Shower Gel & Body Wash

Ethical shopping guide to Shower Gel, from Ethical Consumer

Ethical shopping guide to Shower Gel, from Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

This product guide includes:

  • Ethical and environmental ratings for 35 brands of shower gel and body wash
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Spotlight on L'Oreal
  • Discussion on bar v. liquid soap


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Our ratings are live updated scores from our primary research database. They are based on primary and secondary research across 23 categories - 17 negative categories and 6 positive ones (Company Ethos and Product Sustainability). Find out more about our ethical ratings


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Best Buys

as of March 2017

As our ratings are constantly updated, it is possible that company ratings on the score table may have changed since this report was written.


The best buys are those companies which: 

1. get at least middle for supply chain AND 

2. are certified organic OR 

3. have received a best rating for their animal testing policies.


Odylique, Neal’s Yard and Green People pass all three criteria.


The following get middle for supply chain and get a best rating for animal testing:

Caurnie, Faith in Nature, Pure Nuff, Lush, Weleda


The following get middle for supply chain and are certified organic: Bentley Organics

to buy

Image: Green People


Image: Neals Yard


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Ethical Business
Directory Links

  • Beauty Kitchen Ltd    view ethical directory profile >

    Beauty Kitchen is a brand new, ethical, beauty brand that uses only 100% natural ingredients in all of its products...










 Related Content

Cosmetics & toiletries sector report

Last updated: March 2017




Shower gel and body wash


In 2015, the UK’s soap, bath and shower gel market was estimated to be worth around £676 million, with just three brands – Carex, Dove and Imperial Leather – accounting for a 48% share.[1] 

However, as the table above shows there are many companies offering alternatives which are either organic, made without the use of animal ingredients or palm oil free. 

This guide covers brands which produce shower gel, however showering with soap bars will have a lower environmental impact because they do not require the use of plastic bottles. See Ethical Consumer’s guide to soap. 


Image: soap in ethical shopping guide


How often do you shower?

Showering was found to be the biggest single use of water in the home in 2013. It use equated to one quarter of the massive 9 billion litres of used by UK households every day.

However its not just the use of water that is an issue, having a shower is also said to get rid of good bacteria living on your skin; dries out your skin and hair and washes chemicals into water systems.

Doctors have stated that the overuse of soap removes the skin’s natural protective oils and good bacteria.

As Donnachadh McCarthy in the Guardian rightly points out “the only real beneficiaries of over-frequent baths and showers are the companies that make and market soaps and shampoos.” He called for people to revert back to the once a week shower.

In 2015 a study revealed that only 21% of women surveyed took a shower or bath each day and more than one third showered every three days. Another study by the Energy Saving Trust in 2013 found the average Briton showers 4.4 times a week, and take 1.3 baths. Stating “People living in larger households with more people take fewer showers each week, but stay in them longer.”



Toxic chemicals

At Ethical Consumer, we have rated all shower gel brands for their toxic chemicals policies. Those companies which received a best rating had a policy which has banned the use of parabens, phthalates and triclosan (see our toxics feature for why we have chosen these chemicals).

As you can see from the table below, the majority of the brands have either committed to not using any of the three toxics or have committed to banning one or two of them.

Table: Toxic Chemicals




Vegan and organic brands


Companies which are suitable for vegans or vegetarians or are made with organic products have been marked on the table using the symbols A and O. See our feature: organic certification schemes. 

Vegan shower gel:

Bentley Organics range was said to be suitable for vegans.

The following brands were certified by the Vegan Society: Faith-in-Nature and Lush. 

The following brands were certified by the Vegetarian Society: Neal’s Yard.


Organic shower gel:

The following brands were certified organic by the Soil Association: Bentley Organics and Odylique. 

Sante is certified organic by BHID while Weleda is certified by Natrue. 


Animal testing

Although the testing of cosmetics on animals has been banned in the EU, this is not the case everywhere else in the world.  The EU’s REACH legislation has complicated the issue.  We cover these issues in more detail in our feature: global report - ending animal testing.

Ethical Consumer rates all companies selling cosmetics on their animal testing policy. Companies will score a best rating if they have a policy not to test on animals, have a fixed cut-off date (a date after which none of their products or ingredients will have been tested on animals), and are not selling to markets where animal testing of products is required by law.

The following brands received Ethical Consumer’s best rating for animal testing: Aesop, Avalon, BullDog, Caurnie, Faith-in-Nature, Green People, Honesty, Logona, Lush, Odylique, Neal’s Yard, Pure Nuff, Sante and Weleda.


Palm oil

Palm oil and palm oil derivatives have become an important component in many body-care products. In particular, it is used for its viscosity and as a skin conditioning agent.

Odylique, Caurnie, Pure Nuff and Honesty all made products without the use of palm oil. 

Lush also receive Ethical Consumer’s best rating for their palm oil policy. 

The new column on our expanded table shows how all the companies rank on their palm oil policy and practice.




Company Profile

L’Oréal (whose brands include Garnier, Elvive, The Body Shop, Maybelline and Ambre Solaire) is the world’s largest cosmetics company. It is part owned by Nestlé and part owned by Liliane Bettencourt, the daughter of the company’s founder and the 11th richest person on earth.

Over the past few years, L’Oréal has been at the centre of a high-level French political scandal over tax avoidance and alleged illegal donations to French conservative politicians who, it is claimed, were given envelopes stuffed with cash at the Bettencourt’s mansion.

Journalists reporting on the case said that they were intimidated, and that they suffered mysterious burglaries, with computers containing details of the case being stolen. The police investigation is still ongoing. The affair has also brought up L’Oréal’s historical roots in French pro-Nazi groups.

In addition to its alleged donations to right wing politicians, L’Oréal is itself involved in right-wing political lobbying. In 2012, Jean-Paul Agon, the head of the company, was widely publicised as speaking vitriolically against François Hollande’s plan to introduce a 75% tax rate on earnings over €1 million (L’Oréal’s own CEO is currently paid €2,200,000 plus bonuses). The company is also a member of several free trade lobby groups and, in 2014, it spent $80,000 lobbying US politicians.


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1 Mintel Soap, Bath and Shower Products - UK - February 2016



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