Shower Gel

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 35 shower gel brands.

We also look at animal testing, toxic chemicals, shine a spotlight on the ethics of L'Oreal and give our recommended buys.

About 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.

What to buy

What to look for when buying shower gel or body wash:

  • Is it organic? This is a fail-safe way to avoid most of the nasty, artificial chemicals that are in so many products. And thereby also help to protect the environment.

  • Is it cruelty-free? 80% of the world still permits animal testing for cosmetics, although it is banned in the UK. The Cruelty-Free logo guarantees that the company is not animal testing anywhere in the world.

  • Could you buy a bar of soap instead? Soap bars use less plastic packaging, and because they are solid and therefore contain less water, have a lower carbon footprint in terms of transportation. Go for a soap bar if you want a more environmentally friendly option.

Best Buys

Our best buy brands are organic and/or get a best rating for animal testing:

 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying shower gel or body wash:

  • Does it contain palm oil? At its most unsustainable, palm oil is linked to mass deforestation and serious violations of human rights. Look for brands that commit to sourcing palm oil sustainably.

  • Does it contain toxics? The long and complex ingredients lists for shower gels often include toxic chemicals. These are bad for the environment as well as health.

  • Does the manufacturer use microbeads? Although these tiny pieces of plastics are now banned in the UK, lots of cosmetics companies use them in products elsewhere in the world. They are disastrous for marine-life, so avoid these companies.

Companies to avoid

We recommend avoiding Unilever brands because they received a worst rating for animal testing:

  • Dove
  • Lifebuoy
  • Lux
  • Lynx
  • Radox
  • Simple

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20)

Odylique bodywash [O A]

Company Profile: Essential Care (Organics) Ltd
16.5

Bentley Organics shower gel [A, O]

Company Profile: Bentley Organic Trading Limited
16

Neal's Yard shower gels [A, O]

Company Profile: Neal's Yard Remedies
16

Caurnie shower gel [A]

Company Profile: Caurnie Soap Co
15.5

Faith in Nature shower gel [A]

Company Profile: Faith in Nature Ltd
15.5

Green People shower gel [O,A]

Company Profile: Green People Company Ltd
15.5

Honesty shower gel [A]

Company Profile: Honesty Cosmetics
14.5

Pure Nuff shower gel

Company Profile: Pure Nuff Stuff Ltd
14.5

Yaoh Shower Gel [A]

Company Profile: Yaoh Ltd
14

Lush vegan shower gel [A]

Company Profile: Lush Cosmetics Ltd
13

Attitude shower gel [A]

Company Profile: Bio Spectra
12.5

Urtekram shower gel [A, O]

Company Profile: Midsona
12.5

Weleda Body Wash [A]

Company Profile: Weleda AG
12.5

Lavera Shower Gel [A, O]

Company Profile: Laverana GmbH & Co KG
12

Lush shower gel

Company Profile: Lush Cosmetics Ltd
12

Lavera Shower Gel [O]

Company Profile: Laverana GmbH & Co KG
11

Body Shop Shower Gel

Company Profile: Body Shop International plc
10.5

Aesop body cleanser

Company Profile: Aesop
9.5

Original Source shower gel

Company Profile: PZ Cussons PLC
9.5

Baylis and Harding shower gel

Company Profile: Baylis and Harding plc
9

Carex shower gel

Company Profile: PZ Cussons PLC
8.5

Imperial Leather shower gel

Company Profile: PZ Cussons PLC
8.5

L'Occitane shower gel

Company Profile: L'Occitane International SA
8.5

Sanctuary Spa shower gel

Company Profile: PZ Cussons PLC
8.5

Clarins shower

Company Profile: Clarins
8

Avalon Organics shower gel [A,O]

Company Profile: Avalon Organics
7.5

Molton Brown shower gel

Company Profile: Molton Brown Limited
7.5

Aveda body wash

Company Profile: Aveda
7

Avon shower gel

Company Profile: Avon Products Inc
7

Bulldog shower gel [S,A]

Company Profile: Bulldog Skincare Limited
7

Fa Shower Gel

Company Profile: Henkel AG & Co. KGaA
7

Origins body wash

Company Profile: Origins Natural Resources Inc
7

Nivea shower gel

Company Profile: Beiersdorf AG
6.5

Aveeno shower oil

Company Profile: Johnson & Johnson
6

Clean and Clear body wash

Company Profile: Johnson & Johnson
6

Johnson's shower gel

Company Profile: Johnson & Johnson
6

Logona shower gel [A][O]

Company Profile: Logocos Naturkosmetik AG
6

Sante shower gel

Company Profile: Sante Naturkosmetik
5.5

Dr Organic shower gel [O,A]

Company Profile: Holland & Barrett
5

Gillette shower gel

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Ivory body wash

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Olay shower gel

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Tom's of Maine body wash [A]

Company Profile: Tom's of Maine
4

Palmolive shower gel

Company Profile: Colgate-Palmolive Co
3.5

Sanex shower gel

Company Profile: Colgate-Palmolive Co
3.5

Superdrug shower gel

Company Profile: Superdrug Stores Plc
3

Boots shower gel

Company Profile: Boots UK Ltd
2

Soap & Glory shower

Company Profile: Boots UK Ltd
2

Dove shower gel

Company Profile: Home & Personal Care Division
1.5

Lifebuoy bodywash

Company Profile: Home & Personal Care Division
1.5

Lux shower gel

Company Profile: Home & Personal Care Division
1.5

Lynx shower gel

Company Profile: Unilever UK Ltd
1.5

Radox shower gel

Company Profile: Home & Personal Care Division
1.5

Simple shower gel

Company Profile: Simple Health & Beauty Group Limited
1.5

What is most important to you?

Animals
Environment
People
Politics
Product sustainability

Our Analysis

In 2015, the UK’s soap, bath and shower gel market was estimated to be worth around £676 million, with just three brands – CarexDove 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: shower gel

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.

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.

Best Middle (chemicals banned)  Worst

Attitude

Aesop (parabens)

Avon

Avalon

Aveeno (phthalates and triclosan)

Clarins

Bentley

Body Shop (parabens and phthalates)

Molton Brown

Caurnie

Boots (phthalates / triclosan)

Fa

Faith in Nature

Bulldog (parabens)

Nivea

Green People

Carex (triclosan)

Aveda

Honesty

Clean & Clear (phthalates and triclosan)

Gillette

Lavera

Dove (parabens with date for ending triclosan)

Ivory

L'Occitane

Imperial Leather (triclosan)

Olay

Neal's Yard

Johnson’s (phthalates and triclosan)

Simple

Odylique

Lifebouy (parabens with date for ending triclosan)

Superdrug

Pure Nuff

Logona (paraben)

 
Weleda

Lush (phthalates/triclosan)

 
 

Lux (parabens with date for ending triclosan)

 
 

Lynx(parabens with date for ending triclosan)

 
 

Original Source (triclosan)

 
 

Origins (parabens and phthalates)

 
 

Palmolive (parabens)

 
 

Radox (parabens with date for ending triclosan)

 
 

Sanctury (triclosan and parabens)

 
 

Sanex (parabens with date for ending triclosan)

 
 

Sante (paraben)

 
 

Soap & Glory (phthalates / triclosan)

 
 

Tom’s of Maine (parabens)

 
 

Urtekram (parabens)

 
 

Yaoh (parabens)

 

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.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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References

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