which are basically extra special bath bombs. Yes I like the fact that they are filled to the brim with essential oils (which can be very expensive), and often have little surprises in them, but even I baulk at the thought of spending over £2 on one bath. Saying that as an extra special treat, then yes they worth spending a little extra on, of course you could do what I've done and break them in two (takes a bit of effort) and have two luxurious baths for your money. As with the bubbles there are a huge number of different balls to choose from, some with scents I love and some that I'm not keen on, it's just a matter of sniffing and finding one you like.
The above are the only products I've tried so far, but there are many other ranges. I'm hoping Santa is going to bring me a selection of their soaps. This is partly because I have a collection of scented soaps already, but mostly because they look so glorious. Each different soap is displayed in a huge cake, with pieces cut off and wrapped in paper. As it is sold by weight you can easily choose a piece that suits your budget, it's almost like a deli counter for soaps. I can't really comment on whether the soaps are worth the cost, they do smell (and look) gorgeous, but I just don't know how long they'll last. Actually thinking about it, Body shop soaps are actually a similar price and they don't look or smell nearly as nice.
Other products include shower jellies (they look and smell like real jelly), solid shampoos and conditioners, solid deodorants, hair colour (henna), face packs and creams, gift packs and countless other beauty products. Even you gents aren't completely excluded; there are shaving products and face creams formulated just for you.
I found the staff to be exceptionally helpful especially considering I visited in the run up to Christmas and the shop was quite busy. They took the time to explain how to use the products I had bought, and even explained that I didn't need to use the whole bubble bar in one go. As a little extra they even popped a free bath ballistic into my bag, I was very impressed, I have never received that level of service in The Body Shop, even though I was (at one point) one of their most regular customers. While they encouraged me to handle and sniff the different delights, there was no pressure to buy; even my husband was impressed with their friendliness and the level of service.
Sorry Body Shop, you have lost me forever, Lush is everything you used to be and more. With the large range of products there is always going to be something new for me to try and while some of them may cost more than the inferior High Street imitations, nothing is expensive. You do get what you pay for, and I am willing to pay more for quality (naturalness) of ingredients used in Lush products. Of course there is also a Lush website, where I can get the goods delivered to my door (at a price), but there's nothing quite like going into a shop, having a good sniff and then choosing a favourite.
So am I recommending this shop? Yes, if you love the Body Shop, then you'll find Lush even better, I just wish there were a few more branches, or at least one a bit closer to me, so that I could indulge my love of all things bubbly and smelly on a more regular basis.