A hair product sent Jessica Alba to the emergency room
As an actress and the CEO of the Honest Company, Jessica Alba is one of the few celebrities who can smile at you from the cover of Forbes one month and Allure the next. If a million dollars isn't cool but a billion is, then Alba is very cool: Honest earned an almost a billion-dollar valuation and is currently readying to go public.
Alba was inspired to create the Honest Company by her personal experience as a mother searching for safe baby products, and experience also drove her to launch a new category for the company: hair care. She talked to the Cut about feeling mortal, why people should care what's in their hair products, and the time a hairstyling session sent her to the emergency room.
What does wellness mean to you?
Wellness just means really thinking about your mind, body, and spirit. It's about making sure that it all feels connected, and you're paying attention to all of it. It's feeding the body with the fuel you need to keep going, staying hydrated, and taking care of yourself mentally, whether it's knowing when to take a break, for a walk and some fresh air. Or it's about taking five minutes of quiet time, with meditating or something like that.
I never thought or cared about overall wellness until I felt mortal for the first time. When I became a mother, I realized how important it is that I'm healthy and can be around for my kids and have the best time with them. That's when wellness became a big priority.
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Even with some of the physically demanding roles you've done?
No. I would run myself ragged.
What do you do for wellness, daily?
I drink plenty of water. I try to eat food that isn't processed. I now know when to say "enough is enough" and take a break. I'm good at putting in those extra hours at work. Twelve-hour days are not uncommon. I tend to be a workaholic, so I know when it's time to go home and make my family a priority a couple of times a week. I need to feed my soul, FaceTime with my children, friends, and family.
I don't work out daily. I don't have the time. I do feel so much better when I do. I feel more energized when I do get a good workout in the morning. But, especially this summer, it's really hard to prioritize that time. My kids are home in the morning and I'd rather spend 45 minutes in the morning [with them].
Wellness is a holistic look at what is in and around your home to live your best life. It includes thinking about health — that's absolutely one of the key reasons why I wanted to create Honest. People's houses are their happiness, and being able to provide people with healthy solutions so they can live their best life is important.
Millennials look around the world and see the baby boomers and their great-grandparents, and people living a much longer life. But in those older generations, certain habits were formed, sometimes through culture. Their health isn't awesome. They're not living their best life. We know we can be proactive about our health at this stage, and that will affect our health long-term. Millennials are more connected. We're living longer than we ever have.
Wellness is really a mental state, considering yourself mentally and physically, and making that just as important. It doesn't cost money to take five minutes of time to meditate. It's just your approach to how you prioritize your life, as with everything.
But what about the proliferation of expensive boutique fitness classes and things of that nature?
There are guided meditations and things for free. Something like Headspace, for instance, costs a little bit. A lot of people make their own healthy cleaners out of things like vinegar and lemon juice, and buy it in bulk – that's much cheaper than anything. That's really effective, and it's wellness. But again, wellness is a state of mind more than anything. Of course, you can put a cost on something. But at the end of the day, it's about prioritizing your health.
With more wellness practices entering into the luxury space, how does Honest keep its products at such a fair price point?
We don't accept the same type of margins as our competitors. We will put more money into the quality of our products and our raw ingredients. It's the way the model is built: the best high-quality ingredients and products at a competitive price.
Honest is already successful with baby products and household products. Why go into beauty now, with Honest hair care?
Honest Beauty is unique in that it's prestige. It's separate from the Honest Company. I couldn't achieve the same quality and payoff with the ingredients we used, if we had gone mass. We won't use cheap filler ingredients, but really high-quality botanicals, which are a lot more expensive — that's why we had to create a beauty line at a prestige price point.
I was inspired to create it because I had a pretty severe allergic reaction to a couple of hair-care and styling products that everyone uses. I had to be taken to the emergency room on Father's Day and go on antibiotics. It ruined Father's Day and my vision was impaired for almost a week. I thought, This was crazy!
I always was a little allergic to these hair products, [which caused] sneezing and watering eyes. But I never had swollen, infected corneas. I gave it to the doctor and he pointed to a bunch of different ingredients that could be the culprit, including synthetic fragrance.
Why do you think it's important for people to care about the ingredients in their hair products?
You don't know what certain ingredients can do and how it can affect your health over time. In this country, we use a ton of ingredients that they ban in Europe. We don't have the same regulatory process. I think it's better to not use them. You don't know how they'll affect you over time. If you can get the same benefit from different ingredients, then why not?
This interview has been condensed and edited.