Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Is the Honest Company Really Honest? ​

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | May 06, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Honest Company was co-founded in 2011 by actress Jessica Alba. It has been valued at a $1 billion and sells a variety of organic, nontoxic products for all ages. One of the most popular items the Honest Company sells is its baby diapers. Half of the 10,000 orders the company ships every day include "fashionably patterned, plant-based diapers." The Honest Company also sells organic baby formula, sunscreen, diapers bags, bath and body products, cleaning products, and even vitamins. In addition, it now has a skin care and makeup line called Honest Beauty.

The success of this five-year old company has not come without controversy, however. Several lawsuits have been filed questioning the organic labels placed on various products.

A class action lawsuit was filed by Michael Shane in September 2015 after he purchased the Honest Company sunscreen earlier that year. His suit claims he used the product properly but still ended up getting a "severe sunburn." The sunscreen at issue was advertised as a "natural mineral-based sun protection with an SPF of 30." The lawsuit comes after a slew of complaints about the effectiveness of the sunscreen. Forbes reported that the problems began last year after the company reformulated its sunscreen. The active ingredient in the sunscreen that provides protection against harmful UV rays is zinc oxide. According to Forbes, "zinc oxide has excellent sun-protectant qualities in that it absorbs or deflects the three major classifications of ultraviolet light: UVA, UVB and far UVA."

However, in response to customer complaints from 2014, that stated the "product left a white coating on the skin, was greasy and uncomfortable, with several reports of an unpleasant smell," the Honest company changed the formula in early 2015, reducing the amount of zinc in the product from 20% to 9.3%. The company states that it added in other things to maintain the product's effectiveness. It was after this reformulation that people began to complain about the sunscreen's ineffectiveness.

Another lawsuit took issue with the Honest Company's sunscreen. This lawsuit also claimed that several products, though marketed as containing natural ingredients, contained synthetic ingredients. Products mentioned included its "hand soap, dish soap, multi-surface cleaner, and diapers." The class action lawsuit was filed by Jonathan Rubin in federal court in California in September 2015. It stated that "[b]ased on Honest's representations that the Products were natural, Plaintiff and the Class paid a premium for the Products over comparable products that did not purport to be natural."

In March 2016, a lawsuit was filed in Missouri over the company's laundry detergent. The suit comes after a report by the Wall Street Journal, who conducted an investigation into the company's liquid laundry detergent which the Honest Company claims to be free of a chemical called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). However, according to the Journal, this statement isn't true. The Journal commissioned two independent lab tests and found that there was SLS in the liquid laundry detergent. A chemist at one of the labs that conduct the test said the Honest Company detergent had "about the same concentration" of SLS as Tide. The Honest Company has disputed these test results. The Honest Company uses SCS (sodium coco-sulfate) as an alternative to SLS. However, the Journal stated that "[m]ore than a dozen scientists interviewed by the Journal said SCS, which is made from palm or coconut oil, is a mixture of various cleaning agents that includes a significant amount of SLS." The Honest Company has refuted that SCS contains SLS and that the two chemicals are different.

These lawsuits, and other similar ones, against the Honest Company, are still winding their way through the court system. It will be interesting to see how these suits resolve and what implications those resolutions have for companies that state they use only organic and natural ingredients in their products.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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