Honest Co. Is In Hot Water Over Detergent Ingredient

The company’s detergent contains an ingredient that it tells its customers to avoid, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Honest Co. Is In Hot Water Over Detergent Ingredient
[Photo: Joe Seer via Shutterstock]

The Honest Company, Jessica Alba’s $1.7 billion hygiene company, markets its products as safe and environmentally friendly alternatives to chemical-filled mainstream options. The company sells everything from diapers to deodorant to detergent, and it’s the latter of those products that now has the brand in hot water.

An investigation by the Wall Street Journal found the detergent contains “a significant amount” of a substance called sodium lauryl sulfate, a chemical that Honest Co. tells customers to avoid because it could irritate the skin. But tests commissioned by the Journal and performed by two separate and independent labs found SLS in the detergent. The company disputes the findings and says its internal tests show no trace of the substance in any of the company’s products. In a blog post, the company also said it does not use SLS in its products, but instead uses sodium coco sulfate, or SCS, a “less irritating and safer” material. But scientists interviewed by the Journal insist SCS cannot be made without SLS.

This isn’t the first time that questions have been raised about Honest Co. products, and not even the first time in the last year. In August of 2015, Honest Co. faced a wave of complaints from customers claiming its sunscreen was useless and left them sunburned. One month later the company was facing a $5 million class-action lawsuit accusing it of using ingredients that are not only ineffective, but unnatural. The new allegations come as the company is reportedly in talks with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to pave the way for an IPO.

Fast Company reached out to Honest Co. for comment about the detergent controversy and received the following statement:

“At The Honest Company, our mission is to develop safe and effective products for our families to use and for families everywhere to feel great about. Despite providing the Wall Street Journal with substantial evidence to the contrary, they falsely claimed our laundry detergent contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). To set the record straight, we use Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) in our brand’s laundry detergent because it is a gentler alternative that is less irritating and safer to use. Rigorous testing and analysis both by our internal research and development teams as well as further testing by external partners have confirmed this fact. The Wall Street Journal has been reckless in the preparation of this article, refused multiple requests to share data on which they apparently relied and has substituted junk science for credible journalism. We stand behind our laundry detergent and take very seriously the responsibility we have to our consumers to create safe and effective products.”

About the author

Jessica Hullinger is a London-based journalist who covers science, health, and innovation. She currently serves as a Senior Editor at TheWeek.com.