Jessica Alba on Being Honest
Actress and The Honest Company co-founder shares her non-toxic, eco-friendly vision of the future.
By Sharon Kehoe
Mom always said honesty is the best policy, and the story behind The Honest Company is no exception. One day, actress Jessica Alba, mother and co-founder of The Honest Company, had an allergic reaction to a baby-friendly laundry detergent. Surprised by this, she began researching the ingredients found in conventional baby products, but didn’t find enough information to make her feel comfortable using them.
Around that time, she picked up a book by former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World and father of three Christopher Gavigan called, “Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home.” Inspired, Alba dreamt of a product line combining her needs as a mother and Gavigan’s knowledge on non-toxic, plant-based baby products. Together with co-founders Brian Lee and Sean Kane, they formed The Honest Company.
Fast forward to today and The Honest Company is an established lifestyle brand making non-toxic, chemical-free baby products. From diapers and wipes to shampoos and detergents, The Honest Company prides its collection on being green and design-based.
Mothering caught up with Jessica Alba to learn more about The Honest Company’s products, its approach, and some special picks for holidays.
Mothering: How are your products effective if the usual cleaning ingredients found in major store brands aren’t included?
Jessica Alba: It’s a common misconception that one needs strong — or even harsh — synthetic chemicals to clean your house. But in reality these conventional cleaners actually pollute your home with toxins that are really bad for your health. If you think about it, they’re actually making the air you breathe and the surfaces you touch dirtier!
Our Honest cleaning products are effective at eliminating bacteria, germs, and viruses. Germ fighting in the home comes from thoroughly cleaning—even if it’s just with soap and water—not necessarily with antibacterial or harsh chemicals. It’s best to clean using non-petroleum based cleaning products, like those from Honest, or the old fashioned way with alcohol, lemon, and white vinegar. We avoid using harsh and toxic antibacterial chemicals like triclosan or benzalkonium chloride that are found in many antibacterial products, and opt to use ethyl alcohol derived from fermented corn sugars instead. Our Multi-Surface Cleaner is great for safely and effectively cleaning high chairs, bathrooms, and kitchen countertops because the ingredients work as natural disinfectants. And, a tip, our Fruit & Veggie Wash works too!
Mothering: Is it difficult creating products that are both eco-friendly and safe while being aesthetically pleasing?
Jessica Alba: When I co-founded Honest, I knew I wanted not only safe and effective products, but also ones that had stylish designs! Eco-friendly shouldn’t mean boring, so I wanted products that reflected a modern, colorful, and fashionable aesthetic. To arrive at the designs, like my favorite skull diapers, we draw inspiration from our daily lives, connect with fashion insiders, and work with our outstanding design team to come up with initial designs. From there, we narrow them down as a team and with mom groups before choosing the final looks. And I have to say the only difficult part of the process is that there are so many awesome options it’s hard to settle on a print!
Mothering: Being organic and eco-friendly is becoming a competitive business these days — what makes The Honest Company stand out from your competitors?
Jessica Alba: Well … that our company is honest! All joking aside, when I was a new mom I learned that the supposedly natural and non-toxic products I brought home actually had some of the same ingredients as conventional brands — the ones I was trying to avoid. At Honest, it’s our mission to be truly transparent with our customers. So, everything from the clear bottles to the way we label our products to how we communicate with our community is rooted in our belief that companies should be open and receptive about everything they make and do.
It’s very important to me that we always have real conversations with you, listen to you as parents, and deliver what you need. We really love the feedback we get on Facebook, Twitter, our blog, and the phone, and use that information to create products that will make you happy. For example, within six months of launching, we reformulated our wipes to make them the best on the market in response to what customers asked for, and now we are expanding our product offerings in areas based on the suggestions they provided. We work hard to make sure Honest is nimble and evolves with the needs of our customers.
It was equally important to me that Honest have a cause component as part of its DNA. Because we care passionately about helping all families, there was only one business model for us—one that addresses critical health and social issues affecting children and families. So, today we donate time, product, and proceeds to Baby2Baby, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families in need. My partners and I hope that by making this part of our mission from the start, we encourage other businesses to join us in actively transforming this world for the better. I believe the fact that we are a B Corp, contributing to a better world and bigger mission that extends beyond business, makes us stand out.
Mothering: The Honest Company products are available through online subscription, are there any plans to open any street stores or be available at retail someday?
Jessica Alba: I know what it’s like to be busy parent (wrangling a toddler, a baby, food, and diapers in one grocery cart is an Olympic event!), so I wanted to make safe, eco-friendly products accessible and convenient to buy. An e-commerce platform was a natural fit to start with. But we recently launched our first micro-boutique at The Pump Station, a local Los Angeles business dedicated to infant and maternal health, community building, and making moms’ lives easier. We knew from the start that they were the perfect retail partner to test our pilot program. And while there are currently no places beyond LA where our products are sold, we’re very excited by the positive response that people are interested in seeing our Honest products up close and personal in other stores. We’d love to hear from the Mothering community and learn what stores in your neighborhoods would be a good fit.
Mothering: If you had to choose one of your products to give someone for the holidays, what would it be?
Jessica Alba: I love sweet stocking stuffers and giving gifts that pamper, so I can’t wait to surprise my family and friends with our lip balm trio! We’ve created three flavors—lavender mint, sweet orange vanilla, and the unflavored purely simple—all which are made with organic and natural oils to soothe and moisturize your lips. They are seriously amazing. And, bonus, you don’t have to worry about passing on toxins when you kiss your kids … or your husband!
Mothering: Your products aren’t just for infants — bubble bath and body lotion are perfect for the whole family. Which of your products could you never live without?
Jessica Alba: Of course I love them all, but if I had to choose just one it would be our healing balm. I swear it’s a cure all for anything and everything — I love mixing it with our body oil for an extra moisturizing boost (perfect for when I travel or stay in hotels…and the upcoming winter); it’s great for treating diaper rash and dad’s razor burn; and it helps heal scrapes and scars that little kids inevitably get along the way.