If the natural-leaning makeup, shower, and skin brand Lush has felt really in-your-face in the last couple of months, it’s not just you. Founded in 1995 in Poole, a town on the southern coast of England, the cosmetics line has received a boost in recent months, showing up in Facebook feeds, in the news, and on Kylie Jenner’s social channels, elevating it from a niche, hippie-friendly brand to a major mainstream contender.
So why, if the products have always been bright and fun, the names always wacky, and the lack of packaging always extra-photogenic, are they getting so much love now? How did this brand, once just the store in the mall that had a distinct candy-sweet floral scent, suddenly take over all your social channels?
To be fair, the growth wasn’t totally overnight—Lush has been widespread for at least a dozen years now and can be found in 49 countries around the world. But it’s certainly becoming more high-profile than ever before, with plans to increase production by 19 percent globally this year. So there’s been some build-up here. But it’s safe to say Lush is having a moment. Here’s why.
1. The products photograph like a Kardashian. Unless you happen to be on a summer social media detox, you probably spotted a video on Facebook in the last few weeks of Shower Jellies, the brand’s seaweed-gel based shower soaps. It was kind of a thing.
The product isn’t new (it debuted in 2005) but that doesn’t matter—the clip of the brightly colored blobs jiggling about is too mesmerizing not to watch. Proof: It’s been viewed about 30 million times.
And back in April 2015, YouTubers The Creatures uploaded a video of an experiment to see what happens when you dissolve 50 bath bombs a kiddie pool. Over 5 million people have watched the water turn into an incredibly silkifying, shimmery swirl of colors.
It’s the playful, wildly colorful, and over-the-top gimmicky nature inherent to the products makes them so ripe for virality right now. Lush has developed a cult following because the brand has made a person’s time in the tub—already a sacred time—so much more joyful.
2. More customers are making the switch to natural products. It’s not all for the Instagram: These days, consumers are more interested in organic products than ever before—especially when it comes to skin care. This is an area where Lush obviously stands out even just in the store, where you can actually see many of their raw materials like cinnamon sticks, orange segments, and lavender sprigs.
That doesn’t mean the line doesn’t contain any synthetics; about 75 percent of the range is completely free of preservatives, but a quarter gets extra help from ingredients that, yes, include some parabens—though at a percentage lower than the EU regulation limit. And some effects, like foaming, require lab-created additives.
The line may not be a totally natural brand, but it’s natural-ish, and for women looking to cut down on synthetics, that’s an easy switch to make because, well, the products also work. Those Jellies aren’t just pretty, friends. They leave you feeling soft and smooth and not-at-all covered in goo. Ask any Lushie about her favorite product and she’s sure to wax on about her Shower Smoothie or the Massage Bar flavor she can’t live without.
And, yes, insiders really do call themselves Lushies. Search the hashtag on Instagram and Twitter and you’ll come up with lots of over-the-top praise (actual quote: “Pretty much every time I go into @lushcosmetics I start talking to someone else who is shopping and they ask if I work there.”) and pictures of Bath Bombs dissolving in tubs galore. In the brand’s fan-page subreddit, shorthand for special flavors and limited edition products abound (“I did hear a rumor that Calacas would be back in bath bomb form. Either as the Enchanter, Skullduggery, Calavera, or a whole brand new design.”)
3. The brand is serious about responsibility. Like a lot of natural-leaning brands, the company takes the idea beyond just the formulations to the packaging (100 percent of which is recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable) and hits hard on the ideas of responsible sourcing, sustainability, minimal waste, and no animal testing.
According to a survey, the tides are shifting toward people looking for brands that are a reflection of their values—and many people are becoming concerned with companies that are kind to the earth.
As Dana Cho, partner at the innovation and design firm IDEO puts it, “It’s less about, ‘This brand says something about my personality,’ and more about, ‘This company cares about things that are deeply important to me.'”
4. There are actual humans making the products.
One of the cutest elements of any Lush product is the sticker that features a little cartoon portrait of the person who made it for you. By “introducing” themselves on the containers, they remind you that the products are handmade by a person and not by a giant factory machine. It’s the “human was here” approach, and it’s effective because it’s much easier to feel an emotional connection to your shower when you know it was created by Sarah on 5/21/16.
Lush also uses the staff as models across all channels, which comes with the natural side effect of diversity since people of all sizes and skin tones work there. And if there’s anything we all want right now, it’s more representations of different kinds of races, body types, and vibes. As a report from consulting firm Deloitte found, this multicultural generation thinks diversity makes for better, more well-rounded experiences both in the world and in your beauty stash. Amen to that.
5. The brand has capitalized on the zeitgeist.
This is a brand that knows how to ride a pop culture moment—whether intentionally or otherwise. It’s found its way into the hands of some high-profile influencers like Jeffree Star and Bunny (aka Grav3yard Girl), but perhaps the biggest push they got recently was when (unprompted by the brand) Kylie Jenner Snapchatted about the Bath Bombs and Bubbles Bar, and then again posted about the hair care and face masks.
The boost was immediate. “We had a number of salespeople reach out after this letting us know that people came into their shops asking for those exact products,” says Dundon.
Then there was the news story that caught fire about the company’s plans to open a factory in Germany in part as response to Brexit, giving itself the option of shifting its manufacturing focus outside of the U.K. as a safety net depending on how the vote went. Although the situation didn’t go the way it had hoped (to jog your memory, Britain left the European Union), the company has decided to use the new facility to increase production overall (providing product to Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and Sweden this year with Finland, Norway, and Switzerland to follow in 2017), with no plans for the locations in Poole to scale back.
All the stars have aligned to make it the new not-new brand to talk about. There’s nothing particularly innovative happening here—the zeitgeist has simply shifted to highlight a lot of the things the brand has been doing for years. But that newfound popularity is certainly making life more colorful, one Bath Bomb at a time.