Not so LUSH-ous after all: shampoo bars

I’m venturing out of semi-retirement with this blog to tell you (if there’s anyone left reading this) about my poor experience buying a shampoo bar from a well-known “natural products” company that has franchises across North America (the title just slightly gives it away)…

So, I have been using natural soaps and shampoo bars for about 7 months now and will just never go back to the commercial stuff. Recently, due to procrastination, I found myself out of shampoo bars and none coming in the mail any time soon. With the hair really needing a wash (I run; need I say more?) I was desperate to avoid using the gunky chemical goop that we call Shampoo. The only place I knew of in our fair city where one could purchase a shampoo bar was a certain place that prides itself on its “natural, handmade cosmetics”. So I went to buy one.

Walking into the store I just about choked on the cloying, overwhelming air pollution created by an entire room full of over-perfumed product. There couldn’t possibly be anything natural about the stuff they are using to fragrance these products, and I’d be surprised if long-term workers don’t suffer from respiratory ailments. The lady on the bus who drenches herself in perfume each morning has nothing on this place. 

When I found the shampoo bars the first thing I noticed is their odd composition. They are not solid bars, but rather made up of thousands of tiny pellets that are almost exactly the same size and shape as chocolate sprinkles. These have been pressed together to form a small, hockey puck-shaped disc. At first I wondered why on earth someone would go to the trouble of making and curing soap only to extrude it in tiny pellets and then mold it again…

…and then I saw the ingredients list.

The first ingredient in every bar was Sodium Laurel Sulfate. Yeah, that’s just so Natural. The rest of the ingredients didn’t read anything like those in my natural soaps: where was the palm oil? The shea butter oil? And then it hit me…these aren’t actually Soap!

The name “shampoo bar” was actually literal. These bars were made of shampoo ingredients that had been pressed into pellets and formed into discs. YUCK. 

But…I had gross, sweaty hair (and I’d tried using my body soap but it just didn’t clean it well) and tiny shampoo pellets without a plastic bottle were better than goop IN a plastic bottle, so I reluctantly  brought it home. 

The interesting thing is, now that I’ve not used commercial “soaps” in so long, I noticed that what we have been programmed to believe is a “rich, creamy lather” is actually rather oily in texture when compared to the natural lather from real soap. Instead of feeling “luxurious” I felt like I had just dumped a pile of oily stuff on my head. And my vinegar rinse has been sorely challenged as a conditioner after coating my hair with this stuff. Must explain why the store also sells “solid conditioner”. The clerk there looked shocked when I said I use vinegar – in fact, she didn’t seem to understand what real soap is or how it’s made. When I asked about what oils were saponified to make the soap she rattled off some prepared statement about using “organic, natural ingredients, blah blah blah”. Since when is “Yellow #5” considered natural?

Thankfully my regular bars will be arriving any day now and I can put aside my shampoo-hockey-puck for emergencies. I don’t know why I thought a large chain of franchise stores would actually have Real Soap. Silly me.


34 responses to this post.

  1. My hockey puck shampoo bar from the same place is also sitting in the shower for emergencies! Hope you and yours are doing well, and enjoying the Spring and Summer 🙂


  2. I actually bought a product from the same place as you recently. The silly thing was that I didn’t ‘really’ want it but the poor girl was trying so hard to sell something to me that I ‘pity bought’. When I got it home, I looked up the ingredients on the ‘net and was horrified. I wasn’t surprised that they weren’t totally natural as you can tell immediately from the ‘knock you over with a frying pan’ scent, but REALLY! Anyhow, I went back and returned it unopened when the young girl wasn’t working. 🙂


  3. Posted by missypup on July 7, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    i’m even using shampoo bars on my dogs! i’ll never go back.


  4. Posted by Soaper on June 26, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    I am happy you use non commercial and likely handmade soap. There is a huge difference.

    I was very surprised when I noticed that the hockey pucks had SLS too. I don’t know why it is necessary.

    I make soap (cold-process, all vegetarian and sometimes vegan) and I don’t add unecessary ingredients, including color. Even still using the word “natural” is a slippery slope because sometimes the oils used to make the soap could have been extracted with chemicals (unless organic, cold-pressed) and the saponification process (with NAOH) isn’t that natural either. It’s a tough call. Based on my country’s regulations I cannot call my soap ‘natural’ and mine are far more than said company.

    Good for you for understanding the difference.



