Walk along Chester’s Foregate Street and the air is full of a fragrant aroma as you pass by Lush, a cosmetics shop that has been a fixture in the city for more than two decades. Step inside and you’ll be greeted with a kaleidoscope of colours to match the heady scent of the hair, skin and bath products that take up most of the shop floor. It’s a real feast for the eyes and nose.
The Chester branch was among the first 10 shops to be opened by a brand that started selling handmade, fresh cosmetics in Dorset more than 25 years ago.
Since then, Lush has built-up a well-earned reputation for its 100% vegetarian products that are created with the finest, ethically-sourced ingredients that are not tested on animals. And if that’s not enough, the trailblazing company (it produced the first solid shampoo bar, now much copied) is also at the forefront of campaigns to help combat climate change, reduce environmental impact and protect ecosystems.
So when you buy your soap, your skincare, your bath bombs, shower creams and more from Lush, you’re helping a company that not only wants to take care of its customers, but one that thinks about its impact on the planet, too.
“We’re very passionate about environmental and humanitarian issues as well as animal rights,” says Chester manager, Catrin Barker (main picture, left, with her Lush colleagues).
“We are a campaigning company as well – we stand up for the people who maybe need a voice.”
But it’s also a company where the products speak for themselves – they just wouldn’t sell if they weren’t up to scratch. “Why not put the best quality ingredients on to your face?” says Catrin.
Lush uses natural ingredients because it knows they will work with the skin, not against it. A great deal of thought goes into every aspect of creating a product, there are no hidden ingredients and there are even stickers on tubs showing the people who made the product.
“We don’t have middlemen, we actually have our own buying team that goes around the world to find the right ingredients for us,” says Catrin. “We’ve actually bought some rainforest that we protect and have the rosewood from it. But instead of taking down the whole tree we take branches.
“Then we have fisherman Pete in Poole harbour who will go out and cultivate some seaweed if we’re making a product like a fresh seaweed facemask.”
Lush has the freshest cosmetics in Chester: face masks are ordered on a Wednesday, made on a Thursday morning and delivered on the Friday.
Many of the products are ‘naked’ which means they are not packaged – and the reason why there’s that unmistakable fragrance out on the street. Soaps are sold by the slice. Liquids and creams are contained in black pots that are all 100% recycled plastic and customers are given an incentive to return their old, clean pots with a discount towards future purchases. The pots are then recycled and given a new life.
“Why put packaging on something when it doesn’t need it?” says Catrin. “But if you do decide to put a bath bomb in a bag, that bag is recycled paper, printed with cold water printing, and you can recycle it again.
“If you buy fragrance from us there’s no advertising to pay for, there’s no beautiful bottle to pay for, there’s no packaging to pay for – it’s just a bottle but with beautiful essential oils inside it,” Catrin adds.
“A lot of our ribbons on our gifts are also made from recycled plastic.”
While keeping the best-sellers the customers have loved for years, the brand continues to innovate with trailblazing ideas. If there’s a liquid product there’s a 99% chance of there being a solid version and they have also introduced self-preserving skincare that supports and maintains the skin’s microbiome. They have toothpaste tabs – a solid alternative to toothpaste that removes stains and whitens while avoiding the problem of tubes ending up in landfill (you nibble a small tablet then brush your teeth with a damp toothbrush, in case you’re wondering).
They also look to the past, to a time when people made their own beauty products, so they have products with ingredients that were used in medieval times.
As well as product, the shop sells vouchers for sensory spa treatments that can be redeemed at the Lush spa in Liverpool. They also sell products to celebrate the diverse community, so there are bath bombs to help prepare for Eid celebrations and a bi-lingual description of a Welsh-named soap, Blodeuwedd.
Lush also sells Charity Pot goods that include body lotion and a solid, hand lotion bar – the Charity Pot Coin – where every penny bar the VAT goes to small, grassroots charities.
With so much choice, shopping for a new product can be overwhelming. Catrin heads up a team of 16 staff who are more than happy to consult with customers on the best products for them. “All the staff are so knowledgeable,” says Catrin. “We do a lot of training not just on the products but on the ingredients themselves.”
Customers are actively encouraged to walk-in for a consultation and advice on the hair products or skincare that’s best suited to them.
“The products that we have are tailored to everybody’s needs – from toothpaste to deodorant to hair treatments to shower bombs,” says Catrin.
“It’s giving people what they need without having a huge impact on the environment. A shampoo bar would give you 80 washes which is the equivalent of 750ml of liquid shampoo.”
Lush is on a mission and is involved with a wide range of campaigns to leave the world ‘Lusher’ than they found it: evolving partnerships with communities, farmers and conservation organisations and stabilising the climate through farming and protecting ecosystems. So not only do you get exactly what you pay for, quality Lush products also have values that go beyond the obvious.
- Lush is at 12 Foregate Street, Chester CH1 1HA