Nestled in the quiet seaside town of Poole, England lives the Lush Hair Lab.
THE ART OF LISTENING
In a society that’s so focused on talking, listening has become something of a lost art. When it comes to developing new products, however, Lush co-founder and product inventor Mark Constantine says, “Listening is key.” It’s just one way the Hair Lab is connecting with customers and creating cosmetics that address haircare concerns.
The Hair Lab is a testing ground for new haircare innovations and reformulations of current products; and each formula is tested on the toughest critics: Lush customers. Anyone who’s able to make it to Poole can book an appointment at the Hair Lab to experience these exclusive conceptual stage products. Visitors receive a luxurious treatment with a professional stylist, and all Lush asks in return is honest feedback.
LET’S GET PERSONAL
Daniel Campbell, Lush product inventor and cosmetic scientist, is at the helm of the Hair Lab. He’s passionate about listening to clients’ needs and finding—or creating—the perfect product for their hair. “Hair is how we express ourselves to the world, so being able to take somebody and find out what they want from their hair, and be able to give it to them is a genuinely lovely thing.”
Daniel is careful to differentiate the Hair Lab from traditional hair salons: “We want to help people become educated about their hair and what they can [realistically] achieve with it… people are sold stuff to make them try to be something they will never achieve. We recommend based on what they are, the beauty that is real and not the one that is marketed to us…I think that’s the heart of the Hair Lab.” He continues, “The truth is, you’re already perfect as you are. We’re just helping you express yourself through your hair.”
When a client first arrives at the lab, an initial consultation with Daniel and a hair stylist is in order. They discuss their hair in detail, beginning with their favorite thing about it. “We start with the positive and then help people make the most out of what they’ve got.” Clients also chat about their hair’s current condition, existing haircare routine and what they’d like their hair to do. Daniel taps into the client’s intimate knowledge of their own hair to select products that will provide them with the most benefit. After all, who knows more about your hair than you do?
Depending on the needs of each client, their visit may include a relaxing head, neck and shoulder massage, shampoo, condition, hair treatment and style. Throughout the entire process, they’re encouraged to provide candid feedback (no sugar-coating allowed) and asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire afterwards about the effectiveness of each of the products they experienced.
Daniel takes this valuable information back to his invention lab to continue fine-tuning and creating new products that push the boundaries of what’s possible in the cosmetics industry.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOTTLE
The Hair Lab provides Lush product inventors with invaluable information directly from customers. Using this feedback, they have created brand new innovative products like Avocado Co-wash.
Conditioner-washing, or co-washing, is the process of cleansing the hair using a gentle conditioner-like product instead of a conventional shampoo. By getting to know clients in the Hair Lab, Daniel learned that Lush was missing a vital product for co-washers who had been making due by using our conditioners instead. Co-washing enthusiasts are incredibly knowledgeable about what’s beneficial for their hair and scalp, and gave Daniel plenty of ideas for nourishing ingredients they’d love to use.
Finding inspiration in their ideas and knowledge, he got to work creating Lush’s very first co-wash. Through feedback on various versions, Daniel finally arrived at the Avocado Co-wash customers will soon be able to find in Lush shops; a product that’s about 80% conditioner and 20% shampoo. It’s a blend that gives the hair a weightlessly clean feeling without stripping away its naturally protective oils, and contains fresh avocados (which are partially responsible for its light green color), plus a nourishing mixture of cupuaçu butter, cocoa butter and olive oil to soften and protect the hair.
Daniel also included cationic guar gum in the formula: a carbohydrate-based ingredient that helps keep static to a minimum and leaves hair feeling silky smooth. Daniel explains that our hair has a naturally negative charge and cationic guar gum has the opposite positive charge. The two charges are attracted to one another “and that’s what we use to make the hair’s cuticle lie flat”, keeping it soft and glossy. The bottom line? This luxurious co-wash results in smooth, frizz-free locks and co-washers everywhere are rejoicing.
The Hair Lab fosters the perfect balance between three key things: customers’ intimate knowledge of their own hair, a willingness to listen to their needs, and the know-how to bring those desires to life. Daniel says, “That’s what I love about my job, creating products that make people feel good about themselves.” The Hair Lab is one way Lush is listening to the expertise and needs of its customers. And this feedback and input are directly affecting the future of the cosmetics industry in more ways than one: the Hair Lab is a simple way that Lush eliminates the need to test on animals. By getting human volunteers to try out their products and provide feedback, Lush has created a space where effective alternatives to animal testing are being put into practice every day. And by visiting the lab, clients are helping to demonstrate that animal testing for cosmetics is unnecessary.
For those who can’t make it to the Hair Lab in Poole, this philosophy of listening to customer needs rings true in every interaction in every Lush shop in the world. While you can’t have your hair washed and styled in every store (that’s what makes the Hair Lab extra special), shop associates engage in meaningful conversations with each customer to learn about their preferences and lifestyle before suggesting products to fit their needs. And every point of contact with Lush (in-store, online, via social media) also serves as an avenue to share feedback on current products and to request new inventions.
The future of haircare innovation is looking bright. Daniel says “It’s exciting because we’ve got so many ideas, we can’t do them all quickly enough. That’s a good place to be.”