Saturday, May 29, 2010

Question: How does Lush use fresh fruit in their products?

Anonymous posted this comment: My interest in you replicating the lush bar is that I was hoping you could explain what exactly is implied when they list ingredients such as "fresh kiwi" or "fresh bananas". I've never understood how you could include fresh fruit in preservative free conditioner bar.

For a company that goes on and on about not using preservatives, how the heck can they use fresh ingredients in their products?

I have a few theories...
1. They have some super secret way of using fresh fruit in their products, and because it's proprietary technology we will never know;
2. They are using fresh fruit in their products and using a ton of preservatives plus refrigeration to keep them safe; or
3. They aren't being exactly truthful with us.

Let's take a look at how they might use "fresh fruit" in an unpreserved product like Jungle, the solid conditioner (I'm editing out the INCI information for ease of reading). I'm using the definition of fresh as being fruit shortly before adding it to the product, squished that very day.

Ingredients: Fair Trade Cocoa Butter, Cetearyl Alcohol and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Propylene Glycol, Fresh Avocado Extract, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Perfume, Soya Lecithin, Fresh Figs, Fresh Bananas, Fresh Passion Fruit, Fresh Kumquat, Fresh Kiwi Fruit, Cetrimonium Bromide, Ylang Ylang Oil, Vetivert Oil, Cypress Oil, Sandalwood Oil, Chlorophyll, *Limonene, *Linalool.

As you can see, there are no preservatives listed for this product. Or are there?

Most of the time when we buy aloe vera, hydrosols, or surfactants containing water (for example), there are preservatives in those products. But if you made a spray completely out of aloe vera liquid, you'd probably put your ingredients list as 100% aloe vera without including the preservative, probably because you don't even realize it's in there. So is it possible that Lush is using preservatives in their "fresh" products without declaring it?

Or they could be using purees from this company, VegeTech, which are listed as being stable out of the fridge. (I don't see preservatives listed for these products, but their website is definitely lacking a certain something!) If they aren't using purees specifically from this company, they could be using the same technology.

Does that qualify as "fresh"? Well, it's not recently squished fruit, but I think it the definition might extend as far as using fruit purees from a fruit puree-ing company.

Or perhaps they're using powdered extracts? But then again, strawberry extract is notoriously hard to preserve, so powdered extracts have to be preserved when they meet water. This product - as an example - doesn't contain water, so perhaps it doesn't need to preserved until it enters your shower?

Or they could be calling things "fresh" under the logic that at one time they were fresh. (Which reminds me of a line from the Simpsons. "All the profits go to children." "Which children?" "Us - we're somebody's children!) I've seen this kind of interpretation used a lot, mostly on Etsy type pages, but I think you could get away with it under the pretty lax labelling laws we see in some parts of the world. This would just be deceitful, in my opinion. (Lest you doubt, I have seen silicones listed as "natural" ingredients because they're derived from sand. By this definition, everything is natural!)

Or they could also be using these ingredients at a really low level. I find this a very surprising conditioner bar as cetrimonium bromide - the conditioning ingredient - make an appearance at number 16, below perfume. What do we know about ingredient lists? We know that perfume isn't going to be at 10% - so anything in the area of perfume and below will likely be at 1% to 2% tops. Which means everything after perfume is at 2% or lower, which includes all but the fresh avocado extract. From what I can tell about readers' reviews on the Lush site, this is a very oily bar suitable for dry or curly haired types, which means it's mostly oils and butters. (Based on this, I'm guessing the "fresh avocado extract" is some kind of oil or butter.)

Lush has been known to hide their preservative listing as "perfume". Based on where "perfume" falls in this list, and based on the other essential oils included, I'm thinking that's the preservative. 

So what can we tell about this bar? It's not chock full of conditioning agents - I like to use at least 60% conditioners in my bar, and I'd be surprised if we found 10% in this bar - and it's chock full of butters, oils, and emollients. But this isn't a review of their bar as a conditioner...

