Genesis Villanueva is a Vancouver-based product supervisor at Lush Cosmetics, working in the factory's secret 'Glitter Room'. The following story was told to Kelsey Castañon and edited for length and clarity.
I’ve been at Lush for six Christmases already. That's how you know someone works at Lush: They'll say, "I've been here for X amount of Christmases." It's how we count years. I've been a product supervisor for four, and as long as I've worked here, we've used 100% plastic-free and biodegradable glitter.
My day starts at 5 in the morning. I'll wake up, watch How I Met Your Mother, and make some breakfast. Then I'll go in to the factory a little before my 7 AM shift to make sure we have all the raw materials we need to make the products that day, like fruits and vegetables. Right now, there's been a lot of focus on the glitter room because we use it for our new solid bath oils.
The room itself looks like a big walk-in closet. It's not huge — just about 15 feet x 35 feet — but fits 12 people comfortably. On one side of the room, there are tables against the wall. On the other, you'll see shelves upon shelves of glitter. We have about 16 different colours and kinds that we use in more than 10 products — any kind of glitter you want, we've got. Everyone is pretty focused in there: We pack and roll glitter onto around 5,000 Lush products a day. We mix the products into a bowl of glitter like we're tossing a salad until it's completely coated with sparkle. We're in there all day, so of course sometimes our hands cramp up. If someone needs a break, they'll step out, take a little walk, grab some coffee, and do some micro-stretches.
Certain products are easy, like [solid body tints] Shimmy Shimmy and Black Stockings, because they only require a single coat of lustre on the outside. You just put the naked product in the bowl and roll it around. But others are more meticulous and need extra attention — like the solid bath oils, which are very delicate and crumble easily. You have to first coat them in glitter and then wrap each piece individually by hand.
Sometimes I wish we could have a glitter building, as opposed to just a room. The small size means we can only work on one product at a time, otherwise it could get cross-contaminated. But it's fun. In the factory, there are different rooms for making different things, but what's unique is that each one has its own boombox system that plays songs based on the personality of the room. In the glitter room, we've been playing a lot of 'Milkshake' and 'Flashlight.' Sometimes we play Celine Dion's 'Beauty and the Beast' and dance. It really depends on the day. We'll also put up weird posters — once, there was a nine-foot-tall Santa on the wall. It's a super fun, quirky factory.
The most rewarding part of my day is at the end of a shift, when we tally up the number of products packed to see if we hit our target. We almost always do — and seeing the joy on everybody's faces is so fun. People usually leave at 3:30 PM, but I stay until 4. The glitter comes home with me, too. Everyone who works in that room leaves looking like a disco ball. At home, everything from my pillowcases to my fancy shoes are covered in it — I love it. The only thing that works to get the glitter off is soaking it in water. Tape doesn't work — people always think it does, but it does not.
After a stressful day — usually if we don't have enough raw materials or glitter or boxes — I'll come home and use [the bath melt] Dreamtime. Sometimes, I just want to have dinner and pass out, and Dreamtime helps to relax and calm me. I'm a big fan of bath bombs. Working at Lush, it kind of comes with the territory.