Jessica Alba’s Honest Company has been sued by a customer who claims the company is making false claims in its marketing and labeling.
The lawsuit alleges the Honest Company falsely says its products are “natural.” It further says that Honest’s sunscreen isn’t “effective.”
The Honest Company has a mission to provide
Effective • Safe • Delightful • Accessible • Responsible
Lifestyle Products for Family & Home
They advertise the sunscreen with SPF 30 as “highly effective & ultra pure mineral sunscreen” and “natural mineral-based”. Zinc oxide is the mineral. No “synthetic chemicals”. So, for one, the company has to admit that chemicals are required here, at least not pandering to the chemophobia crowd. The problem is, it take a lot to make a good sunscreen product that people like and that works. (Covering or staying out of the sun works best, obviously). Minerals don’t sound as bad as chemicals. Zinc oxide does occur in nature but, for industrial uses, it is synthetically manufactured. It is widely used in MANY different products including sun block.
This complaint that the sunscreen is less than effective (and not very pleasant to use) has been around for a while now. David Kroll at Forbes, looked into why things may have gone wrong with the product including the chemistry reasons. The product was reformulated in early 2015 and the problems began.
The new formulation released this year appears to have reduced the zinc oxide concentration from 20 percent to 9.3 percent with the claim that it doesn’t leave a white residue. The base, which still lists beeswax as the number one ingredient, now contains shea butter and a variety of plant based oils, likely intended to improve the sensory features of the product.
So, it’s possible that in the effort to make it more pleasant to use overall, the reformulation removed some of the UV blocking power or just does not stay mixed in the tube in order to be dispensed correctly. That’s his guess. This lawsuit however focuses on it also not being natural.
Sunburn is natural, folks. Anything made by people can be considered natural since we are part of nature. We don’t obtain anything SUPERnatural. This is all quite messy and rather pointless. “Natural” does not equal safer or better. Unless you lick it, sunscreen isn’t even getting into your bloodstream. This sounds like a silly game of semantics and fuss over nothing. What’s “natural”? What isn’t?
There is another important lesson here. In order to have something feel less “artificial”, you must add in seemingly “artificial” ingredients. That’s what makes today’s products superior to those of the past. Chemistry and better formulations of ingredients look and feel better and easier to use. The benefits to using a GOOD sunscreen far outweigh the risks of using a more “gentle” one for people who eschew “chemicals” or “unnatural” ingredients (whatever that means).
Nature has limitations. Pick your “poison”.
Editor’s Note: The definitions of words in quotation marks are loose and variable depending on whether you talk science- or marketing-speak.