Sunscreen complaints: Jessica Alba Sunscreen

Published: August 3, 2015

Sunscreen complaints: Jessica Alba Sunscreen, A consumer products company whose eco-friendly and hypoallergenic goods are intended to give parents peace of mind is now getting a piece of the minds of customers over the apparent failure of their reformulated SPF 30 sunscreen lotion. The Honest Company, co-founded by actress Jessica Alba, is now the focus of customer complaints and photos of sunburned children posted online. The company’s “natural mineral-based skin protection” lotion has been advertised as a safe and simple alternative to sunscreens containing synthetic chemicals, providing 80 minutes of water resistance and “broad spectrum’ skin protection against the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

With some caveats, customer reviews on Amazon.com Amazon.com provide an insightful timeline as to the problems with the product. Last year, most of the complaints focused on the thick and greasy character of the lotion. The product was reportedly reformulated in early 2015, with the packing changing from a light blue, to white and yellow with colorful graphics. Reviews began accumulating in March 2015 – and exploded in July – with reports of users suffering extensive sunburns after sun exposure with the new formulation of the lotion, even when reportedly using and reapplying as directed.

So what’s going on? Here’s what we know so far:

The mineral-based sunscreen component is zinc oxide, the chemical that conjures up memories of lifeguards strutting around with white cream on their noses. Zinc oxide has excellent sun-protectant qualities in that it absorbs or deflects the three major classifications of ultraviolet light: UVA, UVB and far UVA. The aesthetic problem is that it works best at a concentration so high that the white color doesn’t disappear when rubbing in. Moreover, the zinc oxide particles have to be suspended in a relatively thick and greasy carrier that feels like rubbing on petroleum jelly, often because it contains some petrolatum.

That aesthetic problem is what plagued the product during 2014. Customers complained that the product left a white coating on the skin, was greasy and uncomfortable, with several reports of an unpleasant smell, “like a mix of rancid oils and dirt,” said one customer on Amazon who had reportedly purchase it directly from the company.

The new formulation released this year appears to have reduced the zinc oxide concentration from 20 percent to 9.3 percent with the claim that it doesn’t leave a white residue. The base, which still lists beeswax as the number one ingredient, now contains shea butter and a variety of plant based oils, likely intended to improve the sensory features of the product.

I called The Honest Company for comment this morning and was promised a return call when a West Coast representative could respond to me. But People magazine reported this company comment in their article posted Sunday night:

The Honest Company is committed to providing safe and effective products, and we take all consumer feedback very seriously.

Our Sunscreen Lotion was tested, by an independent 3rd party, against the protocols prescribed by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) monograph for over-the-counter sunscreen products. The results showed that our product is effective and safe for use as an 80 minute water-resistant (FDA’s highest rating), SPF 30 sunscreen lotion in accordance with FDA regulations when used as directed (Shake Well. Apply liberally and evenly 15 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply after 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, immediately after towel drying and at least every 2 hours).

The number of complaints received on our own website about our Sunscreen Lotion constitute less than one half of one percent of all units actually sold at honest.com.

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