Jessica Alba’s Honest Co. Places Bigger Bet on Beauty Products

 Jessica Alba’s Honest Co. Places Bigger Bet on Beauty Products

Actress Jessica Alba is a self-proclaimed “beauty junkie.” That explains why The Honest Co.—a brand Alba co-founded with an initial focus on diapers, infant formulas, and household cleaning products—last year expanded the startup’s portfolio by entering the beauty category with a line of cosmetics and facial care products.

Beauty girl

Alba’s Honest Co., a $1.7 billion valued unicorn, on Monday takes the Honest Beauty launch one step further by launching a new line of 11 shampoos, conditioners, and hair spray to tackle the $11 billion domestic haircare market. The move is a signal that Honest Co. sees even more room to disrupt traditional players in the beauty aisle after making a similar move to take on the makers of household and baby supplies when the startup first launched in 2012. “The number one requested product from our customer base was beauty products,” said CEO Brian Lee in an interview with Fortune. “Our customers were demanding it. It was a natural extension.”

Honest Co. promises the same clean and healthy message that it has aimed to attach to all of its products, this time touting a haircare line that relies on natural ingredients like coconut juice, white tea, and algae. It also avoids using ingredients that Honest Co. claims have “questionable health and safety standards.” Those ingredients include sulfates, silicones, and synthetic fragrances and dyes. Honest Beauty’s hairline will be sold online on the startup’s website and will get a brick-and-mortar retail push through an exclusive distribution deal with Ulta ULTA -0.16%. The haircare line, priced between $18 to $30, debuts in September.

“We are pushing the boundaries when it comes to what’s possible with these formulations,” Lee said, adding that it can be difficult for beauty product makers to successfully develop scents without the use of synthetic fragrances and mineral oil (which also isn’t found in Honest Co.’s line). Lee adds that there’s white space within the haircare and broader beauty industry. He contends larger manufacturers aren’t resonating when it comes to selling product lines that speak to the “natural” consumer products movement. In tackling the beauty market, Honest Co. is angling to take on consumer products giants Procter & Gamble the-Procter-gamble-co, Unilever UL 0.36%, and beauty products behemoth L’Oreal loreal-s-a.

Honest Co.’s own ability to market itself as a “natural” seller of consumer goods has come into question of late. A report published earlier this year by The Wall Street Journal said lab testing it commissioned to found a cleaning agent called sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, in Honest’s detergent—findings the startup disputed. Honest Co. has also faced several lawsuits that have alleged the company’s purported all-natural products feature deceptive labeling or, in some cases, are ineffective.

Though Honest Co. executives have said the company is truthful about the marketing of its goods, the brand’s public image has taken a few hits. But it isn’t alone. Several Big Food makers and consumer goods giants have found themselves facing similar lawsuits that call into question the use of “natural” or “organic” in marketing and labeling. There’s no clear definition for what those words mean, so companies and consumers aren’t always on the same page. Still, Honest Co. says shoppers are looking for a brand they can believe in—and it contends shoppers still believe in the startup’s mission and promises. The company adds that it has also found the right formula when it comes to beauty.

Dennis Bailey

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