  5. SLS but mixed with luxurious essential oils, great happy medium! Commercialized luxury. Who doesnt want a shampoo without lather? And color? (soaper). Body products with minimal lather, color, and smell should be used on cadavers in a funeral home, the epitome of DEATH. Seriously i dont know how you natural natzis keep a smile on your faces. Lush is beyond amazing. They have changed my life and the way i look at bathing care. Seriously go criticize Bath and body works, that place PISSES me off, nothing but chemicals, NOTHING natural and who knows how long those products have been on the shelves.


    • I use chemicals, and even I am disappointed with LUSH. Don’t advertise natural, handmade cosmetics, if they aren’t natural. I really do not understand why LUSH lovers hate on people who are merely posting the truth. They DO use perfumes, fragrances, dyes, and nasty chemicals in their stuff. They do. There really isn’t a debate about it. I’ve been dying to try some LUSH products, but I DO use chemicals. I can admit that LUSH isn’t environmentally friendly OR economically friendly.


      • Posted by Hannah Grocott on May 13, 2013 at 1:50 am

        Its FRESH handmade products. not natural. We have plenty of fresh handmade products hence the term. Where do you get your information about lush may I ask? seems like its from the like of this rant. Well. take it how you will but until you step into a store and read a manual you will never know. we clearly state any synthetic products in bold black in the materials. We are not hiding anything. We have freshly rolled completely natural face cleansers and face masks. Which is where the company began.

      • As I noted, I actually buy LUSH products. You automatically assumed I’ve never shopped at LUSH or bought one of their products, and as such, assumed I had no idea what I was talking about. Which is incorrect of you. There is a huge misconception out there that LUSH is all natural. The reviews on the website alone prove that. They’re all gushing about how natural LUSH is. And it isn’t. Just because one (or a few) people dislike LUSH or think it’s disgusting because they USED a product and disliked it does not mean you need to kick up a fuss.

    • Posted by Dian Hathaway on July 2, 2016 at 10:58 am

      Too bad some of you folks have been “lushbotomized”. There is nothing natural or wholesome about SLS or Laurel Sulfate. I make homemade shampoo bars from sunflower and coconut and avocado oils, with some rosemary or lemon essential oil. That’s it, no other chemicals, and they are amazing. Vinegar rinse works greaLt as a conditioner and my hair “squeaks”, when i’m finished, which is clean. Lush is a big corporate conglomorate that has figure out that using “natural”, in their advertising makes more sales for the ignorant and stupid. Get real folks.!


  6. Glad you enjoy Lush products, Nathan. But I can assure you that the soaps and shampoo bars I use do have luxurious lathers, lovely scents, and pretty earth-toned colours. And I don’t have to worry about triggering an asthma attack in someone when I sit next to them on a bus.


  7. Posted by SoonToBeOutOfTheCult on November 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I work at Lush.
    I was nearly brainwashed by the “all natural” game they spit in the beginning.
    I liked the way a lot of the products smelled (not all of them mind you) but the more you are around that sh** common sense kicks in and you realize that it is just a marketing tool.
    They train you to B.S. people with the “this is all made from lovely, essential oils, minimal preservatives, environmentally friendly…blah, blah, blah”. When in actuality all you have to do is look around. WTH have you seen in nature that produces glitter? Did the CEO of Lush accidentally discover a colony of Wood Sprites or Faeries?
    And that is just one example. They have us tell people that SLS is necessary, there is no way around it and that’s what gets you clean.
    Um, not true. Anyone who makes their own soap knows this is not true.

    Common sense again, anything mass produced on such a level is not going to be very natural at all. I also feel like the expiration dates are just another marketing ploy.
    I don’t know if that is a fact, but the more days I spend around the cult like Lushies, the more I feel like it’s all a sham.

    I’m out of the cult as soon as something else opens up.
    Just sayin.


    • Posted by Hannah Grocott on May 13, 2013 at 1:53 am

      Whatever lush you were working at didnt sound like the manager knew the game! We have always been taught when a customer asks so you guys are all natural we show them the label and how the black bold ingredients are the synthetics. Im sorry you feel this way truely. I’m no lushie as they say. I dont do the bubble bars or bath bombs etc but the fresh cleansers im all for. If i can help someone with their psoriasis with the soak and float and snake oil or superbalm then I’m happy. “works everytime on scalps”.