Do I think there's fresh fruit in there? By my definition - recently squished - I doubt it.


Bryan said...

Incredible post, thanks for your input. We can assume their definition of fresh is not the same as yours or mine, as I now notice that they even call the avocado extract "fresh avocado extract". I thought perhaps they were using dried fruit powders but couldn't understand how those might work in an anhydrous product. I had not considered the use of purees but I'm thinking even those are preserved somehow in order to be good at room temperature for up to a year. I think you must be right that they are using a "fragrance" as a preservative; something like Naticide or I think the Conorams can be listed as fragrance.
While it seems dishonest to use a preservative and list it as a fragrance, it seems especially bold to then advertise the product as preservative free. Thanks again.

Susan said...

Great post! Lush even shows pictures of people adding fresh juice into products in their Lush Times.

Susan, I've always wondered about that fact the people don't think twice about GM in lotions but not juice. If juices were added (like Lush does with their Gorgeous Lotion) at a low percentages (1-2%) and preserved what would be the difference?


wolfhound said...

Another forum I am a member of discussed this point a few weeks ago.another member contacted Lush about a body butter containing fresh lemons as the second ingredient. Their reply said there was NO WATER in any of their solid products so it seems they use dried "fresh" fruit. They also suggested that the "fresh" lemons acted as a preservative.
Hope you find this useful

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Susan. That's a great question - I've never considered using juice in a lotion as I would consider it very hard to use. I imagine it could work if you were really obsessive about the preservation methods...but I wonder if it's doing any good in there at such a low level? But it does have some label appeal, eh?

Hi Wolfhound. Do you think the dried fruit is something like the dried bananas we see in the stores, all pulverized up, or do you think it's a powdered extract? And lemons don't preserve - they might add some anti-oxidants, but they aren't preservatives! But then again, a lot of people don't preserve solid anhydrous products, even if they're meant to be in the shower.

If they are using dried fruit, then I wouldn't consider that fresh. By that definition, then our powdered extracts could be considered fresh!

p said...

Misleading labels drive me crazy, so I love this discussion!

I have another idea about what they might be doing - I wonder what you'll think, Susan...

Sometimes I grow my own calendula flowers, which I infuse in olive oil on the stove over very low heat for several hours. Then I strain the oil through cheesecloth and discard the solids (the spent calendula blossoms).

So does the body butter I make with my calendula-olive oil contain "fresh calendula blossoms"? I don't think so - I'd say it contains "calendula extract"* - but maybe Lush would describe it otherwise! Maybe they're infusing their fresh fruit in their oils and fatty alcohols, and they're listing the fresh fruits on their label. These oil-soluble fruit extracts may be easier to preserve than the hydroalcohol strawberry extract you mention. Calling this fresh fruit would definitely qualify as deceitful (in the "we're somebody's children" way), because they're processing that fresh fruit - but if they do it all in-house, in the process of making the product, I could see how they convince themselves they're not being sleazy!

*About that calendula extract, which I've made myself - I have no idea how I'd determine where to list "calendula extract" on my label according to INCI rules! (I'd love some help with this, Susan!) If a company like Lush does start with fresh fruit as I described, how *should* they be writing their label without being deceitful? Who knows what percentage of fresh fruit (really, fruit extract) makes it into the product? If Lush is in fact infusing their oils with fresh fruit, maybe this labeling difficulty is part of why they choose to just write "fresh fruit."

M said...

Hi Susan: could you please also review african black soap sometime? I'd love to know your thoughts and any recipes you may have. Thanks, love your post, keep up genuine useful info you always offer.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Mariaan. I don't make soap, so I'm not sure what I can comment on for this product! What did you want to know about it? I might be able to find some information to pass on.

Yes, I know, making CP soap is great fun, but I haven't had time for it. Besides, I know some great local soapmakers and I like supporting their businesses!

p said...

I just stumbled upon Lush's youtube channel, and I found a video you might find really interesting: It's on how they make their Avobath Bath Bomb (a citric acid - baking soda bath bomb with fresh avocado). The video shows them cutting up real fresh avocados, squishing them, and adding them to the mixer containing the other bath bomb ingredients! AND there are no preservatives listed on the label!

