Once Again, Tests Show Jessica Alba’s Honest Company isn’t so Honest

Jessica Alba has developed a personal care and cleaning product empire based on the premise that her products are “safer” that other brands on the market. But once again, testing reveals that one of her popular products contains ingredients she likes to claim could be harmful to consumers.

This week, The Wall Street Journal reports that two independent lab tests of the Honest Company’s liquid laundry detergent contain a chemical called sodium lauryl sulfate, SLS. Alba’s company markets its products as “Honestly free of” SLS and in Alba’s book, “The Honest Life,” she claims SLS is a “toxin.” Both labs found “significant levels” of SLS in Honest’s detergent, roughly the same amount as found in Tide. (Honest disputes the independent labs’ results.)

SLS is an inexpensive, almost completely biodegradable synthetic soap made from coconut oil, palm kernel oil, or petroleum. It’s used in a number of cleaning products, including detergents, shampoo, and toothpaste. SLS is widely tested, been used for decades and there’s no evidence the ingredient is toxic, but it can irritate skin in a small number of people.

Consumers are willing to pay the higher prices the Honest Company charges for its products because they believe Alba’s marketing that these products use fewer chemicals and are safer for their family. Yet the Honest Company’s messaging about chemicals has changed significantly. According to the article:

During the Journal’s reporting, Honest made changes to wording on its website, including revising the description of its “Honestly Free Guarantee.” It used to say its products are “Honestly free of” dozens of ingredients, including SLS. Now it says the products are “Honestly made without” those ingredients. Honest also removed claims that other companies use “risky” or “toxic” ingredients that it doesn’t use.

Despite their own marketing hype, there’s little evidence the Honest Company’s products are any “safer” for consumers than traditional brands. And in the case of its sunscreen, there are reports it might not actually protect consumers from the sun! For more about the Honest Company’s attempt to profit off scaring consumers about safe ingredients, check out Dr. Joseph Perrone’s op-ed here.