  8. Posted by James on November 26, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    I’m a holiday hire at Lush and one of the first things we were told was that not everything was all natural. Whenever a customer comes in with the though our stuff is all natural I immediately tell them it isn’t. For a mass produced company it is truthfully very hard to make all natural products and in comparison to other companies we are much more natural but in all honesty that shouldn’t be an excuse. Even baking soda is considered a synthetic. Also we were made to know that whenever natural was used in our store it is meant to describe certain ingredients within products, not the entirety of the product or the store.

    We don’t use palm oil because palm oil is a terrible thing to make soap out of due to the unethical process of procuring it thus we switched to a coconut oil base for our soaps. We do also have a lot of pure

    Our SLS is procured from coconuts…. it’s pretty much coconut oil super heated to a point that is separates into different parts and one of the parts we take and utilize are the SLS. Perfuming ingredients like citronellol and geraniol are naturally occuring within the essential oils that we use.

    I won’t lie we do have very synthetic items (ugh Snow Fairy shower gel… luckily only a holiday item) but we try to ensure that whenever we use synthetics that they are safe. Like SLS… it is one of the longest used and most studied of lathering agents so to get that lather our customers want we’ll use it.

    I always try to push with the idea of “Fresh Handmade Cosmetics” but somehow people keep coming back to us with “Natural Handmade Cosmetics” which isn’t our actual image and we’ve been trying to distance ourselves from that.

    I’m sad you didn’t like our products and this isn’t me trying ti persuade you to come back and try them but I’m just trying to clear the air about some of the misunderstandings.


  9. Posted by PeachPie on April 3, 2013 at 11:21 am

    I think LUSH has improved a bit on shampoos over time and I use a shampoo bar and it makes my hair feel really clean!
    We might all have pros and cons about LUSH but it’s better then using store bought cosmetics hippy-skippy thrown together into a bottle in a factory.


  10. Posted by Cherissa on April 3, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Lush doesn’t need to use dyes or foamy lathering stuff. We are fine without it. Just be more natural.


  11. LOL at how similar my thoughts were to yours right up until showering. Only for me, in the shower it felt glorious and then super itchy. Out of the shower it was dry and ugly. 😦


  12. Posted by Hannah Grocott on May 13, 2013 at 1:44 am

    Are any of you aware that Laureth and laurel sulfates are too large of a molecule to be absorbed into the body.. It is a foaming agent merely there to help your hands move the dirt away from your scalp. I’ve been a vinegar user for years but i have no problem with lush. Its clear that you reading too many hyped up studies. As a Trichologist I think you should Wake up and stop slagging off companies who are trying to create an exciting product in a more natural way than the norm without the animal testing.


  13. Posted by Kayleigh casburn on May 22, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    What hair products do you use?


  14. Posted by Tigra on June 17, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Thank you for uncovering this. I do admit I had the same experience with the shampoo bar, my hair felt really weird. Unfortunately where I live (Belgium) shampoo bars are really uncommon. I mainly use Lush soap and shampoo bars to minimize my plastic waste. The shampoo bar doesn`t give me the result and soft feel I want so I need to find an alternative to it fast. I AM happy with their “jungle solid conditioner”, I believe Lush is being honest with what ingredients they use but it looks like I`ll have to school myself some more.


  15. Posted by Nica on January 11, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Logona never did work with my hair. After years using Lavera, it doesnt work anymore also especially since I developed a very sensitive scalp perhaps due to (yet) some of the chemicals on these shampoos (like sodium cocoyl glutamate etc), and hair is completely dry in a way no conditioner or even organic coconut or argan oil can fix it… I’m currently waiting for my 1st order of Morocco Method truly natural products to be delivered, with no SLS, parabens, phenoxyethanol, DEA, etc and hoping for real changes asap… No bars available though.


  16. Posted by Suzie on October 18, 2015 at 4:47 am

    SO true!!!

    Great blog 🙂


  17. Posted by LiveLaughLush on November 17, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Lush may not be 100% natural but they are natural enough for me and since using their products I find myself taking much better care for my body’s skincare/ haircare as I enjoy the products I put on it. Knowing that when I buy a product a certain portion of the money goes towards helping people around the world also makes me feel great about buying from them. I recently found out that the Rose Oil they buy for their products comes from a family owned business in turkey and that they pay a premium price for it which goes towards the community as well and was able to fund Turkeys first public primary school. They have about 50 more projects (they bought 6,000 hectares of the Amazon rainforest to protect it) and will choose farmers that use permaculture techniques as it promotes healthier, more fertile soil less prone to erosion.