Here are the ingredients for their Avobath Bath Bomb:
* Sodium Bicarbonate,
* Citric Acid,
* Fresh Avocado (Persea gratissima),
* Olive Oil (Olea europaea),
* Lemongrass Oil (Cymbopogan flexuosus),
* Bergamot Oil (Citrus bergamia),
* Rosewood Oil (Aniba rosaeordora),
* *Citral,
* *Geraniol,
* *Farnesol,
* *Limonene,
* *Linalool,
* Perfume,
* Gardenia Extract (Gardenia jasminoides),
* Green Lustre (Potassium Aluminum Silicate, Titanium Dioxide, FD&C Yellow No.5 and FD&C Blue No. 1).

You can see in the vid that there are only a few avocados in gallons of bath bomb, but still, no preservatives? As far as I understand, sodium bicarbonate, citric acid, olive oil, and the essential oil and essential oil fractions shouldn't have any hidden preservatives, as they're stable on their own. Maybe preservatives are hidden in their "perfume"? But still, would it really be enough to preserve those fresh avocados?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi p. I've written a post with your question - you can find it here. There was simply too much information for a comment!

Anonymous said...

maybe the person who posted this should visit the Lush website and look at there videos and how they make there products... befor making comments about which you dont really seem to know!
Cant get mush fresher from what ive seen!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I'm the person who posted this and I have been to see their videos, like this one Avobath bath bomb, which I addressed in this post.

Can you explain how they use fresh fruit or veggies in their products without them going bad? I'd love to know! What's your definition of "fresh" because it's something we've been wondering for quite some time around here! And I'm wondering what your motivation is in making a comment anonymously? Do you work for Lush or just love their products?

Taylor Nicholas said...

Hi Susan
Love your post on this subject. As always, you're objective, direct, questioning (as we all should be) and encourage readers to consider the facts.

I, for one, don't trust the claims of commercial companies in this matter, and the fact that Lush is an Aussie company, does nothing to invoke any sense of 'national pride' when it comes to honesty.

Anyone with half gram of intelligence knows that fresh fruit and veg products turn brown, liquefy, and become a breeding ground for 'maggots' (sorry for that graphic mental imagery!), whether added to other liquids and butters, or not.

"Preservative Free", where 'fresh fruits' are concerned, simply means, "Houston, we're gonna have a problem".

I'm willing to bet their 'fresh fruit' products are heavy on preservatives, cleverly hidden behind deception, misrepresentation and an 'artistic interpretation' of Australian Labeling Laws.

If not, then these products would have a shelf life of less than one-week, and need to be kept refrigerated.

I have nothing against preservatives. What I object to, is dishonesty about their use.


Julie said...

I would of loved to see Anonymous respond again to Susan's comment!

Ruth said...


I just got into home cosmetic-making and found this blog super helpful, particularly as regards the need for preservatives. Just read this interesting article with a quote from a Lush staffer who says, products aren't intended to have an indefinite shelf life and, when necessary, they do add parabens. Read more here:

Ruth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Любопытный Ангел said...

To answer "how?" you need to look at Lush patents (they are have more than 40 of them). For example this one a shampoo bar with fresh eggs and fresh lemon. In patent they are listed as "powder" or "providing required water" ingredients.

Anonymous said...

I am suspicious about the claims of LUSH. I like solid perfumes, and it's clearly impossible to sell a 10$ perfume with great absolutes of flowers. When it looks too good to be true, it's probably not true.

Brandi Flakes said...

