Made by us, named by you: Beauty Sleep face and body mask
Lush co-founders and cosmetics aficionados Mark Constantine and Helen Ambrosen are in the middle of a spirited virtual debate. Not about ‘the new normal’ post-lockdown, socially-distant shopping, or even who dyed Mark’s hair khaki that one time, no, this is about whose idea new face and body mask Beauty Sleep was.
“It was definitely you,” insists Helen over the webcam.
“Was it though?” questions Mark from Constantine HQ. “I don’t remember…”
“Oh yes,” declares Helen, “you had a dream.”
“Ah,” comes the reply and he protests no more. During this call, I have learned that a surprising number of Lush products began life as one of Mark’s dreams. This one, however, is particularly splendid: a decadent mask composed of sleep-inducing lemon verbena and valerian root (extracted in honey sourced from the Barro Vermelho community in Brazil, no less), hydrating mullein leaf and linseed decoction and gently polishing ground organic aduki beans. Inspired by Mark’s near-constant quest for a good night’s sleep, this sumptuous mask combines royally rich ingredients for the skin with herbs renowned for their sedative qualities and a dollop of Lush’s most exquisite facial moisturiser, Gorgeous.
“Yes, it was me, wasn’t it?” recalls Mark. “I had a dream about a face mask that would be a sleep product. Helen and I have a very unusual relationship when it comes to invention. I like to compare us to Lennon and McCartney. Did I call you or text you, Helen?”
“You told me when we were in the lab,” says Helen (the lab being the same first-floor room above the very first Lush shop at 29 High Street, Poole, that they have shared for decades).
“One of the first things you asked for was a botanic gel. So I made this softening gel with linseed and mullein; then it was, ‘Can we have some coconut?’”
“I think I just wanted a coconut mask?” ponders Mark. “It’s a nice base, very softening…”
“Then it was sleep herbs; that’s the lovely valerian and lemon verbena in a soothing botanical gel -”
“I remember why,” intercuts Mark, “Liz [Weir - fellow Lush co-founder and Mark’s first business partner] and I used to make Herb Pillows, decades ago for Constantine & Weir [Mark and Liz’s very first herbal cosmetics venture]. We had them screen-printed and would stuff them with sleep herbs, so I wanted those same herbs made into an infusion as the base of the face mask.”
He thinks for a moment. “What we’re doing is starting with a basic premise and adding a bit of this, a bit of that, until it’s almost overflowing with goodness. It’s pure self-indulgence, because, having had a bath at 4pm for 98 days now, it’s just what I want. I want a bit of lustre. So I’ll call up Helen and say, “Can we put a lustre in?” And she’ll come back with something like, “It’s self-preserving, you know... “ And I’ll be like, “Is it?” That would be one of the responses if I’m being an idiot.”
Mark’s 4pm baths have become common knowledge amongst Lush staff during lockdown. Try to schedule a meeting at 3.30pm and you’re cutting it fine. It’s the time when he slathers himself in the new Lush inventions that arrive freshly on his doorstep, but there’s more to this ritual than work.
“I read some years ago that you make more mistakes at 4pm because you’re tired than at any other time of the day,” explains Mark. “And so if you have a bath at 4pm, you won’t make some stupid mistake that you’ll regret or have to correct. Also, I stuff my face at 4pm. Crisps, peanuts; what time’s dinner again? I never make it through. So if I’m having a bath at 4pm, I’m not eating, I’m not making a mistake, and I’m relaxing. And, of course, there’s this whole piece of work that says if you have a bath at 4pm that you’ll sleep better at night. Because that’s the other thing - I’m tired, especially if I’ve been up since 5am. And I’m definitely sleeping better at night.”
Like Daddy-O shampoo, Beauty Sleep was a product Mark invented for himself that was just too good not to share. After a year’s worth of tinkering from Helen, (and 25 different versions tried and tested by Mark in his 4pm bath), they released it as an online lockdown exclusive in March 2020, asking customers to send in their name suggestions. The winning title, ‘Beauty Sleep’, was suggested by a handful of customers.
“Beauty Sleep is so much better than my name,” says Mark, who toyed with both Sleepy Go Bye Byes and Facey McFacemask, “and it’s from our customers. I love that. It reminds me of when we first started Lush and we asked people for name suggestions, and they came back with loads of great ones, a lot of which made it into products. Fresh Farmacy was a suggestion for a name we could call the company and we used it for an existing facial soap.
Beauty Sleep sounds like a product we’ll still be selling in 20 years' time. That’s what a good name can do for a good product.”
Mark plans to alternate between Beauty Sleep and tingle-inducing, long-term bestseller, Mask Of Magnaminty. Fans of the latter, famed for its invigorating minty freshness on the skin, will find Beauty Sleep has a richer consistency, as well as a settling effect on the mind encouraged by that generous spoonful of Gorgeous. Lush’s most luxurious moisturiser contains a wealth of wellbeing and beautifying oils: cold-pressed evening primrose, neroli, avocado, and orange blossom to mention but a few.
“I really wanted that dollop of Gorgeous,” says Mark. “I liked the combination of sleep oils and neroli because it’s so good for wellbeing. Take the lid off and fill me up! It’s got to be a dollop, though knowing Helen she will have precisely measured that dollop of Gorgeous…”
“It really gives that lovely, softened texture that you wanted,” Helen agrees. “You can feel the Gorgeous in there.”
Despite collaborating for over 30 years, Mark and Helen’s passion for perfectionism in product development shows no signs of abating as they quickly debate new upcoming inventions (and no, I’m not allowed to reveal spoilers). Mark is also full of praise for Helen’s work in breathing life into the concept. “You’ve got to have a lightness of touch,” he says. “And you’ve got to love the customers and love what they say. It’s just a pleasure, fiddling about, getting it right. That’s how we work; it’s a long process. You’ve got to know it well. You’re much more likely to make something someone else will like if you really like it yourself. And then you come to the conclusion: would I buy this? I think it’s pretty obvious that I would. And then I’m happy because I think we have something really beautiful.”
Is this the most indulgent mask Lush has ever made?
“Oh, I think so, yes,” concedes Helen.
“It’s definitely the most self-indulgent,” says Mark. “At 4 o’ clock in the afternoon, have a bath, and use this face mask to sleep like a dream when you go to bed. It may even stop you making bad decisions at 4pm too,” he twinkles.