Traditional soap-making relies heavily on animal tallow. It is still the core ingredient in some of the world’s best-selling soap brands because it's very cheap and easy to obtain. We obviously don’t want to use tallow, so we’ve always made our soaps using vegetable oils instead.
Vegetable soap science was developed with palm oil - a resource that, at the time, wasn't as widely used as it is today. Palm oil is added to so many common products, from margarine to ready-meals, that its worldwide usage has become unsustainable. Development of bio-fuels from palm oil is adding to the problem.
Palm oil plantations cause severe deforestation, problems for indigenous populations and the animals that live there. Until the worldwide reliance of palm oil is drastically reduced, there really is no such thing as sustainable palm oil at present.
Cosmetic companies are responsible for approximately 7% of the world's palm oil usage. In 2007, we felt that it was time for us to re-invent our vegetable soap base and make it palm oil-free. This would stop us from using approximately 250,000kg of palm oil a year. It was a very ambitious task and we've had to work hard to get the formula right. We needed vast quantities of good soap, so the new formula had to be commercially viable and we did not want the quality of our soaps to be affected.
We worked with a leading UK soap-base manufacturer and developed a sunflower, rapeseed and coconut oil-base. We've now settled on a new formula with just rapeseed and coconut oil, as we feel this gives our soap the properties we want.
The oils are heated with sodium hydroxide and water, which results in a process known as saponification. The soap can then be separated from the mixture using salt, and dried to give the solid base that we use in production.
Glycerine is a traditional by-product of soap making and has humectant properties. It is usually removed, but we add it back into the mix for its moisturising properties. This is one of the reasons that our soaps are so beautiful on the skin.
Once the finished base has made it to the Lush kitchens, we add a whole range of different materials to make our unique range of soaps. Everything from fresh fruit and herbs to exciting oils, sparkling agar-based glitters and gentle exfoliators are stirred in to create the big blocks of solid soaps that you can see piled high in our shops around the world.