The Honest Company, founded in 2011 by Hollywood actress Jessica Alba quickly became a large player in the world of non-toxic and eco-friendly products.
At launch, they first offered products in the baby care, home cleaning and personal care markets, and in 2015 they launched Honest Beauty, a separate entity offering skincare and makeup products.
With a name like “The Honest Company”, the brand is willingly putting itself under a microscope, and that’s come at a cost. They’ve been the target of several lawsuits over the years, and it’s been revealed that some of their products aren’t as eco-friendly or non-toxic as you might think.
Let’s take a closer look at the Honest Company and their controversies over the years.
Honest Company Diapers: Not As Eco-Friendly As You Thought
The Honest Company’s diapers are a popular product, often heralded for their eco-friendly and non-toxic nature.
However, the diapers are not nearly as eco-friendly as the company would like you to believe. While they do some things better than traditional competitors, such as using totally chlorine-free wood pulp made from renewable forests, they still use polypropylene and polyethylene, petroleum-derived plastics, in the inner layer.
Not only is this layer coming into direct contact with your baby’s skin, but diapers that use plastics could never be truly considered eco-friendly, even if their FAQ on their website would like to make you think so.
There are several companies doing a superior job at creating non-toxic and eco-friendly diapers; in fact, some diapers are even biodegradable and made of renewable bamboo. The Honest Company has a long way to go before they can actually call their diapers eco-friendly.
Honest Company Wipes: A Greenwashing Product
Honest’s wipes are another issue. They’re not eco-friendly, even though the brand would like you to believe so.
The front of the package claims that they’re biodegradable, and the fine print on the back says they “will biodegrade & compost in municipal/industrial facilities according to ASTM D5338 & OECD 331 standards.”
There’s a problem here: they’re made of rayon. It’s true that rayon is derived from plant fiber, but rayon isn’t biodegradable by legal definition of the word. For a product to be truly biodegradable, it must “completely decompose into elements found in nature in a reasonably short time” which rayon will not do.
Since these wipes are ending up in a landfill, calling them eco-friendly would be a stretch.
Limonene & Linalool: Ingredients You Might Want To Avoid
Two ingredients of concern in several Honest products are limonene and linalool. Limonene is found in the rind of citrus peels, and linalool is found in various flowers and plants. Both are typically used as a fragrance in personal care products.
The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) of the European Union declares limonene and linalool as well-recognized allergens and of high concern. The allergenic reaction is typically via contact with the skin, so it’s of most concern in Honest’s personal care products.
The Honest Company’s personal care products that contain limonene or linalool:
The following products contain either limonene or linalool (besides unscented versions)
- All bubble bath
- All shampoo + body wash
- All conditioner
- Baby lotion
- Baby shampoo + body wash
- Prime + perfect face mask
- Everything Primer
- All foundations
- 3-in-1 detox mud mask
- Deep Hydration Face Cream
While these ingredients aren’t necessarily ingredients you must avoid, it’s good to know about them.
Controversies & Lawsuits
The Honest Company has been the focus of several controversies and lawsuits over the years. Let’s take a closer look at them:
In 2015, the company reformulated its sunscreen, leading to an explosion of complaints from users claiming they suffered extensive sunburns after using the sunscreen as directed. This resulted in multiple lawsuits and ultimately caused the company to completely discontinue its line of sunscreens.
In 2016, the brand faced a lawsuit over their baby formula. The formula was labeled as “organic” and certified such by the USDA. Ultimately the lawsuit was dismissed because the company was following laws and their product was legitimately organic as per US law.
In 2017, the company agreed to pay $1.55 million in a class-action lawsuit over claims that the company misled customers about the ingredients in its laundry detergent, dish soap and multipurpose cleaner. This lawsuit stems from a Wallstreet Journal investigation that found their products contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) when they claimed the products did not.
The brand quickly offered a rebuttal to the investigation, claiming that the products don’t use SLS, but instead use Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS), a less irritating and safer ingredient.
However, the brand ultimately decided to settle the lawsuit, claiming that they did no wrongdoing but that drawing the lawsuit out in court would be a long and expensive process.
Again in 2017, the brand settled to the tune of $7.3 million because of a class-action lawsuit over deceptive labeling. Specifically, the lawsuit was over products labeled “natural” but actually included synthetic and potentially dangerous chemicals. As part of the lawsuit, the company agreed to no longer use the phrase “no harsh chemicals, ever” on products that contain methylisothiazolinone or cocamidopropylamine oxide.
For products that are labeled “natural,” “naturally derived,” “plant-based” or “plant-derived,” The Honest Company will define those terms on its website in language based on applicable regulatory or statutory requirements.
It’s not that The Honest Company is a bad company, but they’re guilty of greenwashing. Even the name of the company itself is meant to make you believe the brand is eco-friendly and trustworthy, but that’s not quite the truth.
Their diapers and wipes are toted to be eco-friendly, but since they’re not compostable or recyclable, that’s a misleading claim. They also use a lot of plastics in their packaging.
While currently the brand doesn’t use any ingredients that are outright dangerous, they were caught using SLS in their soaps and detergents in the past.
All in all, the brand is okay in terms of eco-friendliness and ingredients. Don’t believe that the diapers or wipes are eco-friendly. There are actual eco-friendly diapers on the market, and the same goes with eco-friendly wipes.
That’s not to speak of the quality of the products themselves, but the personal care and baby products are generally good in terms of ingredients.
Just by existing, The Honest Company has probably done a lot to convince consumers to think more about the products they’re using, and caused other companies to think about what they’re offering the world in their products and their impact on our health and the environment.