First things first – this is FUN. Spending an hour at my local LUSH store – getting to inspect, sniff and test a series of fresh masks, cleansers and moisturisers – takes me back to my early days as a beauty journalist – forever covered in lotions, always in search of that elusive potion. Much has changed over the years – my routine is now very simple, pared back and wholly natural, and my focus on the external has shifted somewhat too: I know that no cream (dream or otherwise) will make me look radiant and healthy, if I am not looking after myself holistically too. Beauty, truly, is an inside job.
Chatting to Jordan, who listens to my skin concerns (sensitive, not fond of scrubs, love an oil), it’s clear that LUSH try to take a holistic approach to what they do too, and Jordan advises me brilliantly. Their fresh skincare is packed full of vibrant fruit, veg, butter, clay oil & seaweed – the brimming pots on display, lined up ‘on ice’, look and smell incredibly edible (it’s been known to happen laughs Jordan – but not advised!). I learn that the vast majority of the ingredients used at LUSH are natural – but that not many products are absolutely, completely 100% natural. LUSH stand by their ‘safe synthetics’ policy –whereby low toxicity synthetic preservatives are used to inhibit the growth of moulds and bacteria within their water-containing products – and I do believe that very low toxicity synthetics have their place and purpose, but also advise that every consumer cross-check their own product choices too – knowledge is always power: something that LUSH vociferously champion, via their transparent labelling and expansive consumer guidelines.
As a conscious living journalist, I also highly recommend checking EWG.org for ingredients lists and reports, or download Skin Ninja or Think Dirty apps if you’re unsure of what is deemed ‘safe’ and why.
I take my time and have a really good look at the INCI (ingredients) lists of all of the cosmetics that most appeal to me – and Jordan and I select a wide range of products that I can happily try, take home and use for my two ‘fresh faced’ weeks. Hurrah!
Once back in my own bathroom, keen to cleanse my face and ready myself for my evening yoga class, I begin with the gentle fresh cleanser, Angels on Bare Skin – a 100% natural combination of, among other things, ground almonds, kaolin (clay), rose absolute and blue chamomile oil. A generous pinch of the powder-mix, blended with water, turns it into an emollient cream, which when massaged over the face, feels deeply cleansing yet skin-soothing too. The next time I use it, I apply a little less water, for a thicker mask-like cream, which I leave on my skin for a few minutes before cleansing. The effect is lovely – skin feels noticeably soft, and a little redness around the nose goes down too. It becomes my staple cleanser over the fortnight – and instead of water, I also mix it with rose water or simple organic jojoba oil, too, on occasion, when I feel that my skin needs extra cosseting.
Once rinsed clean, I reach for my moisturiser. I chose the Full of Grace Serum Bar because it contains no synthetic preservatives. It’s a joy. I warm it in my hands – it’s a pleasing, silken solid tablet of buttery goodness – and then massage it all over my cleansed face. My skin gleams – fresh murumuru and cupuacu butters give the bar its silken sheen, while the fresh rose petal infusion and – wait for it – portobello mushrooms! – are used for their antioxidant benefits.
The next day, with a bit of extra time to spare in the morning, I cleanse with the BB Seaweed Fresh Face Mask. It contains a bevy of good and natural things (with a dash of perfume at the very end of the otherwise all-natural ingredients list) – and, interestingly, rather than water as its base, a lime tree (also known as linden) and violet flower decoction is used instead (where the botanicals are steeped in water for a period of time – rather like making tea). There’s also honey, ground almonds and toothed wrack seaweed, alongside fair trade organic aloe vera gel – and the combination is wonderfully purifying, soothing and nourishing. I use it in lieu of my morning cleanser, twice a week for two weeks, and find that it’s helpful in diminishing impending breakouts too.
Another new favourite – the Oatifix mask – takes me back to teenage days, when I would mash bananas and honey, and apply to my hair and face, as quick-fix moisturising treatments. This lovely sticky pot of banana-split sweetness also contains illipe butter, vanilla absolute (you can really smell it – yum), fine oatmeal and kaolin, and it’s the most deeply moisturising of the products I try. I find it particularly good around the nostrils and philtrum, where skin is prone to dryness during cough and cold season. The children, unsurprisingly, sniff it out the second time I use it, and the banana-loving youngest goes in for a lick!
On day 12, I wake up with skin that is overly oily and in need of a light exfoliation (this tends to happen a few days before my period), so reach for Cosmetic Warrior. The ingredients list is all natural (fab) but slightly alarming – made from fresh green grapes, eggs, honey and garlic! The smell isn’t the most appealing (given that most LUSH products smell like bouquets and candy banquets, that’s not surprising), but I do see an improvement in the two lingering blemishes, which fade faster than they normally would.
Over the course of the next week, I try the toner tabs – sodium bicarbonate-based tablets, which bubble and steam up when popped into hot water – the Rosy Cheeks and Cosmetic Catastrophe Face Masks (great at taking down redness), and end up settling on my favourites after my skin makes it clear that less is more (yep, I got a little overexcited and on one day, tried four masks back to back. Lesson learned).
At the end of the two weeks I’ve found that I’ve needed fewer products than I usually do (and I am already comparatively spartan on the skincare front). Using one cleanser – Angels on Bare Skin is a firm favourite that I’ll happily repurchase for ever – followed by a simple layer of solid serum (genius idea, which also does away with unnecessary plastic packaging) was more than enough for day or night.
It also felt deliriously good to take fresh mask/cleansers straight from the fridge and apply them to a puffy face in the morning, where the immediate ‘aaaah’ factor really kicked in. The fresh approach extends to the scents, textures and experiences too – from the bubbling tabs, to the blueberry- or seaweed-filled masks – and made each routine fun and welcome (and because most LUSH products work speedily – neither a faff nor a chore).
At the end of the two weeks, my skin looks great – radiant, calm, supple and aside from a few extra breakouts following my one day of cosmetic overindulgence (!). Most importantly, however, it’s made me assess how long my usual creams, serums and cleansers have been sitting around on my bathroom shelf for. That really is a wake-up call. Most of my fresh LUSH products have only another week left in them, before I’ll return my empties to store (where, by the way, you get a free fresh face mask for every 5 pots you return). I love that loop – freshly made, refrigerated, applied & enjoyed – then, returned to store, and freshly made once more; not only keeping the cosmetic process tangible and real, but personal too (yes, your LUSH product really was made by ‘Bob/Rita/Javier). Oh yes, I could absolutely get used to this.