The Honest Company: Is Jessica Alba’s new company just a hype?

When I heard Jessica Alba, the actress who played the invisible woman, Sue Storm, on Fantastic Four and so many other popular films,  was starting an eco-friendly family product company, I had mixed feelings.

I’ll be honest – Man, I can’t use that word without thinking about this company  now! – I thought, “Oh geeez….another pretty faced celebrity using her status to make a buck.” I mean, what does she know about chemicals in bath and beauty products? And the environment? Does being a mommy celebrity, all of a sudden, make you an activist/chemist/environmentalist?

Then, it dawned on me; I am just like Jessica! OK, maybe not exactly since I’m not as pretty as she, I’m certainly not a celebrity (if you don’t count my stint at Martha Stewart’s), and I don’t have two nickels to rub together to form a company. But one thing we have in common; we became fiercely protective of our babies when we became new moms.

And guess what? That is a damn important enough reason to start being conscientious about all the toxins in the environment we are exposed to. Jessica revealed, during an interview on The Green Divas Radio Show that I co-hosted, that she had a pivotal moment after she had her first baby. She furnished the nursery with non-toxic materials, used VOC paint and carpet. She restuffed furniture with non-toxic materials, and didn’t use flame retardants on fabric.

But when she tried to find safe and non-toxic diapers, lotions, soaps for her baby and cleaners for her home, she had a hell of a time finding them. And when she did find a reputable, non-greenwashing company, they only made ‘one thing’ and not everything she would normally use in her life. So she had a “A-ha!” moment and started The Honest Company with Chris Gavigan, the former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World.

Nothing like starting your own company because you couldn’t find what you were looking for! *Sigh* Someday, that’ll be me. 

The Honest Company: The Definition

Because of all the media appearances Jessica did when the company launched, including the interview she did at The Green Divas Radio, I already knew what her company stood for.

But I wondered, why the name “The Honest Company”?  So I looked up the word, “Honest”, in Webster’s Dictionary.

Webster’s dictionary’s definition of “honest’:

  1. free from fraud or deception legitimate, truthful
  2. genuine, real
  3. humble, plain 
  4. reputable, respectable
  5. creditable, praiseworthy
  6. marked by integrity
  7. marked by free, forthright, and sincere expression, frank
  8. innocent, simple

And guess what? All these words describe The Honest Company. The company is truthful about the ingredients and is not deceptive. The products are genuinely real, simple (ingredients), free (of toxic chemicals) and reputable. The people behind the products are respectable, has integrity, sincere, and credible. Honestly! I really can’t use the word without thinking about this company now! How clever! The list of things they are doing for social causes, environment, and health are too numerous to mention here but you can read the company’s detailed principles and mission on their About Us page for more info.

It came out of necessity. It came out of me being a mom….Looking for the safest and healthiest products for your home and your child can be hard and confusing.  ~Jessica Alba

The Honest Company: My Review

Well, as you know, a company can talk the talk but do they walk the walk? To find out, I requested a sample pack so I can test them for myself. The company sent me this set pictured above. At first, I questioned the brightly colored box and bubble wrap packaging. But upon further reading, the bubble wraps were biodegradable and recyclable. The shipping box, brightly painted blue interior, was made from recycled paper and designed to be reused as a storage box, shoe box, craft box, for shipping or recycled. Clever reuse ideas and great instructions on “why’s” and “how” to reuse the packaging material were written on the box! Pretty and educational. Awesome.

The plastic bottles and tubes are all recyclable, although, I am waiting for the day when they’ll offer refills so that we can save the plastics and re-use them. Reusing as long as I can is still better than sending them off to be recycled. Don’t you think?

Ok, what’s inside  those pretty bottles…

In general, all of the products DO NOT CONTAIN: SLS, parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances & dyes, formaldehyde, petrochemicals & common allergens. Hypoallergenic / Tear-free / Vegan / Dermatologist & Allergy Tested / Biodegradable. And cruelty free with no animal testing. (as per company)

So far so good.

