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October 3, 2017
October 3, 2017

“When a brand chooses to call itself ‘Honest,’ it could be asking for trouble. Just ask The Honest Company. The name alone sets itself up for expectations that may be unrealistic,” states Sarita Coren.

3 months ago Jessica Alba’s Honest company agreed to pay $1.55 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that indicted the brand for using sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in its laundry detergent. SLS is an ingredient that 1. when combined with other chemicals can produce carcinogens and, 2. the company swore was not in their detergent.

Lo and behold, SLS was indeed lingering in the detergent after The Wall Street Journal ran a report examining the brand’s formulas. Instead of issuing an immediate apology to consumers, they handled their self-inflicted PR nightmare with more deceit. “Rather than being, um, honest, they maintained that it was not SLS in the formula but sodium coco sulfate, a lesser culprit. Surely a chemist for the company would know that sodium coco sulfate, in fact, does contain SLS in it,” writes Coren.


And while The (dis) Honest company made a mockery of its name, Coren poses some excellent points about how an adherence to “all natural” is becoming another slippery slope for brands to navigate as “green” moves into the mainstream:

  • Are we (the consumers) asking too much of our natural brands? Can they ever measure up?
  • Perhaps the demands of manufacturing a natural product with a stable shelf life requires more than nature intended? Rose oil is a perfect example of where green and natural go awry. In order to obtain a tiny 5 mL vial of rose oil, over 10,000 roses require extraction.
  • “Natural” demands attention to ingredients, sourcing, the earth. It becomes a mighty challenge to trace pure and ecological ingredients when a small brand needs to scale—both for the responsible consumer and for the owner. Mass marketing may even defeat the purpose of being an eco-conscious brand.
  • An informed green consumer knows that a preservative-free formula that contains water-based ingredients is actually a bacteria- and mold-fest waiting to happen, so preservatives are not only desirable, but warranted. It’s the type of preservative that is debatable.
  • Therefore, synthetics should not be ignored or vilified—because a lot of times companies can manage/scale the production without quite such a cost to delicate natural resources. It is really extremely complicated and there are countless pros/cons to every viewpoint.

All viewpoints aside, one notion can be readily agreed upon and that is: “Don’t call yourself honest, transparent, chemical free, all natural, safe, nontoxic, preservative free, cruelty free, organic or any of the other trending catch phrases when you’re not.”

Deceit gets you nowhere.

To read more of Cohen’s honest insights apropos natural products, visit


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