    Lush is an awesome company, if you’re mega hippy and wont let a single safe synthetic touch your skin then stick to the bland natural soaps (I’ve tried them form markets, borringg) but I love the beautiful smells of lush and the way their products improve my skin/ hair and the lives of people globally 🙂


    • Posted by Dominique on March 28, 2016 at 10:56 am

      Andthey are one of the few company’s that pay every cent of there taxes unlike many other big cooperation’s. In the UK company’s like Starbucks and Google pay no taxes however lush pays all there taxes . so for that I will only buy lush


  18. Posted by Kylie on September 16, 2016 at 7:28 am

    I just ran out of my shampoo & have made the decision to switch to something natural. I’m tired of the chemicals! Can you tell me what you normally use so I can order it? I was going to purchase a lush bar but this has made me change my mind about that. Help?


  19. Posted by Tommy on June 11, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    I APPRECIATE this observation. I began my “love affair” with LUSH a bit over a year ago and have spent WELL OVER $5000 on their products…THINKING that they were NATURAL. Ugh. I’ve been HOODWINKED!!! I’m disgusted and UPSET.


  20. Posted by Mina on June 23, 2017 at 12:06 am

    This screed is almost as elitist as LUSH is, only at least LUSH doesn’t pride themselves in being anti science and insisting on some universal definition of “natural” when anyone whose done a cursory glance outside of conspiracy theory sites like Mother Earth News knows the term is entirely a marketing ploy for people who failed first year chemistry and are afraid of “chemicals.”

    Apple cider vinegar is not “conditioning” the reason, and the only reason, to use it as a rice aid after using a shampoo bar is because the shampoo bar will leave oil residue in your hair. I find it hilarious and counterintuitive you think lye in the form of koh is any more natural than sodium lauryl sulfate and that it would leave your hair feeling gross and oily when that’s exactly the same reason you have to use apple cider vinegar to rinse out the residue build up.

    It’s a shame the internet is inundated with bloviating, self righteous and indignant advice articles posing as instructional and educational when they still unironically use the term “natural” to make a false distinction between their preferred chemical and the other market chemicals.

    Hint: it’s all chemical, sls and slsa is not any harsher than cold process soap made with palm or coconut oil, and regardless of who you buy it from, the problem of shady markets don’t go away because it’s endemic to the economic system, not the governing system.

    So tired of these sanctimonious, anti science and damn near conspiracy theory level blog posts poopooing the competitive chemicals and pretending they are making morally superior conscientious decisions rather than lifestyle choices by insisting on using the unquantifiable, unscientific labeling term “natural.”


    • Posted by Mallory on October 8, 2018 at 1:07 pm

      Let me dispel some misconceptions. SLS is harsher than real soap due to the end group chemistry (I say “real soap” because “soap” is now being misapplied to detergents, like dish “soap” and liquid hand “soap”).

      The end group of SLS is OSO- (excluding the 2 double bonded O’s not in my “diagram”). The end group of soap is COO-. While both are cleansing, due to polarity electronegativity, and electron density around certain atoms, the sulfate is the more powerful surfactant, stripping away all oil and sebum. If you want to know more, read an organic chemistry textbook and an inorganic chemistry textbook. Periodic table trends are very important here as well as bond chemistry.

      Therefore, soap is gentler. Now, what qualities a soap may have depends on the oils used and in what proportion. For example, up to 25%-33% coconut oil (depending on the individual’s skin condition) will be moisturizing, but any more than that, and it will be super drying (due to the acid composition of coconut oil). Castor oil at 5% will give a rich lather, and ~10% is excellent for natural shampoo bars. Organic chemistry explains the behaviours of the different acids derived from oils. Once an oil is saponified, it’s no longer an oil. It has been reduced to its acid and glycerin. Soap is a salt. A very large salt molecule, but an ionic substance all the same. I wouldn’t recommend buying commercial soaps, though (Dial, Jergens, etc). They have lost their humectant properties because they’ve been stripped of their glycerin (to be resold elsewhere, such as skin lotion and car lubricant). Commercial soaps feel really harsh and make me itch.

      And yes, lye is naturally occurring. It was first “made” as a separate solution by collecting the filtered liquid from hardwood ash soaked in rain water (potash), though it has been used centuries before that by mixing hardwood ash directly into animal fat and boiling the mixture. It doesn’t matter that we now use an industrial lye. The chemical structure is the exact same. In my country, natural legally refers to “naturally occurring in nature.” It’s the same reason that industrially mass produced nitrogen fertilizer that is sold everywhere is considered natural.