SHAMPOO 
PROS:  If you are used to sudsy shampoo, you won’t find the abundance of foam in this one. The shampoo doesn’t contain SLS, a surfactant that creates suds but irritating to sensitive skin. So it’s great that SLS is not present. This is also a body cleanser so it has a dual purpose and is a definitely a plus since I love having minimum number of bottles around the bathroom and in the kitchen. Remember my huge glass jar soap dispenser tutorial for the kitchen because I like dish liquid soap and hand soap in one? The shampoo was  light and my hair came out squeaky clean. The faint fragrance was there but didn’t linger too long which is excellent since I don’t like really strong fragrant shampoos or conditioners. A small amount did the job on my shoulder length hair.

CONS: While it doesn’t contain many synthetic chemicals to irritate sensitive skin and it only contains safe and even some certified organic ingredients, there were two things in the shampoo that my kids might not be able to tolerate: Sodium Benzoate and Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein (see below), due to Eczema and wheat allergies. The amount of these two ingredients might be minute for my grown kids but if they were infants or babies, I don’t know how they would react. Actually, I don’t know if I’d let them use it even now, if their skin was inflamed and exacerbated with Eczema.

The heavy duty plastic bottle for the shampoo and conditioner could have used a pump style design instead of the push down top. I know aesthetics is important but I’d put function before style. One of my biggest pet peeves when my kids were babies was having to maneuver the soap bottle while trying not to lose grip of a slippery wiggly baby. I reused a pump lotion bottle so I could dispense the soap with one hand. So a pump bottle would be safer for giving baby baths and convenient for big babies, like me. :)

CONDITIONER
PROS: I used to have thick, jet black silky hair that even Asian hairdressers envied. I had no bonus points in other departments of my body but my hair was always A+. Putting my fingers through the hair always made me smile. Then, I became the “woman of certain age” and lost my edge. *sigh* No conditioner helped. My hair has been coarse and lost its sheen. Putting my fingers through wasn’t as satisfying as they would get tangled and could not get through the rough strands. So I was curious to try this conditioner. And the conditioner worked like magic. I only needed a small a quarter sized dollop to transform my hair back to silky, soft, and manageable mangle. No build up or sticky feeling like other conditioners. I didn’t really have to blow dry my hair to make it look coiffed. I LOVED the way it made my hair feel soft and shiny again! If you have fine hair, you’ll definitely need less than a quarter sized dollop.

CONS: Again, it has Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein so while I personally have no problems with it, some people who are allergic to wheat might have issues. I don’t really know if it’s the same thing as ingesting wheat, but if you are allergic to wheat, I’d check it with your allergist to see if you would be OK with applying Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein on your skin. (See shampoo’s CONS for packaging)

HAND SOAP
PROS: gentle and faint fragrance of lemongrass and grapefruit made me want to wash my hands over and over again. It’s not strong but fragrant enough to make my hands smell like they were washed. And it didn’t make my hands squeak like natural oil was stripped away from my hands. I am washing my hands a million times a day; I don’t want a hand soap that will leave my hands dry.

CONS: According to EWG, Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a synthetic surfactant that can irritate skin and cause allergies. It also has Cocamidopropylamine Oxide which is a cleanser and a surfactant – I don’t know why they need to use both types of surfactants) – that can cause mild skin irritation. While they are better than SLS, still, it didn’t seem justified to use these irritants in place of SLS. The soap also contains a synthetic preservative, Phenoxyethanol that might cause contact dermatitis. Now, like I said, I don’t have issues with contact dermatitis but my kids have Eczema so I am very careful with chemical in all my cleansers and soaps. So I won’t be letting them use this particular hand soap, just in case.

FACE & BODY LOTION
PROS: Another great idea to combine two lotions in one! This is especially great for my kids as they tend to forget about their face when they use lotion because they are always rushing out of the bathroom after the shower. The lotion seems to just glide over the skin, as if it’s just coating the skin and not being absorbed. But it surprisingly got absorbed rather quickly, leaving my skin soft without feeling greasy. It also left no oily or greasy feeling on my face, although I can probably use more oil since my aged skin needs more moisturizing. And once again, there was a faint fragrance, albeit, it lingered a little longer than the hand soap, it was pleasant.

CONS: Personally, I thought the lotion was on the ‘light’ side. I think it’s heavy enough for an average person but if winters are dry like the one we had in the Northeast this past year, this lotion wouldn’t cut it in my house. I guess you can’t please everyone in every climate regions but I expect lotion to be a little heavier. But then again, my entire family always need heavier lotion so this is personal, I guess.

