Brian Lee, Jessica Alba call beauty industry hypocrites

Steven Loeb · October 30, 2014 · Short URL:

Honest Company founders blame the beauty industry for perpetuating cancer via their products

When The Honest Company CEO Brian Lee, along with fellow Honest Company co-founder Jessica Alba, sat down to talk with Vator Bambi Francisco at Vator Splash LA earlier this month, the talk turned multiple times to the future of the company, including planned expansion into China, baby formula in the first quarter of next year, as well as its vision for opening what it calls "retail outlet experience."

There was one more important topic that was discussed regarding The Honest Company's future, though: "Honest Beauty."

"Beauty is a category where there just hasn't been a lot of innovation since bare minerals, and bare essentials, back in the day. And it's an industry that we feel very strongly about that can be brought to the now," said Lee "Leading with what sells beauty, really it is about being beautiful, being sexy, about looking great. And that really is what the brand stands for, with the notion that, by the way, is completely non-toxic and safe for you."

There is one other very specific reason for wanting to give women safe beauty products, though; both Lee and Alba accused beauty companies of having been blantantly hypocritical when it comes to the cause of cancer research.

"You know a lot of beauty companies do cancer awareness months and pink ribbons on their packaging and they do big marathons and fundraisers. But they have cancer causing ingredients inside their ingredients so it feels a bit weird," she said.

Lee agreed with her assessment saying, "They've got these breast cancer walks, they do all this stuff. They're like, 'Here, Ms. Woman, put all these chemicals on your face. We're going to give you cancer but we're going to do these cancer walks to, like, cure cancer.'"

He called it "a vicious cycle," and one that goes "on and on." And it is The Honest Company's goal to end that cycle once and for all.

"So it's like, how can we solve that? How can we give women these products that will make them feel beautiful and feel good about themselves and make them look how they want to look without making them ill at all. Or even the chance of making them ill," said Alba.

Selecting future products

Francisco asked Alba how the company chooses which products to launch, and if they have a list of "the greatest offenders," meaning the worst products that are out there that they want to give people better replacements for. 

"We originally launched, initially, with the basic household cleaning products that you would need, so laundry detergent, dish soaps, and basic body wash, and things like that. And the only real baby its me we launched with were our diapers and wipes and our healing balm," Alba responded.

"We look for these interesting categories that are out there and we want to see if we can make a real big impact."

The ideas for where the company will go next, though, often come from its customer service department which Alba says fields thousands and thousands of calls every day, allowing it to hear directly from customers. 

"They want us to do deodarant, so we're working on a deodarant. They wanted us to go into fem-care. They want us to go into the beauty category," she said. "At a certain point, if we had the wherewithall to do it, we're going to listen and we're going to deliver on our promise to give them the best and the safest. So, really, our customers let us know where they want us to go."

The company's plans for new products currently including baby formula, which will launch in 2015, as well as the feminine care category, in which Alba said that the company had "seen some pretty bad things about that space." Following baby formula will most likely come healthy snacks. 

So there is a lot coming up for the Honest Company in the next couple of years, but the mindset of the company means that there are few limitations on the different kinds of categories it could expand to, according to Lee.

"When you think about  the Honest Company, we're not really a products company, per se. Although the bulk of our revenue is coming from online, we don't define ourselves as e-commerce. We've got great retail partners in Target and Whole Foods Nordstoms, but we don't consider ourselves just a brand either," he said.

"I mean, we truly are a way of life. And when you define yourself that way, when you think of yourself that way, we can extend into a myriad of different categories and change the way people live."

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The Honest Company


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The Honest Company (, founded by Jessica Alba, Christopher Gavigan, Brian Lee and Sean Kane, was created to ensure that parents have access to non-toxic, eco-friendly, effective and beautiful family products that don't break the bank. offers essentials for every family member including diapers, wipes, bath, skin care, home cleaning and health & wellness products conveniently door-delivered through a monthly subscription service of customized product bundles or single item purchase. As a certified B Corporation, The Honest Company strives to promote sustainability, engage employees and community, and support non-profit initiatives working to solve critical health and social issues affecting children and families. Available in the U.S. and Canada.


Jessica Alba

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Brian Lee

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

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Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.