In the past, I was never an enormous fan of Lush. I have to hope that my younger brother doesn’t read this review; for a few teenage years, Lush gift sets were his go-to present for all female members but I always found the scents a bit overpowering and the labels a bit wackaging. I could also never quite shake a story from a friend who used to work there involving bath bombs and cystitis. But praise be, for I have seen the light and am converted. Mostly.
The company’s new megalith of a store on Liverpool’s Church Street – the biggest anywhere in the world – is a classy, wood-panelled affair replete with treatment stations, testers and even those little conveyor belts beloved of Yo Sushi!, which in this case transport the aforementioned bath bombs rather than raw fish. The scale of the place means that the smell of all those freshly-made products is pleasant rather than clawing and, to be fair, Lush has been banging on about using packaging-free and environmentally friendly cosmetics for donkey’s years, while most of us have only just got on the bandwagon.
On the third floor of this palace of pampering, behind a heavy glass door that cuts out the music and bustle of the shop floor, is the spa. It’s a simple place; four single treatment rooms and a ‘party area’, where up to five people (we’re talking sedate hen do territory) can have treatments together and more can chill out in the seating area beyond. It is all quite un-Lush in its understatedness, with parquet floors and gentle grey decor, as well as a wooden kitchen table at which your therapist greets you, and a bathroom with a pleasing number of products of which you can try a dab. My treatment itself, by contrast, was all bells and whistles. Uncharitably one might say gimmicky, except that it was actually really good.
Named Synaethesia after the condition that causes those who have it to inter-mingle their senses (‘smelling’ shapes or ‘seeing’ colours upon hearing music for example), this 80-minute full body massage is Lush’s signature treatment. It mixes hot stones, colour-changing lights and a soundtrack performed by a 52-piece orchestra mixed with birdsong to promise a ‘journey deep within’. Before we got started, I was asked to choose how I wanted to feel from a list of 11 buzzwords (I went for ‘mind cleanser’) and to select a glass medicine bottle that ‘spoke to me’ because of its colour, shape or label (blue, calm). Done badly, all of this theatre could be massively naff, but in the hands of my therapist, who was a professional and calming presence (more calming than a little blue bottle anyway), it was all quite engaging.
The room was adorned with bubbling vials, and the orchestral score to which my massage was choreographed was, in the main, an unobtrusive and thoughtful alternative to the music offered at too many spas, which sounds like someone has simply clicked on a Spotify playlist marked Mindfulness. The massage was of the gentle and sleep-inducing rather than pummelling variety and delivered with skill. By the end of it, notwithstanding the rendition of Are you going to Scarborough Fair? that rounded off the soundtrack on a duff note, I felt relaxed, calm and thoroughly spoilt. Of course, that lasted about two minutes after I emerged back into the heart of Liverpool’s shopping district, but that isn’t Lush’s fault. As I said, I like them now.