Green News & Events

What’s the Big Deal About Honest Sunscreen?

The media has been all over the Honest Sunscreen story like bees to honey. And while at first it seemed like we could chalk the whole thing to just another media feeding frenzy, now I think this story is even bigger than we thought.

Last week, numerous social media posts appeared from parents claiming that they had applied SPF 30 Honest Sunscreen to their children’s skin, only to watch them experience painful sunburns.

On August 3rd, Honest co-founders Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan published a blog post, claiming “Protecting our loved ones and yours is the reason we founded The Honest Company. As parents, it pains us to hear that anyone has had a negative experience with our Sunscreen.”

According to the company, the recently reformulated Honest Sunscreen was extensively third-party tested and passed all SPF 30 requirements. But it seems to have been quietly recalled: As of this post, only the sunscreen stick remains on offer at; at the SPF 30 Honest Sunscreen Lotion is out of stock.

Yet that hasn’t stopped the media attack. A USA Today story the following day questioned the efficacy of both Honest sunscreen and diapers, and claimed that the company’s $250 million projected revenue for 2015 is in jeopardy.

What’s going on? I place this question in context of the grumbling that I hear about Honest products: basic suspicion about their formulations, resentment about the involvement of “inauthentic” Jessica Alba, and mistrust of their marketing.

The assumption seems to be that a natural products company can’t be this successful without doing something devious.

I think that’s just plain wrong. Alba and Gavigan didn’t just set out to make natural products–they set out to completely disrupt the market and raise the bar for companies like Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble.

For years, the children’s product and personal care industries have formulated products without taking into account links between parabens and hormone disruption, synthetic fibers and Toxic Shock Syndrome, or synthetic fragrance and allergies–to name just a few.

Honest did.

And by doing so, it raised awareness among an entire new generation of parents, who now spend time reading their labels and refusing products that contain questionable ingredients.

Probably, there was something wrong with the reformulated Honest Sunscreen–and truly, as a parent I know that there’s nothing worse than watching your children suffer. But it seems to me that the Honest Company has dealt with the problem as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, people. Honestly.

No, this post was not sponsored by the Honest Company, nor was their inclusion in my recent post on disposable versus cloth diapers, but you can read about why I chose to feature them as Mommy Greenest Approved by clicking here. For more back story on my support of the company, take a look at my interview with Christopher Gavigan from 2014. And yes, we talked sunscreen.


  • Kate

    I disagree that anyone criticizing Honest must be assuming “a natural products company can’t be this successful without doing something devious.”

    The whole point is that when you hold yourself up to a higher standard, you SHOULD be extra careful to protect consumers. If keeping people safe (and that includes avoiding toxic ingredients, as well as sunburns) is what your company is all about, and you screw up on part of that, you absolutely should get called out. That’s part of what a company like Honest is signing up for when it says it’s going to do things better.

    I don’t think it’s a fatal mistake; they should have been more communicative about what went wrong instead of hiding behind claims that they did the correct testing – obviously something went wrong between the testing and consumer use, and they should own up to that to regain consumer trust.

  • Laura

    I’m an Honest member. I noticed numerous complaints on Amazon about the sunscreen two months ago. I think it would go a long way if they just apologized and publicly recalled the product.

  • Stephanie

    Just because you have on sunscreen does not mean you wont burn. It depends on how fair skinned you are and how long you are in the sun. In Florida that 30spf sunscreen probably in reality won’t last a whole hour because the sun is so intense here. Use common sense and sunscreen clothing… and shade, shade is the only real sunscreen.

    • Rachel Sarnoff

      I agree, common sense is key–as well as shade, and a hat. But as any parent knows, it’s hard to keep wiggly kids out of the sun, which is why we depend on sunscreen. I’ve used Honest sunscreen with great success in the past–no burns here! But admittedly, it wasn’t the reformulated sunscreen, and I don’t live in Florida 🙂

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