HEALING BALM
PROS: this thick, medicinal, certified organic balm is “da bomb“! My son’s dried scaly eczematous spot immediately ‘melted’ under this thick and gooey balm. In any other context, “thick gooey” might sound gross (except when you are eating caramel filled chocolate fudge) but for a parched and dried eczematous skin, it’s like an oasis in a desert. Honestly! (Damn, it’s that word again. If this was an affiliate marketing post, I could go to Cancun, Mexico by now!) He didn’t have to put this balm on repeatedly, as some other creams, as it did the trick for hours. Love this balm for emergency fixes of super dry skin spots. It will probably be great on elbows and heels in the winter or even in the summer when our heels get dried, since we don’t wear socks.

CONS: although it’s supposed to be “fragrance free”, the smell is a little strong on this one – almost like I smeared on Chinese herbal medicine. But it disappeared in a few minutes. If you are really sensitive to smell, it might take a little getting used to. Heck, I used to live on Chinese herbs so it didn’t bother me per se, but I noticed the fragrance. But on a positive note, that also means, it’s filled with herbs and oils that make up the balm. I’m just giving you a heads up.

DISH SOAP
PROS:no complaint here. Plant based, ultra-concentrated, hypoallergenic, biodegradable, pH neutral, and cruelty free. Also, free of phthalates, SLS/SLES, synthetic perfume, glycol, enzymes, dyes, phosphates, 1,4-dioxane, chlorine, DEA, formaldehyde, petrochemicals and caustics. And absolutely no smell to the soap which is totally awesome. I hate smelling dish soap as it tend to leave a lingering, flowery smell to my dishes even if it evaporates. Why add additional fragrance to dishes that your food comes in contact with? This “Free and Clear” is really free and clear of smell. And it’s gentle on my hands but squeakily (Yes, that’s a word!) cleans the dishes. I added a few drops to about a gallon of water to wash pots, cups and serving spoons and they came out sparkling clean without residues or having to rinse repeatedly. Just enough suds and enough of cleaning power. I can totally use this as hand soap too which I love!

CONS: this 16 oz bottle needs to be bigger or I would need to refill like every two weeks since we wash our hands and clean the dishes with one soap. Hopefully one day, they will sell refills like I said before.

LAUNDRY DETERGENT
PROS: Again, plant derived, pH neutral, biodegradable and cruelty free and free of SLS, synthetic perfume, glycol, enzymes, dyes, phosphates, 1,4-dioxane, chlorine, DEA, formaldehyde, petrochemicals, caustics, and optical brighteners. Since I make my own laundry detergent, trying this to compare to the result was kinda comparing apples to oranges. But since I don’t have to mix and measure four different ingredients and just pour one liquid, it was very convenient. (“Thank God we have ‘normal’ laundry detergent”, my kids exclaimed! Funny, aren’t they?) But to be honest, I didn’t do a test to compare my formula to this one so I couldn’t tell you if one takes out stain better than the other. And I was given a bottle that I can use only twice so who knows what the cumulative effect of repeated washing would be on the clothes.

CONS: Cost. I still think my recipe is cheaper but there is the inconvenience factor. So again, this is just a personal preference and not a performance issue.

“We are really embracing the fact that this is a journey and we are not saying that we are perfect at all times. But we are trying to be as real and authentic and really constantly challenging ourselves to constantly to do better.” ~Chris Gavigan

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Wow. I think this was the most thorough review I’ve done, ever, honestly! (Ok, I’ll stop overusing that word now. Thank God the review is almost over.) You should get an award for just for making it all the way down here. Don’t worry; there is something for your efforts at the end so bear with me a little longer.

OK, so overall, as products go, they are awesome. Here are my thoughts.

