The Body Shop was decades ahead of its time when environmental and human rights campaigner Anita Roddick founded it in a backstreet shop in Brighton in 1976. She demanded that all products be ethically sourced and cruelty-free, and customers were encouraged to bring their bottles back to the store to be refilled to reduce plastic waste.
Roddick’s vision – and products – were a hit worldwide. She argued that “businesses have the power to do good” and should “exist to fight for a fairer, more beautiful world” – as well as make money. Customers were mobilised in a series of campaigns to pressure governments, which led to changes to animal testing laws in 22 countries.
Within a few years The Body Shop brand was a household name, and its products were proudly displayed in bathrooms in the UK and around the world. And, perhaps uniquely, at that time, many were used by men as well as women.
As The Body Shop prepares to call in administrators, here are some of the products for which it became best known.
In the 1970s, musk scents were popular among hippy communities. Roddick brought the trend to the mainstream with the launch of The Body Shop’s white musk range in 1981. It quickly became – the company claims and perhaps few disagree – “the signature scent of a generation”. In case you were wondering what is actually in it, the blend includes “clean aldehydes, jasmine absolute, lily of the valley and sensual musk” and it is designed to produce a “clean and floral fragrance [that] awakens sensuality and confidence”.
The Body Shop launched body butter in 1992 after Roddick learned that women in Ghana had been using shea butter to nourish dry skin for generations. Back home in West Sussex, Roddick experimented in her kitchen and the first of many types – mango – was born. The product was named by Roddick’s daughter Sam, who while preparing a slice of toast is reported to have said: “It’s like butter … for your body.”
The scent, described as being like warm summer berries, garden picnics and country cottages, was so popular that it sparked petitions when The Body Shop discontinued it. Online perfume outlets jumped to fill the gap, with one stating: “Body Shop discontinued Dewberry, they must be crazy! Our customers love it! Dewberry is our bestselling fragrance oil, because it’s so beautiful, and so hard to find these days!”
A collection of 10 Body Shop bath pearls from the 1980s sold on eBay for £25 before Christmas. The skin dissolved in water, releasing fragrant oils and transforming the bathing experience for millions. They were also discontinued but now “they’re back and cooler than ever”, according to TikTok, where videos of people using them are surprisingly popular.
The Body Shop is credited with popularising the use of loofahs and other plant sponges for exfoliating and cleansing skin. They come from the fruits of vine-growing luffa plants, which are part of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae) making them relatives of watermelons, cucumbers and pumpkins. When a luffa fruit dries out and is peeled, you are left with a fibrous interior that can be used as a sponge. You can follow this guide from the Natural History Museum to grow your own at home.