British beauty fad hits M Street

3066 M St. N.W.
Wednesday, Feb. 4
1:32 p.m.

When my editor assigned me to write about Lush, she described the store as a sort of “beauty deli” where you could purchase a pound of soap neatly hand-wrapped in white paper like a pound of American cheese you just brought home from the GW Deli. Several thoughts immediately came to mind:

Thought No. 1: What do you do with a pound of soap?

Thought No. 2: Where do you store a pound of soap?

Thought No. 3: Are people really dumb enough to waste money on soap wrapped in butcher paper?

I immediately called my best friend to accompany me on assignment and ridicule people shopping in the Georgetown store. We were approaching 32nd and M streets, so I knew the store was somewhere within the next block. But that’s when it hit me – the overpowering fragrance of a bath and body shop.

“I think we’re close,” I said. “Something smells good and soapy.”

“I think I smell turpentine,” my friend said.

Sure enough, Lush was right there in front of us. As we stepped into the store, we were blinded by a vivid spectrum of feminine pastels, and the odor – now intolerably strong – caused us to choke and gag. But despite the overpowering fragrance of Lush, I had a story to write.

I first approached a table labeled “Bath Ballistics,” which was very confusing to me because usually I associate ballistics with missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Luckily, an overly enthusiastic store clerk was there to explain and demonstrate the intricacies of a “Bath Bomb.” A bath bomb is simply a bubble bath condensed into a single-use ball that you drop into a tub of water to make the water fizzy and “soft.”

In a crock full of water, the clerk dropped a bright orange bath bomb that was “especially cute” because of its ability to turn water orange. But why would anyone want to bathe in fizzy orange water? It’s like washing yourself with a two-liter of Minute Maid soda. I asked if it turns the person orange, because as I looked down at the water in the crock, I noticed an orange film collecting on the sides of the container. Apparently it does not turn the bather orange, only the water; and from my observations, perhaps the bath tub as well.

Lush also sells avocado bombs – recommended for morning use – glitter bombs that make water glittery and Karma Bombs meant to give you good karma. A sign above a green bomb dotted with potpourri read, “It’s like bathing in a warm pond in the middle of the garden.” The clerk said the bomb releases the potpourri, and it floats to the top of the water, creating the illusion of lilypads in the bathtub. I looked at the price tag – $5 for one bath in a warm pond in the middle of a garden.

In the corner of the room was a refrigerated display case with what I thought were several cheesecakes professionally decorated with dried roses. I asked the clerk why they sold cheesecake, and he said that they were actually massage bars made with cocoa butter. He said they work like massage oils and that if you rub the bar on someone’s back it melts the bar slightly to create a smooth, slick surface to work your hands through. Kinky.

Lush even sells the massage bars in mint chocolate. You can lick the oil off your partner, and it will taste like an Andes Mint! However, I tried it on my hand and was disappointed to find that it really didn’t taste like an Andes Mint. A bar about the half the size of a Hershey’s bar cost $7. Thanks, but I’ll stick to Hershey’s chocolate syrup or whipped cream. It’s cold, kind of sticky and tastes a lot better. Plus it’s cheap, and I’m poor.

Lush’s Georgetown location is the fourth to open in the United States. The store originated in England, and it separates itself from other body shops because of its deli-wrapping and soap-weighing concept. Also, all of its products are made from organic ingredients. It’s a Bohemian’s paradise.

Along one wall was an entire shelf dedicated to hair care. One product was a vegan conditioner, an eight-ounce bottle of which sells for 11 bucks. According to the label, it’s made with “lemon, seaweed and herbal infusions.”

But then I finally saw my wheel of deli-cut soap! Only $36 a pound. “So this is the soap I’ve been hearing about?” I asked the clerk. However, it was not the soap but shampoo – a solid shampoo called Trichomania. Instead of squeezing it into the palm of your hand, you use it like bar soap, working it into a lather for washing.

The clerk took a knife and chopped off a slice of solid shampoo for my friend and me to sample. He even weighed it and wrapped it in deli paper. Had I brought the bag home and put it in my fridge, my roommate probably would have tried to grate it on her Caesar salad.

With high prices and extremely unnecessary products, at least Lush is appropriately named. But if you’re into bathing in ponds and having your shampoo served to you on a cake tray and cut into cheese wedges, then maybe this is the place for you.

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