It’s a typical sun-drenched afternoon in Los Angeles, and I’ve found myself in the very atypical situation of wearing matching lab coats with Jessica Alba while making personalized liquid lipsticks. “Do you remember that shade Daniel used on me—the purple-ish, pink color?” she asks her shiny-haired cosmetic chemist, who is overseeing our lipstick experiment. “I’m trying to get to that color.” The chemist recommends she add more black pigment to tone down the red, and Alba resumes stirring. Over the next few minutes, we mix our shades like the most studious of chemistry students, adding dabs of orange-y red pigment for brightness and splashes of white to soften.
Simultaneously, Alba is passionately explaining the difference between the new Honest Beauty Liquid Lipsticks ($13), and the ones currently on the market. “It’s been a labor of love,” she says, lab goggles perched on her nose like a pair of Celine sunnies (mine, on the other hand, are giving off more Bill Nye vibes). “We had to go through seven different versions to get to the final one.”
The new liquid lipsticks, like the rest of Honest Beauty products, offer a clean, toxin-free alternative to its traditional counterparts, many of which have started coming under more scrutiny in recent years for their sketchy, potentially-harmful ingredients. “We consider the safety of the ingredients, but we also think about ways we can ‘up’ it and make it benefit your skin in some way,” Alba explains. “We think about ways to incorporate a natural alternative that may not exist out there. In this formula, it’s patent-pending because we combine these three elements in our liquid lip that have never been combined before to get payoff, long wear, and flexibility—but also give a performance that’s even better than what’s out there.” (The ingredients include avocado oil, hyaluronic acid, and a pine tree resin, which gives a budge-proof, matte finish that still feels hydrating and comfortable.)
In case it isn’t already made clear, Jessica Alba isn’t one to settle for status quo. And when it comes to changing the public’s perception about clean beauty—that it’s unattainable, difficult to procure, or just out of most people’s price range—she’s become one of the most visible (and well-loved) proponents leading the charge. “Clean beauty means safe formulas and effective formulas,” she tells me matter-of-factly when I asked her what the buzzy term (which, so far, has no FDA-approved definition) means to her.
“It means really trying to get that actual payoff that you don’t normally get, but with a cleaner, better-for-you ingredient story.” Alba’s brand of clean living isn’t shrouded in mystery “mylks” or woo-woo good vibrations. Instead, it’s down-to-earth, upfront, straightforward—much like The Honest Company’s ethos, and much like Alba herself.
Throughout our day together—from touring her company’s airy headquarters to visiting her friend and facialist Shani Darden’s new spot in West Hollywood—Alba surprises me with her, well, realness. She’s wearing a headband Blair Waldof would approve of, yet peppers her sentences with frequent expletives (always out of excitement, never anger). She offers to drive a fellow editor in her own car when we run out of room in our Uber (I’m 90% sure it’s a Tesla Model 6, but don’t get a close-enough look before she zooms off).
She drinks spicy margaritas with us at Gracias Madre (and tells Vegas stories involving a shotgun wedding—not hers). She makes living clean look appealing, and more importantly, attainable. And sure, preaching the gospel of clean is good for business (The Honest Company made headlines once for being valued at over $1 billion, after all). But Alba goes about it in such a way that’s so genuine, so passionate, so, yes, honest, you can’t help but nod along in fervor, scolding yourself for slathering your face and body with chemically-laden formulas for the past few years and filled with a strong urge to empty the contents of your makeup bag and start from scratch.
Lucky for me, I’ve already got a personalized liquid lipstick to give me a head start.
Ahead, find out five clean beauty myths Jessica Alba wants you to stop believing.
Myth #1: A product is considered clean as long as it doesn’t have parabens and sulfates
Truth: There’s no FDA-approved definition for clean beauty, but there are a number of ingredients known to cause irritation and health issues that are still being used in many cosmetics today
Jessica Alba: “The list of ‘No’ ingredients we have at Honest is 3000-long and growing. It’s always growing. We definitely start with the EU-standard and then any derivative of those ingredients. We also use any kind of research or papers that the medical community has put out there. Often times, the medical community will put out information, but the consumer packaging companies and beauty companies don’t take in that medical information and apply it to their business at all. It just becomes a documented paper out there.
For us to be able to integrate that into our development process and say, “Oh this is what’s going on out there in the world,” is great.”
Myth #2: A clean formulation means a product will be more expensive
Truth: There are more affordable clean products cropping up on the daily
Jessica Alba: “Having scale [as a company] helps because then you’re hitting minimums. I think that’s usually where a lot of the cost is for any company. Most clean companies are just small companies, so they don’t have the scale to offer better price points. Also, it’s having a supply chain and operations team that could source your materials or work with many manufacturing partners and negotiate deals with the best in class people to make your products. Often, when you are a little mom and pop shop, you don’t have those resources to invest in your R&D process and your supply chain and operations.
That’s why I think it’s so expensive—because a lot of the companies just don’t have the scale. We have the scale and invested very heavily in R&D. We have toxicologists, the packaging, the office, and we have the whole research and supply chain to support the formulas.”
Myth #3: Clean skincare is less active and efficacious
Truth: Clean skincare formulations are often just as cutting-edge and scientific as their traditional counterparts
Jessica Alba: “One of our chemists, Kevin, worked with this specific lab that was only dermatologists and developed innovative products that these dermatologists were wanting. So, he has beauty experience but has also worked with doctors who deal with very specific skin issues. He has that connection to the medical community and how they do research and develop products.”
Myth #4: If a product markets itself as clean, it probably doesn’t contain toxic ingredients
Truth: The only way to tell if a product is non-toxic is to check the ingredients list yourself
Jessica Alba: “Look at the length of your product’s ingredient listing. If it’s a really long ingredient list, it’s probably not clean formulating. Every ingredient Honest incorporates is in there for a reason. It’s either giving performance, stability, or some type of skin benefit. Ingredient listings don’t have to be super long. Look toward the bottom of the list too. Fragrance, perfume, synthetic fragrance are things to look out for. Even when they say synthetic fragrance, it’s just fragrance.
It doesn’t matter where they list the fragrance. PEGS are also things to look out for.”
Myth #5: Living a clean lifestyle means adopting big, complicated changes
Truth: Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to living clean
Jessica Alba: “I try to eat as many fresh things as possible. I try to have most of my diet be as non-processed as possible. That’s a big deal to me. I do take my shoes off at the door, so I don’t bring the chemicals I walk around all day in through the house, because then it goes into your air quality. I have air filters and water filters in my house to try and eliminate any unnecessary chemicals that may be in the water that we drink. Also, the mattresses matter and the off-gassing of mattresses matters.
My kids spend half their life sleeping, so I try to get mattresses and bedding made from natural materials, so they’re not inhaling the off-gassing of petrochemicals while they’re sleeping.”
Click here for five easy steps to a clean up your beauty routine.