I'm glad that I came across this post as I myself am currently developing my own product line... And was wondering HOW fruit could be incorporated... So far I've found many use Food Grade Fruit Powders or if it can be made (sometimes quite expensive) I'm still researching because my same question would be if u used raw fruit how well would it preserve and hold up?? I've found vary few companies how claim to use real fruit in their products... Lush is one of them, as far as the lack of using preservatives that's a lie Citric Acid IS a preservative although it is derived from natural ingredients... Propylene Glycol is a preservative as well..
I find it amazing how little the cosmetic industry is regulated u can literally put dog poo in your product and sell it if you wanted... If anyone knows of ways to incorporate real fruit into their homemade products please let me know any and all info is helpful :)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Brandi. Citric acid isn't a preservative. It's an anti-oxidant. Those are two very different things. Citric acid will not prevent beasties and microbes from growing, but it will help retard rancidity in our oils. Propylene glycol isn't a preservative either. Some things are preservatives at really high levels - for instance, alcohol - that aren't preservatives at low levels.

As for how to use fruit in a product, I wouldn't recommend it. If the big companies can't figure out how to do it with their giant testing labs, there's no way we can do it. You could make something that has a shelf life of a day or two with fruit in it, but the only way I've found to make something with fruit is to make it the day you're planning to use it or use powdered extracts.

Anonymous said...

Found some pdf format information on that 'Vege Tech' website you mentioned, Susan:

So they do use preservatives - at least in their 'super fruits' line (haven't had time to go through the rest) - which is nice to know.

My question is: Why? What benefits could preserved, pulverized, whipped, beaten-to-death and far-from-fresh fruit possibly bring to skin in a topical application that one couldn't get from just eating fresh fruit?

Or perhaps that's not the point?

Perhaps the point is the marketing 'value' of something that looks great in print, but which actually banks on the gullibility of the general public?


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Gabrielle! I think you've hit it on the Doesn't it sound lovely? Fresh fruit on your skin? Yum! (Actually, knowing what could grow in said fresh fruit in the product doesn't sound lovely to me, but I guess it does to some people!) It's called label appeal!

Lakeshore Safe said...

Such an excellent post and return comments as well. I am happy to see that someone is asking these questions and using science as the foundation of the discussion.


Tiffany (Younique2011) R. said...

Lush cosmetics have a Youtube where they make videos showing us how to make their products. Yes they indeed use fresh fruits-no lie. That's when I doscivered it is ok to use fresh fruits. I think they are lying about not using a preservative as many companies do that promote no preservatives. They are using one but not listing it.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tiffany. I have written another post on this topic - you can find it here - where I go into the video they have on-line showing them using fresh avocado. It might interest you.

I agree that I think they are using preservatives and not disclosing them. I've written about this a few times, too.

It isn't okay to use fresh fruits in our products. They are disasters waiting to happen, even with the best manufacturing processes and maximum preservatives. Fresh fruits and veggies don't belong in our products. We use extracts and powders and other things that are processed so they will reduce contamination, but even those can cause problems in products that contain water. Please don't use fresh anything in your products - that will only lead to contamination!

Tiffany (Younique2011) R. said...

I get what you are saying. Not trying to start a debate. However, if the company is lying and being fraudulent they could get sued right?? If so, the fact that they have not gotten sued leads me to believe its true that they use fruits. Maybe they process their stuff chemically and they are not telling consumers. They will not share their secrets. I have never bought an item from them. Maybe their items have expiration dates or require refrigeration. Who knows.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tiffany! There isn't a definition of the word "fresh", so they can define it however they want. They have a video showing use of avocado mashed up, so we know they're using what most of us would consider fresh, but do they do that for everything they claim is fresh? In the other post, I went through a few different things they could be doing and calling "fresh". In short, you couldn't sue them for using the word "fresh" because there is no definition of it, so they can't be in violation of anything.

Tiffany (Younique2011) R. said...

Sorry Susan for calling you Sarah. Hopefully you are not irritated by me or anything. I called the company and they revealed that they are using preservatives and that their products last for 14 months. I really couldn't get any details on how they preserve these fruits because "it's their secret". I did ask are they using some sort of chemicals. Of course the lady wouldn't tell me. I am going to make my products using fruit to test this theory. I am very much curious. Just wanted to reveal my findings. Hopefully all is well.