New businesses inevitably face some shaky times as they grow and expand, but Jessica Alba's The Honest Company has been having a tough go of it lately, even by start-up standards. In mid-August, the company raised $100 million in funding, reportedly putting its value at about $1.7 billion. But throughout the late summer, angry reports and posts on social media suggested that the company's sunscreen wasn't effective, causing burns on small children.
Then last week, The Honest Company was hit with a $5-million class action lawsuit to address the sunscreen issue, as well as to accuse the company of being misleading by labeling products as "natural" when they contain synthetic ingredients. (Cue the "dishonest" jokes.) While the term "natural" has no legal or regulated meaning and the plaintiff may have a hard time making that one stick, there's no doubt that Alba's business has been under fire.
But if the actress is stressed out, there was certainly no sign of it on Wednesday night when she presented her just-launched beauty line, Honest Beauty, to a group of editors in New York. And honestly (sorry), she really should be proud because the line is great.
The range contains 17 skin care products — cleansers, a facial mist, moisturizers, wipes, etc. — and a whopping 66 makeup products, including foundations. The most expensive item, the moisturizer, rings up at $34. Honest Beauty offers every single product a self-respecting beauty line needs to have these days: a do-everything balm, lip crayons, things inspired by Asian beauty products (like a fantastic powder cleanser in single-serve packets and a konjac sponge), fluid facial sunscreens, a lash primer/mascara combo and a face primer that works well under makeup or on its own. And yes, they are formulated without parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, synthetic fragrance and all of the other things no one wants in their products anymore. The packaging is surprisingly chic, too; I was expecting a slight cutesy quality like the other Honest products, but these are all sleek and minimal in tones of white, pale pink and silver with a mirror finish.
When I asked Alba how she plans to differentiate Honest from the rest of the so-called "safe" cosmetics popping up everywhere (like Beautycounter and Goop's highly anticipated line with Juice Beauty), she mentioned diversity. "My impetus in wanting to launch this line was around diverse beauty and celebrating diversity," she says. "I found it very challenging to find the right colors and foundations and I would often mix two or three different ones." The line has colors and formulations that work on a variety of skin tones.
And what's been the most challenging thing about launching beauty as an entrepreneur? "I’ve learned that we need to get in front of education. Tutorials are such a big deal," Alba says. To that end, she stars in a series of tutorials on the site featuring looks called "Fresh," "Sunny," "Daring," and the like, which are then shoppable. She deemed them "really hard! My first one took forever!"
Sort of like lawsuits, right? In all seriousness, though, the line is pretty impressive.