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Human testing in the extreme

Testing on real live humans, rather than animals, tells us so much more...

Our new range of sun care products was shipped (along with Inventor Daniel Campbell) all the way to New York City, to be laboratory tested by vegetarian scientist Dr Shyla Cantor. This is because we refuse to test our products – or use ingredients that have been tested – on animals, ever. We are lucky to have these resources, but back in the days of Cosmetics To Go, the company that came before Lush, it was quite a different story.

A range of skin and sun care products called Africa Companion sowed the seed that would grow into Cosmetics To Go. Rowena Bird and the team of inventors spent months secretly developing this range of products and when they unveiled them to Mark Constantine, he was instantly convinced: ‘They tempted me with this surprise package, and I was seduced.’

Rowena Bird on Kilimanjaro
Cosmetics to Go sun care

Lovingly wrapped in a length of hessian, three of the eight products had SPFs (Sun Protection Factors), and what better place to test their efficacy than under the hot African sun? Jeff Osment, long-standing video producer for Lush, had an idea for the products that would put the team through their paces, taking the concept of human testing to the limit: ‘I saw this picture of an African elephant in a game park with Mount Kilimanjaro behind it with its snowy peaks. I thought we could journey from the hot African plains up to the top of Kilimanjaro testing the cosmetics on the way...’

It was a journey that proved far more challenging than any of them had ever imagined. Rowena, Jeff and a film crew, fronted by beauty journalist Susannah Kenton, started out in the hot African sun, climbing higher and higher into extreme weather conditions and altitudes that they’d never experienced. Unfortunately the only members of the group that made it to the top were the cameraman and the photographer who had gone ahead to capture the sunrise! Susannah had to be stretchered down the mountain after developing acute hypothermia; Jeff collapsed three hundred yards from the summit with altitude sickness, whilst dizziness and shortness of breath meant that Rowena was also forced to turn back before she could reach the top. It was more gruelling than anyone had prepared for, and it took the concept of cosmetic product testing to an unrivalled extreme...thankfully the Africa Companion range lived up to its name, and none of the group could add either sunburn or uncleanliness to their list of ailments!

Below Zero was Cosmetics To Go’s second range of products created for adverse weather conditions: Alacalufa skin protector, Blockski sunblock, Cold Comfort lotion and Frostbite lip saver were made for sub-zero temperatures. Product inventor Helen Ambrosen wanted to create products fitting for Arctic exploration, which would preserve and keep skin moisturised whilst also protecting it from the sun. Sunlight on snow can be intensified when it’s reflected, and it is just as vital to protect skin from UV rays in the North Pole as it is on the beach.

The Africa Companion team took the Below Zero products up Mount Kilimanjaro for when they encountered the snow-capped summit. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it to the top but luckily for them, another opportunity was on the horizon.


Adversity again

Months later, another chance came along for the inventors to push their product testing as far as they dared. Helen had been talking to a researcher with the RAF who was studying the effects of exposure to extreme cold and harsh winds on the skin. He teamed up with none other than the famous explorer Ranulph Fiennes, for an arctic expedition to the North Pole.

Excerpt from our book Danger! Cosmetics To Go:

‘His team took these prototype products with them on their epic expedition and tested them in the field. After a gruelling time in deep, heavy snowfall that prevented them being able to carry enough supplies to last, they were forced to turn back before reaching their destination. Despite not reaching the tip of the world, they had used the Below Zero range in the ghastly conditions and reported back to Cosmetics to Go with their thoughts and suggestions for improvements on the performance of the range.’

At one point, Fiennes reported that in the absence of much-needed provisions, he’d been tempted to eat one of the products! Thankfully he didn’t need to resort to such measures in the end. The team’s feedback was great, and proved that the products Helen had developed were up to the task. Once again human testing had paid off, and the Cosmetics To Go catalogue pages were adorned with amazing photographs of Ranulph and Mike trudging through snowdrifts, with the Below Zero products tied conveniently around their skis.

Twenty years on, we continue to research and develop new sun care products. We aim to create effective, beautiful formulas using quality ingredients and still explore and fund innovations in cruelty free testing. We still use human volunteers, something which started all the way back in tiny rooms in our 29 High Street shop in Poole, even before Cosmetics To Go came along. The ambition and endeavour which once took our products to the highest mountains and the coldest extremes is still present, alive and evident in our fabulous new sun care range.

'I thought we could journey from the hot African plains up to the top of Kilimanjaro testing the cosmetics on the way...’

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