  • Overall, I LOVE the products. For what is worth, the company is not saying that they are perfect, as Chris Gavigan said above. They are researching constantly, and listening to their customers. They are making a journey, just like everyone else. I like their honesty.
  • Some critics say that they wish they can buy the products individually and not through a monthly subscription. But I can see why Jessica thought an automatic monthly delivery was a good idea. Heck, I’d love to have the products show up at my door automatically every month without worrying about ordering. But the truth is, everyone uses items differently. For example, since you can use the shampoo as a body cleanser, you’d use the shampoo faster than the conditioner. So you’d have to order those at different times. Also, what if you run out of one before your next delivery? You see, it gets confusing. Luckily, a little birdie told me that they are looking into more flexible ways in which we can buy their products, so I am waiting to see what they come up with.
  • The company is so damn honest and transparent! Really. You can find all the ingredients listed on their website, if not on the bottles. They say who they support and why. They indicate, ad nauseam, how they are sustainable and what eco practices they utilize. NOTHING is hidden.
  • Yeah, I nit picked a few chemicals here and there but if your skin is not that sensitive, then, they might not be an issue. Like anything you put on your skin, you have to test it on a small area and see if they’d bother you. Other than Benzyl Benzoate and Phenoxyethanol, other chemicals were mild irritants. And wheat protein is also questionable as to whether anyone allergic to wheat would react to exposure to “hydrolyzed” protein.
  • I’d LOVE refills. I hope they are looking into that option. All the plastic packaging makes me uneasy, even if they are recyclable. I rather see that we can refill them than to recycle all the bottles monthly. I saw on their Facebook page yesterday how you can poke holes in the laundry detergent cap to use the bottle as a watering can. Cute idea. :)

Overall mark for the line of products I received is 4 out of 5. If they take my suggestions, ahem, I’d give them 5 out of 5.

And to answer the question, “Is Jessica Alba’s new company just a hype?

Far from the truth. She is as real – no invisible Susie Storm here – and honest as it gets. There is no “hype” in Honest.Com. Just in the sneaky title of this post. 

For your reference:

  1. Sodium Benzoate (in shampoo and body cleanser) – food/ cosmetic preservative that has been found to cause some skin irritant
  2. Cocamidopropyl Betaine (in hand soap) – surfactant with mild skin irritation
  3. Cocamidopropylamine Oxide (in hand soap) – cleanser/surfactant with mild skin irritation
  4. Phenoxyethanol (in hand soap) - preservative and can cause contact dermatitis
  5. Benzyl Benzoate (in hand soap) – fragrance and antimicrobal agent can cause Contact Dermatitis
  6. Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein – maybe an  allergen for those with wheat allergies?

P.S. I think the term, “fragrance free” might indicate that they didn’t intentionally add any ingredients for fragrance but if herbs they used happen to be fragrant, and you smell it, then, it’s not a false claim, in my opinion.

GIVEAWAY TIME!

Yay! You made it. Here is a great giveaway for reading my review and making it all the way down here.

You have a choice of:

Diapers Bundle
A one-month supply* of premium, plant-based, ultra-absorbent, absolutely adorable baby diapers along with a one month supply of biodegradable wipes. ($79.95 value)
*one-month supply based on average use

OR

Family Essentials Bundle
A one-month supply of non-toxic body care and household cleaning products for your entire family. Package includes Honest Shampoo, Body Lotion, Hand Soap, Healing Balm, and Laundry Detergent. ($35.95 value)

Here are the giveaway rules: 

  • Must be aged 18 or older and live in the contiguous US to be eligible to win.
  • By entering the giveaway, you consent to being placed on a mailing list for promotional and other materials for The Honest Company. You may opt out of these communications at any time. Information about how to opt out will be included in all promotional emails and can also be obtained by calling Honest Support at 1.888.862.8818
  • Give­away is open to e-mail subscribers.
  • Giveaway will end at 12:00 AM EST on Sunday, April 29, 2012
  • Rafflecopter will be used to keep track of your entries and choosing the winner.
  • No pur­chase is nec­es­sary to enter the giveaway.
  • You must respond within three days after giveaway is closed to be eligible.

Disclosure: No monetary reward was given to me for this review. But I did receive the above mentioned items from The Honest Company for the review. The above mentioned prizes will be shipped to the winner of the giveaway directly from The Honest Company.

Finally, thanks for reading this far!

To enter the giveaway, log in below, using the Rafflecopter and read the instructions. There are several ways to enter to win either the Diaper or Family Essential Bundle from The Honest Company.

Good Luck!


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