The Body Shop Versus Body Time

I see that L’Oreal has purchased The Body Shop, the well-known beauty chain much vaunted for its “no animal testing,” environmentally friendly and wholesome image. I’m afraid The Body Shop’s sort of never had that luster for me, however.

It involves my face moisturizing lotion. What kind of a man uses face lotion? One smart enough to listen to women.

Back when I was in college, I started getting really dry skin on my face. I couldn’t understand why. I tried various after shave lotions, and they were no help. Finally, a friend of mine said I needed a moisturizing lotion. The shaving was leaving my skin dry, and alcohol based after shave lotions were making things worse. I tried something she recommended, and it worked great. Dry skin no more.

About a year after that, an old girlfriend gave me a different brand of lotion she got from a place called The Body Shop. This was in 1988, years before The Body Shop was everywhere. And more important, it was back when The Body Shop was the name of two entirely different companies, one in Northern California, the other based in the UK.

I discovered the companies were different when I tried to purchase more lotion later that year when in England. I went into The Body Shop, but they didn’t carry the product I wanted. In fact, they had no idea what I was talking about, much less the custom “Rain” scent I wanted.

Both Body Shops shared the same idea of being an ethical business. Both sold beauty products. From what I can tell, the Californian-based company seems to have been the originator of the idea (history here; opened in 1970) and the UK Body Shop founder Anita Roddick seems to have been inspired by that (history here; opened in 1976). It’s not something I’ve seen mentioned when reading the official (UK) Body Shop literature, and certainly I never see it mentioned in popular accounts of Roddick’s success. The idea just seems to have sprung directly from her own mind. Body Flop is a very good article that looks at just who inspired whom.

Roddick, of course, rode her company into a mega success. What about the California company? It’s still going. It changed its name to Body Time soon after the The Body Shop (UK version) wanted to enter the US market, through a licensing agreement.

Being over in the UK, you often get the story of the big bad American firm swooping in to gobble up and change the UK landscape. Hello Starbucks! So ironically, little Body Time gives me some hope that the US isn’t the only country to steamroll over the world. They chose to stay small, and it’s the Body Shop that seems to be on every street corner these days.

Ironically, I ran out of my Body Time face lotion last month. I’ll get some more on my next trip back to California in May. With a slight pang of guilt, I bought some to keep me going — from The Body Shop.