Actress Jessica Alba is the founder of The Honest Company, which is under fire for the performance of it’s sunscreens. (Photo: Instagram)
To be honest, this has not been a good few days for The Honest Company. Founded by the actress Jessica Alba in 2012, the $1 billion brand is beloved by parents seeking plant-derived diapers and cleaning products, and recently launched feminine products and airport kiosks.
But the company is under fire after consumers complained that its SPF 30 sunscreen doesn’t work. According to the company website, the sunscreen contains “naturally derived, unscented, broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) SPF mineral sunscreen” and claims to have “everything you need, nothing you don’t.” The key active ingredient is 9.3% non-nano zinc oxide, which the label says is the only active sunscreen ingredient, and is water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
But Twitter and Amazon reviews tells another story, as consumers are posting pictures of nasty looking sunburns, amid claims that the product just didn’t work, even when it was reapplied as directed.
Brandon Atherton showed off his burnt head in a Twitter pic @Honest this is my very real result from Honest 30 SPF sunscreen. Only spent 1 hour outside. Burnt. #nothappy #red pic.twitter.com/T42TNeg5mj
— Brandon Atherton (@bdatherton)
this is my very real result from Honest 30 SPF sunscreen. Only spent 1 hour outside. Burnt.”
@lindsymarshall warned, “Don’t buy @Honest sunscreen unless u want to look like this. Second time I’ve tried this stuff and got fried” while showing a picture of her burnt upper body.
@THEMAN posted a pic of his friend’s burnt back that he claimed developed after 40 minutes in the sun.
In a statement, The Honest Company told Yahoo Beauty: “The Honest Company is committed to providing safe and effective products, and we take all consumer feedback very seriously. Our Sunscreen Lotion was tested, by an independent 3rd party, against the protocols prescribed by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) monograph for over-the-counter sunscreen products. The results showed that our product is effective and safe for use as an 80 minute water-resistant (FDA’s highest rating), SPF 30 sunscreen lotion in accordance with FDA regulations when used as directed (Shake Well. Apply liberally and evenly 15 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply after 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, immediately after towel drying and at least every 2 hours). The number of complaints received on our own website about our Sunscreen Lotion constitute less than one half of one percent of all units actually sold at honest.com. We stand behind the safety and efficacy of this product.”
Twitter pics aside, the sunscreen incident raises questions about the efficacy of natural (or naturally derived) sunscreens.
It all depends on the product and its ingredients, says Dr. David E. Bank, a Board Certified Dermatologist, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, and author of Beautiful Skin: Every Woman’s Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age.
“It depends on the active ingredients,” says Bank. “Some natural /organic sunscreens use minerals to reflect the sun’s rays, whereas chemical sunscreens absorb rays and dissipate them as heat off the skin’s surface. So they are equally as effective, just different in carrying out that function.”
But consumers should read the label carefully when selecting a natural sunscreen. “Look for sunscreens that use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients. These products should also be free of parabens, fragrance, dyes and lanolin,” says Bank.
Dr. Mona Gohara of the Connecticut based Advanced Dermcare also believes these ingredients are effective. “Mineral sunscreens are comprised of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide—these ingredients are a good choice for the chemical averse as they block out all spectrums of carcinogenic UV rays and almost never cause irritation on the skin,” says Gohara. “One of my favorite brands is Colorescience because they are committed to providing products with healthy ingredients and formulations.”
Another important factor to remember: Because many organic/natural sunscreens are paraben free (which is a common preservative), they may not be as shelf stable as chemical screens. “If you do use natural/organic sunscreens, store them in cool, dry places away from sunlight,” says Bank.
UPDATE: According to a New York Post story on August 9, the FDA requires sunscreens to contain up to 25 percent of zinc oxide. An independent probe found the Honest product only contained 9.3 percent.