The Berkeley, Calif. The Body Shop that inspired Dame Anita Roddick’s UK The Body Shop was formerly C.J.’s Old Garage, an auto body shop. Re-purposing the old garage was important not only in providing a clever pun for a name, but in serving as a metaphor for the earth-friendly ideals of its hippie creators, Peggy Short and Jane Saunders, who sold a line of naturally scented hand cut soaps and lotions in reusable plastic bottles. Six years after visiting The Body Shop in Berkeley, in the spirit of recycling valued by Ms. Short and Ms. Saunders, Ms. Roddick opened The Body Shop in the UK, "reusing" the company name, hippie-dippy aesthetic, and even product line from the Berkley original. But Ms. Roddick’s use of the Body Shop name didn’t result in fortuitous pun as did the Berkeley store. Her store was positioned between two funeral parlors, which made the name seem rather tasteless. Though late Ms. Roddick was deemed a pioneer of corporate social responsibility, her company that produces if not mostly natural but naturally inspired products, rose to the second largest cosmetics franchise in the world from a stolen idea. The Body Shop is now owned by L’Oreal, the largest cosmetics franchise in the world.

The Good

Through it’s idealistic beginnings, to at times perhaps losing its way, The Body Shop has had a bit of a comeback of late, producing a series of effective products with a list of natural ingredients including moringa seeds, pomegranate, hemp, squalane, bisabolol, soybean oil, jojoba oil, apricot kernel oil, olive oil, organic honey, aloe leaf juice, apple extract, caffeine, vitis vinifera extract, and vitamin E. In sourcing many of these ingredients, The Body Shop touts a “Trade Not Aid” policy enacting fair labor practices, safe working environments, and fair pay.

The Bad

The Body Shop gives you products that feature natural, fair-trade sourced ingredients, but often with chemical fillers. The Natrulift line, for example, contains chemical solvents, silicones, stabilizers, and fragrance additives. Many of the products contain the toxic preservative phenoxyethanol.

The Truth

In 2006, Dame Anita Roddick sold The Body Shop to beauty behemoth L’Oreal. In 2007, Ms. Roddick, The Body Shop’s outspoken ambassador of the company’s ideals and social mission, tragically passed away from Hepatitis C. The Body Shop, once a small operation rooted in hippie culture, transformed an idea into a multi-national lifestyle brand on the scale of Starbucks within a matter of decades. Through that rapid growth, the company, perhaps, lost sight of its humble, natural, recyclable roots and changed their definition of socially conscious and natural to include products that merely featured the “it” ingredients of the time, while the products were filled with cheep chemicals to maximize profits. Marta and other TIA reviewers have, however, discovered a handful of The Body Shop products containing shockingly powerful, natural ingredients (albeit with certain chemical caveats) at affordable prices. In the hands of glossy, profiteers, L’Oreal, it will be interesting to see if The Body Shop will stay true to it’s Berkley roots, or if it’s image will be exploited for maximum corporate earnings.

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