The Honest Co. built its reputation as an environmentally minded alternative to everyday consumer products such as soaps, lotions and cleaning products — winning over fans and media attention with its celebrity co-founder, actress Jessica Alba.
But the Santa Monica company’s image as a safer brand is being called into question by the Wall Street Journal, which commissioned lab tests that showed Honest laundry detergent contained a harsh chemical the company swore it never used.
The ingredient, sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, is listed as forbidden in the company’s Honestly Free Guarantee, which is posted on its website. The chemical is widely used in toothpaste, shampoo and detergent and blamed for causing skin irritation.
The Wall Street Journal conducted two lab tests that found the company’s liquid laundry detergent contained SLS, according to a story published Thursday.
Honest, which has raised $222 million in private funding, disputes the Wall Street Journal's findings and called the story "reckless."
"We stand behind our laundry detergent and take very seriously the responsibility we have to our consumers to create safe and effective products," the company said in an e-mailed statement.
Honest provided the Wall Street Journal with a certificate from its detergent manufacturer, Earth Friendly Products, stating there was no SLS in the product.
The detergent is supposed to be tested by Earth Friendly Products’ chemical supplier, Trichromatic West Inc.
But Trichromatic told the Wall Street Journal the certificate “wasn’t based on any testing and there was a ‘misunderstanding’ with the detergent maker,” the report said.
Instead, Trichromatic said it did not need to test for SLS because none was used in the manufacturing process.
Alba, who co-founded Honest in 2011, has called SLS a “toxin.” As an alternative, the company uses a detergent called sodium coco sulfate, or SCS.
Scientists told the Wall Street Journal that SCS contains a mixture of various cleaning agents that include a significant amount of SLS.
The company, in light of the Wall Street Journal’s inquiries, reportedly changed language on its website to say its products are “Honestly made without” the offending ingredients rather than “Honestly free of” the chemicals.
The company has been criticized in the past for its sunscreen, which was called ineffective at preventing sunburn.
Follow me on Twitter: @dhpierson