      Not sure where you think soap leaves an oil residue. I don’t have that issue. Under normal conditions, soap cleans. That’s its main purpose. I have to add a few drops of coconut oil to my ends after I shower to put oil back in (I have long curly hair, and I wasn’t blessed with an oily scalp). Perhaps you’re thinking of all the individuals complaining soap doesn’t work for them? They complain of a waxy residue. Hard water reacts with soap to form soap scum. Those people need to install showerhead filters. Many ingredients in commercial shampoo are to counteract hard water (EDTA being one of the ingredients). We can add EDTA to soap too (and commercial big soap companies do), but it is expensive in the form needed for cleansing when using hard water. Most home soapmaker’s don’t have that kind of cash, and most don’t have chemistry degrees to understand the chemistry behind EDTA (I have come across blogs where the extremist naturals are calling it a super dangerous chemical to be avoided at all costs—it’s really not, only to people allergic to it and that is very rare). Luckily, my city water is normal, so i don’t need to go to any special lengths to use handcrafted soap (I don’t get soap scum).

      Vinegar rinse isn’t used to wash away oil. You can’t use vinegar to wash oil. It’s chemically impossible. (You can use it to dissolve soap scum, though. Acid reacts with soap to make oil. This is why we rinse soap out with water before adding vinegar.) After using soap, the cuticle is missing many hyrogens (it has become alkaline). The acid wash (doesn’t have to be vinegar, it could be ascorbic acid) is used to replace the hydrogens, balancing the hair’s pH back to acidic and closing the cuticle.

      Lastly, in case you didn’t know, SLS is a major no no to anyone with sensitive skin issues, such as eczema and severe dermatitis. I started researching soap after my doctor told me to stop using shampoos and body washes (the itching and irritation was really bad, and my scalp developed red scabs). I started making soap after doing a cost comparison between what soap crafters were charging me and how much the ingredients I needed cost. I can make my own milk, oatmeal, and honey soap at home, and I can devote 2 hours twice a year to making it. (I’m not a soap seller, though. I don’t have the time or the space to run a soap business—maybe I’ll do it when I retire in a couple decades, to make money on the side.)

      You are fine with SLS, so good for you. You were blessed with resilient skin and scalp health. Many people who turn to soap do it because of skin conditions (many have eczema, many). There are many communities online devoted to finding soap recipes to treating certain conditions. Vegan soap enthusiasts who did it for environmental reasons only make up a small percentage of the overall soap community. I didn’t do it for the environment (though that is a plus) but for my combination skin disorder.


      • Posted by Diana on December 12, 2018 at 3:00 am

        May I please ask what type of recipes do you use for your shampoo? My friend also has eczema and I would like to surprise her this Christmas with some shampoo bars made by myself. 🙂

        If you would be up for that I leave my email address here:

        Thank you!

      • Posted by Mallory on December 12, 2018 at 4:02 pm

        Dear Diana, I’ve sent you an email in reply. Be sure to check your junk email.

  21. Firstly. Lush never claimed to be natural. Identity has always been about being handmade, eco-friendly and cruelty free. There website doesn’t say natural

    Secondly Laurel sulphates molecules can’t be absorbed into the body and is fine for the hair at the correct quantity. I used to be a hairstylist and even top brand brands use it or an equivalent.

    The problem with the internet is everyone has an opinion, can read a study (even if it’s bogas) and think they know what they are on about, when in reality they hardly understand whats going on.


  22. Hi! I was up to buy some of those shampoo bars but after reading your experience I won’t. Can you tell which kind of hair soap are you using??


  23. Posted by Hideaway Farm on June 11, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    After all these years, I am still using shampoo bars by Pacific Coast Soapworks, in Victoria, Canada.


  24. Posted by Sarah on December 19, 2018 at 8:15 am

    Lush has never said they’re all natural. They’re transparent with their ingredients and use a lot of fresh fruits. They’re fair trade, organic, and sustainably farmed whenever possible. However, anyone working there will tell you that they do, in fact, use safe synthetic ingredients as well. Also, for the person saying they got duped into buying.. jokes on you anyhow. Lush employees couldn’t care less if you buy. They aren’t commission workers, and plenty of other people love the stuff. OP maybe you should’ve done a little research about the company. It’s all right out in the open.


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